I read an article recently which dealt with the possibility that a large percentage of church members are not true Christians. This hypothesis was based on the difference between the number of members on the rolls and the average Sunday morning attendance. The writer suggested that at a minimum a true believer would be in attendance at church on Sunday morning. This assumption is to be expected since church attendance has for years been the quintessential mark of a Christian.
Any allusion to the existence of unsaved people on the church roles is very problematic for the evangelical community. Immediately one is forced to deal with the obvious question: are these unsaved members simply deluded in their belief or are they willfully pretending to be something they are not and for what purpose? For an institution, tasked with the responsibility to make believers, to be filled with an unknown number of unbelievers makes the entire effort of the church seem a failure. Of course, some will take comfort in citing scripture references to false brethren or teachers, claiming that as proof that the church cannot avoid having the same. Even if that is so, how can the church fulfill an evangelical mission when it cannot tell who is saved and who is not, even among its own membership? Some may try to dismiss this issue by saying there is no need to make that judgment because God is the final arbiter of salvation. That hardly diverts the question because clearly, in order to evangelize, you must be able to determine those in need of salvation and more importantly when salvation has occurred..
The underlying premise, that true Christians are not identifiable until they exhibit certain behaviors like regular church attendance, undermines the idea of an instantaneous, procedural salvation as taught by the evangelical church. An instantaneous salvation must be discernible immediately, otherwise how can it be verifiable. If it is not immediately verifiable, what would be the basis for allowing church affiliation and the addition to the church roll? Must church affiliation be delayed until Christian behaviors have been displayed adequately? I don't observe that being taught in the churches I have experienced.
If the church is full of non-believers, what does that say about statistics supporting church growth and evangelical successes? The number of baptisms, "alter call" responses, and new memberships are the basic measures of evangelistic efforts. Any significant and unquantifiable number of unsaved members makes such statistics meaningless.
If unsaved church members are predicted by the scriptures and therefore unavoidable, as some may assert, then there remains the question as to purpose of these false brethren. The NT passages ( II Cor 11:13,26; Gal 2:4; II Pet 2:1; I Jn 4:1) which warned against false teachers/brethren could hardly have meant those who never showed up. Any reference to NT warnings will imply that the ones predicted are in attendance and in teaching positions. Now that conclusion is really unnerving. Can the false brethren be the very ones railing against the unsaved in the church?
For the church to claim church membership as a requirement for a Christian and then simultaneously suggest that its membership is composed of a sizeable number of non-Christians is a monumental admission, one which highlights the improbable nature of the church's claim as God's emissaries on earth. In effect they claim a divine mission and then concede its failure, lamely pointing to certain scriptures to excuse that failure as foreordained. Can anyone doubt that a benevolent God would never devise such a plan to deal with man's spiritual need.