Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book review: 40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline By James B. Pate

40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline
By James B. Pate

If you’ve read any of the “40 Questions…” series, you know how good the work being done is and how much scholarship goes into each offering. Not all authors are at the same level of expertise, of course; some are better scholars than others, and some are better at allowing themselves to be understood. Given that disclaimer, this book is badly needed in today’s churches; perhaps even more in the Spanish world. So, here’s hoping it gets translated soon, and that Hispanic Pastors will pick it up to learn from it.
           The topic is a very current one and, as I said, badly needed. Not every church has an established membership process, some don’t even have one at all. Anyone that comes in through the doors semi-consistently is considered a member; sooner than that if they start tithing or giving offerings. The missing element of a mutual agreement (“covenant” may even be a better word) between the church and the prospective member in today’s environment harms not only the church, but it cheapens a member’s faithful Christian life.
            Beyond that, members need to know how their private matters (even their private sins) will be handled by the leadership. Some people have been surprised to learn, only too late, that there was no privacy agreement between them and the Pastor; and everyone ended up knowing everything that had been disclosed behind closed doors. This is the more common when a respected and/or beloved member decides to move to a different church in the area. It became open season on the poor member and character attacks, dressed in “concerned warning” garb made its rounds in the previous church and also the new one.
            Of course, we have to also know that not every member has the church’s best interest at heart all the time, therefore the need for a MUTUAL agreement.
Church discipline is also badly needed in our time; just because someone that committed a sin weeps at the altar does not mean they are ready to be fully reincorporated to whatever ministry they were involved in prior to their sin. I should not even have to tell you about how the church needs to protect its children and youth in every possible way from those that are not qualified for service in that area, or could be dangerous in other ways to the spiritual, physical, and even sexual well-being of our children!!!
            Where church discipline does exist, it is not usually done the Scriptural way, but in ways that the church attorney’s or a denomination’s handbook instructs the Pastor to do it. Shame on those who call themselves Bible Christians/Pastors, etc., but leave the Bible aside every time it conflicts with the official church Manual. This, sadly, will not change until we all learn what the Bible teaches on topics like this.
            So, yes, this book is a must-read for every minister, pastor, leader in every church. And it wouldn’t hurt every member to read it as well.
            I do have some doubts that a couple of difficult-to-interpret Bible passages were handled correctly, and think that the “turning over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” is handled with kid gloves rather than allowing the horrors of such a recourse to instruct us and our members to the seriousness of our sin; but those are rare enough that the book is still the go-to handbook for these issues.

4/5 Stars

Disclaimer: The book was received for free from Kregel Ministry books in exchange for an unbiased opinion.