Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mark Dever on the SBC and Church Discipline

This past June, the SBC failed to pass a resolution calling for repentance over our obsession with numbers and calling the churches to practice appropriate church discipline. The excuse given by the Resolutions Committee's representative on the floor was that lapsed members represent some of our best prospects for evangelism. So much for the Baptist doctrine of a regenerate church membership.

Mark Dever has now spoken publicly about this issue. I highly recommend you read it.

Click here.

5 comments:

  1. Amen to Mark Dever! Members are not the same as hearers, but apparently the SBC have forgotten this. A lack of Church discipline will mean eventually that a small party within the church may be able to dictate the church's doctrinal direction using people who normally never darken the door of a church.

    Members are supposed to be Christians, not a mission field, otherwise you might as well be paedobaptists.

    The road to ruin for any denomination starts with the acceptance of an unconverted membership. The unconverted must be brought into the Church, but let us not deceive them as to their spiritual state.

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  2. Allow me to add a second amen to this post. Mark Dever does a wonderful job in pointing out that church discipline is more than an unpleasant duty that many would prefer to overlook. He makes it clear that we have a responsibility to one another. To neglect church discipline is to neglect both a clear biblical mandate AND each another.

    One wonders how the messengers to the SBC could consider anything sufficient cause for ignoring clear biblical teaching.

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  3. "UNSAVED NOT WELCOME!"

    Thought you should post this at the door of your Church.

    And how does one know the spiritual state of others, exactly? Would you let John Calvin in as a member? As was previously posted, he had some poetic, lofty things to say about Jesus, but he still ended up hoping to chop off the head of another man (at the very LEAST).

    Would you let Pat Robertson in? The man has evidently used his Operation Blessing airplanes to ship diamonds in that deal he had with Mobutu Sese Seku.

    Can a man be a pro boxer and join? These guys punch other guys in the faces for a living. Normally you probably wouldn't condone such a thing, but if they do it for money, I guess it's probably alright.

    What about someone like the "wise" King Solomon? He had enough wives and concubines to populate a small city in Idaho.

    What about the "just man" Lot? He tried to pimp off his daughters to an angry mob (that was before he got drunk and knocked them up - and these were the people the Lord SPARED!!).

    Of course you wouldn't let homos in, but you don't need St. Paul to tell you that! ;-)

    Must one believe in eternal security? What about if they believe God is actually comprised of three beings but isn't also one being (kind of like a tribunal)?

    Gosh, so many rules! Quite an exclusive club! It sounds harder to get into than an country club in the Hamptons!

    - Todd

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  4. Todd, as I wrote the above, I wondered unto myself who the first person to mistake membership for attendance would be.

    Allow me to explain:

    In a Baptist Church, or indeed any other church possessing a congregational or Independent polity, members are people who have a vote in the General Meeting over such things as the election of elders, selection of a pastor, any changes to the church's doctrinal basis and whether to redecorate the church (the last normally taking up the most time at the AGM).

    Anyone can attend such a Church (in fact, due to my studies, I have spent more time as a hearer than a member), but when it comes to membership, that is, being allowed a share in the running of the church, there is a little rule that one has to be a Christian. The unsaved may attend, and, once they get saved (i.e. meet the membership requirements) they may become members.

    Obviously who is allowed in is a matter for the elders and existing members. And if a member ceases to attend that member should be asked why. If there is no reason for stopping attending, or at least not one that can be addressed, that member's membership should be judged to have lapsed after a longish period. Remember, the lapsed member is in a position to potentially block the appointment of a pastor they will never hear preach, simply because a group within the membership don't want that man and canvass that lapsed member to go to the meeting and vote against him.

    As to each case, there is normally a membership committe which judges applicants on a case-by-case basis.

    Normally the prospective member is expected to be in broad agreement with the doctrinal basis of the church. This is more to avoid potential conflicts than anything else. After all, who'd join a club whose rules they disagreed violently with.

    As for 'so many rules', it seems to me that you were the one who introduced this. Two rules, Todd. You have to have a credible profession of faith and agree with the standards of the Church.

    Now, if you have evidence of criminal activity against Pat Robertson, I recommend that you share this with the authorities. As for boxers, that would be up to the individual church. On dead people, last time I looked, Christian churches don't admit dead people as members.

