The More Things Change Watch
This matter of recruiting a membership for the church is a real problem. Even the churches which once believed a very definite conversion to be the sine qua non of entrance into the fellowship of the church are going in for "decision days" as they lose confidence in the traditional assumption that one can become a Christian only through a crisis experience. But if one does not insist on that kind of an experience it is not so easy to set up tests of membership. Most of these "personal evangelism" campaigns mean little more than an ordinary recruiting effort with church membership rather than the Christian life as the real objective. They do not differ greatly from efforts of various clubs as they seek to expand their membership.
Of course we make "acceptance of Jesus as your savior" the real door into the fellowship of the church. but the trouble is that this may mean everything or nothing. I see no way of making the Christian fellowship unique by a series of tests which preceded admission. The only possibility lies in a winnowing process through the instrumentality of the preaching and teaching function of the church. Let them come in without great difficulty, but make it difficult for them to stay in. The trouble with this plan is that it is always easy to load up your membership with very immature Christians who will finally set the standard and make it impossible to preach and to teach the gospel in its full implications.
--Reinhold Niebuhr, 1919