I know of a lady that used to be a member of a Baptist Church (she was saved and baptized at that church). Several years ago she moved her membership to another church and since that time she is disabled and living in a convalescent home and only getting around in a wheelchair. She has no way of getting around on her own and family has no way of transporting her. The church that she moved her membership to several years ago has since dis-banded and no longer exists. This lady wants to have her membership moved back to the original church of where she was saved. What is your thoughts on this matter? I cannot see this lady being able to attend very much if at all.
And to go one step further in my thinking…If a person that is disabled, and maybe even bed ridden was to get saved, and wanted to be a member of a local church but were not able to be baptized…what do you do? I know that many churches require baptism for membership in a local Baptist church.
It is good that the lady has the desire to be a member of a good local church. If she is getting around in a wheelchair, it is still very possible that she could attend the services. If no one in her family can bring her to church, maybe someone in the church would see her as a personal ministry for his/her family to see that she can get there. Matthew 25:34-40 says, “34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Another good passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 12:12-26: “12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more THOSE MEMBERS OF THE BODY, WHICH SEEM TO BE MORE FEEBLE, ARE NECESSARY: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that THE MEMBERS SHOULD HAVE THE SAME CARE ONE FOR ANOTHER. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” If she does get to the point where she cannot come to church, then the church members can show their love by visiting her: “that the members should have the same care one for another.”
Even if a person was shut-in and could not attend a local church, should that one be accepted as a member? In this case, the church obviously knows the woman’s testimony, because you said she used to be a member there. Was she a member in good standing, or was she a rebel? Why did she change her church membership? If there were problems, does her desire now show repentance in her life? These things are important before accepting her back as a member. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
It is good for even shut-ins to desire to be a member of a local church, because they also need to give tithes and offerings. Even shut-ins, who often live on a very fixed income, have income, and God expects them to tithe from it. Malachi 3:8-10 says, “8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Many elderly people living on a fixed income do not tithe. That is wrong, and they are robbing God. Their financial straits are only going to get worse. Remember, we are told to lay up treasures in heaven. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” To lay up those treasures, we do not have to be the church member with the best-paying job. Remember the widow? Mark 12:41-44 says, “41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
Your last question dealt with whether a church should accept a person as a member if that person was bed-ridden and unable to get baptized. The Scriptural example is baptism first, then church membership. Acts 2:41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
The fact is that the majority of shut-ins could get baptized, if they realized it is a command of God, and were willing to obey Him despite the physical awkwardness or discomfort that it might bring them. It would take several men to accomplish the task sometimes, but often, it could be done. Think of this passage and apply it to baptism. Mark 2:1-4 says, “1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.” Four men could actually baptize someone who was still lying on a stretcher of sorts. It all has to do with desire. How much does someone desire to be a testimony to all that he/she has personally received the Lord Jesus Christ, and now desires to live a new life for Him? Romans 6:3-6 says, “3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
In those rare instances where an open wound or some medical condition existed where going under water was absolutely out of the question, that local church would have to seek the Lord’s face from His Word on that one whether they should accept that person as a member. Obviously, baptism does not save a person, so it is not a requirement to go to heaven. 1 Corinthians 1:17 says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Luke 23:39-43 says, “39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
The dying, repentant thief had no way to get baptized, because he was close to death and confined to the cross. But this is the exception, rather than the rule. Acts 2:38 says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Even when a person is traveling, we see the example of getting baptized. Acts 8:26-39 says, “26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 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? 37 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. 38 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. 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.”