See information from the elders on specific topics.
They are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Matt. 19:6).
God designed marriage to reflect the beauty and permanence of Christ’s loving relationship with His Bride, the Church (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7). Therefore, He established marriage to be a life-long, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-6). God also designed it to provide mutual companionship through life’s joys and difficulties (Gen. 2:24), to create stability for raising and nurturing children (Deut. 6:7)), and to give strength and cohesiveness to society in general (Gen. 5:2, Deut. 5:9).
In our fallen and broken world marriages fail under a wide range of circumstances. Many people have gone through a divorce before having a relationship with Christ and have found repentance and forgiveness in coming to Christ and sought reconciliation where possible. Others have experienced divorce through no desire or decision of their own. Still others, even after professing faith in Christ, may have divorced because of their own wrongful choices, but have since repented and received the forgiveness offered through our Lord Jesus and sought reconciliation where possible. Whatever the circumstances, we welcome everyone to Redemption Bible Chapel St. Thomas – single, married, and divorced.
Because our church recognizes both the divine origin of marriage and the devastating effects of divorce, we are deeply committed to preserving marriages and preventing divorce. Toward this end, we intend to devote a considerable amount of preaching, teaching, and energy to strengthening marriages and families. We require and provide serious premarital counselling for anyone wishing to be married by a member of our pastoral staff, in order to help couples enter into marriage advisedly, and be well-prepared for its many challenges.
We also encourage couples to nurture their marriages by participating actively in the fellowship of the saints where they can grow together in their love for God and for one another (Heb. 10:24-25). As relationships deepen, we expect husbands to spur each other on in loving and cherishing their wives, and wives to encourage one another in respecting and loving their husbands (Eph. 5:33).
Our leaders are committed to helping individuals and couples receive biblical counsel and support when they face marital difficulties. We will discourage couples from using divorce as a way to run away from issues that instead can be resolved through Spirit-guided counslling, repentance, forgiveness, and ongoing discipleship.
Diversity of Viewpoints on Divorce and Remarriage at Redemption Bible Chapel St. Thomas
The leaders of Redemption Bible Chapel St. Thomas may not always be entirely of one mind on the legitimate grounds for divorce and remarriage. For example, at times some of us may see the Scripture forbidding remarriage after divorce as long as both spouses are living, no matter what the circumstances of the divorce were. Others of the church leadership may believe that the Scripture permits divorce under the limited circumstances of sexual immorality or abandonment.
Statement of Guidelines for Mutual Accountability
In view of the differences that may be among the church leadership, we agree to live by the following guidelines concerning the nurturing of marriages and the exercise of redemptive church discipline wherever needed.
- A believer and unbeliever should not marry each other (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14-15).
- Since death breaks the marriage bond (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39), remarriage is permissible without sin for a believing widow or widower, if the marriage is with another believer.
- When both a husband and a wife are genuinely living out their faith in Jesus Christ, neither will put the other in a position where divorce is warranted, because divorce is invariably the result of one or both of them following un-Christlike patterns: (1) serious, unrepentant sin or (2) a sinful unwillingness to forgive (Romans 6:1-2; Luke 17:3-4).
- Divorce (“just cause divorce”) may be permitted when a spouse decisively and physically deserts the relationship or continues in a lifestyle of sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:15; Mat. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:11) and thereby proves to be an unbeliever. We do not believe that divorce must be the last word. Even after long periods of separation and alienation, reconciliation can happen, as when the people of God return to the Lord after periods of waywardness (Hosea 2:14-23).
We want to emphasize that the phrase “divorce may be permitted” holds out the possibility that inquiry may reveal that the deserted partner engaged in a wrong behaviour that drove the other away, so that a change is called for at home rather than divorce. We want to stress that forgiveness and reconciliation between sinning spouses is preferable to separation or divorce even where adultery has occurred. While Jesus does cite sexual immorality as a ground for a divorce and remarriage which would not constitute adultery on the part of the aggrieved spouse (Matthew 19:9), other scriptural passages such as Matthew 18:21-22 and Luke 17:3-4 urge us to be people who forgive generously and repeatedly.
