Friday, July 03, 2009

A long journey in church discipline-Pt. 3

This is the third and final installment of the story of God's grace of restoration through church discipline at Grace Baptist Church. The other parts can be found here (#1) and here (#2).

When I came to serve Grace Baptist Church 23 years ago it was like many contemporary evangelical churches in that it was completely unfamiliar with biblical church discipline. There were many serious problems in the church, some of which called for corrective discipline, but the church was in no shape to administer it. I could have tried to "take the bull by the horns" and forced the issue, but even if I had been successful, the result would not have been church discipline but only pastor discipline--something that does not have the authority of the New Testament behind it.

Teaching on church order and what constitutes a healthy church was one of the top priorities of my early years at Grace. By the time we were called on to address the situation with Steve, the church was biblically equipped and had already come to understand the wisdom of God and the blessings of both formative and corrective discipline.

God has put His great grace and mercies on display for us and others through this whole process. The reason that I asked Steve if I could put his story on this blog is because I believe it can encourage lots of other people as much as it has the family of Grace. I know that there are pastors and others who are in churches that have neglected the practice of biblical church discipline. They want to see their congregations led to recover this teaching and begin to obey our Savior's instructions. It can happen, and the benefits are worth the efforts.

Steve's story serves as a warning to every Christian. The sin that remains in us is not of a lower-grade quality from the sin that formerly reigned in us. It is deadly and if left unmortified, will take a person to hell. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13; cf. Matthew 5:27-30). If this seems inconsistent with perseverance of the saints then I suggest that you get John Owen's Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers and read it before next week. If you can't do that then read chapter 27 of John Piper's Future Grace before tomorrow night.

Steve's story also can give incredible hope for both those who have loved ones who have turned away from the gospel they once professed to believe and those who are themselves prodigals. Sometimes we are tempted to give up on people who have walked away from Christ. Steve is a reminder of the truth I like to rehearse often with our church: "As long as there is breath, there is hope." Had you taken a snap shot of Steve's life at nearly any point over a 15 year period it would have looked hopeless. Yet, all things are possible with God and He is able to rescue anyone by His sovereign grace and power. Therefore, we must keep praying and persuading, confident that nothing is too difficult for our God.

Sin brings devastating consequences. The sorrows that Steve has lived through and the pain that he has inflicted on people he loves as a result of his choices have left scars that will not be healed completely until heaven. There is no need to go into detail in order for this lesson to be recognized. Scripture has many illustrations of this (David and Samson, to name just two) and most of us know of modern examples that underscore this point. God has shown great mercy to Steve but those mercies have been very severe. Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and no discipline is joyful at the present, but grievous (Hebrews 12:5-11).

The practice of church discipline is designed by Christ for the honor of His Name, the welfare of His people and the advance of His kingdom. We have seen these purposes fulfilled to some degree in this process with Steve. One dear brother in the church was converted as a direct of Steve being removed from the church 14 years ago. Several members have already expressed to me that Steve's testimony has humbled them and led them to take more specific steps to put sin to death in their lives and to make no provision for the flesh.

There is no easy way to lead a church to understand, embrace and practice church discipline. It is hard work and pastors must not allow themselves to become paralyzed by the myth that "there's got to be an easier way." There isn't. If we are going to be faithful shepherds then we must roll up our sleeves, dig in our heels and do the hard work of lovingly, prayerfully and persistently leading our churches to obey Christ at this point. It is not easy, but it is worth it because God will be glorified, the church will be strengthened in holiness and mission and individual believers will be helped. Fortunately, there are many resources readily available today that can assist in recovering biblical church discipline in a local church. I will list a few at the end of this post.

Many of the good things in ministry occur over long periods of time. Though God may well lead a pastor not to spend the better part of his life in one church, there are wonderful blessings that come from doing so.

If you have been at your God-assigned task for a long time, be encouraged. There still blessings ahead that the Lord will show you that you would not be able to see if you had not stayed the course for the long haul.

