Machen on "Accepting Christ" and Church Membership
It has been a great grievance of mine to have been so late in acquiring and gleaning from the writing of such men as Carl F.H. Henry and J. Gresham Machen. For the past year, I have been working on catching up on lost time. This past week, I have been reading Machen's book, What is Faith?, and I came across this blurb that I thought was most fitting to the current situation in the SBC. Amazingingly enough, this was first published in 1925! If what Machen speaks of is so prevalent then, imagine what he would think of our treatment of the gospel, faith, and church membership now! Just this week, my home church, Ninth and O Baptist Church has been working on cleaning up the church rolls, seeking to bring greater integrity to the meaning of church membership. Lest we forget, we have a denomination that has over 8 million people who cannot be found by the FBI, most one would presume at one time "accepted Christ" to use the popular term. Let's pray for change, honesty, humility, and integrity in our churches, and let's take seriously the words of a man who knew the signs of the times - words that speak undeniably relevant today. Consider what Machen had to say:
One of the very greatest evils of present-day religious life, it seems to me, is the reception into the Church of persons who merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean. As a consequence of this practice, hosts of persons are being received into the Church on the basis, as has been well said, of nothing more than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus, or else on the basis of a vague purpose in engaging in his humanitarian work. One such person within the Church does more harm to the cause of Christ, I for my part believe, than ten such persons outside; and the whole practice ought to be radically changed. The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean. In view of such a situation, we ought, I think, to have reality at least; instead of comforting ourselves with columns of church statistics, we ought to face the facts; we out to recall this paper currency and get back to a standard of gold.
- J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 156.