- After serious efforts have been made toward reconciliation, the aggrieved partner referred to in Guideline #4 may, together with the leadership of the church, come to regard the marriage as irreparably broken. In such cases remarriage may be a legitimate step, if taken with serious reckoning that this cuts off all possibility of a reconciliation that God may yet be willing to produce. (See Guideline #7).
- The remarriage of a divorced spouse (resulting from “just cause divorce”) may by some be viewed as severing the former marriage (from a legal standpoint this is the view according to the laws of our land) so that he/she whose behaviour did not biblically justify being divorced may be free to remarry a believer (Matthew 19:9), if he or she has confessed all known sin in the divorce, and has made significant progress in overcoming any destructive behaviours and attitudes.
Recognizing the honest and devout differences of conviction in the church, church leaders with more limiting standards for remarriage consent at this point not to make them normative for the whole body. Church leaders who regard the fourth statement as fully biblical, respect those among us with a more limiting interpretation and do not require or expect them to act in any way against their consciences in attending, supporting, or performing enactments of marriage they regard as contrary to Scripture.
The leaders of Redemption Bible Chapel urge every member who contemplates remarriage after just cause divorce to wrestle in prayer and study with all the relevant Scriptures, with the aim of glorifying God through full obedience to His Word and consider fairly the arguments against remarriage and those for it.
Moreover, we want to affirm the goodness and beauty of a life of singleness in God’s service both before marriage and after divorce or after death of husband or wife partner. It is commended in 1 Corinthians 7:7, 11, 32-35, and elevated by the examples of Jesus and Paul and hundreds of great single saints.
- The aggrieving partners referred to in Guideline #4 (who were guilty of abandonment, or a lifestyle of sexual immorality) should repent and be reconciled to God and to their spouses (1 Corinthians 7:11; 1 John 1:9). If it is too late because their spouses have remarried, then they should remain single because they left their first marriage without biblical warrant, and thus their marriage would constitute adultery (Matthew 19:9; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:11).
- If a second marriage ends in death or divorce, the widow or widower in this case is not permitted to return to the first spouse in marriage (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
- Members who remarry after “unjust cause divorce” or who initiate and proceed with “unjust cause divorce” will forfeit positions of official leadership at Redemption Bible Chapel, including but not necessarily limited to elder/pastor and deacon positions (1 Tim.3:2, 12).
Even though divorce is permissible under the circumstances described above, we want to emphasize that it is not required. It is not the best testimony to the covenant keeping love of Christ and His Church. God patiently bears with our sins, repeatedly calls us to repentance, and freely forgives us when we turn back to Him (Ps. 103:8-12; Isa. 55:7).
When divorce seems inevitable, an offended spouse can imitate God’s love by offering a straying spouse these same evidences of grace (Eph. 5:1-2). This may involve patiently bearing neglect or lovingly confronting serious sin (Col. 3:12-14; Gal. 6:1). In some situations, love may require asking the church to initiate formal discipline to rescue a spouse and a marriage from the devastating effects of unrepentant sin (Matt. 18:12-20).
Just as church leaders are involved in beginning a marriage, they should be involved when it is threatened with seeming dissolution. Therefore, when a member of Redemption Bible Chapel is considering divorce, he or she is expected to bring the situation to our elders and cooperate with them as they determine whether biblical grounds exist for the separation, and as they endeavour to promote repentance and reconciliation, and pursue redemptive discipline, if appropriate. All members are also strongly encouraged to take advantage of the Small Group, Men’s, Women’s, and Soul Care ministries of the church as a means of continually strengthening themselves and their marriages in the Lord.
Separated spouses who are moving toward divorce, but are still legally married, should refrain from dating or any other activity that is inconsistent with being married.
We are always interested in helping divorced people restore their previous marriage if that is possible and appropriate. We will support a decision to pursue a second marriage to a different person only when we have determined that it is warranted according to the guidelines mentioned above, and that every reasonable effort has been made to seek and grant forgiveness of the sins that contributed to a previous divorce.
We rejoice that divorce never diminishes God’s free offer of love, grace, and forgiveness. He cherishes and loves every person who has been unwillingly divorced, as does our church. God also graciously extends His love to those who have wrongly left their marriages. That love moves Him (and us) to call them to repentance, to encourage and aid reconciliation when possible, and to gladly restore those who have done what the Scripture requires to rebuild broken relationships.
