Baptist Distinctives Day 5: Saved and Baptized Church Membership

For today’s distinction we sat down with Pastor Dr. Bro. Raymond Heller pastor emeritus of  Soulwinners Only Baptist Church in Houston, TX for a brief Q&A about the importance of having a saved and (then sometime later) baptized church membership.

SFL: Hello, Dr. Bro. Raymond Heller! Thanks for agreeing to talk to us today.

Dr. Bro. Heller: I’m always glad for the opportunity to tell apostates, heretics, and baby baptizers where to go. And by that, of course, I mean I like to tell them where to go in the Bible to see that I’m right and they’re headed straight to perdition.

SFL:  So let’s get right to it.  Why do Baptists believe in a saved and baptized church membership?

DBH: We believe that because the Bible says it in…well, a bunch of places. Also because all the other churches which are full of unsaved people have corrupts everybody’s manners with bad conversations. An unsaved membership is also what has lesbian, drum-playing, baby baptizing pastors taking over churches across America.

SFL:  So how do you know who in your church is actually saved? Isn’t God the only one who can see the heart?

DBH: Well we can’t be 100% sure of course that any individual person is actual born again. But after a person makes several professions and is baptized four or five times, we feel that it’s a pretty good indicator of their sincerity. I mean they wouldn’t keep coming back to make sure they really, really mean it unless they really, really meant it.

SFL: Can you list me some other ways that you can be reasonably sure a person is saved and safe to include in the church membership?

DBH:  Well, a few trips down to the altar during bible conference help to show a tender heart. Driving the bus for the missions trip to Mexico shows a willingness to serve. And of course we’re always looking out for people who give until it hurts and then give until it feels good and then give until it hurts again but in a way that strangely feels kind of good.

SFL: So what I’m hearing is that you really have no more idea whether your baptized church members are saved than the member of churches who baptize babies do?

DBH: Young man, this sort of evil questioning leads me to think that you sound to me like a person needs to get saved and baptized himself.

SFL: I appreciate your concern but I’m actually already a believer.

DBH: Well it can’t hurt to pray again just to make sure. Here let me show you a few verses…

98 thoughts on “Baptist Distinctives Day 5: Saved and Baptized Church Membership”

    1. Babies cannot believe

      Act 8:36-38 “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
      And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
      And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”

  1. I’ve been dunked twice myself. There’s always that agonizing feeling after you get “assurance” if that was The One and then should you or should you not get dunked again.

    And, of course, we wondered about people who were saved at a young age, if they REALLY meant it. Actually, this is how I got dunked twice. In reality, I’ve always been a believer since I was a child. I really didn’t have to go through all that rudamaroo…. and water-logging.

    1. Three dunks for me, plus christening in a Methodist church. My former pastor told me that real Christians could not doubt their salvation, so he had me repeat the sinner’s prayer. After, he asked if I felt any different. Since I didn’t, he said I still wasn’t saved. Then, he said I needed to start confessing my sins to him because I probably had committed a sin that was keeping me from getting saved. I knew that was horrible logic and theology, but I was 16 and was so sick with fear that I did it. I had been saved long before that but had been under so many “make sure you’re really saved; if you do xyz, you aren’t really saved; if you don’t do abc, you aren’t really saved” sermons that I was terribly confused. When I attended a non-fundy church, someone finally cared enough to stop slapping the band-aid of “pray the sinner’s prayer again” over my confusion.

      1. Absolutely. You can also find it in your pantry when you’re making up a new dish or your living room when everyone has just laid their stuff everywhere.

  2. According to the hypothetical pastor, saved people are sincere, have a tender heart demonstrated by going to the altar, are willing to serve, and give their money. There is no mention of the fruit of the Spirit, especially the one which should be our identifying marker as a Christian: love.

    1. In a church where I worked (Presbyterian) the pastor was very much into kayaking, as was one of my choir members and myself. We said that we were going to institute a third form of Baptism – the Eskimo roll!

  3. I eventually got tired of raising my hand for absolutely no reason. I don’t know who started that, but it’s is absolutely the most idiotic solicitation to self identify for the speaker/staff ever. I’m really never at any church that would do that anymore, but if I somehow were, I’m not raising my hand even if they called out “who’s social security number is” and listed mine.

    1. I hate raising my hand too. If it’s personal, I don’t necessarily want everyone to know. If it’s general, it’s more of a rhetorical question and who needs a physical affirmation of an obvious fact: “If you’ve ever felt discouraged, raise your hand.”

      1. I especially dislike being asked to raise hands to respond to a preacher’s question when I’m not allowed to raise my hands in response to the singing.

        1. I love it when I’m not particularly paying attention and the preacher asks for hands to be raised for a question… I’m like, “OH.. yeah.. *raise hand*.. What did he ask again?”

