On Church Membership and Baptism

It was my privilege to serve as chairman of the resolutions committee of the Frisco Baptist Association (FBA) this year. We had our 114th annual meeting last night, and our committee presented five resolutions, all of which passed without opposition.

Below is the text of the longest of the five, a resolution intended to begin conversations in our churches about the disparity between our membership and our attendance. While the inspiration comes from Tom Ascol‘s two failed attempts to have the Southern Baptist Convention address this issue through resolutions, much of the text of the resolution comes from a similar resolution passed by the Missouri Baptist Convention at their annual meeting in 2006.

Some of the language is carried over from a resolution passed last year by the FBA concerning the requirement that baptism precede membership in a local church. That resolution came out of the debate surrounding Henderson Hills Baptist Church‘s consideration of dropping that requirement.

It is my hope that we will see similar resolutions adopted by associations and state conventions throughout the SBC, and that this groundswell will result in the entire convention addressing the issue, and ultimately, working toward a recovery of authentic, regenerate church membership. The resolution:

On Church Membership and Baptism

Whereas, our 2006 Annual Church Profile reveals that though we had a total of 9,698 resident members, we ran an average of only 3,034 people in Sunday School attendance, which includes non-members such as children, guests, and visitors; and

Whereas, the continual reporting of inflated membership numbers creates a distorted picture of ministry, can breed integrity problems, and perpetuates a misunderstanding of the nature and significance of membership in the local church; and

Whereas, Membership in the local church is a covenant relationship of mutual accountability and submission, both to one another and to the Lordship of Christ; and

Whereas, the church is described as a family, a flock, a body, and a temple, all of which point to the importance of mutual love, support, accountability, and interdependency among the saints (1 John 3:14; Hebrews 10:24-25; Eph. 2:19-22); and

Whereas, Baptism is chief among the doctrinal distinctives that we as Southern Baptists hold dear; and

Whereas, Baptism is a requirement, not for salvation, but for obedience to the example and to the explicit instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ; and

Whereas, The Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2000 clearly states that baptism, as one of the two ordinances of the church, is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership (Article VII); now therefore be it

Resolved, that the messengers of the Frisco Baptist Association, in annual session October 9, 2007 affirm our belief in and commitment to the principle of a regenerate and scripturally baptized church membership, and be it further

Resolved, that we encourage our pastors to facilitate open dialogue within the churches to arrive at a greater understanding of the cause, resolution, and future prevention of inflated membership rolls. (Acts 20:28)