Robin Foster, Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Perkins, OK
In discussing the restoration of integrity in church membership, there has been a great resurgence in the biblical practice of church discipline. Not that many Southern Baptist churches are initiating this biblical practice in their churches (personally I don’t know of any in our association), but there has been a grand discussion and even a resolution on church discipline (http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=1189) offered at the 2008 SBC convention concerning this vital ministry to help a wayward brother or sister find their way back to Christ and full fellowship with the body. I for one applaud this and hope it will take root and continue to grow. But, as a pastor, I believe there is a bigger concern with how we accept members in the first place. In other words, can we take care of any issues before someone becomes a member of the church? It is my contention that many problems in our churches today are the result of poor admission traditions that have been practiced by our churches for at least the last 100 years.
The typical custom for accepting members among Southern Baptist churches is for a candidate to walk forward during the invitation. Of course the normal questions are asked: “Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins?” and “Where and how were you baptized?” all the while checking the person for a pulse on their wrist. While this parody is a bit of tongue in cheek, unfortunately, this short method of Q & A is often used as the congregation sings several verses of “Just as I Am.” If the candidate correctly responds to both questions, the pastor then turns to those attending that morning (unfortunately, in most cases, some voting are non-members) for a vote on accepting this person as a member in good standing of the church. In a sizable number of cases, the person has no idea of the church doctrines, covenant, order, or responsibilities of church membership. What is most tragic is that the person says yes to these questions as a matter of rote and may not truly understand the gospel or salvation. After all they were baptized as a kid, right? Surely they are saved. Unfortunately, I am finding more and more that people are looking to their baptism as their point of salvation, rather than to their conviction of sin before a Holy and Just God, seeking His mercy and grace through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus. Continue reading
Tim Rogers, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC
There is a movement that seems to be sweeping our denomination and it is called Spontaneous Baptisms. I for one believe, if done properly, we should not be concerned with this movement. However, with every movement there comes some who refuse to adhere to the clear teaching of scripture and thus dumbs down the scriptural understanding. Therefore, I call this “Baptism-lite”. This phrase is taken from an article I saw referencing the Church of England and their uprising concerning the prayers being offered over the waters. In the Church of England their Baptism has a salvific meaning to it and as such I would vehemently disagree with their practices and their thought that the Priests prayers does something special to the water.
Steven Furtick, Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, in a sermon he has prepared on his website concerning how to prepare for a spontaneous baptism service expresses some things that are completely tied to scripture and some things where he abandons the scripture to fuel his own particular beliefs. Concerning the meaning of baptism Furtick says; “Baptism is an outward expression of an inward change. The reason we dunk people all the way under the water is that Jesus went all the way into the grave and came back up again.” Amen and Amen!! PREACH IT, PREACHER!!!!! “Great opportunities necessitate immediate obedience.” “Today my mom is choosing it to be her spiritual birthday.” “This has nothing to do with you joining a church.” This is where Furtick leaves the scripture. Baptism has more scriptural evidence with becoming a part of a local body than it does with identifying a spiritual birthday. Thus, the baptisms that are performed at Elevation have nothing to do with church membership because Elevation does not have a membership role. When Elevation baptizes people they view this as baptizing them into the “universal” church and nothing to do with accountability within the local community of baptized believers we refer to as the local church.
Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
7. . . . that we are controlled by a Hierarchy
First, the Bible does not teach that we should have a hierarchy of religious officials over the church. Pastors lead the congregation as a spiritual leader while the deacons assist him. We have already asserted the independence and authority of the local church. We are a part of several groups: our denominational offices in our local association, state conventions, and then the national convention.4 These groups could not control us if they wanted. The local church calls the pastor, sets the types of ministry we will have, and the amount of money they will send to the denomination for their missions.
Baptists do not believe in human heads over churches. We were not started like the Methodists by Wesley, or Lutherans by Luther, or Reformed by Calvin. Instead, we can say there was not a time in the Post-Apostolic age when Baptists began.5 We believe our teachings are in line with what churches in Acts taught and what Christ commissioned them to do. Christ is our head. It is his church according to Matt. 16:18.
8. . . . that we are forced to believe in certain positions as a denomination
A denomination is a group of churches that voluntarily choose to work together and have similar beliefs. Our church is not bound to amendments passed at the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not given positions that we must take in order to be Southern Baptists.6 The debate over Calvinism is an example of this. There is enough latitude in our denomination to arrive at different interpretations on matters that do not impact salvation or the person and the work of Christ.
We do not subscribe to creeds or traditions as equal to Scripture. We have a common statement of faith that is a consensus of what fellow churches believe. When a church departs from these affirmations and ceases to identify with these teachings, the SBC acknowledges it.
Paul did not have the final authority to decide for the church in Corinth in the matter of the immoral man still serving in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. Instead, he urged them to act as a body to correct the error. They were responsible for their own church.