The SBC must recover a high view of the meaning of conversion and membership, and must bring back or expel non-attenders through a loving and thoughtful process. We must pursue the doctrinal understanding and biblical practices necessary to overcome the remaining membership bloat, and the ongoing increase of unregenerate membership.
We have much to be thankful for—for instance, the quality and training of young leaders is the best I remember it. Yet, we must address unregenerate membership—or we die.
It’s ironic that we point to denominations that fill their churches with unconverted people, when we believe we understand the gospel, yet have more unregenerate people in our membership than make up the entire rolls of those denominations.
There should be no question that this is among the most urgent issues before us, yet many pastors and denominational leaders seem unwilling to be serious about it. Though we claim that membership requires conversion, we knowingly retain people who are not converted—and we continue the practices and doctrines that produce more of the same. This is either about an alarming ignorance of the nature of saving faith—or due to willful disobedience because the job is too hard, or we are too proud, or we just don’t care.
There will be a day, and now is, when well-meaning church leaders who have large, innovative, and yet sickly churches swollen with unregenerate converts will no longer be impressive regardless of their sincerity. They will no longer be the authorities in church health and evangelistic growth. May God help us to be courageous in our own leadership, whatever others will or will not do, to face the problem in our our own churches and to implement the solutions.
Perhaps this humility and obedience will be the ground of a great renewal.