In a recent blogpost, Denny Burk shares his thoughts on the passing of Resolution #6 (on regenerate church membership). After expressing his appreciation and encouragement about its passing, Burk writes,
For those who think that resolution 6 was mainly about membership numbers, I think that idea really misses the point. The inflated membership numbers aren’t really the heart of the problem being addressed by the resolution. The numbers are merely a symptom of the real issue. Southern Baptists don’t practice what they preach when it comes to a regenerate church membership, and that’s the pastoral/ecclesiastical failure that’s the heart of the problem.
That is precisely why the language of repentance is needed, and Lord willing, will be heeded in our churches today. Southern Baptists don’t need to go on record with where we stand on regenerate church membership. John Hammett writes,
“History records that though regenerate church membership was at the heart of the origin of Baptists and was for most of Baptist history central to Baptist ecclesiology, it dramatically declined in Baptist life in the twentieth century and is in desperate need of recovery today.”
The need of the hour is for encouragement in what we already know, not new information. We need courage to stand on our convictions that have long been held as the “central to Baptist ecclesiology.” Mere endorsements are not enough, for as Burk notes, we are not practicing what we preach. Consider again the words of Hammett:
“Today, a denomination like the Southern Baptist Convention maintains the theology of regenerate church membership in its official statements, but in reality, its churches show little evidence of regeneration in the behavior of their members. It is widely known that divorce and moral problems are as common among church members as nonchurch members. Even the very modest index of attendance at Sunday morning worship shows close to two-thirds of Southern Baptist church members missing on any given Sunday morning. Regenerate church membership cannot be seriously maintained as characterizing most Baptist churches in North America today.”
– John S. Hammett, “Regenerate Church Membership” in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, edited by Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell III (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008), 23-27.
I share the hopes and encouragement which Nathan Finn recently wrote . . .
“I am thankful for the hundreds of Southern Baptist churches that are taking steps to make their practice more consistent with their convictions. By God’s grace, may their tribe increase tenfold!”