I Quote – You Decide

Two quotes, no commentary, for your consideration:

Quote 1:

“We have to be very careful. If you try to take this (regenerate church membership) to the lowest common denominator, before too long, you’ll find the pastors and the church leadership to try to separate the sheep from the goats (an allusion to a parable about the separation of the heaven- and hell-bound), and only Jesus and the angels he assigned can do that.”

– Johnny Hunt, interviewed by The Tennessean, June 11, 2008

Quote 2:

“The churches are not infallible judges, being unable to search the heart; but they owe it to the cause of Christ, and to the candidate himself, to exercise the best judgment of which they are capable. To receive any one on a mere profession of words, without any effort to ascertain whether he understands and feels what he professes, is unfaithfulness to his interest, and the interests of religion.”

John L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 269.

Who is right? You decide.

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39 Comments on “I Quote – You Decide”


  1. Point, Dagg. Hands down.

    Timmy, here are some of my own thoughts:
    http://walkingtogether.typepad.com/walking_together/2008/06/why-resolution-no6-mattersa-lot.html

    Sorry for the shameless plug.

    Thanks for the great site!

    Wyman Richardson


  2. Timmy,

    Dagg, clearly, is in the right.

    I don’t mean this to to be “below the belt,” but I wonder what percentage of the First-Woodstock membership attends on an average Sunday. Could Dr. Hunt be concerned that his church’s numbers will come to the fore now that he is SBC president?

    Eric

  3. Phil Awtry Says:

    Timmy, I’ve been reading these posts (and other info elsewhere) concerning this whole issue of SBC membership, baptisms, etc. Not being an SBC member myself, and never being even remotely connected to anyone who is, I am a bit out of touch with all the background. But I have to say, this whole subject tells me a great deal about the current state of the SBC as an institution. To me, the term “regenerate church member” is redundant. Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a member of the Church universal apart from being regenerate in Christ. While I understand that the visible church and the true church are never going to be one and the same, it appears to me taht the SBC has gone far down the path of undiscernment when admitting members to their local bodies. And are now paying the price for it.

    All this to say, I agree with your stance and am encouraged that there seems to be a recognition of the Biblical mandate for guarding the gate within the SBC at large. Keep up the fight, for regenerate membership as well as the doctrines of grace.


  4. The issue of regenerate church membership for many is a pride issue. By that I mean if the concept of regenerate church membership was taken seriously, and one does not really need a resolution to do that, then the headlines would be too much for some people. Imagine the press when the membership in the SBC goes from 17+ Million to 7 million or maybe even 4 million if we were serious about it. I think that is too much for some to handle. Jonny Hunt would appear to simply be trying to avoid the real issue, that he does have goats among the sheep, and maybe a lot of them. But in truth he is not alone as churches go and until the SBC realizes that simply having people on some list or putting their head under water is not enough the SBC will continue to flounder.

  5. Chris Says:

    Timmy and other commenters,
    I believe that Hunt and Dagg are not really addressing the exact same issue. Hunt seems to be addressing the potential to abuse the concept of regenerate church membership. I think we can all think of hypothetical situations where pastors who have substantial authority in their churches begin to implement increasingly harsh, legalistic lists to evaluate whether or not someone is showing “enough fruit” to be considered a Christian. Although I have pursued regenerate church membership in every church I have pastored, I ahev also seen extreme examples. I am personally familiar with a church in my area, pastored by a student in one of our seminaries that went too far just a few years ago. A lady came to my church asking for advice about how to handle her situation. It seems that she had questioned her pastor’s decision in an area related to youth ministry. The questioning took place privately. At the end of the conversation, when it became obvious there was disagreement between the two, the pastor FORBID the lady from coming back to corporate worship for a month because of her failure to submit to her elder’s leadership. Instead, she was to stay home and read various passages of Scripture until she could return and repent from her sin. When asked why he was taking such action, he replied that he was merely practicing “church discipline” upon a sinful member of his church.

    Timmy, I think you will agree that this example is a case of church discipline gone too far. Disagreeing with a pastor about methodological issues in a private setting is not worthy of excommunication. Aside from that, what that pastor did was NOT excommunication. It was abusive. Even someone put out of our church would be welcome to come and sit under the preaching of the word. It is after all the gospel that brings us to faith and brings change. I think it is these types of examples that worry those who are opposed to recovering redemptive church discipline, not the practice itself, but the attempt to implement the practice by men who do not understand the process, who show no grace, and who think that a growing Christian must look exactly like them.

    Please do not hear that as an endorsement of those who ignore the issue completely and have inflated membership rosters. It is not. I have just spent enough time with pastors and leaders who are wary of the calls for regenerate church membership to know how they are thinking much of the time.

