Posted: 08 Sep 2015 05:39 PM PDT
First Boston Meeting House
The Importance of Church Membership
Church membership at one time was much more important among fundamental Baptists than it seems to be in our day. As a case in point, we shall look at the record of the First Baptist Church of Boston. The church had been born in conflict, and many of the early members had been imprisoned for daring to establish such a witness in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But the years passed, and we read of the second law of thermodynamics as it entered the spiritual realm. “the 9th mo 1684 Mr. Dingley & his daughter Recevd as members to comunion by letter of Recomendation. .. . . At A Church meeting September ye 13th 1685. It was agreed upon the Brother Drinker upon consideration of his neglecting to officiate in his place for A long time & still prsisting in soe doeing should be discharged from ye work & office of A Decon and be Admonished to his duty as a member. . . His admonition availed, for he was restored to his place as a member upon acknowledgment of his desertion and promise of Reforming. Hid did not long walk in fellowship with the church, but after two other admonitions, He was rejected for refusing to heare the Church according to the 18 Chap: Mathew: this was sollemly don 5th January 1695.” Church correction, for the most part, is tragically a thing of the past. Church membership in our day is but a badge of approval, and everyone is expected to join a church somewhere. Now the church is filled with unregenerate membership, and the church is no longer pure.
Posted: 15 Feb 2015 04:03 PM PST
Dr. Richard Furman
When church membership meant something
On Feb 16, 1750, Oliver Hart began his ministry in Charleston, S.C. at the Baptist church that was established when William Screven led his congregation to flee when they were persecuted in Kittery, Maine. Richard Furman who later became pastor, began his term of service in 1787. Following are some of the terms of church membership for the Charleston church at that time. Possibly the pendulum had swung too far to the right by then, but who can deny that in these days of “anything goes religion”, the pendulum has swung too far to the left, and in many instances, church membership has almost become meaningless. They had three main rules for church membership. First they were to notify the pastor of their desire for membership in time before the next communion seasons so that he could appoint the deacons or any other of the brethren that he may think proper, to visit the candidate to obtain needful information concerning their faith, character and life. The second phase involved a period where appointed people would spend a time of fellowship with the prospective members to become better acquainted with them. The third step would be a face to face meeting with the congregation where they would have the opportunity to ask the candidate any questions concerning their faith and repentance, etc. If all was well, they would then be baptized and admitted to all of the privileges of the church. Or they would accept them on receiving a letter of recommendation from the church from where they had come – The date was 1828.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 95-97.
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The issue was a regenerated church membership
One of the main results of the Great Awakening was the fact that it produced approximately 100 separate Congregational churches that left the Congregational Denomination, known as “New Lights” over a period of twenty years. The issue was a regenerated church membership, in that the Congregationalists had fallen into the apostasy of infant baptism. Estimates were that as many as fifty thousand were saved, either directly under Whitefield’s preaching or revivals spawned by others that were influenced by him. Out of this group of churches fourteen went further, were publicly immersed and became Separate Baptist Pastors. Two of these were Isaac Backus at Bridgewater, MA on April 13, 1748, who became the great Baptist historian and Shubal Stearns at, Tolland, MA, on March 20, 1751, who became the pastor of the famed Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Sandy Creek, N.C., that launched the Baptist churches of the south. There were two primary reasons why these Separates became Baptists. First, Separates had become Biblicists. The Bible had become their only rule of faith and practice. Therefore infant baptism could not be defended scripturally. The second was for economic reasons, Baptists could claim the Toleration Act, and be excused from supporting the State Congregational Church. However Quakers were excused too but few became Quakers. It was the Baptists that became the stimulus for the ongoing of the Great Awakening as it moved southward.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 110 – 112.