Resources on Church Discipline
James Leo Garrett, Jr., Church Discipline: Lost, But Recoverable
This is an revision of an article Dr. Garrett first published in 1959

A Summary of Church Discipline from the Charleston Association
Instructions for Baptist churches in the South from 1774
James P. Boyce, Church Discipline—It’s Importance
The founder of Southern Seminary published this article in 1852
Mark Dever, Editor, Polity: A Collection of Historic Baptist Documents
An excellent resource from ancient Baptist wisdom on discipline and related issues
Don Whitney, Reforming through Discipline (mp3)
A very helpful message from one who has done it
Wyman Richardson, Walking Together Ministries
A website with a wealth of resources, including workbooks, on church discipline and heath
A few articles that I have written that touch on the subject:
Robert Murray M'Cheyne on Church Discipline
A Plea for Church Discipline
Bill Clinton and the Discipline of our Churches


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Thursday, July 02, 2009

A long journey in church discipline-Pt. 2

When I received Steve's email I was overwhelmed with a sense of God's power and grace which certainly appeared to be working to rescue a man who had been living in the far country for over a decade. I wish I could say that I had lived in expectation that one day I would get a phone call or email like that. But too often, to my shame, it is easier to believe in depravity than it is in grace.

I immediately sent the following email response to Steve and began an exchange that included phone calls along with at least a couple of dozen emails back and forth.
Steve:

I am very encouraged to get your email today. I have often prayed for you. Each time I see your old house I ask the Lord to rescue you and your family....I have fond memories of some of our times together here.

Steve, this morning I preached on some of the strategies of the devil that the Bible warns us to guard against. One of the things Satan does is misrepresent God to our minds so that we do not believe the truth about God. God is a true Father--the perfect Father--to all of His children who trust in the Lord Jesus. As such, He is full of mercy and compassion. He delights in mercy and He has mercy enough for you.

Jesus said "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:11-13). If you know that you are sick (which you do) and you know that you are a sinner, then you can be sure that you are exactly the kind of person that Jesus came to rescue.

No doubt there are some confusing thoughts about your experience over the last 12 years. Was your faith ever real? Have you, as a real believer, been running away from God? What is the state of your soul? These and probably dozens of other questions can plague your mind and, if you are not careful, can paralyze you from doing what you should. And what should you do? You should take God at His Word. Trust Him. Believe what He says in the Bible and heed His calls. Your sin is great. His grace is greater.

Think about this gracious invitation that Jesus makes in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Read Luke 15:11-31. It is your story. Believe what it says about God.

I want to hear the rest of what you have to say. This email address come directly to me. I have friends and know of a couple of good churches in the Baltimore area. I will be glad to put you in touch with them and to help you in any way that I can.

Psalm 130 is one of my favorites. May the Lord enable you to pray it from your soul:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” - Psalm 130

In Christ,
tom
Over the next few months we worked through issues related to his repentance. He also was able to make contact and become involved with a great church with faithful elders who took him in and helped personally shepherd him through the process. Since he lives in a different part of the country, having the cooperation of a church that understands biblical church discipline to assist and nurture him was was great blessing from God.

As Steve prepared his testimony, expressing his repentance and seeking the forgiveness of his church family, we made arrangements to bring him to Cape Coral for a scheduled Lord's Supper service. Only a handful of the current members of Grace know Steve from 14 years ago. But it was evident from the very outset that he was indeed among family.

As he spoke through tears, we listened through tears. We experienced a heightened degree of what every Christian must learn to experience regularly in order to maintain emotional health and spiritual stability--sorrow and joy at the same time (2 Corinthians 6:10). It was a God-honoring testimony. Sin was not minimized. Neither was it glorified. The grace of Jesus Christ for sinners was the dominant theme.

