Practicing Discernment: Membership Packet for Bob Jennerich’s Grace Redeemer Church in Garland, Texas

This is another discernment exercise. The goal of these posts is to get people to avoid harmful and dangerous religious entities; and to allow people to think for themself and analyze a church. This post contains the membership packet for an EFCA church in Garland, Texas. How would you assess Grace Redeemer Church’s membership process? Healthy or solid? Or is it dangerous and cult like?

“Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.”

Edward De Bono

“To live is to think.”

Marcus Cicero

That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

Acts 17: 10-12 NLT

Grand Central Terminal in New York City 

This blog likes run discernment exercises that will allow people to think critically for themselves and to study what a church is saying. This blog wants to get people to think for themself and to think in a constructive way that is creative. I have not done this in a while but I want to have another discernment exercise of an EFCA church. After all this blog pays attention to the EFCA and reads and researches the organization. Grace Redeemer Church is a part of the EFCA’s Texas and Oklahoma District. Its northwest of Dallas in Garland, Texas. And this church is led by Bob Jennerich. This blog has already written about this EFCA pastor previously. 

This exercise is one that allows you to practice discernment. This is a 21 page membership packet for Bob Jennerich’s church. Look this over and think critically about it and ask yourself…would you sign this? If you moved to the Garland area and wanted to get involved in an EFCA church would you sign on the dotted line? Or would the description about the covenant, some of the personal questions asked, and the policies on church discipline raise concerns with you? The goal of a post like this is not to make you critical for the sake of being critical. Instead the goal is to allow you to think for yourself to avoid cults, and dangerous religious organizations. Does Grace Redeemer Church fall into that category? Why or why not? Feel free to discuss below. 



11 thoughts on “Practicing Discernment: Membership Packet for Bob Jennerich’s Grace Redeemer Church in Garland, Texas

  1. It looks like they have the old version of the EFCA doctrinal statement of beliefs, written when “premillennial” meant “we actually believe the Bible” but now means something different and specific.

    Some of their values I’d state slightly differently but nothing jumps out at me there as unexpected.

    Interesting that their qualifications for Elder status do not mention gender, but simply refer to 1 Timothy and Titus, opening the door for women to be included at such time as the church interprets those passages in a gender neutral way. This is my preferred way to handle that issue. Later on it does appear that they interpret those passages to require that pastors be male, which is not how I would do it, but it’s not uncommon.

    The church discipline statement seems reasonable. Section H, excluding people under church discipline, could be controversial. I recognize that my view of the Lord’s Supper is not universally held, and that’s OK. (In the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper is shared with unbelievers, so I don’t believe in excluding people from it.)

    What parts of this membership agreement seem cultlike or dangerous to you?


  2. I agree with Peter’s comment. I read through the Church Covenant and didn’t see anything especially intrusive or otherwise alarming. What exactly does the blog author find objectionable? And why?


    • Richard thank you for the comment. I am going to hold off a couple of days before responding. I want to see what other people will say and give them a chance to speak. Thanks for your contribution.


      • Where exactly in the membership packet, church covenant, or other governing document of the church is this spelked out in the terms you stated? I quickly reviewed these materials and didn’t see anything to justify your concern.


  3. I believe the most concerning point of the disciplinary process is the fact that the church gov’t believes they have the right to interfere with the “erring” member’s attempts to join another church if that member’s membership status hasn’t been entirely revoked. This by notifying that other church of the situation and possibly prejudicing them against the member GR authorities perceive as erring. This bears the same marks as a cult, as both make it very difficult to leave the fold.
    Of course, just because they think the member is erring does not mean that member is, and nearly all membership covenants are harmful if the elder board is abusive. “Erring” can merely mean speaking up against them in this case.


    • Where exactly in the membership packet, church covenant, or other governing document of the church is this spelled out in the terms you stated? I quickly reviewed these materials and didn’t see anything to justify your concern.


