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Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Martin, Jan 9, 2007.
Good Article - SOURCE LINK
From the article:
"Thomas Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Coral Gables, Fla., attempted to address the problem during the 2006 SBC annual meeting, asking messengers to consider a floor resolution on “Integrity in Church Membership.” Messengers refused, with one of the resolution’s opponents arguing that inactive members should be left on membership rolls and regarded as “prospects.”"
I was very dissappointed when the SBC refused to approve the "Integrity in Church Membership" resolution. Apparently, pastors would rather claim a bloated membership roll than report the actual situation. Sad.
Here's a good example of the problem.
The great Bellevue Baptist Church in Germantown, near Memphis, TN, has around 30,000 members. Average Sunday morning attendance: 10,000. I think the source for this is the annual church profile (ACP)
Until my own much, much smaller church began paring the rolls, Our attendance was about the same percentage, 30-35%.
Dr. Ascol and others propose fixing the problem at the front door, not just the back door. I'm glad to see more and more churches which are taking this step. No longer does a walk down the aisle guarantee you an instant vote and easy membership. May this tribe increase.
I think that may very well be the case. Some pastors like to say that they are "senior pastor" of such and such church which has # members. The larger the number of members the better they look. I find it strange that a church would count someone as a member who does not attend at the very least twice a month (ie..24 times per year). Of course the elderly/sick and other homebound people should be exempt from that but the numbers of those people, compared with the number of "members" that just simply don't show up, is very low. There is one couple in my Sunday school class who has, for all practical purposes vanished. They were faithful in Sunday school and church attendence until God blessed them with a baby girl. All of the sudden they have no time for church. Yet as far as I know, and have heard, they are still on the roles. Our class has reached out to them in recent months but it has done no good. There are others that have done very simular things however those two stand out in my mind.
I don't believe these people should be listed as church members.
ps...I don't applaud the "nod to God" crowd that comes out of the woodwork on homecoming, Christmas, and Easter. Most of them come to church because of tradition, or social reasons, and not to hear the Word of God. I suppose unbelievers don't normally enjoy the preaching of God's Word?
Truely a problem in the SBC, and one I think much larger in many IFB churches. There are churches that claim 1 million souls saved and have but a few hundred there on Sundays. Where are the million? Sad that we seem to be more interested in numbers of "so-called" souls won, and do not seem to care about discipling the true believers so they will grow strong in their faith.
Well, sadly, in many churches it still does. My church accepts people into membership with very little beyond walking an aisle and answering a few questions. Now, to be fair, most of the people who join my church have either (a) been attending long enough for the pastor, and others, to get to know them and their testimony or (b) a out-reach team, or the pastor, has been meeting with them on a regular basis. However none of that is "required" for church membership. My church is not that large (around 300 members) and we don't get "that" many new members (though it does come in waves). My former church, a large Southern Baptist Church, would often have whole families come to join. I suppose we were to believe that all of them (mother, father, two or more children) had accepted Christ (many times that very morning)? The problem I have with that practice is that it is clear they were planning on joining. They were better dressed than normal (mainly the children/teenagers) and they walked to the front as soon as the alter call was given. They would stand up there with big smiles on their faces, no sign of repentance (etc) or anything like that. While I am sure some of them were Christians, and some whole families do get saved, I doubt others of them were. Many of these people were no place to be found within a year. Some I am sure moved (etc) but others I know were still around and not attending any church. Makes me wonder....
ps...just to make it clear I am not talking about people who were transfering in from another church and who had accepted Christ in the past (etc). I am talking about whole families who claimed to have all accepted Christ that very service. While I believe God can do that, and does, I also think that many of these families were just looking for a church.
When I first came to the BB, I read often how someone received Christ as Saviour and lo, they were being baptized the following Sunday. I questioned this practice and was soundly put down.
I wanted to see at least 6 months of living the gospel before I would begin counselling for baptism. Even at that mistakes have been made.
I was told it was done in NT times..they were baptized the same day, and that was so. I think there was a greater price to be paid for conversion and public profession in those times. It was more like openly confessing Christ in the old communist world. The cost was high.
To-day, it is often treated as a joke,,,Hey, I got saved on Sunday! Indeed, we ought not to be so easy. There is a price to be paid, and there is a life to live, and we ought to see signs of this commitment.
We are too anxious to prove our "calling" and present the "proofs" by the numbers. Give me one solid soul in Christ over my lifetime and I shall be pleased, better than 1000 who get saved every week, as it were, but they were baptized...
I understand what you're saying, and I tend to agree with you, but Biblically I'm wondering...
it's not like it's unbiblical for the whole family to become disciples of Christ all at once...
how does this reconcile with the fact that several places in the New Testament whole households were saved?
Act 11:14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'
Act 16:15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
Act 16:31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
I believe in the salvation of the individual, and you make a good point, but this "household" concept has always puzzled me.
I don't think so, in fairness to pastors.