Next, I spoke briefly before we ate and drank at the Lord's Table. My remarks included reading this letter:
Steve,

The elders and members of Grace Baptist Church love and forgive you. Many of us wept with grief 14 years ago when we were forced to take that most sobering step that a church can ever take and, in the words of the Apostle Paul, delivered you to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that your spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5). Today we weep tears of joy that God has indeed preserved you, that the wandering sheep has returned to our Lord and Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

We reaffirm our love for you and express our thanksgiving that the Lord has rescued you and brought you back from the far country. The same grace that pursued and restored you has rescued and sustained us. All of us in the household of faith are children of grace. All of us are dependent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our lives. None of us has any reason to think himself better than others because each of us must say, I am what I am by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

So, brother, as we rejoice in your repentance may you rejoice in our forgiveness. Live for the One who has saved us and is preparing us for heaven. Seek His glory and let the story of your life be the story of His amazing grace.

In behalf of Grace Baptist Church,
Tom Ascol

In the next (and final) post, I will mention some of the lessons that we have learned (and are learning) through this process.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A long journey in church discipline-Pt. 1

On June 1 I began my 24th year of serving as pastor of Grace Baptist Church. While there are challenges that go with a long pastoral tenure blessings that attend it far surpass them--things like baptizing and marrying the children of people you baptized and married 20 years ago. A long ministry in one place also allows you the opportunity to see God work in ways that you would otherwise miss if you hadn't stuck around.

Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up. If you show up long enough you get to see some special things. One of the greatest blessings of my pastoral ministry at Grace has been unfolding over the last 6 months and culminated last Sunday night. A man that we had been forced to remove from our membership due to unrepentant, public, scandalous sin was restored to our fellowship after living for more than 15 years in the far country. He has given me permission to tell part of what happened. It is a great story of God's great grace.

Steve came to faith in Christ and was baptized during the 2nd or 3rd year of my ministry in Cape Coral. He had been caught up in long-time patterns of life-dominating sin that had taken their toll on his personal life and his family. When I first met him his wife had taken their children and fled to Texas to get away from him. After Steve became a covenanted member of Grace I had the opportunity to fly to Texas to meet with his wife and persuade her to return home. When she agreed, several men from our church took up a collection for plane tickets for her and the children to come home.

Within a few months, she also professed faith in Christ and their home began to be rebuilt by the gospel. After 4 years, Steve began secretly to flirt with some of the sins that had previously dominated his life. His activities were providentially brought to light when he was arrested one night. That event began a 2 year effort to help him put sin to death and learn to live by gospel grace. He was removed from all ministry responsibilities, formally admonished and the church was called on to engage in the effort of encouraging him to live faithfully.

These efforts, though apparently promising for the first year, ultimately proved fruitless and ended when Steve became belligerent and completely rejected the counsel he was being given. As we moved forward with the final step of church discipline, he moved his family to Texas.

On September 25, 1995, with many tears, the church voted to remove him from membership. On that occasion I said to the church, "In one sense Steve has already removed himself from us. Our action tonight is simply a sad confirmation of that. In another sense, we are called on by the Word of God to 'deliver such a one over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus' (1 Corinthians 5:5)."

