Thursday, May 12, 2016

Church Dismembership

One of the hardest things to do in a Southern Baptist Church is to remove a person's name off the church roll. We basically equate taking a name off the church roll (if it wasn't requested by letter) as denying eternal security!

door, fence, churchSomehow we read passages like 1 Corinthians 12, Hebrews 10, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, etc. and get the erroneous view in our mind that the Body, and 'one anothers' can somehow be accomplished with body parts not present and I guess 'some' anothers. Or maybe that's the real problem: maybe we haven't read those passages very carefully. We are so caught up in 'the way we've always done things around here' that we fail to see the plain reading of Scripture: a dismembered body is no longer a viable body. 

Ah, but we have a solution sir! We shall create a list on the church roll called 'inactive'. That way we can still keep them on our rolls but they just get the dirty label of an 'Inactive Member'. That'll help them!

Why don't you try that the next time you break a bone. Don't try to fix it. Just buy a Post-it note from Walmart, write 'inactive' on it, and affix it to the broken part of your body. 

I heard a man say recently 'I don't think the majority of Southern Baptists would remove somebody off of a church roll'. He was using it as an argument against removing names. But my reply was that I think he is right on his observation of the majority of Southern Baptists. And therein lies a major issue with our denomination. One in which we need to repent denomination-wide. We've been more concerned about numbers than people. 

Beloved, it's time to do away with inactive church rolls by either removing names or assimilating those who've gone astray back into the Body through repentance. If they've joined your Baptist church in the past then they have, at the very least implicitly, made a promise to continue to be in regular fellowship with your church. Therefore, if they've forsaken that assembly they need to repent and come back to the fold. And if they will not, they need to be removed. 

Here are 5 reasons why we need to do away with the Inactive Church Roll: (This is by no means exhaustive!)

1. It shows the church prizes membership -

The local church is the most glorious institution on earth. And yet, we let the Lion's Club outdo us in prizing membership. Shame! 

For a church to have an inactive roll shows that inactivity is permissible. Is there a Bible verse for that? Take up your cross and follow Jesus when it's convenient? 

For a church to keep non-attenders on the church roll is to devalue church memembership. 

2. It shows the church cares for Her members -

One reason I've heard argued for having an inactive roll is people in nursing homes or who we would label as 'shut ins'. 

My question is this: why are they inactive? Sure, they've stopped coming to gather because of physical or mental necessity. But have you left them? Why isn't seeing them a priority for you? Why isn't your Sunday school class periodically meeting at the nursing home or their house with them? 

My point here is to put people on an 'inactive roll' who physically can't make it to the assembly is to miss the purpose of church membership. The problem with an inactive roll is that those people aren't cared for. Don't put people who can't physically attend on an inactive roll! Keep them on the roll and go care for them.

Do you really want to put a Brother in Christ who served the church faithfully for decades but is now in the nursing home on the same list as a person who cheated on his wife and now doesn't gather with the Body?

3. It shows the church cares for the one removed from the roll -

This isn't about being mean. This is about love. To love people enough to tell them the truth. One reason a person may not be attending your church even though they've covenanted to do so, is because perhaps they are not a true Believer. To visit that person and to plead with them to reunite with the Body and to pray for them is to care for them. Furthermore, to remove them from the roll if they refuse to come back is the ultimate way to show them the seriousness of their error. By removing them from the roll you are showing them their issue might be that they need to be converted. 

Of course I know the rebuttal to this is 'Well they'll just go to a church down the road one day and our church will have a bad reputation.' Who will the church have a bad reputation with? The world? She certainly won't have a bad reputation with Jesus for doing what He told Her to do! And I think I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause. What about you?

Well what if a person has moved cities? It's ok to keep them on the rolls for a time. But don't forget about them! Call them, write them letters, encourage them. If after a sufficient period they refuse to join a local church, then you can begin the process of discussing their need for repentance with them.  

An aside: One of the reasons our country is in the shape it is over gay 'marriage' is because the church has been soft on 'acceptable' sins for decades. The world gets confused when we call sin one thing the bible says is sin (homosexual behavior) and when we dismiss other things the bible says is sin as no big deal (faithful gathering with the Local Church). 

4. It shows the church cares for the glory of Christ -

The local church is to pursue holiness and purity for the glory of Her Bridegroom. When a church prizes membership and takes it seriously, She is taking seriously Her chief purpose of bringing glory to Christ. When a church fails to take membership seriously, She is showing disregard for the purity of the church and the glory of Jesus. 

5. It might just be the impetus for reformation in our denomination -

Can you imagine every Southern Baptist Church treating membership this way? Wouldn't it be amazing if people couldn't hop from SBC church to SBC church in the same community because SBC churches prized membership in this way? 

Of course this will take Pastors with Biblical boldness, concern for the glory of Jesus, and conviction to lead. This won't be easy. This will cause arguments and even people to get upset (trust me, I know!). This is hard work. And it doesn't matter how many amens you get from the pulpit, when you suggest removing a person's 35 year old grandson from the roll because he hasn't been to a meeting in 5 years, it may just ruffle some feathers. But what if this was the impetus to true reformation in our churches!? Wouldn't that be something? Wouldn't that be worth it? Regardless, it's worth it simply by the fact that it's the right thing to do. 

So what will we do? Will we care about the purity of the church, the souls of men, and the glory of Christ enough to do away with inactive rolls? Will we prize church membership? Will we love people enough to show them that inactivity in the local church is a grievous error and may signal their need to be converted? It's time to do away with church dismembership. 

I'm sure I sound like a broken record in the way I end a lot of these posts but let me conclude again: let us take up our  bibles and read!

Soli Deo Gloria

For a similar post read: Time to Put Baptist Back in Your Church

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