Dealing With Worldly Church Members
April 13, 2016
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
At a recent Bible conference in the Philippines, some pastors asked for suggestions about how to deal with worldly families in the church membership. One of the questions was as follows: “What can I do as a pastor if I have families that won’t obey in their homes my teaching about music and other standards?”

The following is a slightly expanded edition of the reply I gave to that:

1. Set the right example in your own life and family.

Don’t be a hypocrite by preaching one thing and living another, or by preaching one thing and allowing your own family to live in a different way. I know many pastors who have weakened their authority and harmed churches by doing this.

I think of a pastor who preached against dating but allowed his son and the son of his associate pastor to date girls in the church.

I think of a pastor who preached against contemporary music but allowed his son to form a contemporary gospel group.

I think of a pastor who preached against skipping church services for sports and other such things, but allowed his own son to miss mid-week prayer meetings for wrestling matches.

I think of a pastor who preached against bossy, unsubmissive wives, but his own helpmeet was the epitome of a bossy wife!

We hear too often about lying pastors, thieving pastors, lazy pastors, porno-addicted pastors, adulterous pastors, and even child molesting pastors.

Church members need pastors that will be the examples that God’s standards in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 call for, and I thank the Lord that I personally know many such men.

2. Guard the door to membership.

A major way to avoid having worldly families is to be very careful about receiving members in the first place. In my experience, most Independent Baptist churches are very careless on this point. They are so eager for new members that they don’t “vet” them properly, especially those coming from other churches.

For our part, we are very careful on this matter. We are not in a hurry to receive members. Anyone can attend our services and activities, as long as they don’t cause trouble, and they are welcome to listen and learn, but joining our church is not so easy.

What we are looking for, first of all, is genuine, born-again salvation (with evidence, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Before we baptize an individual, we first agree as leaders that the person has shown evidence of salvation. Then we meet privately with the individual and have him tell his (or her) testimony. We ask any questions that are deemed appropriate and try to clarify any matter that isn’t clear. If the leaders are not in agreement, we kindly ask the individual to wait a little bit until things are clear in his mind and in ours. When we believe the individual is saved, we have them take a couple of classes on baptism and then they are baptized.

When receiving members, we also look for likemindedness in doctrine and practice. We have an extensive church covenant that lays out these matters in some detail, and we require that every new member read that and profess agreement. We want to get to know all prospective members, so we can have a sense of whether they are going to be faithful and whether they really are on board. I base this philosophy on passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:10 which require that the church body have “the same mind, and the same judgment.” If this were not possible, God would not demand it, and it is the church leaders who must create it and maintain it.

I talked with a young preacher recently who started a new work about a year ago. He said that after hearing me preach at a conference this January he realized he has been too quick to baptize people and to receive people as members from other churches. He said that he realizes that a large percentage of those he baptized were not saved, since there was no biblical evidence, and this had been puzzling him. And he realizes now that much of the trouble he has had from members could have been avoided had he been more careful and patient about receiving members. I encouraged him that it is good that the Lord has shown him these things now when the church is young, so that he can correct the problem and build a stronger foundation for the future.

Guarding the door of church membership in this fashion doesn’t solve all problems by any means, as we know all too well, but it does solve many problems.

3. Have high standards for all workers.

There is great pressure on pastors today to lower the standards, and it appears that most are bending to the pressure.

When I talk about “standards,” I am not talking about a mere external rule. I am not talking about Phariseeism that produces whited sepulchers. I am talking about a true walk with Christ that evidences in obedience and separation.

Maintaining high standards for workers is not only pleasing to God, because He has high standards (1 Cor. 4:2), but it also has many practical benefits.

One of those is that it is a way to limit Christian service to those who are faithful, have a good testimony, and are separated from the world, and it challenges all of the church members to rise to a higher standard of living.

If a church member isn’t faithful to services or doesn’t dress properly or doesn’t follow the church’s standard of music or doesn’t have a serious Bible study life, that is a sad business and it requires continuing attention, but God gives His people a certain amount of liberty to make decisions about their Christian lives. He beseeches His people to surrender wholly to Him and to separate from the world (Rom. 12:1-2), but He does not demand it in such a way that it is the sin unto death if it doesn’t happen.

At the same time, in our church, the unsurrendered, unfaithful, unseparated church member is not qualified to have a church ministry, whether it be teaching, music, ushering, giving announcements, leading prayer, taking up the offering, or anything else. All such ministries are reserved for those who meet God’s standards in Scripture.