      • Thanks. Here’s the relevant text from that section:

        If the elders learn that a member who left under church discipline is now
        attending another church, the elders may inform that church of the situation, seeking to encourage the brother or sister to repent and be restored to the Lord and to any people he or she have offended. The elders may also warn
        the other church to be on guard against harm that the accused might do to their members
        (Eph 4:1-6).

        First, note that the text says “may inform” or “may also warn.” It does not say “shall inform” or “shall also warn.” So this defines a scope of action by the church’s elders, it does not prescribe a course of action should a disaffected member disassociate from the church prior to the conclusion of any church discipline which may be underway.

        Second, it seems to me that the concern is similar to what might happen to a job applicant who provides references and a job history in moving from one job to another. Former employers are often reluctant to provide more than ending salary and starting and ending dates of employment, for various reasons. But they have other means of gaining information about an applicant’s performance and work ethic. I would expect an employer to exercise due diligence in hiring new staff. In the same way I would expect any church to try to assess as fully as possible a potential member’s fidelity to whatever faith commitment they may profess, and to seek to confirm this by any legal means, depending on the circumstances. For the average member, it often just is based on the applicant’s own statements and perhaps a couple of personal references who may or may not be contacted by the church’s leadership/elders/staff.

        But anyone who has been involved in the life of a church for any significant time understands how personality conflicts can too easily be transposed into spiritual deficits attributed to one or another. And so most churches are well advised to make note of any evidence of discord regarding a potential member, but not necessarily allow that admittedly limited evidence to limit or preclude a person’s involvement or membership in the church. However, if one does decide to become a member of a church congregation, then I would expect the new member to be forthcoming with the leadership about any past or ongoing conflicts or issues that may lead to future conflict with the church. Better to be up front about the sometimes erratic journey of faith than to pretend that one has already reached the destination only to have one’s own behavior come back to haunt them.


      • I do see your points. And in healthy churches, these clauses are likely quite harmless. But in the context of an abusive one, they could be quite the opposite, which is what I am mostly concerned with. I admit that I am impressed with your analogy of workplace references, and I agree that those switching churches should be upfront about the circumstances prior to their decision to switch. I just have a great deal of trouble trusting those in spiritual authority to (ironically) do the right thing, as spiritual authority is one of great power, and power tends to corrupt.


      • I appreciate your thoughtful response. I agree that spiritual authority can be abused. Sometimes it is overt, but as often in my experience it is subtle. Too often what passes for “spiritual” authority is simply one person in a particular office of the church claiming or asserting “authority” over someone with whom he or she disagrees. Which goes to show that the motley crew that makes up the church is comprised, not of doctors with a universal vaccine against sinfulness, but instead is composed of a bunch of desperately sick patients, some farther along the road to recovery than others. But none of us are so far along that we should “play doctor” with other peoples’ lives. Offer advice and encouragement and support when possible, if necessary urge another patient to go back to the clinic for a booster shot or perhaps a more direct intervention. But at all times practice the spiritual analogue to the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm. Easy to say, tougher to practice.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Church hopping is a thing. What is the right thing to do about it? It is a good point that a misbehaving church can misuse its processes to hurt people, but a misbehaving church doesn’t need processes in order to hurt people, and even if it had processes to prevent it from doing so, a misbehaving church would probably ignore them (because it’s misbehaving).

      In the late 90s my parents’ church had an epidemic of divorce. In one case a man left his wife and the church, and then a year or two later reappeared with a new wife and pretended that nothing had happened, expecting to rejoin the church with their new family. The old wife and, I think, kids, were still at the church while this was happening. What’s the appropriate way for a church to handle that situation?

      It must have been tempting to kick the guy to the curb and to warn his next church about his behavior. But we certainly don’t want the rebelling man and his new family to become unchurched. They obviously need a ton of counseling, repentance, and growth, but what if they’re unwilling?


Comments are closed.