This question was asked by the pastor of a local church:
What should I do and how to proceed if a person comes from another church and wants to become a member of the church I am pastoring? The reasons are that the church he comes from is of another denomination, there he does not receive the expected spiritual edifice and is disappointed by his pastor. This person has been attending our church for a long time, but he also attends the church where he is still a member. Now he told me that he had prayed and together with his wife they decided to move to our church. Until then, I gave them no answer, but I would not want time to pass and him to say about me that he was disappointed and is looking for another church.
If someone wants to become a member of the local church we pastor, we can’t stop him. Likewise, if a person wants to move from one church to another, we cannot stop him. This is practiced only by totalitarian religious denominations, but we are the Church of Christ and we do not proceed like that. At the same time, we need to be careful, and I advise you to follow these steps:
1. Find out the real reasons for his departure from that confession
Sometimes the reasons are different from those invoked by people who want to move to another church. It is important to have a discussion with this person and ask them all the questions and get all the answers that interest you. I made a mistake as a pastor to accept someone who came on the grounds that he had had some unresolved conflicts in his church and denomination. This then caused us new problems.
2. Find out the real reasons for joining the church you belong to
Usually, people say they want to get involved in the work of the church they want to move to. You need to ask more questions to find out how he really wants to get involved and if he understands this in the end. Why do I say that? Because once again we made a mistake to quickly accept a young woman who moved from another church. Coming to the church, she did not seek to see the work being done and to join, but immediately came up with new ideas for works and appealed to the young people in the church to join her. They were all already caught up with the other work and obviously could not answer her call. Then she became angry, began to provoke conflicts as she did in the other church where she had been before, and stopped coming to the worship services of the church. Thus, she was about to be excommunicated, because she had abandoned the church and only then asked to be transferred to another church. I warned the pastor of that church about her behavior and how he should help this young woman to repent and grow spiritually.
3. Discuss doctrinal differences
If the person who wants to transfer comes from another denomination, it is very important to discuss step by step all the doctrinal differences. I emphasize once again that you need to discuss them all. Let nothing be left that can then lead to discussion and cause unrest in the church. Take time and discuss all these differences, do a Bible study of them all, and so make sure that the person who is transferred to the church you are pastoring fully shares the doctrine of this church.
4. Tell him about the fears you have
Talk to the person who wants to transfer and say that you are afraid that after a while he will leave the church and talk about you just as he is now talking about the pastor and the church he left. So tell him about other fears you have, whatever they may be. Don’t assume that it is self-evident. Discuss all the things to make sure there are no ambiguities left.
5. Set a trial term
I am very sorry that in the case of the young woman I mentioned, I did not set this trial term. You can call this term differently, say testing, adjustment, etc. I think it is good to have this term for 2 or 3 months and during this period it will be seen if that person is a true Christian. If he does not attend worship services and is not involved in the church’s work in any way, it will be clear to you that you cannot accept him into the church. And if it turns out that he has real faith, you will gladly receive him.
At the end of the article, I want to encourage all students and all those who go abroad to work, once there, to find a healthy local church and to establish themselves there as members. Why? Because it will be very difficult for the pastor of the church in the locality where you have been so far to pastor you. While there, the new pastor will be able to watch over your soul, to give you teaching and direction. Therefore, when you arrive, look for a healthy church and do not postpone this for a year. Two or maximum three weeks will suffice. But in no case should it be more than a month. Go and talk to the pastor of the new church, tell him about your desire to become a member during your studies or your stay in that locality, and let the pastor of the church know where you left.
If you have come to study or live in Chisinau and are looking for a local church where the Bible is studied and where you want to get involved in the work of the gospel, you are invited to consider and visit Biserica Buna Vestirea that I pastor.
Translated by Nicoleta Vicliuc