        2. I was always horrified as a kid if my mind drifted away, especially during a long invitation, and suddenly I realized everyone around me had their hands up and I didn’t know why. What if he’d said, “Raise your hand if you’re saved” and I didn’t? Everyone would think I wasn’t saved. But what if he said, “Raise your hand if you’re volunteering to go door to door on Thursday night.” I did NOT want to do that! Oh, the agony of embarrassment and indecision!

        3. I used to tell my ESL students to be sure they understand a question before they answer. Don’t say, “Oh, yes, absolutely” until you know if the questioner said, “Would you like a piece of chocolate cake?” or “May I try out my new baseball bat on your head?”

        4. I know for sure I’ve raised my hand on accident when wasn’t paying attention to the question to being one that needed salvation, then heard the next question about raise your hand if you know that you know that you know, and raised my hand for that too. I used to feel kind of bad for the preacher when I did that, now I’m kind of glad I threw them for a loop. 🙂

        5. that may be a nominee for comment of the year. bravo Pastor’s Wife!

          if i’m reading it correctly, to raise one’s hands in worship is the mark of some charismatic-namby-pamby-feel-good-i’m-ok-you’re-ok-liberal-compromiser, but to raise one’s hands in response to a pastor’s curiosity acceptable/expected/required.

          love it!

        6. PW – I just know you peek when you are playing the invitation song, so now my question, did the MOG ever say yes I see that hand, when no one had raised their hand in order to “compel” others to go ahead and raise theirs?

        7. @greg, I know it’ll sound smarmy, but I really did try to preserve the congregation’s privacy and not look. I’ve never noticed a pastor making up imaginary people, but then, I’ve usually been in pretty small churches. It’s harder to pretend someone raised their hand when there’s less than 100 people in the audience!

          Thanks, reader mo. Hand-raising in the IFB is often strangely ironic.

        8. When I said awesome response, I was referring to your post about raising hands for the pastor’s questions but not for singing. Also, I have looked before when all eyes are to be closed. This was when I was ready to leave the fundy church. I was on the last row & the pastor said thank you, I see that hand. He said that 4 or 5 times & not ONE person had raised their hand. It made me think how many times had he lied about that.

      2. I once heard Jack Hyles during an invitation say “If you are not as good of a Christian as you should be raise your hand.” When everyone naturally raised their hands Jack Hyles said “Every hand is raised! God is working!” But what honest person would not raise their hand to a question like that?

        But when you have an ego as big as Hyles it needs to be constantly fed.

    2. Could raise a fist. Or a first with, say, one finger extended.

      Of COURSE I’m joking … but I wonder what would happen?? You’d “Quench the Spirit”, I guess.

      I’m bad, I know. 😈

    3. When our cats take, um, hygiene baths with their leg sticking up in the air, my kids say, “Yes, I see that hand.” And they have never even gone to an IFB church. I went to a charismatic fundamentalist church for about 10 years. That was 10 years too long.

      1. That made me laugh.

        I was always slightly puzzled by that procedure. Since your eyes were supposed to be closed, how did you know whether he was talking about your hand or someone else’s? How did you know if the MoG had seen your hand and now you could put it down? Was favor and prayer withheld if you thought he was meaning yours, and you put your hand down, but he really hadn’t see it and was talking about someone else? So much uncertainty!

    4. I finally reached a point a while back where I decided that I was no longer going to raise my hand in response to any of those “every head bowed, every eye closed” invitations. Even the ones where the pastor asks everyone to raise their hands “as testimony to God, if you are 100% sure that if you died, you are on your way to heaven tonight.” Why does the pastor need to know? So he can have a count of who is “saved” or not?

      1. The theory isn’t that he wants to see who is saved, but to note if there are any hands NOT raised (assuming that very few Christians will be unwilling to give testimony of their salvation). The question also tends to make people think of how sure of their salvation they are.

    5. Count me in; when I first went to church, I raised my hand when I was uncertain of my salvation; I was then very unhappy for the strong manipulation to try to get me to go forward. I was not willing to do that, and was very put off by the high-pressure job I was subjected to.

      Sidebar: The reason I was unsure of my salvation was my complete lack of knowledge of Scripture. The issue has been settled for many years now.

      Anyway, I found that the pressure job continued as I began to attend church more. It reached its zenith when at an invitation, it was said “If you’re a Christian and a member of this church, come down here and tell the pastor you love him.”

      That was enough for me….

      No more raising hands now; I’ll identify myself as saved in an invitation, but not whether or not the Spirit of God used the message on my heart. He knows, and I know, and that’s all that needs to know!

    6. my primary concern during the stupid invitation was that i would yawn, which would cause my eyes to water, which would make it look like i was crying in response to the 23rd verse of just as i am, which others would interpret to mean that i was being convicted of my unsavedness. lucky for me, though, every head was bowed, every eye closed, for pastor didn’t want to see anybody looking around…

      1. I was always worried about the same thing. I would get really sleepy during the invitation and start yawning. My eyes would start watering and I was always so paranoid that people would think I was weeping. It’s not that crying is so terrible per se, but I always felt like I was lying somehow by making people think that.