From the inception of the evangelical church, the matter of membership has been a prominent and often controversial issue. Depending on custom and tradition, the expression of membership may take various forms. Today a number of different modern church movements are rejecting the idea of church membership all together by stating it is a human idea and an unnecessary addition to the Christian faith.
At Redemption, we are fully aware that our members, regular attendees, and guests are coming from many of the various traditions mentioned above and have strong opinions regarding the matter of church membership. As a church, we believe that this is an important issue and one that needs to be thoroughly addressed.
Many non-members attend the weekend service and participate in ministries such as small groups, men’s and women’s ministries, young adults, and our soul care ministries. These ministries serve our community as well as provide an opportunity for participants to understand the people and mission of the local church. While we want to provide an environment that is inviting to all, we also want to clearly communicate our stance and our desire for all Christians in our community to be moving towards membership in the local church.
Many people are hesitant to join the church. Some of the most frequent oppositions to membership are:
- I don’t understand how it will benefit me.
- There are too many “hoops to jump through.”
- I don’t think it is biblical.
- I don’t understand the importance.
- It seems too worldly, corporate, and restrictive.
Church membership is a means by which we mark the boundaries of the church. Throughout the Scriptures, God goes to great lengths to distinguish between his holy people and the world. This is evidenced by God distinctly making man and woman in his own image, by calling out Israel as a distinct and holy nation and by his launching of the New Testament church. Although there is not a single book or verse that details the idea of church membership, a closer look at the New Testament shows that local church membership is assumed over and over again.
Here are just a few examples:
- Numerical membership is recorded (Acts 2).
- Leaders are elected over a specific, local body (Acts 6).
- The practice of church discipline shows the public knowledge of who is inside and outside of the church (1 Cor 5, 2 Cor 2:6).
- Leaders have authority over specific local bodies (Heb. 13:17, 1 Tim 5:17).
- Records of widows who are church members (1 Tim. 5)
- An awareness of specific members (Rom 16).
Why should Christians be members of a local church?
- Biblical Obedience – Although there isn’t a chapter or book of the Bible designated to local church membership, as noted in the Scripture references above, the idea permeates the pages of the New Testament. As Christians, we are to personally submit to the local authority of the elders appointed by God. All Christians should be members or moving towards church membership.
- Covenant Commitment – Church membership communicates a visible commitment to both God and the body of believers in the church. It is an expression of interconnectedness that states you are committed to the body and the body is committed to you. This covenant declares that you agree with the church and submit to the authority and direction it provides.
- Dependent Accountability – As a member, you show that you understand that Christianity is a movement of gospel community in which you offer yourself to the church. You make yourself open to reproof, correction, discipline, and training that is necessary for spiritual maturity. In an age where independence is ultimate, church membership communicates a message of gospel dependence as you identify your true need for the church.
- Protective Blessing – By aligning yourself with the local church, you enter into a fellowship that serves to protect you. Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5, that our spiritual enemy is ready to devour us like a lion. The training, equipping, and fellowship found within the community serves as a shield of protection that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever writes:
“Church Membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.”
What is the membership process at Redemption Bible Chapel St. Thomas?
The membership process at Redemption Bible Chapel St. Thomas consist of:
- Step 1: An event that provides prospective members a casual opportunity to be introduced to the staff and elders and learn about the history, vision, and mission of the church.
- Step 2: This class gives an in-depth look at the church’s core values and provides an opportunity for prospective members to ask questions.
- Step 3: A membership application must be completed. This collects information that allows the church’s leaders to shepherd potential members in a more effective manner. After filling out an application, all prospective members will have a meeting with an elder couple. This application includes:
- Membership Commitment: A formal statement that every member will agree to that demonstrates the commitment to the local body in being a Christ-follower under the authority of the elders.
- Personal Testimony: Each person’s story is different. Not only does this help the leaders understand you more fully, but it also allows us to worship God as you give accounts of His saving grace through your unique experience.
Note: We are occasionally asked if we will accept a transfer letter from a perspective member’s previous church. While we welcome information from other churches, we ask that all members of Redemption go through the process laid out in this document. We do not claim that our process is perfect, but we do believe it helps accomplish our mission by allowing us to get to know the prospective members personally and granting them the opportunity to learn more about our church before making a commitment.