    You've got the wrong people. The Mormons are next door.

    That reminds me, I used to know a church where that was literally true. A chap went into the Mormons by mistake...

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  5. And how does one know the spiritual state of others, exactly?

    In a Baptist church, in order to be a member of the church, at minimum, you must be able to give a credible profession of faith and be baptized as a believer. That's what "regenerate church membership" means. Anybody may attend, however. In addition, we practice church discipline in the Reformed churches. You're expected to maintain that profession of faith, and that includes regular attendance. Perhaps you are familar, however, with the easy believism of the non-Reformed churches, which explains your level of understanding of these matters and why it rarely rises above a 8th grade level and rely on the Skeptics Annotated Bible for your "exegesis."

    Would you let John Calvin in as a member?

    John Calvin was a paedobaptist. So, "No," not in the Baptist church. You'll have to ask a Presybterian about their denomination.

    As was previously posted, he had some poetic, lofty things to say about Jesus, but he still ended up hoping to chop off the head of another man (at the very LEAST).

    A man who was condemned by the civil authorities and for whom he could do nothing.

    Would you let Pat Robertson in? The man has evidently used his Operation Blessing airplanes to ship diamonds in that deal he had with Mobutu Sese Seku. Robertson is not within the Reformed tradition, and the lack of church discipline is an ongoing problem in those denominations. We'd let him in, and he'd be welcome to worship, and we'd tell him he needs to repent, and in my church I can assure you that every member of the church would do so to his face. If he had done something illegal and was a member of our church, I know for a fact that we would follow the discipline process and put him out of the assembly if he did not repent--and, yes, that includes turning himself into the civil authorities. Now, if you have evidence of crime on his part, might I suggest you contact the appropriate parties.

    Can a man be a pro boxer and join? These guys punch other guys in the faces for a living. Normally you probably wouldn't condone such a thing, but if they do it for money, I guess it's probably alright. I am unaware of the biblical prohibition against pro-boxing.

    What about someone like the "wise" King Solomon? He had enough wives and concubines to populate a small city in Idaho. And Scripture never condones his polygamy, does it? Ergo, he'd be subject to church discipline.

    In case you're really interested, there are at least 4 stages to that process, and being put out is the last option and not done lightly. There are specific instructions on how to go about doing it in the Bible as well, so it's not as if we make things up as we go along.

    Also, Solomon was not baptized as a believer.

    What about the "just man" Lot? He tried to pimp off his daughters to an angry mob (that was before he got drunk and knocked them up - and these were the people the Lord SPARED!!).

    See Solomon

    Of course you wouldn't let homos in, but you don't need St. Paul to tell you that! ;-)

    No, and we wouldn't let thieves, murderers, and adulterers become members either, because they cannot give a credible profession of faith. They are, however, more than welcome to worship. In fact, in my church, we do not give invitations. We have a Question and Answer period, and anybody, member or non-member can ask questions of the elders. This would include you if you attended with us, even on your first visit, even as an atheist. You can even watch or listen by webcast on Sundays and ask questions, no matter who you are, as long as you're civil. By the way, our attendance is twice our membership on any given Sunday. The same is true for most, but not all, Reformed Baptist churches. Mark Dever's attendance is about three times more than the membership.

    Must one believe in eternal security?

    In a Free Will Baptist church, no.
    In an SBC church, it depends on how stringently they enforce the BFM 2000 or their church confession in their membership.
    In some Reformed Baptist churches, there is a loser doctrinal confession for non-members and a more stringent one for the elders and deacons. Some use the same one.
    In the PCA, you can be an Arminian Baptist and join as an associate member. You have to be a Calvinist and a paedobaptist to be an elder or deacon.

    What about if they believe God is actually comprised of three beings but isn't also one being (kind of like a tribunal)?

    By your own definition, they don't believe in one god. Polytheism is not part of a credible profession of faith. However, you may still worship with the church, you may not however be a member of the church.

    Gosh, so many rules! Quite an exclusive club! It sounds harder to get into than an country club in the Hamptons!

    The irony here is that the Freethinkers Club where I live is paranoid about Christians in their midst. They will do a background check on you if you call yourself a Christian and want to join them and work to discourage you from participating. So much for free thought among the skeptical set.

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