Part of that resolution also focuses on the need to practice church discipline. One of the “Whereas” and three of the “Resolved” statements touch on the idea:
WHEREAS, The Scriptures admonish us to exercise church discipline as we seek to restore any professed brother or sister in Christ who has strayed from the truth and is in sin (Matthew 18:15-35; Galatians 6:1);
RESOLVED, That we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we humbly urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their pastors to implement a plan to minister to, counsel, and restore wayward church members based upon the commands and principles given in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).
Most recently, there is the story of a woman in Jacksonville, FL who is upset that her church, Grace Community, would dare to confront her over regularly engaging in sexual relations with her boyfriend. (Check out this excellent post from Dan Phillips of the Pyromaniacs). She says she’s worried that the public dealing with her sin will have a negative effect on her 18-20 year old daughters. Apparently she isn’t worried about how her unrepentant sin will affect them, only the church’s dealing with it.
Several years ago there was the story of a Dallas church being sued for addressing a situation of adultery within its ranks. The lawsuit stated the church was “invading the privacy” of those involved. I guess they could argue the same thing regarding the issue of “regenerate membership.” After all, it’s nobody’s business if I’m truly saved, right?
Before I arrived at our present church, the former pastor tried to work with a family considering a divorce, and it wasn’t well received. In fact, when I came, one of the first comments from an “outsider” about our church was, “Oh, you’re the church that hates divorced people.” How outrageous.
Oh, how far we’ve come. The great Reformers of days gone by once focused on three "marks by which the true church is known": the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline to correct faults. At one time, the church knew that membership meant something. We were voluntarily submitting ourselves to one another in love. Because of that love, we held one another accountable regarding salvation as well as lives of holiness, etc. (Exactly as Scripture admonishes us to, I might add).
There are some encouraging signs. Mark Dever and the folks at 9Marks Ministries have done a good job of reminding us that discipline in the church is one of the essential ingredients for church health. And the SBC resolution is certainly a step in the right direction. But we have along way to go.
Here’s hoping and praying that the church will one day hold up membership to be something of value; that we will strive to maintain a truly regenerate membership; and that discipline will once again be seen as the loving way to reclaim a brother and not merely the “invasion of privacy.”
BTW: For a couple more good articles on the subject of discipline, read here and here.