For pastors or leadership of Nazarene churches:
A friend asked me about membership “rules” in the Church of the Nazarene. She is part of a congregation in which, essentially, anyone who walks through the door is welcomed as a member, no questions asked. She has heard about our “book of rules” (the Manual) and brought up some questions that were troubling her. (I explained to her that the “rules” in the Manual involved voting, holding meetings, handling finances, etc., and that the sections of the Manual that address her concerns are not “rules” at all, but Articles of Faith, mission statement, beliefs, covenants of conduct and character, and so on.)
She was bothered by the idea of voting a person in or out, and how that struck her as “judging” a perspective member. She wondered why a simple “I am a Christian, I have been saved” wasn’t enough to qualify for membership. She suggested that some who are already members don’t always live up to the “rules” in the Manual. She questioned the ability of ANYBODY to “live up” to what she perceives as rules.
How strictly does your Nazarene church interpret the guidelines in the Manual when accepting a new member? What type of pre-membership education does your church require? The Manual states that when someone wishes to join the church, the pastor “shall explain” to the person the Articles, the covenants, etc. The Covenant of Christian Character specifies some ways in which someone seeking membership should “evidence” commitment to God. Would you deny membership to someone based on one of the behaviors listed under that covenant and not others?
Hypothetical examples: Would you accept as a member someone who smokes? Someone who uses profanity? Someone who subscribes to “Playboy”? Someone who is living with someone as man and wife outside of wedlock? Someone who overeats? Someone who plays golf on Sunday? Someone who buys lottery scratch tickets?
Can you give me some thoughts on what membership means in your church? How do you handle a situation when someone wants to “join up” but isn’t evidencing a committed walk? What do you tell that person?