As you would imagine there was no joy in taking that unanimous decision. After we voted, I made the following statements to the church:
  1. This is the most serious step the church of Jesus Christ can take on this earth. It ought to humble us and make us very sober. It is not something that we have come to lightly. There have been countless tears and sleepless nights by many of those involved who have tried to help Steve.
  2. Do not stop praying for the __________ family. They have left our area, but God knows exactly where they are....Pray that God will bring Steve to the end of himself, that he will repent of his sin and will be restored to fellowship.
  3. Take this as a reminder that Satan is constantly on the prowl seeking whom he may devour. Do not trifle with sin. What may seem to be a harmless, secret tryst with sin today can destroy you tomorrow. Do not give Satan a foothold in your life.
  4. Pray for your church. That God would protect us and keep us faithful as we seek to follow Jesus Christ in obedience to His Word.
Over the next several months and into the ensuing years, I had indirect contact with Steve through one of a couple of his relatives. For most of the last 14 years, however, he has been out of contact even with them. All that changed on Sunday afternoon, January 11 of this year. Waiting in my in box after church was the following email, sent through our church's website:
Pastor Tom:
May I first start off by apologizing for turning my back on Jesus Christ, Grace Baptist Church and all the people who helped me in my faith and walk with GOD. I don’t know where to start but you are one person I know I can trust for direction. I’ve spent the last 12 or so years going through divorce’s addictions, etc. due to my own doing and [I am] very empty inside (soul sick). I have been attending several different Baptist churches...but just can’t seem to fit in or understand how Christ can allow me to return for what I’ve done, or if my faith was ever real. I have a lot more to say, but want to make sure it is you that will get my e-mail. I just want to find my way back into Christ’s love and His grace.
Pray for me and thank you for your time,
Steve
That email led to the reestablishment of a relationship that culminated in Steve's restoration last Sunday night. In the next post, I will explain how that process unfolded.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Founders Ministries Podcast

Founders has begun to podcast. Our goal is to average one Founders Podcast per week addressing topics related to recovering the Gospel and reforming local churches. The podcasts will feature interviews, lectures, sermons and discussions with pastors and church leaders who are praying and working toward this end to God’s glory.

In the first podcast Tim Brister interviews me on topics that include the 2008 National Founders Conference (held June 24 - 27 in Owasso, OK), church planting, church renewal, and Resolution #6 on Recovering Regenerate Church Membership and Church Discipline, that was passed this past June at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis.

You can access it at www.recoveringthegospel.net (click on "Go to Podcasts" on the Welcome page)

The Founders Ministries Podcast is also available on iTunes.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Survey of Comments on Resolution #6

There have been many comments on Resolution #6 that was passed at the Southern Baptist Convention last week. Daily newspapers as well as religious news outlets have run stories about it. Several Baptist state papers have published the Baptist Press release about it and some have offered further commentary. Of course, many blogs have also commented on it.

Denny Burk told how the resolution was immediately useful in his ministry at First Baptist Church, Dallas:
"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."
Beyond these, I have received many phone calls and emails from pastors and concerned church members who are grateful to have the resolution as a tool to help teach their congregations about regenerate church membership and discipline.

While some think that the passing of the resolution is meaningless and a few (I have only heard about two) think that it is a bad thing, most of the responses that I have read or heard have been overwhelmingly positive.

For your convenience, below is a compilation of the sources that have been pointed out to me that have commented on the resolution (please feel free to add any others not mentioned here). Some of them discuss it at length, others touch on it briefly. What the 50 links below indicate is that the issues of integrity in church membership, regenerate church membership and church discipline are being widely discussed. The resolution is helping to get the conversations going in places where it might not otherwise ever be started. That is hopeful. And it is an encouragement to pray that the Lord will cause Baptists everywhere to reread their Bibles as they ask a simple question, "What does God call a local church to be?"

Baptist Press
Wyman Richardson
Strange Baptist Fire
Justin Childers
Thabiti Anyabwile
Denny Burk
Ted Olsen (Christianity Today)
Kelly Randolph
Ken Keathley
Nathan Finn (again)
Mike Corley
Tim Brister (again)
Associated Baptist Press
Kevin Rhyne
Norman Jameson
Micah Fries
The Charlotte Observer
Chadwick Ivester
The Tennessean
D.J. Williams
Kevin Schaub
Drew Dixon
John Killian
Danny Akin
R. Philip Blinson
Mark Kelly
Tim Rogers
Scott Gordon
Mike Lumpkin
Michael DeBusk
Terry Delaney (again)
Steve Weaver
Jerry Pearce (Southern Baptist Texan)
Anglicans United
Church Executive Magazine
Louisville Courier-Journal
Patrick McGill
Sweet Tea and Theology
Ben Wright
Tennessee Baptist and Reflector
Jim West
Seth Polk
Justin Nale
Don Brown
Wes Kenney
Ed Franklin
The Lakeland Ledger
Terry Leap
Arthur Sido
Ed Stetzer

