Some Thoughts about Resolution 6

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.

5 Responses to Some Thoughts about Resolution 6

  1. Derek Cox June 16, 2008 at 9:56 am #

    Denny,
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Three years ago our church voted to remove almost 800 non-attending, inactive members from our rolls. Almost everyone in our congregation was in favor of this move but even now three years later,some of the old guard thinks that I have been a mean ol’ pastor cutting people out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. So for me this resolution is both an encouragement and a foundation for moving forward in the right direction for future generations in the church. I can now say to those who thought (and think) I was crazy that its not just me–now the SBC thinks that healthy/holy churches are more important than big churches. Thank God for Al Mohler,Mark Dever,David Dockery,Tom Ascol and the others who were instrumental in making this happen. Would it be too much to say that this is sort of a William Wilberforce moment in the SBC–that we are being set free from the slavery of unregenerate church membership and bondage to numbers at the expense of the purity of the church?

    Derek

  2. Bart Barber June 16, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Denny,

    I am thankful for your clarification. It is a point that I myself have tried to make several times.

  3. Malcolm Yarnell June 16, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    Derek,
    Please understand that many of us do not see the relationship between the Lordship of Christ in the church with regard to integrity (on the one hand) and the growth in numbers of people submitting to that Lordship (on the other hand) to be antithetical. In other words, it is not a matter of big church versus healthy church. After all, the first church in Jerusalem, our premier New Testament church, was a mega-church.

  4. Derek Cox June 16, 2008 at 4:26 pm #

    Dr. Yarnell,
    I agree, brother. I didn’t mean to set healthy churches against big churches, only that our focus seems to have been almost exclusively on big numbers and not on healthy churches that are concerned about meaningful/recognizable membership. I believe that healthy churches are growing churches. They may not grow as fast as we desire but they will grow both spiritually and numerically…And thank you for all of your work for the glory of God in the church.

    Derek

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  1. Denny Burk » The Weekly Standard on Southern Baptists - June 19, 2008

    […] say anything about what I think was the most important item to come out of this convention—the resolution on regenerate church membership. It is precisely on this point that so many churches are falling short of the great commission to […]

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