On Tuesday, October 23, the Olney Baptist Association passed the following resolution as part of its annual meeting:
Concerning integrity in church membership
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 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 Olney Baptist Association urge the churches of our association to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further
resolved that we urge the churches of the Olney Baptist Association 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 associational 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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While the language, to some, might seem a bit lofty, it is doubtful that the Olney Baptist Association could have passed a more important resolution during our annual meeting. By passing this resolution, the messengers of the OBA unanimously declared that it is inappropriate for our churches to continue with our present practice of membership. We agreed together that we must do something about the outrageous discrepancy between official church membership and actual church participation.
What does all this mean? First and foremost, it means that our churches have been urged by their association meeting in annual session to repent of our failure to rightly handle our churches’ membership. We are to make it a priority to seek out those who are officially our church members, but who, for whatever reason, are no longer actively participating in our churches. We are to follow the clear biblical understanding that only believers be allowed to be considered members of a local church. We are to call those who are living in sin by refusing to participate in the life of any local church to repentance. We are to urge our churches and their leaders to be honest and accurate in reporting statistics to our state and national agencies. We are to take responsibility for those who have placed themselves under the care of the local church, even if that responsibility means that we involve them in loving church discipline as commanded by the scriptures.
If you understand what all this means, you will recognize that the above resolution has the potential to have a major impact on the OBA as well as all those associated with us. If our churches will follow this resolution, some of them may have their membership statistics drastically decreased. However, if we will follow this resolution faithfully, we will also have churches which are more honest to the association, to the church itself, and to the community around them. We will more faithfully honor Christ by seeking out the sheep who have strayed. I think it is doubtless that we will find our churches blessed by God as we seek to faithfully care for all of our church members.