We hear much concerning the proper instruction of candidates before they are baptized and added to the church. This is well. One of the safest methods of instruction in view of church membership is to have a baptismal class for such candidates. Ministers who organize such a class in connection with a series of meetings, usually do so after the Sabbath question has been presented. Those who desire baptism, or are seriously considering uniting with the church by either baptism or profession of faith, are called together at stated intervals. Each article of faith is carefully gone over, thus affording the members of the class the privilege of asking any questions they desire.
After a number of such meetings, and before baptism takes place, it is well to invite the church officers to the final meeting. The minister then gives a comprehensive review of all points of faith, at the close permitting the church elders or other officers to question the candidates if they choose. With the church officers present, a vote may be taken recommending to the fellowship of the church those who pass the test and wish to go forward in baptism.
For the information of the church body, when members are to be received into fellowship by vote, it is wise to ask the candidates in the presence of the congregation, some general questions pertaining to the leading points of truth. At that time the minister can explain to the congregation how each has been instructed in detail in the baptismal class by the minister and church officers. Then the church board recommendation may be presented, and final vote of the church taken in the usual way.
We should remember, however, that the parable of the sower reveals clearly that not all who are taken into the church will continue true to the faith. There were four classes considered,—"wayside," "stony ground," "thorny ground," and "good ground" hearers. Only the last class will fully accept and ultimately remain true to the faith. We must take into consideration the stony and thorny ground hearers, who will seemingly accept, but eventually fall by the way. While we must do everything possible to see that every person brought into the truth is properly instructed, and likewise that everything possible is done to hold them all in the church after they have come in, yet our evangelists should not be discouraged if, after they leave a place, some converts apostatize.
Where proper care has been exercised by a worker in bringing persons into the church, the fact that after the worker leaves the district some become discouraged and give up the truth, should not be charged against the worker. The more members our evangelists add to a church, the greater the probability that despite ideal instruction a percentage of them will give up the faith.
After all, in bringing in new members, it seems to me that it is less harmful for a worker to make the mistake of bringing in a person too soon, than to hold him off so long that he begins to wonder if his membership is really desired, and may give up in discouragement or move away. There is also such a thing as a worker's becoming so fearful that he may bring in members not properly instructed, that he will himself lose his burden for the evangelistic work.
It is quite evident that there are two extremes in the matter of bringing persons into our churches; therefore, we should pray earnestly to be especially directed by the Lord in giving proper instruction to each candidate. Then the responsibility will rest with the candidates.