Saturday, June 14, 2008

SBC: 16.2M listed; 6.1M attend

The Southern Baptist Convention listed 16,266,920 members in 2007.

But only 6,148,868 Southern Baptist members attended a primary worship service of their church in a typical week in 2007.

That was why this resolution was passed nearly unanimously by the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis last week:

On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration.”

Union University president of David Dockery, whose speech at the convention is largely credited with giving the resolution a boost, told The Tennessean that the SBC would likely lose a million members once the membership rolls were cleaned up.

But the number may be much higher than that. Millions of members (about 7 million, according to one site) are “non-resident,” meaning they do not live near the church that calls them a member. Millions more are completely inactive, and still more attend only occasionally.

Convention speakers repeatedly spoke of that phenomenon as a scandal. "We are not even winning our own sons and daughters like we should," North Carolina’s Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, said in his Wednesday sermon. “We have incredible numbers of people on our rolls that are inactive and probably lost.”

Johnny Hunt, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, supported the resolution but said he was wary of its implementation: "We have to be very careful. If you try to take this to the lowest common denominator, before too long, you'll find the pastors and the church leadership to try to separate the sheep from the goats, and only Jesus and the angels he assigned can do that."

The problem, says Dockery, is that churches are letting many goats think they’re sheep: “One thing worse than people being lost in their sins is lost people who think they are saved because their names are on a church roll.”

The resolution is nonbinding. Churches can keep reporting their membership numbers as they always have. But the gauntlet has been thrown.

Source: Christianity Today