The Southern Baptist Convention is to be applauded by Independent Baptists for adopting the resolution below during their most recent annual event. Now while I am not crazy about the money pooling that occurs in the convention to support liberal universities, I do appreciate the spirit of this resolution tremendously. The SBC has the resources to collect data that totals the members in the convention's churches—16.2 million. It also has the ability to determine approximately how many of that 16.2 million are in church in all SBC churches—6.1 million. That means that well over 10 million professing baptized Christians with a membership in a local SBC Baptist church are providentially hindered or playing hooky. When you include the reality that some percent of people in attendance each Sunday are visitors, it is conceivable that on most Sundays for every one church member in worship there are two at home for a membership in a SBC church. This resolution calls on local churches to clean up the rolls. The concern is "professing" Christians have joined the church and because they are not truly converted there isn't a burning desire to constantly participate in corporate worship. Regenerate church membership is a membership that is focused on ensuring the roll is made up of only those who are born-again.
This has been my desire for two years. BBC's membership class gives me an opportunity to look for fruit—the fruit of conversion. There is no sure method and people do complete the class who later stop attending and this is precisely where church disciple comes into practice. Baptist churches cannot and must not allow "professing" Christians retain their church membership while they constantly ignore the weekly call to corporate worship, fellowship and Bible study. If the "liberal" SBC has proclaimed corporate repentance in the matter of unregenerate church membership, how much more should fundamental Baptists be concerned about membership rolls that are full of people who professed a faith in Christ yet give no evidence of conversion. While it can be argued without debate that we can't know the heart, we do know that those who are converted become new creatures in Christ. A "professing" Christian left without church discipline because of his failure to assemble and participate in the church Christ died for could be lulled into a false sense of eternal security. The church that initiates contact and strives for spiritual restoration could be helping a brother get right (Gal 6.1; James 5:19-20) or could be tearing down an obstacle interfering with the drawing of the unconverted to the Son by the Father (John 6.44; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). The Christian whose profession is not supported by evidence of conversion might need to be separated from local church membership to respond to an invitation to attend another church or an invitation to receive Christ—being outside the umbrella of church membership could be just what it takes to wake-up.
This is tough stuff—keeping the membership purged at BBC requires names to be presented at nearly every business meeting. Members need to see and hear about this—it is supposed to help keep the local body of Christ absent of the wickedness of idolatry and faithfulness to Christ. An unregenerate member worships the creature over the Creator in a state of being deceived because the god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth.
6. On Regenerate Church Membership And Church Member Restoration
WHEREAS, The ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle, with Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message describing the church as a "local congregation of baptized believers"; and
WHEREAS, A New Testament church is composed only of those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, the local church's only Lord, by grace through faith (John 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), which church practices believers' only baptism by immersion (Matthew 28:16-20), and the Lord's supper (Matthew 26:26-30); and
WHEREAS, Local associations, state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention compile statistics reported by the churches to make decisions for the future; and
WHEREAS, The 2007 Southern Baptist Convention annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and
WHEREAS, Those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and
WHEREAS, The Scriptures admonish us to exercise church discipline as we seek to restore any professed brother or sister in Christ who has strayed from the truth and is in sin (Matthew 18:15-35; Galatians 6:1); and now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ's lordship for all members; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we humbly urge our churches to maintain accurate membership rolls for the purpose of fostering ministry and accountability among all members of the congregation; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we humbly urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their pastors to implement a plan to minister to, counsel, and restore wayward church members based upon the commands and principles given in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).
The final paragraph in the above resolution is tough. "Implement a plan to minister to, counsel and restore wayward church members." How much energy should the pastoral staff put forth toward this task of ministry, counsel and restore? Every member a minister must be a factor in this task. Why is it the pastor's job? Is this what he gets paid to do? Perhaps. But why do we have to beg "professing" Christians to come to church? When I got right with God in 1988 no one had to beg me to come to BBC. I wanted to be in the worship, preaching, fellowship, and Bible studies.
Every under-shepherd in the church must be concerned about wayward church members. Either they are loved back into faithful attendance or their relationship with the church by membership is severed while their participation may continue; hopefully toward either conversion or full discipleship.
We don't need a resolution we need resolve to do what is right against perceptions that this is unkind and not Christ like. It is just the opposite—what does it profit a man to be a "member" of a church for a lifetime and loose his soul?