- SBC current statistics:
- 47,272 churches
- 15,216,978 members of those churches (largest non-Catholic denomination in USA)
- What is our weekly worship attendance? 5,200,716; just over 34%
- Let’s make allowances for duplicate memberships, shut-ins, etc. That is still a crisis.
- How did we get to this point? Somewhere we lost a strong theology of church membership.
Regenerate Church Membership
WHAT IS REGENERATE CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?
- Augustine: The church is a corpus permixtum (mixed body of believers/unbelievers).
- Why? Salvation is a process, and some of the baptized fall away but remain in the church.
- Reformed churches: different view of salvation, but kept the corpus permixtum doctrine.
- Why still mixed body? Baptism reinterpreted.
- Contrast: Baptist view of regenerate church membership
- What the question is not: Are there unbelievers in the church? (All agree: Yes)
- Right question: Should our practice intentionally bring unbelievers into church membership?
WHY DO WE HOLD TO REGENERATE CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?
- Jeremiah 31:31-34: new covenant is unbroken; universal knowledge of God
- What is the universal church?
- How does a local church relate to the universal church?
- Every local church should seek to represent the universal church as closely as possible.
- 1 Cor 1:2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
- Phil 1:1: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”
- Why would you practice church discipline other than to move toward RCM?
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF REGENERATE CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?
- Baptism brings a person into church membership.
- Should we bring into membership a person who cannot or has not testified to personal faith?
- We cannot do so if regenerate church membership is our aim.
- If we practice RCM, we normally expect church members to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
- In fact, this is the greatest blessing of the new covenant.
- Every church member has been equipped by God to play a role in exercising church’s authority
- Congregation: authority of command; Elders: authority of counsel.
- Two faulty views of church membership: (1) parish system; (2) revivalism
- Both approaches result in bringing more unbelievers into the church.
- Covenantal church membership affirms obligations/expectations of membership
- Congregation affirms that a member is a disciple of Jesus and commits to oversee him/her
- Member affirms authority of the congregation and commits to shared oversight and mission
- Enforcing of covenantal membership
- What if a church member does not live up to the church covenant? What should happen?
- Purposes of church discipline:
(1) Restoration of the offender (1 Cor 5:1-5).
(2) Protection of the holiness of the church (1 Cor 5:6-8)→This is regenerate church membership
(3) Protection of the public witness of the church (Matt 5:16)
- I do not mean a secular vision of the public square.
- I do mean that church membership is rightly voluntary, not coerced.
- State should not interfere with the government of the church, nor the church with the state.
- Example: John Bunyan imprisoned for 12 years for preaching without a state license.
- 34% of our members are in church across the SBC on any given Sunday.
- What do we do?
- 2008 resolution:
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members; and be it further
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 18:15-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).