Repent of Unregenerate Church Membership? Dockery Says “Yes”

In a Baptist Press article yesterday, David Dockery shared his thoughts on regenerate church membership, not the least of which was an affirmation of the need to repent of our failure to hold to this cardinal Baptist distinctive. Responding to the toleration of non-attending members, Dockery states, “It seems to me that we are doing harm to the person and to the church by allowing them to stay on the roll. One thing worse than people being lost in their sins is lost people who think they are saved because their names are on a church roll.” Such harm, serious and dangerous in nature that it is, warrants a call to repentance.

Dockery asserts,

“We need to repent of our lack of concern for biblical faithfulness in our concern and care for church members. We need to repent of the way the way we often allow people to join local churches without stressing the covenantal aspect of membership. We need to repent of the fact that we have largely neglected any aspect of church discipline that would have helped us begin to address some of these matters.”

Along with the call to repentance, Dockery stressed the importance of returning to a covenantal understanding of church membership. Dockery adds,

“We need to think afresh about what it means to be a covenant member of a Baptist congregation. We need to think about the importance of faithfulness and maturation of church members. Helping people understand the Gospel, helping guide them to faith in Christ and leading them to become church members is paramount, but helping them understand the biblical expectations of faithful Christ-followers in covenant with one another is also extremely important.

[ . . .] We need to rediscover the importance of what it means to be a faithful, covenant member of a local Baptist congregation. We need to reflect again on the biblical teaching about the new birth and discipleship and develop new member orientation processes for those who desire to join our churches.”

Dockery provides an excellent list of questions, he argues (and I agree), that Southern Baptists should be asking. They include:

* What does the New Testament say about regeneration, baptism, Christian commitment and church membership?
* What does our Baptist heritage say about church membership?
* How are we presenting the Gospel message?
* Have we allowed numerical growth and efficiency concerns, perhaps unknowingly and unconsciously, to become higher priorities for us than questions of faithfulness to the New Testament and to our Baptist heritage?
* How do we receive and orient new members?
* What is the relationship of the public invitation to baptism and the church membership?
* What role should the regular practice of the Lord’s Supper play in our covenant commitments?
* How do we encourage discipleship and spiritual maturation?

I am grateful for the leadership and direction Dr. Dockery continues to exhibit in addressing crucial issues in Southern Baptist life. My hope and prayer is that others will be encouraged to pursue this gospel call of repentance regarding regenerate church membership in our churches.

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5 Comments on “Repent of Unregenerate Church Membership? Dockery Says “Yes””


  1. Strongly agree with the post.

    Have been thinking about this issue a lot recently. Don’t think you can have hard rules about attend. but do think a review process is needed. Perhaps one where the pastor/elders/deacons get together to review who has been in church over the past month and who they have not seen. If none of the group has seen a family or person then perhaps a visit/inquiry needs to be made to determine if there is a problem or a need. If the non-attending person is not willing to attend on a regular basis after a Matt 18 process then he should be removed from the roll.

    DD


  2. Dismal,

    Something that might be helpful is to have the leadership (either elders or deacons or both) regularly pray through the membership directory on a regular basis. Maybe a page a week or something like that. We do this where I serve, along with assigning a portion of the membership to each elder for greater member care and shepherding.


  3. […] repent of unregenerate church membership? dockery says “yes” […]

  4. kschaub Says:

    That a boy, David Dockery!


  5. […] Repent of Unregenerate Church Membership? Dockery Says “Yes” [June 6, 2008] 2. SBC Bloggers, Ascol in USA Today [June 4, 2008] 3. Why Pursue Regenerate Church […]


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