WHO’S ON THE HOOK?

Two Priority Reasons for Timely Transferring of Church Membership

Crane hook

Last Sunday Jan and I joined our new church home in Idaho.

After years of partnership and ownership of the mission, community, and family at Orlando Grace, we now have covenanted for the same with Trinity Reformed Baptist.

And it mattered greatly to us for the transfer from one treasured fellowship to another to be intentional, official, and public.

I say that for numerous reasons, but will cite only a single biblical one—perhaps the most important—for the purposes of this post. Consider Hebrews 13:17.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The first reason Jan and I made a priority of a timely—not too fast but not too slow—transition in church membership was for our own souls’ sake.

The writer of Hebrews commands a recognition of and submission to the servant authority entrusted to a local church’s leadership so that earthly shepherds know just whom they are responsible for in keeping watch over their spiritual condition. More on that in a moment.

As for me and my house, I know my heart. As the hymn writer put it, I am “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

I require spiritual care. I need loving accountability. I want someone fighting for my soul by praying, teaching, exhorting, and confronting me when necessary to guard against the ever-present threat of spiritual drift (Heb. 2:1).

Failure to so identify and grant informed consent to a specific and particular body of shepherds in a local church of some kind puts you and me as sheep at risk. Have none of it!

The second reason Jan and I made a priority of a timely transition was for our churches’ sake—both of them.

This is true for their congregations and leaders alike, but this post concerns the leaderships’ demands first and foremost. Back to Hebrews 13:17.

Elders of a local church “keep watch over souls.” As such, they will give an account to the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) one day for how well they executed their charge.

Our transfer of membership now takes the elders of OGC off the hook for the Heffelfinger household’s spiritual care AND puts the elders of TRBC on the hook for that care.

Love demands that we serve both churches this way. Alfred Poirer notes:

The New Testament writers assume that Christians can identify their leaders to whom they have voluntarily submitted themselves. . . . And conversely, they expect the leaders of a church to be able to identify those members for whom they must give an account. . . . Yet God will not hold a pastor liable for failing to discharge his duties as shepherd over sheep that he cannot determine are his own.

Membership matters for both the sheep and the shepherd. Who’s on the hook for your soul?

Question: What other reasons can you cite for the importance of a timely transfer of church membership?

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