      2. I have little kids, so I enjoy long, extended invitations with “heads bowed, eyes closed, nobody looking around”. I can put my head on the pew in front of me and take a power nap. :p I could even do it with my hands folded so that it looked like I was praying if I didn’t quite wake up on time. Haha.

  4. OK, I’m going to profess my ignorance here, but I thought the distinctives were proceeding as an acrostic. By my count, we should be on I, not S. Somebody please point out what I’ve missed. 😕

    1. Sometimes I’d peek as a kid. I never caught anyone fibbing. Once I started playing the piano for invitations, I took it very seriously and tried to keep my focus on the hymnal or the speaker not the congregation. (I know, I know; I’m a “goody two shoes.” As an especially conscientious first-born with extra-earnest IFB parents, I never had a chance!)

      1. A more innocent motive would be to encourage fearful ones that they’re not the only ones raising their hands. If they think others are responding, they might be brave enough to raise their hands too. (Still untruthful though.)

        A much baser motive would be to prove to the congregation that he’s effective. Couldn’t preach a message that didn’t coerce SOMEONE into public repentance. The deacon board might go looking for another preacher.

      2. @AreYouSerous, oooo! How sneaky! If the pastor said, “Yes, I see that hand!”, he might feel guilty for lying, but if he just says, “God bless you!” he’s only IMPLYING that someone raised their hand, not actually verbally saying so.

    2. I saw this happen once. What a shame. Pastors need to know that they are loved, regardless of how people respond to their messages.

      Hug a pastor today, serious.

    3. Some years ago I was helping start a church and the pastor told me to look when the guest speaker said “Every head bowed every eye closed” so I could help with counseling later. Apparently he didn’t tell the speaker. Boy did I get a look as he harshly restated his instruction… 😳

    4. i caught one of the Bob Joneses lying big time once at BJU. a love offering was being taken for a preacher on Sunday morning (which was unusual), and while our eyes were closed but before he started praying, he asked us to raise our hands if we had been blessed by the guest speaker’s ministry in the past. i’d say MAYBE 10 people raised their hands, but Dr. Jones said “i see those hands, hundreds of you.” i was like huh???

      1. It’s never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.

        I’m disappointed that any pastor would stand before his congregation and deceive them, however pure he thinks his purpose might be.

      2. That’s called “evangelistically speaking”. It’s a big joke that evangelists inflate their numbers, and everyone knows it.

        Any time a number is mentioned if you follow up with “evangelistically speaking of course” you get a big laugh in fundy circles and everyone knows you’re exaggerating.

    5. At some point at BJU I decided that I thought the altar call thing was totally unbibilical and ultimately deceitful. So part of my refusal to participate was refusing to bow my head and close my eyes except in prayer. When I started doing that, I discovered that most of the time the speaker was lying.

      Horrible. And eye-opening. But at least we’re not like them “ends justify the means” Catholics, amen?

      1. 😀 You’re right! But then, if we were in the pews, the church WOULD be tilting to the right so – phew! – that congregration can safely still identify themselves as true Baptists!

    1. Based on where the pastor is standing, I think this is one of those lib’ral churches with two aisles and three sections of pews. It must be Sunday night or Wednesday night, because the side sections are nearly empty, and most of the people are crowding into the center section near the pastor, who appears to be standing on the floor level with the congregation, instead of up behind the pulpit on the platform. Yes, I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this: what else are you supposed to do when you’re a kid stuck in yet another church business meeting?

      1. as long as you don’t say “father”, you get as many (unearned) titles as you want. dr. bro. evangelist mr. rev. kaiser worshipful master king senator mayor mccheese

  5. Oh man.. the last line. I did that to so many people. People at the door would say “I go to such and such a church” and I would say “oh great, Church is good, it’s a good place to go” but in my head I was thinking – okay, gotta get em saved because they obviously have never ever heard the gospel at THAT church.

  6. My assumption in reading this series of posts is that you doing parody on the Baptist distinctives just to be funny rather than actually arguing against them. Because if you’re trying to do the latter, you should be ashamed of yourself for the miserable failure not to mention the attempt. If the former, well, I guess that’s what you do… and with some degree of success. =)

  7. I know that I still believe in most of these “distinctives”. (Not all; for example, I’m in favor of a board of elders instead of a single pastor.) I gather that much of the purpose of this series is to explore how the distinctives actually appear in the context of many IFB churches – and it ain’t pretty.

      1. I understand and appreciate the point. My comment was the result of finding your posts SEEMED to criticise the distinctives almost as much as they criticised the perverted applications of them by some Fundamentalist Independent Baptists.

        Just because many of the extreme fundies happen to also be Baptist doesn’t say anything about Baptists per se. I’m quite happy to see thoughtful satire, but at times got the impression that these historic convictions themselves were under attack.

    1. There is nothing about plurality of elders that is inconsistent with the Baptist distinctives. The Baptist distinctives say “two offices: pastor/elder and deacon.” It says nothing about how many of each.

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