Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting a Handle of Church Membership

Tom Ascol, the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral Florida, and the president of Founders Ministries, has for two years presented a resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention calling on churches to clean up their rolls, calling people to real, covenental, church membership, and churches to more truthful reporting of their numbers. Both of those times, his resolutions have failed. This year, at the SBC in Indianapolis, he is again presenting the resolution, and another group, The Association of Convictional Baptists, is presenting a similar resolution. I like Ascol's better, mainly because it calls for corperate repentance over our failure to accurately reflect in our numbers what our churches look like. But I'd be willing to vote for either of them if I could.

As some of you probably know, my church, Northcrest Baptist Church, has about 3,000 members, but we rarely have more than 1/4th of those members in attendance. You may not know that the deacon body has begun a program to try to get a handle on that. Over the next several months, we're going to try to visit all of our non-active members, and call them to become active. In the process, we hope to find out who is going to other churches and who has moved to other cities and who's just not going anywhere anymore. I think it's going to be very productive, and I'm very pleased that our leaders have decided this is important. Hopefully, in a few months, we'll have some formerly non-active members active again, and have a smaller, more accurate role. If you go to Northcrest, take a moment to thank Kevin Hatcher and Bro. Charles for pushing this.

I have signed my name on to support this resolution. You can do so by clicking on this link, if you'd like: Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership. If you look down into the comments, you'll see that Rick Warren, the pastor at Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose Driven Life," has also signed on his support.

Below, you'll find the complete text of that resolution, by Dr. Ascol.

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership

Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1); and

Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5 and Titus 3:10-11; 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 ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message; and

Whereas the significance of believers' baptism tends to be lost when churches that practice it fail to exercise loving care for all their members; therefore, be it

RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further

RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further

RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord's teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further

RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally

RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.

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