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

WSJ on church discipline

Alexandra Alter wrote an article on church discipline that was published in the January 18, 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal. It is ominously entitled, "Banned From Church." While I applaud the WSJ's effort to examine the "growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline" it is regretable that the article wasn't written by someone with more understanding of the subject at hand.

For example, Alter describes church discipline as "an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent." Doesn't that sound just like what Jesus prescribes in Matthew 18:15-18? Ms. Alter says that this passage teaches that "unrepentant sinners must be shunned."

Given this gross misunderstanding of the subject it comes as no surprise that the examples that are cited in the story tend to so extreme that most pastors I know who teach and lead their churches to practice discipline would not want to be identified with them. For example, Alter writes about a pastor who dialed 911 on two different occasions to have a 71 year old excommunicated woman arrested for sitting in a church service (the audio of the first 911 call is even embedded in the online text). As reported, this was not a biblically defensible action.

When a person is removed from the membership of a church in keeping with our Lord's teaching in Matthew 18, he or she is not to be "shunned." Neither should they be forbidden to sit under the public preaching of the gospel. They need the gospel and, while we cannot treat them as members any longer, we should welcome them the same way we would a "Gentile or tax collector" (in other words, an unbeliever). We recently had a member who was excommunicated several years ago show up for a worship service. I was glad he was there and told him so. I prayed for him during the worship, that God would capture his heart with the gospel. This is far from the caricature that is portrayed in the WSJ.

The article sites Southern Baptist pastors Jeff Noblitt of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Al Jackson of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama as men who lead their churches to practice discipline. They are not quoted at length and, I suspect, were far too sane in the comments to be judged worthy of extensive coverage.

There is a difference in church discipline and "pastor discipline." I have known of a few cases where overly zealous pastors tried to remove problem members in the name of church discipline. But, because their congregations had not been adequately taught and were not fully on board with the process, it really wasn't "church" discipline at all.

One of the first things a faithful pastor must do when he finds that a church has neglected the practice of corrective church discipline is teach. He must carefully explain passages like the one cited above and 1 Corinthians 5. Then he must teach some more. And then some more. He must lead the membership to see and embrace what the Bible says about the integrity of a church's identity and testimony as the body of Christ. Only after a congregatoin has been adequately taught can they be expected to properly carry out the practice of church discipline.

Where this goal is intentionally pursued with patience and love, the practice often can be reinstituted in a healthy, God-honoring way. This is one of the greatest needs in American evangelical churches in our day. While caricatures must be avoided and abusive practices must be rejected, the engagement of loving oversight and accountability breeds vitality and unity in a church.

Anyone who reads only the WSJ article and does not investigate what the Bible actually says about this issue will never know this. But those who care enough to find out what God actually says in His Word, and not merely what others think He has said, will discover that this kind of relational devotion to one another is one of the great blessings of the church.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SBC-SA #5 - Resolution Committee Refused to Recommend Integrity in Church Membership

Every number has a story. That has been a recurring theme of the Southern Baptist Convention this year in San Antonio. We have heard speaker after speaker as well as numerous video presentations make this point. Some of them have been very moving stories of individuals and people groups who have either recently been reached by the Gospel or stand in need of being reached.

This morning, the Resolution Committee and messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention took actions that confirmed that theme--every number has a story. Sadly, the numbers involved tell a sad, sad story.

The Resolutions Committee refused to submit my resolution on integrity in church membership to the convention for vote. As promised, I brought a motion to overrule that decision. It takes a 2/3 majority to overrule that committee. President Page gave me an opportunity to read my resolution on the floor of convention. The debate was for the most part healthy and appropriately spirited. It was very respectful.

