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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Church Membership Rolls

An article published by Baptist Press illustrates the problem Southern Baptist Churches have when it comes to the accuracy of church membership rolls. Many churches have memberships which greatly exceed average attendance for the primary worship gathering. Many churches have members on their rolls who have not attended the church at which they are members for years. What does this say about church membership? What does this say about the integrity of the SBC when it reports that it has 16 million plus members? Unfortunately, it says that in many churches, an individual can can join a church one Sunday, and never return for the rest of his life, yet be considered a member.

Currently, I am having to deal with this issue in the church I pastor. Brent, you will probably face this situation in the near future as a Senior Pastor, and Seth you may have the opportunity from both the classroom and perhaps serving in a local church to address this issue. What basic steps would you guys take to correct this problem, and how slowly should a new pastor take on this problem?

Recently, a resolution was sent to the resolution committee of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding this very issue. It can be found here. Do you think this is a good start from a convention standpoint?


Brent Blake said...

Thanks for the post Mo. I think we all see this as a problem in church life. The question is how to handle it though. When I came to West End and saw 440 on the roll and only 130 in attendance, I immediately became aware of a huge problem. At first, I encouraged Steve to purge the roll and start fresh. Quickly I saw that purging a roll is not so easy, just take a look at your constitution if you think not. Plus just mention purging a roll to your members and see the response you get. I agree with Tom Ascol that this is no less than lying by reporting our membership at these totals and that it is an issue of church discipline when we have a so called regenerate member acting unregenerate. What I don't see from these two articles is how we should begin to handle the problem. I guess I am leaving that one for one of you two to determine.

Jason Morrison said...

One thing that was helpful for me in my training from seminary was advice from Dr. Danny Akin. He encouraged us as young pastors to go into the church and love the people. I think at least a couple things have to happen before church membership rolls can maintained more faithfully.

First, the Pastor must faithfully preach God's Word. We are all reformed by the Spirit's working through the proclamation of Scripture. Through our preaching, issues of regenerate church membership and church discipline will be addressed and hopefully the church body will be led to follow Scripture's teaching as it speaks to the life of the local congregation.

Second, there must be trust gained by the pastor with the members of the local congregation. The congregation must trust that your leadership in this particular area is for the good of the church and its reputation. So the pastor must be patient, but always seeking lead the church for God's glory.

One issue I have tried to stress to members through both personal conversations and preaching is meaningful church membership. I'll post more later. Looking forward to Greensboro, and seeing you guys.

Jason Morrison said...

More on Church Membership rolls...Aside from preaching on meaningful church membership and trying to build trust with the current church I have made it one of my first goals to contact all the non-attending members.

My first attempt was through a letter encouraging them to rejoin this fellowship. The letter also contained pertinent Scriptures regarding responsibilities to brothers and sisters in Christ (Heb 10:24-25; Acts 2:42-45). I have recently completed this task (about 150-200 letters).

My next step will be to contact as many as I can by telephone. The third step will be to visit with as many as I can (I have already visited with some through our church visitation program).