Is it ok for ministers to allow people to join the church or become a church member and the person not be saved?
There are two aspects to church membership. The first occurs when one becomes a Christian. At that point the Lord adds the saved to the church, or His body. The latter half of Acts 2:47 reads, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." This is the action the Lord takes when one has repented of their sins, confessed their faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. This puts one in the universal church or body of Christ.
The other aspect is one's membership in a local congregation. A person should be identified with a local congregation because the elders have been charged with the responsibility of watching, or looking after our souls. A person needs their shepherding guidance. In addition, since giving is a part of worship a person needs to give to a local congregation for the carrying out the work of spreading the gospel. Also, one needs to put their talents to work for the Lord, and that can be best done through the local church. A minister does not have the authority to determine who can and cannot become a member of a local congregation, especially a person who has not become a Christian.
Would it be wrong to continuously move from congregation to congregation when there is no real reason to?
The examples of the New Testament point us in the direction of people identifying with one congregation. Acts 2:41-47 indicates that those who were baptized on the day of Pentecost, as well as those who were baptized afterwards, joined in with the apostles, and previous converts, to become a part of the one congregation in Jerusalem. Though we would say there was only one congregation at that time, there is still no indication whatsoever that the Christians had a desire to go off and start other congregations. In Acts 9:26 we read that Saul, who would be called Paul, sought to become a part of the church in Jerusalem. Though the people were at first fearful of this former persecutor of the church, he nonetheless sought to be a part of that congregation.
There are at least two reasons I want to be a part of a congregation. One is that the elders are to look after my soul, Heb. 13:17. If I continually move from congregation to congregation I do not have anyone to do that. Second, I want to put my talents to work for the Lord. This is not to say that I cannot do good works outside of the church. However, I want to do all within my power to help build up the church. If I am constantly moving around the chances of my doing that are greatly diminished. In regard to the question, yes, it would be wrong. And I would have to question the motives of the person who continually moves from congregation to congregation. Do I not want to work for the Lord? Is there something I am trying to hide, and so I feel like I must continually move from place to place? Are the people everywhere I go really that hard to get along with, or is it just I?
- Should a congregation have a paid preacher?
There is nothing in the scriptures that would forbid having a paid preacher. In fact, the whole point of 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 seems to be that the church should pay the preacher. Verses 1-5 affirms the preachers right to support. This is followed in verses 7-9 in which Paul illustrates his point by referring to a soldier, a vineyard owner, the owner of a flock, and an ox.
Each of these receives wages, or benefit, from his service. Paul adds that the one who plows looks to benefit from that which he will plant and then harvest, verse 10. Paul had sown the spiritual, and it was right for him to reap the carnal, or material, from those churches where he had preached, verse 11. Note verses 13-14 in particular. Here Paul states, "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
It is true that Paul would sometimes forgo this, but it was because Paul had his critics and he did not want them to accuse him of abusing his "power in the gospel," verse 18. Yet even this latter statement must be tempered by his words in 2 Corinthians 11:8 where he says, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service."
Is there a biblical reason for placing membership?
Though this terminology is not used in the New Testament, this appears to be the practice of the early Christians. In Acts 9:26 Luke indicates that Paul wanted to "join himself to the disciples" in Jerusalem. In Romans 16:1 Paul refers to Phoebe, who was a "servant of the church which is at Cenchrea," which seems to indicate that she was a member of that particular congregation.
The benefits of one "placing membership" with a congregation are multiple. One has the benefit of elders "watching out for his soul," Hebrews 13:17. In a local congregation one has fellowship with other Christians, Acts 2:41-47. In a local congregation one joins with others in the work of the church, Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-19.
In a local congregation one finds mutual support, 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; Romans 12:15. In the worship of the local congregation one finds mutual edification, Colossians 3:16. These things, along with others which could be cited, show how vital being a part of a local congregation can be.
You talk about one of the
benefits of "placing membership" as having elders to look over you. What
if your congregation is small and has no elders? What if, due to poor leadership and
example set by the minister, the congregation is dwindling, families are leaving, and your
children (and yourself, for that matter) have no interactions with Christians of the same
age and position in life?
You appear to be a dedicated Christian lady who is concerned about the spiritual upbringing of your child. You and your husband are to be commended for this. It is hard to answer a "what if" question as you have posed. The ideal church has elders and is growing. In your situation, you do not have this, as stated in your comments. Generally, a persons first obligation is to the church where they worship. I realize we are all volunteers in the Lord's Family. We can move anytime, and this is an option in your case. you may be of better service to you Lord by staying where you are. At this point in your child's life the most important thing is for you and your husband to put the Lord first in your lives no matter what.
It is not nearly as important now that he has children his own age to
grow up with in the church. In the next ten years or so, you and your husband will be the
most important people in his life. He will believe much of what you believe. If you stay
where you are and strengthen the church, perhaps by the time that peers are extremely
important to your son, you will have helped establish a strong congregation of people who
love and serve the Lord. His own participation in the church up to that point will be more
important than he has friends the same age with which to spend time.If, however, by the
time he is 8 or 10 years old and starts depending more on his friends, you see the need to
move, you will have
at least know that you did your part in trying to help the Lord's church in that location and your son's spiritual life will not have been diminished because of it. Your first consideration should always be, how can I best serve the Lord. We all get discouraged at times, but I would remind you of Act 20:32-- "And now brethren, I commend you to God, and the word of His Grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I pray this answer will be of some help,and you will make the right decision.