This article is being republished from “Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice” by Elder W.S. Craig. Its original author of the main body of the article is Elder Walter Cash. We are not sure of the original publication date of the article by Walter Cash or its republication date by W.S. Craig. Walter Cash, 1856-1937. W.S. Craig, 1867-1961.
The Obligations of Church Members
(The following, taken by permission, from “Articles of Faith,” etc., by Elder Walter Cash, is recommended for the careful consideration of all our Baptist people. This very instructive pamphlet can be had of Brother Cash for 10 cents per copy.)
“The privilege of membership in the church of Christ is a great one indeed. The church furnishes a safeguard against the temptations of the world when its privileges and obligations are understood. Having the associations of the people of God, and hearing the gospel preached is a great comfort. That this privilege may be continued and enjoyed, certain obligations are assumed by those who become members of the church.
“The church could be of no benefit to the members, nor to the world, if the members did not meet together, hence arises the obligation of attendance at the regular meetings of the church. Paul gives a rule that should be observed by all the members of the church-“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is.”-Hebrews 10:25. Neglect of this duty is discouraging to the church and pastor. We should consider that it is a service we owe to God, and when we are “making” excuse for staying away we should think that before the excuse is a valid one, the Lord who knows the very thoughts and intents of the heart, would have to approve of it. This searching test, “Would the Lord excuse me?” ought to be ever before us.
“We may be tempted to stay away because of what some one else has done or has not done. But are we justified in treating the service of God with contempt because of what anyone in the world does? We are not serving men, but serving God, and what we do should be done as unto Him and not as unto men. This is a matter of so much importance that the church is justified in requiring its members to attend the meetings, or have justifiable grounds for staying away; and if members have the right feeling about it, they will be willing to let the church pass on their reasons for missing the meetings.
Thoughtful of Each Other
“It is the duty of members to be thoughtful of one another. We should think more of the members of the church than we do of the people of the world, and we should show it in our actions. If one of the members is sick, other members should at once show their love and kindness by doing what may be needful to be done for the comfort of the sick. Jesus showed a sympathetic nature, and helped and comforted the sick. They were glad to see His face and hear His voice. His followers should walk in His steps. Let the sick see your face and hear your voice and feel the willingness of your hands to help them.
Care for the Poor
“The members of the church should be careful to look after the poor. Though it is especially the duty of the deacons to relieve the immediate needs of the poor, it is the duty of every member of the church to be thoughtful in this direction, to keep the deacons supplied with funds when there is need, and then to give personal attention to the poor, that they may not feel to be neglected. The Master was Himself very tender toward the poor, and we can not feel that He would at all approve our course if we neglect them.
To be Loving and Kind
“The members of a church should be very loving and kind toward each other. They are brethren, and they should treat each other as the members of one family. This will require that they be forbearing, for there are none perfect. Should we require perfection of others it would be more than we are able to give in return, which would be very unkind of us, for we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We should be forgiving, because we shall need to ask others to be forbearing and forgiving toward us. And especially has the Master laid this upon us, for He teaches His disciples to pray to be forgiven, even as they forgive others.
Should Bear Personal Wrong
“We should make a distinct difference between bad treatment of ourselves by the members, and conduct which shows disrespect for the church, and is hurtful to its interest. We can afford to carry a great deal ourselves, but we must not sit by and see others tear down the home which has been established for all the children. The Savior bore personal abuse silently, but when He went into the temple and saw it being profaned, He drove out those who showed no respect for His Father’s house. If we reverse this and give a great deal of concern to what others may do to us, and show but little interest as to what the church must suffer, we shall not be following the Master.
“The members of the church should be very careful to search out all who have a hope in Christ, and invite them to come into the church, if they receive the preaching of the cross gladly. Especially should this interest be shown towards their own children, the Lord having laid it on His people to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They should use every endeavor to keep their children from hurtful associations with such things as will prejudice them against the truth and the true church. While they can not regenerate their children, nor be the means of it; yet they should seek to do their while duty by their children as regards the teaching of the word of God, and especially so there is evidence that they have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
Respect for Pastor
“The members of a church should show proper respect for the pastor of the church. While he is not to be considered infallible, yet if the Holy Ghost has made him ‘overseer’ of the church, and the church has recognized that appointment by a ‘call’ to a pastorate, his counsel should be sought, and his instruction followed, unless positively contrary to the teaching of the word of God, and in such case the matter should be discussed with him seriously. It is contrary to the word of God to treat the Pastor lightly, and to pass his advice and instructions by with contempt. No doubt in many cases neither pastor nor church have given the office the consideration that they ought. The pastor should receive enough financial assistance that he may devote the necessary time to his pastoral work.
“Every member of the church should realize that there is expense connected with keeping up a church and its services, and be honorable with the other members in bearing such burdens. It is not more honorable in members to let others pay in the church what they should justly pay, than in a business way to fail to pay out just debts. All can not bear an equal amount, but we should not expect others, who are in no better circumstances than ourselves, to bear more than we do, and we should make it our business to know that we are bearing our share. It does not show a becoming interest in the church to be indifferent to this matter. The following questions should be asked by each member and he should not be satisfied until he is informed on each of them:
“2. Is the church meeting its just obligations?
“3. Am I bearing as much of this, according to my circumstances, as others members of the church are, according to their circumstance?
“Not to desire to share equally with other members, according to our ability, is to shirk the responsibility which we solemnly assumed when we asked the church to let us become members. If we are not willing to bear the obligations of membership, we should hesitate to take the privileges and comforts of membership. It is so easy and pleasant when the members consult each other and all are willing to do what is right. We have no heavy salaries to meet, and out expenses should be met cheerfully.
The Church Home
“A church home is what members make it. If they are selfish, contrary, covetous and peevish, and do not bridle their tongues, it will become unpleasant and a burden, instead of being a joy. If they are loving, kind, forbearing and like the master, it will be a pleasant place, a glad retreat from the world, where the pure, sweet song of peace and love is sung, and the presence of God is enjoyed.”
I wish to add the following: Absent members, or those living at a distance from the church, I think are under living at a distance from church, I think are under the very same obligations as the other members, to help bear their just share of the church expenses. Those who have plenty of this world’s goods should not push this burden unequally upon those who are not so fortunate, even if such should be fully willing to bear more than their share, because such practice is not right. Neither should any one or two members bear all this expense, though they may be financially able to do so; for such practice is very dangerous to the future welfare of the church. It has a tendency to encourage or nurse the other members into a state of helplessness (or thinking they can’t help, or unwillingness to help, because they have not been doing so) that will surely appear with bad results when this too willing member of members is dead. The expense of Primitive Baptist churches are so very light, as compared with others, that all their members should be gladly willing to bear their proportionate share, and this need not be burdensome on anyone. Especially is this true with Mount Zion church, because of provisions made, and her expenses above this ought to be so very light on all her membership as to be scarcely felt.