Last Wednesday, the messengers at the 2008 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention passed resolution 6, which calls on Southern Baptist churches to repent of their failure to live up to their professed commitment to regenerate church membership and to reinstitute the practice of redemptive church discipline. By all accounts, the resolution passed overwhelmingly (see here, here, here).
I am very grateful that the messengers voted in favor of this resolution. In the weeks leading up to the convention, I had been preaching through 1 Corinthians at the Wednesday evening worship service of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. On June 4, we made it to 1 Corinthians 5 and the topic of church discipline. I exhorted the members about the clear command that God gives to congregations to practice discipline.
By God’s wise providence exactly one week later, the convention passed resolution 6. That very night I was able to read the resolution in toto to the folks at First Dallas. I feel confident that the messengers to the SBC really served our church with the passage of this resolution.
I have noticed, however, that much discussion on the internet has been focused on the membership statistics cited in the resolution. In particular, folks have been making much of the fact that though 16 million people are on the rolls of Southern Baptist Churches, only about 6 million attend at least one service a week. Christianity Today‘s Ted Olsen, for instance, describes the measure as “a resolution on church membership numbers.”
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.
Thanks to Malcolm Yarnell, Bart Barber, and Tom Ascol for pushing this resolution through. They worked hard (and together!), and the convention owes a debt of gratitude to these men.