Church insists on marriage before membership

May 24, 2023

Dear Pastor,

I want to ask you a couple of questions and I hope that you can help me. I am 35 years old and I have been living with my girlfriend for five years. We get along well, and we have twins.

My folks love my girlfriend and her people accepted me. We are not traditional Christian people, but recently we started to go to church because we would like our children to grow up i the Church.

We discussed with the minister about joining the church, and he told us that he could not accept us into the church unless we are married and then get baptised. He said the members should see that we are serious about serving the Lord.

I could not believe that a church would turn us away because we are not married. When we questioned him about that, he said that one of the church's rules is that people who are living together and have children must give up the concubinage life and be married before they are accepted into the church. He could not show us that from the Scripture.

He asked me if I smoke and drink. I told him that I do not smoke any more, not because the Bible tells me not to smoke, but for health reasons. I told him I drink; I am a social drinker and I like beers. He said I am not ready to leave the world, so when I am ready he will baptise us and marry us.

Do you think that this minister is right to turn us away from serving the Lord? Where in the Bible does it say that a person cannot drink or smoke and be a Christian?

This man said that we will have to come to church regularly and we cannot attend parties. So, I am asking you again, where in the Bible do we find these things? We are looking forward to your answer, please.


Dear J.L.,

I wish you had given me the name of that church; and even the name of the pastor would have helped, because I am wondering whether you misunderstood what the minister was saying.

You expressed a desire to be baptised and the minister laid down the rules of his church to you. He didn't tell you that he would be happy to help you. He did not ask you whether you were born again.

Nicodemus, according to the Bible, went to see Jesus to enquire about spiritual things. And Jesus said to him, "Nicodemus, you must be born again," and that is still required by the Lord.

Anyone who wants to serve the Lord must be born again. And Jesus told him that he should not marvel about what he said a person should do. One must experience his spiritual burden.

According to you, this minister asked you whether you smoke or drink. So I would say to you that something went wrong in that conversation. I do not believe that the good Lord would turn you away if you smoke, but smoking is not encouraged because it is not good for one's health. I doubt the good Lord would turn you away from Heaven if you were to smoke. The Bible says that no one should take strong drinks. The Bible does not encourage anyone to engage in having strong drinks, as alcohol is not good for your health. But the Bible does not say that occasional drink, such as wine, is not wrong. And when it comes to having a good time at a party or so, the Bible does not condemn that either.

Anything that one does to an excess is wrong. The Bible says there is a time for everything under the sun. So I don't know what this minister was talking about.

You and your partner have been living together for at least five years and you have two children. This minister should have taken the opportunity to minister to both of you, but he didn't. Instead, he behaved as if he were condemning the both of you. That is why I am wondering whether you have misunderstood what the preacher was saying.

I suggest, therefore, that you seek the help of another preacher who is more practical than the one you spoke to, and who would take time to minister to both of you. I want to wish both of you well, and also wish that your children will be in good health.


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