There is an interesting article in the Southern Baptist Texan this month. It deals with a few potential resolutions to be voted on at the upcoming convention in Indianapolis next month. The resolutions deal with regenerate church membership. I’ll let you read the article for yourself, I just want to make a few brief comments.
It shouldn’t surprise any of you that I would support the subject of these resolutions. Actually, I would probably be surprised if any of you did not support the subject. However, some just believe that such a resolution is unnecessary. When this came up last year a leader in the convention spoke against the resolution saying that restricting our membership rolls would hinder a great opportunity to reach prospects. Of course the church roll should not be a prospect list. A church should have a prospect list for a prospect list.
There are far too many people out there who either are unsaved members of the local church and they know it, or those who are unsaved and don’t know it, thinking they are fine because they joined the Sunday School roll. While I understand the intent of the Sunday School roll (from many, many years ago) was to gain a prospect list, I just believe it to be one of the worst ideas for Sunday School growth ever. We presumed way too much about the individuals understanding of what that meant.
When you combine the Sunday School roll (which has always been separate from membership in the church) with the over-emphasized means / expressions of conversion (aisle-walking, and the sinner’s prayer) then I believe it has led to the current condition in our convention where we claim some 16 million members, but only average around 6 million in regular attendance. There is no doubt that the sheer numbers, and my limited pastoral experience, that our church rolls are full of unregenerate (unsaved) members.
The local church must be better stewards of the gospel when it comes to membership. The days of pressure to grow numerically should be over. We should not concern ourselves with a numerical measure of church health. Discipleship always takes longer than conversion and the last time I looked, scripture makes plain that our charge is for disciples, not merely decisions. Matthew 28:18-20 is a much longer, thorough process than we observe. We tend to emphasize the “going”, but there is also the teaching, observing and baptizing that’s to be done as well.
I am reminded to be grateful to UBC’s understanding of these issues and has supported our leadership to be more thorough in the membership process, seeking to be better stewards of the gospel both within our own membership and our witness to the community.
While resolutions within the convention have sometimes been lost on me, I actually think it might be time for this resolution to be voted on and approved. Something must be done to raise awareness convention-wide on this issue.