Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership Passes!

I must tell you that I am very excited about something that Southern Baptists did at the annual convention today. As I told you about a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Tom Ascol, the Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, has been trying for three years now to get a resolution passed urging Southern Baptists to get their rolls straight, and repent of what is essentially lying about membership numbers. Southern Baptists claim a membership of 16 million people, but less than 7 million show up to church on any given week. That's atrocious. You can read some of my previous thoughts on the issue here.

Today, after not more than a little bit of discussion, the convention passed a hybrid resolution of four different proposals, that I think pretty well reflects what Dr. Ascol has been trying to do for these three years. Here is the text of that resolution.

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 things I like about this resolution are 1) The admission that our numbers are not right, that we are basically lying to the world about how many of us there are, 2) that it recognizes that many of our churches have not been doing a very good job of keeping up with their people, or exercising biblical, restorative discipline, and 3) that it calls for corporate repentance over our reluctance to do what we ought to have been doing all along.

I'm under no illusion that this resolution is going to start a convention wide roll cleaning up. It was one of several resolutions passed by SBC'ers today, and one of thousands that have passed over the years. Most of them have come to very little. But I think this has the opportunity to be a start of something. The momentum for re-starting the process of church discipline that I think has been slowly gathering steam over the last couple of years could really gain more now. If even a quarter of our churches got serious about this, I think it would be a major step forward.

As I mentioned in the past, my church has already begun this process. I hope and pray that others will feel led to do the same. This might cost us our title of "Largest Protestant Denomination" title. We might lose some press coverage or some political clout if our numbers decline too much. But will be a much better, more biblical, more healthy, convention because of it.

For more on what happened today, you can go to the link below:

Founders Ministries Blog: SBC-Indianapolis #3 - The Resolution passes

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