Regeneration and Church Membership

Southern Baptists cannot find between 50 and 60 per cent of our members. Southern Baptist Church attendance is less than half of the membership we claim. What is more, many SBC churches are populated with baptized individuals who demonstrate scant biblical knowlege and little, if any desire for holiness. Timmy Brister has posted an excellent and timely excerpt from an article by Dr. James Leo Garret published in 1961. I encourage you to read it.

This is an issue that ought to concern us all. For the sake of numbers too many churches have looked the other way while unregenerate children, youth, and adults were accepted into membership. They may have "prayed the prayer," "walked the aisle," or simply signed a card but were never involved in any process by which the genuiness of their conversion might be tested. I cannot remember how many adults I have counseled with over the years who were converted as adults years after being assured of their salvation because they "prayed the prayer." Even after a life of no spiritual fruit and even ungodliness they were assured repeatedly by well meaning pastors and family members that they were okay because of the prayer they prayed as a child. I continue to encounter men and women raised in the church that hold a profoundly unbiblical worldview and demonstrate almost complete biblical illiteracy. Friends, it is time for a radical change.

"Failure to heed these warnings will result in irreparable harm to our churches. The loss of the conviction of a regenerate church membership would be the abandonment of one of our crucial theological distinctives. We would in essence forsake one of our core tenets that has classically and theologically defined us as Baptists in the free church tradition. We would erase the line of demarcation between the church and the world.

"Our churches would become more worldly and carnal and less holy and Christlike. We would witness and increase in the number of inactive, indifferent, uncommitted, and undedicated members in our churches. In our effort to have larger churches with greater numbers of members, we would contribute to the demise of effective evangelism and witness a decrease in the number of new converts. We would also lose our prophetic voice to speak with biblical convictions on the great moral and social issues of our day."