SBC Pastors & Integrity In Church Membership

Bob Cleveland, a Southern Baptist layman from Alabama, made some helpful points about the ongoing drama in Southern Baptist life about church membership reporting. If sheep are missing, why not ask the shepherds to account for their work? He writes:

Anyway, what’s the real embarrassment in all this? It’s that the 16.5 million “members”, the 8 million “members” we can even find, the 6+ million that are actually THERE on Sunday mornings, the 8.5 million “members” we CANNOT find .. they are all members of LOCAL CHURCHES. Pastored by local PASTORS. If there’s a fault, it’s with the local pastors, churches, and the system(s) in operation. And like my Daddy use to say, what’s EVERYBODY’s fault, it NOBODY’s fault.

With our new pastor, my church has been working on membership recovery for nearly a year. This experience has taught me how carefully this work must go forward. It takes a massive investment of time, energy and congregational patience for a pastor to seriously engage in finding the lost sheep.

I think a statement from the convention encouraging pastors to do membership recovery (and oversight of membership rolls) would be helpful for some churches. Depending on how involved the church is at the convention level, it might be a great nudge to do the right thing.

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4 Responses to SBC Pastors & Integrity In Church Membership

  1. Scott says:

    Said above: members” we CANNOT find .. they are all members of LOCAL CHURCHES. Pastored by local PASTORS. If there’s a fault, it’s with the local pastors, churches, and the system(s) in operation.

    I like this premise. It squarely puts at least a modicum of accountability on the leadership –leadership that is so fragmented it can only say “teaching is my responsibility, not visitiation.

    It also suggests rather blatantly that our current system is not adequate to the task. How is a pastor going to “find” the lost members if his church is so large he can’t possibly know the members anyway? And yet if a church is under 200 in membership rolls it is not considered top-tier according to what is pushed today.

    Scott’s last blog post..Missions 101

  2. I am glad to see the problem of members missing in action adressed with openess and honesty. We in our local association are currently taking inventory of the numbers of missing in action. We are following up with resources to help the local church in this mission. As a pastor I am burdened by this bruise the church displays. As a church member I wonder why they are not present for worship. As director of discipleship for a local Baptist Association I am privileged to offer support to our local pastors who are interested in opening the “bag” where all the facts are kept concerning church members who are mia. With an open heart I admit too many of us are preoccupied with the next big thing, building programs, keeping formal schedules and (yes) our own personal hobbies. The church is at a crucial crossroad. Church leaders must decide which direction to lead. Will we go down the road of fame or the road of following the Great Commission? I ask all believers to join me in praying for direction from Gods word to be our guide in reconnecting with those who are missing in action and strengthening the church against creating more pow’s.

    Brett Clements’s last blog post..Who are ?THEY??

  3. Tony Kummer says:

    Scott – I think church size does matter. Our experience shows that even a few hundred members makes a very daunting task of actually knowing all the people. I’m sure there are ways to overcome that difficulty to a point, but there has to be some natural size limits to a “fellowship.”

    Brett – Thanks for your comment. We were very careful to treat our process as “membership recovery.” This means both recovering all those who are willing to be recovered AND recovering a shared sense among our people of what membership really means. I agree, this is a great commission (i.e. disciple making) issue.

  4. I am glad to see the issue of church size brought to the table for a closer look. When a church begins to grow it is of great importance for the current leadership to be willing to share responsibility and credit. Part of that is the putting qualified people in a position to help keep leadership connected with the membership. Too often church “staff” is considered just that, employees. Any part of a church’s staff should be (in my opinion) a member with a sense of obligation to fellow believers in serving Christ. In the beginning stages of a church growth period we pastors are tempted to accept the credit some give us. That makes it hard to incorporate other servants in the growth process. May we all pray and ask God to help us not desire credit for what He accomplishes through us. Let us praise Him for His works and thank Him for allowing us to be part of it. Unless we appreciate the owrk of all the servants we will never see effective recovery efforts. We as Christians need the whole body working together for the common goal of glorifying the Father and not have some members working while some are only hired hands who are always willing to move on when a better offer comes. Membership is a commitment for both leadership and the congregation.

    Brett Clements’s last blog post..Who are ?THEY??

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