My appeal for allowing the convention to consider this resolution was that we had just passed a resolution calling for corporate repentance and "every number has a story." I read the statistics again from our Annual Church Profiles. I emphasized the fact even in the most generous analysis only 37% of our members even care enough to attend a worship gathering once a week. I have addressed the shame of this statistic repeatedly and will not belabor the point again here.

The chairman of the Resolutions Committee, Gerald Harris, responded to my appeal by saying that the committee thought it inappropriate to bring my resolution before the body because they feared it would infringe on the auntomy of local churches. We should not try to tell churches what to do, he said. Well, anyone who read my resolution and the resolutions that were passed this year and other years will recognize that this argument holds no water. However, it is a tremendous advance over last year's response from the chairman that, if churches took my resolution seriously we would lose our most promising prospects for evangelism!

The convention failed to overturn the committee and therefore my resolution never formally came before them for a vote. Several people--of various theological persuasions--came up to me afterwards to express appreciation for the attempt and dismay over the failure of the committee and convention to allow the resolution to be considered. While I am disappointed by these events and, quite honestly, surprised, I am in no way despondent! Think about it, for two years in a row a resolution calling for integrity in church membership has been read on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. We have discussed these matters. What the discussion has exposed is just how spiritually sick we are. While I don't like the fact that we are spiritually ill, I rejoice that this is being made increasingly apparent. Until we admit we have a problem, we will never seek to address it. In other words, until we see our sin, we will never repent of our sin.

I am encouraged because this conversation will continue for another year and, as promised, I will, by God's grace, be in Indianapolis next year to submit the same resolution. The passing of my resolution is not the goal. The goal is the recovery of the Gospel and reformation of local churches. If the events surrounding the efforts to get this resolution before the SBC can contribute to that by shining the light on how desperately sick we are, then praise God!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

2007 Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership

As promised, I have submitted my resolution on integrity in church membership to the Resolutions Committee for the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. From what I understand, others may well submit similar resolutions this year.

Before sending my resolution in, I consulted with a few respected leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. I sent each a copy of what I intended to propose. All were very favorable about the concerns addressed and offered advice. One encouraged me to wait a year or two before submitting the resolution in hopes that the convention might be better prepared for such a dialogue at that time. I understand and respect his reasoning, but decided to go ahead with my original plan.

I am very gratified to see more and more people giving serious attention to the issue of ecclesiology in general and Baptist polity in particular. In case you missed you, you really must read the Baptist Press story on John Hammett's recent faculty lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a professor of theology at the school and spoke on the need to recover our commitment to a regenerate church membership. Here is a summary statement from the article:
Hammett said the most pressing problem facing the Southern Baptist Convention today is not the decadent, post-modern culture, but the Southern Baptist culture, which has lost sight of the Baptist mark of the church -- regenerate church membership -- and allows anyone to join the church and maintain their membership without any interview process or accountability.
Read the whole story here. Who knows if the SBC will adopt my resolution or not? In one sense, it really doesn't matter. As I have explained to various reporters and interested observers of things SBC a resolution carries no binding authority on any person or institution within the convention. But it is an expression of what messengers think on a given subject at a particular time. More importantly, a resolution can be a way of raising an issue to the level of conversation within the SBC. If that happens again this year, then I will be most grateful.

Here is the text of what I submitted. Pray that our Lord will use it to provoke greater concern for biblical integrity in the way that we seek to live in our churches.

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership
Submitted by Thomas Ascol
May 1, 2007
  • Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1); and
  • Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5 and Titus 3:10-11; and
  • Whereas the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,306,246 members in Southern Baptist churches; and
  • Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,138,776 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and
  • Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message; now, therefore, be it
  • RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further
  • RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further
  • RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord's teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further
  • RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
  • RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.

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