Membership Matters

If you follow the news in Christian circles, then you know by now about the resolution at the latest Southern Baptist Convention about purging the membership rolls through the exercise of biblical church discipline.Here are some links (and their sources) in case you aren’t up on the issue:

The Next Big Southern Baptist Debate: Purging the Membership Rolls (Christianity Today blog)

Complete text of amended membership resolution (Baptist Press)

I am not a Southern Baptist but I have been close to many over the years (most of my family is SBC) and have kept up with the headlines for many years. While I applaud the move (and agree with many that Tom Ascol’s resolution was not only stronger but closer to the biblical teaching), I wish that many more in independent Baptist circles would also return to biblical church discipline.

Sometimes the problem is with the pastors who can sometimes be so focused on “growth” (meaning numerical growth) as to lose sight of the importance of faithfulness and obedience. Other times, the problem is not with the pastors but with the people in the pew (some of whom are also concerned about numbers) who often would rather remain faithful to their friends and family members who no longer frequent church than to be faithful and obedient to the Word.

I remember one meeting in our church when I was a new Asst. Pastor, not yet ordained, where we were doing this very thing (removing non-attenders from the church roll) and one man stood up and said that we were on the verge of great things and if we did this people would be mad and we would not be able to grow. It apparently did not occur to him that it is better for the people removed to be mad at us than to be out of step with God by being willfully disobedient to his Word. (Besides, why would it matter if these people are mad at us when they don’t come to church anyway?)

As Kim Riddlebarger points out, the same problem affects both the SBC and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod: They’re losing the saved in the name of reaching the lost. The result is, they end up not reaching the lost but losing the saved. I would say the same is true of many churches not of those two groups who are so caught up in seeker-sensitive methods that they lose sight of what the church is and to whom it belongs.


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Obedience, Pastoral Ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Membership Matters

  1. Arthur Sido says:

    Riddlebarger is right on this (even though he is desperately wrong on baptism!). Our churches have designed virtually every facet to reach the lost, often at the expense of Christians. On the other hand, we can swing too far the other direction and barely tolerate those in our midst who are not saved. Visitors should feel welcome at church, not because we are trying to get them to make a decision but because hospitality is a lost but vital art. I would pray that the lost in our midst are warmly welcomed but see the difference between the world and the Word, and that the saved among us are fed, challenged, nurtured and encouraged.

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