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Imagine this scenario: You put your personal trust in Jesus Christ. You turn from your sins and are publically baptized. You study the Scriptures and pray on a daily basis. You know you’ve been forgiven and openly call yourself a Christian. But when you try to join the church’s membership, you get denied. How would you feel?

Just ask D. L. Moody…he can tell you.

In May, 1855, the young Dwight L. Moody presented himself for membership in the Mount Vernon Church in Massachusetts. Back in that day, it was customary to be interviewed by a small group of the church’s most trusted leaders. The records of that meeting have survived to this day:

“No. 1,079. Dwight L. Moody. Boards, 43, Court Street. Has been baptized. First awakened on the 16th of May. Became anxious about himself. Saw himself a sinner, and sin now seems hateful and holiness desirable. Thinks he has repented; has purposed to give up sin; feels dependent upon Christ for forgiveness. Loves the Scriptures. Prays. Desires to be useful. Religiously educated. Been in the city a year. From Northfield, this State. Is not ashamed to be known as a Christian. Eighteen years old.”

Everything looks good, huh? But it was determined – in spite of this testimony – that D.L. Moody was unfit for church membership. There were still a few key questions about God’s nature that went unanswered by Moody. So, the future world-renowned evangelist was denied membership, and a few of the elders were assigned to help him more fully discover the truth.

If we’re honest, almost every single one of us would be incensed by this kind of treatment, today. We aren’t accustomed to being denied anything, church membership included…especially when it seems that a majority of the requirements are met. But not only did Moody not get angry, he actually defended the elders’ decision!

One year later, Moody reappeared before the membership council. From those records, we know that they noted progress, that he had maintained his disciplines of prayer and Bible study, and that he was “fully determined to the cause of Christ always.”

Accordingly, Moody was immediately received into church membership.

What a powerful lesson this should offer us in our present day and age! Granted, we want to steer clear of Phariseeism and legalism, but what could it hurt to actually have legitimate, stringent membership standards?

If we did, the church might look a lot more different from the world than it does today.

Resource’s Origin:

The Life of Dwight L. Moody by William R. Moody. Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900, Page 43-44.

Topics Illustrated Include:
Dwight L. Moody
Spiritual Growth

(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)