Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remaining the Same Won't Result in Reformation

Unfortunately I did not get to attend the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis. There are several important things that seem to be happening in our denomination. We continue to strive to publicly distance ourselves from the racism that stained our past. We seem to be eager about working together for the salvation of souls even if we aren't in 100% agreement about certain soteriological matters. Also, I continue to be excited about the leadership of some of our entities. I am not ashamed to say that I continue to hold out great hope for the gospel impact of our denomination and I am grateful to be a Southern Baptist.

With that being said, too much remains the same. Namely, a big black eye on our denomination in regards to regenerate church membership. Perhaps the biggest statement toward this came in the form of who we elected for President of the SBC. I commend Dr. Greear's model of humility and teamsmenship, but I do not know if Dr. Gaines is the right man for the job. I don't know him personally, but if the numbers for Bellevue are accurate, this is a major issue that most people won't talk about. Here's what has been reported:

If these numbers are accurate at all, Bellevue Baptist has over 4x as many people on Her rolls as attending services each week! And this assumes that all of the 6,801 weekly attenders are actual members (probably not). 

In 2008 (Dr. Gaines was Pastor of Bellevue during this time) the SBC passed a resolution entitled On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration (link at bottom). Please read:

"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 18:15-352 Thessalonians 3:6-15Galatians 6:1James 5:19-20)."

What about having over 4x the people on the rolls that actually attend is "maintain[ing] accurate membership rolls for the purpose of fostering ministry and accountability among all members of the congregation"? Brothers, this is not the way. 

Inaccurate church rolls is a major issue for our denomination and many will overlook it. But, I continue to maintain that our denomination will be sunk if we do not strive to have healthy biblical regenerate local churches. Havinghealthy  churches must be an absolute non negotiable! And you can't have healthy churches without healthy membership. And you don't have healthy membership if only 20% of members are accounted for on any given Sunday. If I had 5 children but didn't know where 4 of them were and only 1 regularly ate under my roof, you would say (rightfully!) that I was a bad Dad! Let the reader understand. 

I do not question Dr. Gaines leadership abilities. I don't question his love for Jesus. I don't question his commitment to the SBC. What I do question is this: his commitment to regenerate church membership. If we are not going to care about accurate membership rolls, what business do we have calling for reformation and revival in our nation? If the church is not going to be concerned with the authority of Scripture, why should we expect the nation? 

I dare say unregenerate church membership is at least partially culpable  for some of the homosexual confusion in our society today. How? Because when we tell people that open rebellion to God is ok in some areas such as living together outside of marriage, drunkenness, adultery, etc. - when people can live openly in these sins and not be lovingly confronted with the truth and removed from membership if continuing in unrepentance, then don't we see how some people try to use that same logic to justify homosexuality? Bill can be on his 4th wife and be known as the town drunk, living in unrepentant sin, and still come vote at the church's business meeting. The church must confront all sin. Including the sin of forsaking the regular assembly (Heb. 10:25). 

The point is this: when the church fails to care about regenerate church membership it has an affect on the local church, the denomination, and society at large. Biblical, healthy, regenerate church membership is a big deal! Some of these other things we are passionate about: evangelism, missions giving, unity, will take care of themselves if we strive for healthy churches, which includes a healthy view of church membership. 

If we remain the same in this area, we will not change as a denomination. A 2008 resolution is not enough. We have to get down in the trenches and do the hard work of leading our churches in healthy membership. Whether your church runs 10 or 10,000 lets have rolls that actually reflect those who regularly attend. 

Here is my hope and focused prayer: that Dr. Gaines will publicly repent for neglecting this all important 2008 Resolution. Not because the resolution has any 'authority' but because it does accurately reflect Scripture's teaching on the subject. What a statement it would be to all of our churches if our denominational president repented in this area, and if necessary, stepped down so that he could address it in his own local church!

No one said reformation would be easy. But if we hope to see it, we cannot remain the same. We can't give lip service to regenerate church membership but leave it unattended to in our own churches. I can tell you from experience that it is a difficult subject. Some people will be upset. But can we not say that faithfulness to our Lord in all areas is worth it? No matter what it costs? To treat the local church faithfully as Christ would have us is always absolutely worth it! 

Southern Baptists, let us press on! Let us be resolved to not remain the same in this area. As SouthernBaptists let's resolve to do all we can to have regenerate, biblical, healthy local churches. Pastors, deacons, laypersons. All hands on deck. To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 


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