How do you determine if a person can be trusted as a "true Christian"?
How does your church determine who can be trusted as a member of the church and a "true Christian"?
A very important question. This question is at the heart what divides the Christian community and is the point Joel was making when he posed it.
I am not going to claim that I have a complete answer to this but I believe I am getting closer. Here is how I responded to his question:
I have been "going to church" for 56 years. I could describe a good part of that time as circling the wagons to keep differing opinions out of the camp. I was probably guilty of worshiping my beliefs more than God. Still God loved me and called my His child, even though the relationship was heavily one sided. That is the way God is.
I am now one of several leaders in a medium sized congregation in Tucson. It still has the same moniker on the building as the one that I grew up in but it is not the same closed minded community it once was. We accept diversity and have placed Christ back at the center instead of our doctrine.
As for membership, we have taken a new track that we believe is really an old track. It used to be that one must Believe (like I do), Behave (like I think you ought) and then you can Become (a member of my church). We are actively rearranging those priorities. We call it "The Three B's" and we refer to it often in our teaching and admonishing.
First you Belong. Period. It does not matter who you are, what you wear, how many tattoos you have, if you are conservative or liberal or progressive, young or old or what you believe or even if you have faith of any kind. We are family, not institution. It is our fervent hope and prayer that if you don't believe that by belonging you will come to faith and wish to develop a relationship with Jesus. We plant the seeds by the examples of our lives and study of His Word and let God do His part to bring about Belief. The last "B" is Behave and this is expected to be a process, not an instantaneous revolution. That is what Grace is for and Grace is not something only God can grant.
Are we perfect at doing this yet? Nope. :) But we are working on it and God still loves us and calls us His children. That is the way God is.