When the Roll Is Called

by Bill Denton

By Bill Denton

"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).

"Membership in the Church of Scotland plunged 22 percent between 1994 and 2002, but Daniel Hawthorn, pastor of Belhelvie Church in Aberdeenshire, says it's time to drop a few more names off the rolls.

"In a letter to his 600 church members–only a third of whom regularly attend services–he suggested that those unwilling to attend, give, read the Bible, and evangelize should reflect upon member vows' and decide "whether or not they wish to remain members." The church, Hawthorn said, would "rather have a smaller roll of people who take their membership and Christian faith seriously, than a larger one made up of those who do not."

—Ted Olsen, "The Church in Absentia"
Christianity Today, Vol. 48, No. 1.

Okay, this is a touchy subject. If you want to get some people fired up, just hint that you're thinking about throwing a few of them out of the church. You'll get a storm you didn't plan on.

I'm taking a chance writing this article. I suspect some people will think I'm writing about them. A few might even get upset because they think I'm being critical. Well, let's get the egg-shell-walk out of the way. There is an old adage that says, "If the shoe fits, wear it!" Here goes:

There is absolutely no comfort or encouragement given in Scripture to people who will not follow the Lord Jesus Christ, who will not worship, who will not participate in the life of His church, and who consistently absent themselves from God's call and mission. Every comfort and encouragement is given to people who will seek the Lord, and attempt to do His will.

There are people who know the words, "put the Lord first," but if you examine their lives, the Lord is in a place considerably lower than "first." Some of these people seem to understand the importance of "church membership," but if they treated their membership in some other organization like they do their church, they would be eliminated from the roll because of a lack of involvement. Lots of people say they want to be saved and go to heaven, but they seem to only want this in a technical sense, for they do not want to be separated from their sinful behavior or activities, and if the way they treat God's people is any indication, it's doubtful that they're going to enjoy heaven very much, since it will demand such a change in the company they keep.

Are you a Christian? If so, then act like it. Do you belong to a local church somewhere? If not, you should, for it will do more to build your faith and encourage you to serve the Lord than winging it on your own. Is your heart set on going to heaven and living there eternally? Then stop shying away from God, from Jesus Christ, and from the Lord's people. There is an old song titled, "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder." It says that when the roll is called, "I'll be there." Wouldn't it be tragic if when that roll is called, your name had been deleted?

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