Those who have been baptized are members of the church, and unless the penalty for infrequent attendance is removal from the roster and stated in the Church Covenant, then they do remain members for as long as they have not moved their membership.
The way out, as I see it, is to do a reorganization.
Reconstitute (if that is the right word) the church, and give fair notices to everybody as long as their addresses are on file.
At least that's how we did it when I was still in the Arminian side.
I believe it is possible for a whole household to be saved. You are correct in pointing to Acts 16 on that. However I am talking about these families that claim to all have accepted Christ that morning, the morning they all "happen" to have their best Sunday best on, and stand at the front of the church looking like they are taking a family picture (smiles and all). What about repentance? What about sin? I have to wonder if they really understand the Gospel or have they just repeated some words. Or, worse, are they just going through the motions so they can join a local church?
You can have all the classes you want.
All the catechism classes.
Signing church constitutions, etc etc.
I don't see how it will help attendance. I mean, the RCC does
the same thing and I don't think it matters. They declare
Holy Days of Obligation where it is a "mortal sin" if you do not
attend and yet there are MILLIONS of RCC members who don't
care enough to go on said days.
Either you want to be an active member or you don't. I don't
understand what the fuss is all about. Maybe a church's constitution
ought to define what a "member in good standing" is.
I think the real answer is prayer. Prayer that the Holy Spirit would
convict people to be there.
Edit: I believe that if the doors are open, you ought to be there!
I have not posted in a long time but this subject always interests me. I happen to belong to the same local Church as T. Butler and although we have removed several inactive members from our rolls, we have been unable to really address this issue. Anytime we discuss reworking our procedure on receiving members we always get paralyzed by the fear that we are "screening" folks. So, we still have the "walk the aisle, instant vote" system. We really don't know much about the beliefs of those who join and they may not know much about our doctrinal positions either. It does appear in Acts that they were adding to the Church quickly (daily) those who came. However, in those days, aligning oneself with the Church probably meant becoming outcast and subject to persecution. So, the risk of presenting oneself for membership without counting this cost was minimal. It also does not appear that there were multiple Churches in the same city swapping members by letter based on who had the best children/youth program. It seems that in our day we tend to compete for members with sister churches so we have lowered our admission standards to a level designed to insure that we don't offend anyone.
Getting rid of no shows, and occasional attendance of members on the sole basis of attendance records would be unwise in my opinion. On what scripture/s can we rest our case? Is there such a thing as "un-baptizing" one that has confessed the name of Jesus Christ? If your church is one that demands baptism into the church, then the church must have an exit strategy of withdrawing the churches desire to be associated with that (or those) which have entered into Christ Jesus. Are we to turn church membership into "tit for tat" mentality?
Unless a way can be found to un-baptize that one that confessed the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, in order to join a particular church, I believe the church must continue in the unhappy position of doubting some member's salvation, for they do not attend (or only occasionally) the church.
I believe the church member is accountable to God, and the church is accountable to its members, whoever and wherever they may be. The church down here is to be a beacon, and not douse the light because of misunderstanding, counting days, or relying on our own judgment as to one's salvation based on "attendance records".
I would not be advocating an attempt to deal with one's baptisim. I'm not one who sees baptism as the "door" to local Church membership (but that is a different discussion). I am advocating taking the necessary time with those who present themselves as candidates for local Church membership to educate them on the doctrinal beliefs of the Church and what the Church expects from its members. The candidate should then be willing to voice agreement with those standards. Otherwise, why would they want to join this Church? In our Church we accept members who don't necessarily know what we believe about Church membership and we certainly don't know what they believe.
==A person who "can" attend church and chooses, on a regular basis, not to attend church needs to really examine their spiritual condition. As for the church, well I think we need to treat it as a matter of spiritual discipline. If a person, after being talked to, still refuses to come to church they should be treated as a lost person (Matt 18:15-17). Their name should be removed from the roll and if they want back in they would have to go through the process again. If they were saved they do need to be rebaptized, if they had been saved and the discipline worked then they just need to be re-accepted.
==No, but as Baptist we believe in a believers only church. What reason do we have to believe that a person who refuses to attend church, when they are perfectly able, is a true believer? Please give me one solid Biblical reason.
==Of course this totally ignores passages such as 1John 2:19 and Hebrews 10:25. The church is not accountable to those who are not active in it.
Baptists in the early South, characterized by constructive and sometimes corrective discipline, “maintained high rates of growth, growing at a rate twice that of the population, while in later years, as their discipline fell, so did their growth,” wrote Hammett, quoting from Gregory Wills’ book “Democratic Religion.”
We have to be careful and very attentive when we are in the transition book of Acts. Paul says three times in Acts he will go to the Gentile's for he has been commissioned to do so, but has to first present the gospel of God's grace through faith to the Jew. The Jewish nation will not hear this gospel, and will not preach it, so Paul the Apostle to the Gentile will go to them and they will hear and it is they that will, and do preach to all the world our justification through our Lord Jesus Christ, circumcised and baptized without hands.
