Church Membership

The advice from inspiration is very clear to our SDA church concerning new membership.  Our outlook is — the more we add to the church rolls, the happier is our Lord.  Let’s look into this situation and see how God’s remnant church should work today in this regard.

“Only when the Church is composed of pure, unselfish members, can it fulfill God’s purpose. Too much hasty work is done in adding names to the church roll. Serious defects are seen in the characters of some who join the church. Those who admit them say, We will first get them into the church, and then reform them. But this is a mistake. The very first work to be done is the work of reform. Pray with them,  talk with them, but no do allow them to unite with God’s people in church relationship until they give decided evidence that the Spirit of God is working on their hearts.”  (Review and Herald, May 21, 1901)

“To have your name on the church book does not make you a Christian” (Counsels on Stewardship. p.84).

Before I became aware of the Lord’s last message (Elijah message), I too, was guilty of this error. I had the mindset that we should make a big effort to “bring em in”. I went out in afternoons and went door to door putting church and 3 abn flyers on the doors and gates on neighborhood homes. I had good intentions but the wrong approach.

As we read from the above EGW words, we and especially the pastors and leaders, should get to know the people who request church membership first before inviting them to become a church member. Let me tell you about a  personal example.

I remember after being a member for only a few months, I attended  the early Sabbath school meetings, which were held in the pastors office (usually 10 to 15 members showed up). I notice new people coming in occasionally that were not familiar to me. I struck up a conversation one Sabbath morning with a man named “Gary”. The pastor had not yet arrived and we chatted for a bit. We enjoyed talking and we exchanged phone numbers. He said he had decided to come to the church after watching 3abn and being convicted on the Sabbath truth (I don’t believe he became an official member).

As the weeks went by he would sometimes show up and sometimes not. Our pastor at the time knew him also, even on a first name basis. But I decided to call him after not seeing him for 3 or 4 weeks. We talked at length and I discovered some things I was not aware of. He was a serious chain smoker who just couldn’t quit, he told me. I had compassion, having a  former chewing tobacco habit.  I told him how I overcame it by the “quoting scripture plan”. He liked that idea.

Just a quick note about that plan. As we are well aware, Jesus was our example in all things, and so if we look how Jesus overcame temptation we find He used Scripture. He also used “specific” Scripture for the specific temptation. For instance on the Satan temptation to turn the rock into bread He used Scripture saying we don’t live by bread alone. So if you have a specific sin such as alcohol, tobacco, fornification, etc. then you can find a Scripture that addresses that and quote it out loud to the devil every time he tempts you. I used Psalms 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (as in wanting tobacco). Then you can forcefully say “be gone from me devil in the name of Jesus!”  after you quote Scripture. It’s powerful, but you must mean it and believe it.  It sure worked for me as I kicked the chewing tobacco habit of 15  years!

Back to Gary, he continued to be sporadic in attendance after that. But I called him again later and asked him why we hadn’t seen him for close to a month. He had issues with his rental unit and the landlord, he said. But I asked him an important question, “Has the pastor or any of the church leaders contacted you since you started coming to church?”  His answer was a flat “No”. Wow, that really threw me for a loop!  He was a new member, who had a serious idol (cigarettes)  and other challenges, yet no one from the church even cared or wanted to get to know him! I wondered how many other “Gary’s” came into the church.

If this situation had been handled by the divine method as given above, Gary as a potential new member of God’s church , would have been visited, talked to, prayed with and even studied with as he was beginning his church relationship. Instead he was on his own to sink or swim as it were. He ended up deserting the church.

Did the leadership care that Gary left? No, they did not. In the book of Ezekiel, the Lord tells us what He will do about these “shepherds” who are neglecting the flock, feeding themselves as it were. Brother Houteff quotes and explains the following Scriptures concerning this.

Ezek. 34:6-10 — “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.  Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the Word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not My flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the Word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require My flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”

   Let us not fool ourselves any longer.  God cannot be mocked.  He will not for ever forsake His sheep, neither will He for ever retain untrustworthy shepherds herding His sheep.  He will soon discharge them, and will demand that they give an account for their unfaithfulness.  So it is that what a multitude of shepherds have failed to do, one shepherd, even David, will, in God’s hands, get done.

Ezek. 34:13 — “And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.”

   In the days of this antitypical David God gathers

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His flock from all the countries where they have been scattered, and brings them into their own land.  God will no longer leave them in the mountains and the hills of the Gentiles.  “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.  Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.” Hos. 1:11; 3:5.

Ezek. 34:11-16 — “For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out.  As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.  And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.  I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God.  I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.”

   “…God has promised that where the shepherds are not true he will take charge of the flock himself.  God has never made the flock wholly dependent upon human instrumentalities.  But the days of purification of the church are hastening on apace.  God will

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have a people pure and true.  In the mighty sifting soon to take place, we shall be better able to measure the strength of Israel.  The signs reveal that the time is near when the Lord will manifest that his fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor.” — “Testimonies”, Vol. 5, pg. 80.

You see the Elijah message tells us to look inward now (to God’s household), instead of outward (trying to save the world). That is why our Lord said about the Elijah  “And  he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse “.  We are directed to look to helping our own now, lest we as His remnant church suffer His curse.

We  have so much work to do right now within our own churches to occupy most of our efforts. Sure, there will come a time very shortly when we’ll go out into Babylon (the people of the world) and call in the great multitude. But our own ship (church) is sinking fast and our efforts must be to save ourselves from ruin. Those of us who are studying our current church leadership have seen subtle infiltrations coming in and it’s rapidly growing! What are we doing holding hands with the other world churches in the World Council of Churches?

 Again EGW advises. “While the Lord brings into the church those who are truly converted, Satan at the same time brings persons who are not converted into it’s fellowship. While Christ is sowing the good seed, Satan is sowing the tares. There are two opposing influences continually exerted on the members of the church. One influence is working for the purification of the church, and the other for the corrupting of the people of God.” ( Testimonies  for Ministers, p.46)

And also “After admonition, after time for Bible study and reflection, those who are walking contrary to the Scriptures, and will not reform, should be suspended from the church” (Review and Herald, June 2, 1891)

He must and will come and take the reins. Only those who overcome their cherished sins will be permitted to play a part in the Loud Cry when it swells worldwide. “Only those who have withstood and overcome temptation in the strength of the Mighty One will be permitted to act a part in proclaiming this message when it shall have swelled into the Loud Cry” (Review and Herald, Nov. 19, 1908).

 How patient has the Lord been now? It’s been 124 years since the second to last message came to the church(1888 message of righteousness by faith) and it was rejected. It’s been 82 years since the last and final message came to the church (The Elijah message by bro. Houteff in 1930)  and for the most part is rejected (although thank the Lord it is getting out there now and growing).

 ” But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi,and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness.” (Mal. 3:2-3)

 Will you and I be one of those who remain standing after the purification? We can be! All it takes is a true committment and a firm determination to overcome.

So let us look to our own right there in the church  and partake in the work of Elijah, started by bro. Houteff, as a messenger  in calling our people to reform.  The clock is at 5 minutes to 12 so to speak.  We know the devils have sowed  many tares in our church, but as a light bearer, we can shine as a good example of a converted Christian life. A tare can change, by God’s grace.

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