Having standards for church workers is an important part of raising the level of Christian living for the entire church. It is not possible for a church to have worker-type standards for every member, but it is possible to require specific standards for those who serve in a ministry. A person doesn’t have to teach Sunday School or participate in the music ministry, etc., but if he does, it is not unreasonable for the church to require him to meet specific standards.

One of the ways that new members learn how to live for Christ is by observing the church leaders and workers, and if
they do not live right, the entire church is affected. If the Sunday School teachers, for example, are not required to maintain high standards, the students will learn from their poor example, but if Sunday School teachers are required to maintain standards their students will follow their example and will grow in Christ.

4. Preach hard and get the message down to where the people live.

Church discipline involves many things. It is both positive and negative. It is both proactive and reactive.

As the late James Crumpton observed in his excellent book on church discipline, an important aspect is the kind of preaching described in 2 Timothy 4:2 -- “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.” (Dr. Crumpton’s book
New Testament Church Discipline is one of the free eBooks available at

This is the type of preaching that does not draw back from rebuking the very sins that the people in the congregation are doing. It is the type of preaching whereby the Word of God is applied to the people’s daily living, including the father’s role in the family, the mother’s role, the husband’s business, the wife’s, the child’s, life at the schoolhouse, life at the workplace, entertainment, and every other aspect of daily living.

5. Teach with depth

A spiritual church that separates unto the Lord from the world requires Biblical depth. The people must be built up in the Word of God. It is “able to build you up” (Acts 20:32). It is quick and powerful” (Heb. 4:12). It is able to cleanse the young man’s way (Psa. 119:9), to bring prosperity and good success (Josh. 1:8), and to bring forth spiritual fruit (Psa. 1:1-3).

We do everything we can to establish all of our people on a solid foundation of Biblical knowledge.

We have a serious discipleship course that is extensive and practical. There is a memory verse program built into the course, and each lesson features review questions. It helps the child of God know how to apply the Bible to his daily life in matters such as Christian growth and spiritual victory, knowing God’s will, making wise decisions, tests of entertainment, and being wise with money.

We have expository preaching and teaching.

We have a serious teaching ministry to the youth. Instead of spending time with a lot of sports and games, we do such things in our multi-day youth conferences as teach through the Epistle of Romans, teach 10 hours on the Tabernacle, teach a series on evolution and science, teach on highlights on Bible times from archaeology, and teach about how to use mobile phones and technology safely.

We aim to help each of our young people have an effectual daily Bible study.

We operate a full-time Bible college to train our more serious young people. This is a 2 Timothy 2:2 ministry, whereby those who are trained in turn train others, and they are given constant opportunities to do that.

We are getting ready to start weekly Bible classes for the church members that will be taught by our Bible college students. They will be assigned a course to teach and given 12 hours to teach it (two hours a week). So they have to shorten the courses they are learning in Bible college.

When combined with love for the Lord and earnest prayer, this kind of Bible teaching ministry has the potential to raise the spiritual level of the entire church so that the lukewarm part of the congregation becomes the minority and even the extreme minority.

6. Disciple the men

Men need discipling that is geared directly to them, to their roles as leaders, to their particular needs and problems.

In our church we have a weekly men’s meeting. It is only a half hour, but it has been a great help in discipling the men and creating a stronger sense of unity in the church. When the men are being the spiritual leaders they should be and they are in unity with the church leaders, it is a great help to the wives and young people, and it raises the spiritual standard of the church.

We invite our teens to attend the men’s meeting beginning at age 13. That is the age of the Jewish
Bar Mitzvah. This means “son of the law” and is the age according to Jewish tradition when a boy can participate in the synagogue worship. Jewish Bar Mitzvah holds no Biblical authority, but we like the concept. We want our youth to identify as men rather than as “teens” according to the foolish pop culture. We want to do everything we can to break down the ungodly “generation gap.”

7. Have a Titus 2 ministry for the women

Women also need a ministry geared to their special needs, and that is described in Paul’s epistle to Titus.

“The aged women likewise, that
they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-5).

My wife and other mature women in the church oversee this ministry, and it is absolutely essential for a spiritually healthy congregation.

8. Personal counseling and reproof

It is not enough to reprove, rebuke, exhort, and teach from the pulpit. It must also be done on an individual and family basis.

Our church leaders often meet privately to help the members, to counsel them, to reprove and warn them when necessary.

If a man is neglecting his family or not being a good spiritual leader in his home, we meet with him and talk to him and try to help. We discuss the relevant issues. We give proper counsel. We express our love to him. We pray with him.

We do the same with moms and teenagers and anyone else in the church membership.

And more often than not, the merciful Lord gives strength, healing, and restoration. We have seen a lot of spiritual victory through private ministry to individuals.

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