In the Book of Acts we start in the "Kingdom Church", and wind up on the other side in the "Body Church". It took time (think how confusing and mind-boggling were the times the Apostles lived) to move from the "great commission" of God's nation of repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins, to the "grace commission" for Gentile and Jew of believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your house. It is now possible for My House, This Gentile House to be saved, every last one of us if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And now it is also possible for the Jewish household also, just as Peter says in Acts 15:11, " But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."
We know some day all Israel will be saved, the House of Israel, but not now. We Gentile's today also will not by household all be saved at once. It is possible all in a household will be saved, but as you say and believe, it is a" one-on-one" proposition.
We leave ourselves open to subjection to others if we can entertain the thought of the whole household on every occasion when the "head of the house" is saved, all will be saved. We could drift into infant baptism if we reject the gospel of Christ Jesus from heaven for this is what our Catholic friends believe. This "Kingdom at hand" gospel I fear will have them going through, or into the "tribulation period".
We also get into "contradiction" of His Word, which does not "contradict". We know what is truth for this is what you believe, and I believe and everyone probably on this board, and that is, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," Romans 10:13, as we also see in other scripture, but not understood.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. Is not all else what a church believes? The Christian is to study to show themselves approved, so when we get them in the church down here, we then show them what we believe. They may not buy it all, but are they not still in Christ Jesus?
I don't believe all Baptist's will be in the same part of the "Body of Christ Church". That is between Him and me, for He will have me where He wants me. There are very few of us here that believe exactly like any other, but we call ourselves Baptist's for we don't believe baptism or another act on our part, or another has anything to do with our salvation.
We all confess with our mouth that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. It is good enough for Him, so that is what we preach, and teach, and I believe that is why they want to join the church, to be with others that believe also in Him.
Our Church Covenant requires us to attend our meetings. It doesn't say how often one should miss before charges of forsaking the church are brought against them. In the old days, 50 years ago and on back, if you missed 2 or 3 times in a row, there would be a committee at your house. If you didn't have a good excuse for missing, you might just be excluded from the church.
My church has excluded people for forsaking the church (non-attendance) before, but I think it also went along with other faults as well. I don't recall seeing where fellowship was withdrawn from anybody solely for not coming to meetings.
Usually, you won't have to wait long or look hard to see other offenses being committed by a person who has quit coming. Many times a person is embarrassed by certain sinful behavior on their part, or because they no longer believe the doctrines believed by the church.
Back in the early '80's, following Hurricane Alicia in Houston, which left 2 huge felled pecan trees laying on the front porch and the kitchen of the church, letters were sent out to all of the members on record. They were told that the church was in dire straits financially because of the amount of damage, and also in need of physical help with rebuilding, which took over a year. Those who had not been in years were asked if they still wanted to retain membership in the church. Those who answered negatively or did not answer were excluded for forsaking the church through non-attendance and failure to support. That caught about 10 people, out of a congregation of about 30. Of course, part of that were those who had joined other orders and had not informed our church.
Up until that time, the church was in a very low spot. The first pastor had been excluded for adultery and no man had held that office for about 6 years. Many of the original members had moved to other churches and other cities, or been excluded for joining other orders, etc. The church could very easily have disbanded.
Once the church disfellowshipped the non-attending members, rebuilt the church, and became closer together in the process, it wasn't long before an interim pastor was found and then a permanent pastor, who served for some 15 years.
The church has never seen more than about 30 members, but for the most part, the members we have are solid, true believers. I would take that over a church with 500 or 1000 members on the books anyday, or even 5000 who come every Sunday but don't know what they believe or why they believe it.
Every church, it seems, has those who will be the steady members. Those who come every Sunday, who hold the church up, who help out when needed, who hold fast to the doctrine of truth, etc. I want to emulate those members.
How long must a person miss before you kick them out? I don't know. What I do know is, once they start bringing reproach upon the church due to their actions, whether for adultery, non-attendance, drunkardness, etc., it is time to deal with them.
That is entirely a church matter for the members of that church to deal with.
This looks to be "baptismal" salvation, which I reject, as today this is what God does
We live in Him, so we are in church every day. Outside of the Jew being told in Hebrews they ought to attend can you point to a command by what law we are under today to prove we are true believers? I was not saved by joining a church, being baptized, and sure by not attending church every time the doors open. Salvation is not what we do, but what we believe and whom we believe. We go to church to be with others, if we wish.
I believe the best you can do is pray for that one you feel is going to hell because they don't believe going to church will save them.
If one that is not active in your church, and they see the error of their ways, then decide to attend your church of which they are a member, you would say "I have no responsibility to you ". "We are only here to be accessible to those that have been active." "Now if you promise to obey, we'll decide if you need to be re-baptized." "If you will just cooperate, we'll do our best to let you be a member in our church."
My Apostle speaks also to me advising such things as shown in II Colossians 2:16; Romans 14:15; Galatians 4:1-11; I Corinthians 15:16.