Hat tip to Justin Taylor for bringing our attention to Tim Challies’ summary of Jim Ellif’s article: Southern Baptists: An Unregenerate Denomination. Challies’ summary and Ellif’s article deal with the widely known fact that the membership roles of Southern Baptist churches are woefully inflated. Many Southern Baptists have simply grown accustomed to the fact that only about 37% of the names listed on their church’s role actually shows up regularly for worship.
This statistic reveals how far Baptists have drifted from their tradition as Baptists. Historically, Baptists have been a people who adhere to a regenerate church membership. That is, we believe that the only people who are allowed to be members of the church are those who profess and practice faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Eliff’s statistic shows that about 63% of Southern Baptist church members do not in fact practice their faith by attending regular worship services.
Earlier this week, I listened to an interview with Paige Patterson in which he talked about how a pastor can get a church to practice church discipline when that church has never done so before. This can be an extremely difficult move for a pastor, but Patterson suggested that, after preaching about the meaning of membership, a pastor could begin by pursuing non-attending members. If the non-attending members either cannot be found or do not want to return to the fold, then they should be removed from the church membership roles. This is Patterson’s advice, and I agree that it is a good place to start.
There is much more to be said on this, and I refer the interested reader to the 9Marks website for resources on and teaching about church discipline within a Baptist context.