Membership issue will be part of Pastors’ Conference

Membership issue will be part of Pastors’ Conference

By Allen Palmeri
Associate Editor

JEFFERSON CITY—The issue of working toward a more regenerate (truly saved and worshipping on a regular basis) church membership within the Southern Baptist denomination continues to percolate in the 2000s, with the most recent annual meeting at San Antonio serving as a prime example.

A resolution on integrity in church membership was brought to the floor after having been rejected by the Resolutions Committee. It ultimately failed on a floor vote that required a 2/3 majority to bring it to life. Some observers felt it may have pulled as much as 51 percent in the losing effort.

Shortly after the June 12-13 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Interim Executive Director David Tolliver communicated that he took seriously “the reminder … concerning more accurate and honest reporting of numbers.” Both Tolliver and MBC President Mike Green agreed that rather than continuing to refer to the MBC as being comprised of about 600,000 total members, the more accurate number would be about 400,000.

“While I agree with and understand local church autonomy—I cannot tell another church who they can determine to be on their membership rolls—it is frankly a lack of integrity for Southern Baptists to continue to claim these millions of people when we can’t even tell where half of them are,” Tolliver said.

The theme for the Oct. 29 MBC Pastors’ Conference is “Building Gospel-Centered Churches.” Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., is coming with two members of his staff to present all six sessions at Tan-Tar-A. Dever is known for his widely read book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, in which he writes about what the Bible teaches on church vitality. The sixth mark is membership.

“Membership should reflect a living commitment to a local church in attendance, giving, prayer and service; otherwise it is meaningless, worthless and even dangerous,” Dever wrote. “We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons or lack of attention. To be a member is knowingly to be traveling together as aliens and strangers in this world as we head to our heavenly home.”

Dever does not seek to present an exhaustive list of what one might find in a healthy church. For example, prayer and fellowship are not included under the nine headings. Rather, the thrust of his book and the ongoing ministry of is to subtly point out why revival is tarrying in America.

“These nine are the ones we think are the most neglected in most local churches today, with the most damaging ramifications,” he wrote.