    “You are never in church – you’re out. Once they’re gone, you’re never in Sunday School, you’re not really a Christian, you’re gone. Once they’re gone, you don’t give to the church. Christians do, you don’t, you’re gone.” That is the kind of approach many fear. I am not saying it is a rational fear. It is just a fear. It is time to begin discussing HOW the practice should be implemented. Personally, for most of our churches, it should start with in home visits with all of our “inactive members” (such an UNBIBLICAL TERM) to see if they even understand the gospel, much less believe it. To reclaim many wayward members will require months of investment in every one of their lives: showing love, proclaiming the gospel, discipline them on the importance of church membership for THEIR benefit, etc.

    Keep asking tough questions Timmy. I believe in the coming months as pastors start to share their challenges implementing redemptive church discipline and regenerate church membership, we will have some fruitful dialogue about the difficulties of pursuing those biblical ideals.

    Chris


  6. Wyman,

    Thanks for chiming in and for your shameless plug. In fact, I think I might refer your article in another post soon.

    Eric,

    Dagg makes it clear that in even the purest churches will have some discrepancy between the church universal and the church local, but that is due to disobedience to Christ’s law and the fallibility of man. Nevertheless, as mentioned in a prior post, our goal is that we should strive for a perfect (pure) church, not only because of the rewards of the journey, but because of Christ’s command.


  7. I don’t follow Hunt’s logic on that one. But I am glad he’s the new President!


  8. Phil,

    In a sense, the term “regenerate church member” is redundant, that is, if you are referring to the universal church; however, the local church is susceptible to human error in discerning professing believers, as well as professing believers later “shipwrecking” their faith as Paul described them. Allow me to quote from Dagg a little more as he explains this in his work.

    Dagg writes,

    “Though unconverted persons are not entitled to membership according to the law of Christ, they nevertheless obtain admittance into local churches through human fallibility. . . . The infallible judge determines membership in the great ecclesia; but fallible men admit to membership in the local churches. Hence, a corrupt element finds entrance into local churches, and because of it they are not strictly homogeneous with the universal spiritual church. This want of homogeneousness existed in some degree, even in the purest age of Christianity; but it became much more manifest when corruption overspread the churches, and the evils attending it are not painfully felt by the lovers of Zion” (143).

    I think what we are experiencing today is the painful feelings where there is an embarrassing chasm between the makeup of local churches and the universal spiritual church. This “corrupt element” which Dagg calls evil we have justified in church growth tactics as something to be excused, if not embraced (you know, for every “x” number of people you baptize, you keep “y” number of people sort of thing). 50 years of that breeds a form of nominalism that not even the best discipleship methods can fix, for the problem is not lack of discipleship but a lack of understanding the gospel and how it relates to the church.

  9. Lucas Defalco Says:

    LOOK OUT!!! INCOMING STRAW MEN!!!

    :-b


  10. Tony,

    While this is something I plan on mentioning in later blogposts, I will briefly address it here as it relates to your comment. I think a major problem is not only our lack of understanding of covenantal membership, but our separation of believer’s baptism from credible evidence of regeneration. Furthermore, when baptism is separated from the core conviction of regenerate church membership (on which the other aspects of Baptist polity depend), then you can baptize children at very early ages who have no way whatsoever of fulfilling their responsibilities as members of a local church.

    Before the 1950’s, no records were kept of children baptisms because it simply did not occur. Now, increasing percentages of baptisms are of children under the age of six. For example, if you go to the archives of the Sunday when Hunt announced to his church his run for president of the SBC, they baptized several children so small they could not stand up in the water. And this is an all too common reality among SBC churches today, and evidence that we are divorcing the ordinance of baptism from regenerate church membership and any credible evidence or experience of grace that is discernable to the leadership or congregation.


  11. Chris,

    You bring up legitimate hypothetical situations of where there could be pastoral abuse in the issue, but do you really believe this is happening in churches in the SBC? I have yet to hear of a church where the leadership or congregation refused to accept a repentant believer trusting in Christ as evidenced in obedience and faithfulness to Christ.

    The case regarding the lady and church discipline, that indeed is sad; however, I don’t think it directly relates to regenerate church membership in that she was not allowed as a member in the church. Rather it seems the issue was a mishandling of corrective church discipline. I agree with you that the minister handled the situation in a way unbecoming of the gospel, for loving correction, when appropriately applied, is redemptive and seeking to restore a brother or sister, not cast them out.

    I also agree that we need to begin the discussion on how to do this. I am committed to talking about this in the future and hope others do as well. Many pastors and churches are already in that journey, and I sincerely hope that will take the time to share with others how they are doing it.

    I want to be clear here. I am not trying to criticize Hunt or needlessly disagree with him to have everyone jump on him. Hunt made a comment that I found important to discuss, which I believe is the concern of many pastors today. I have one pastor friend in a state where his church has the largest membership, and having lunch with him about a month go notified me that over the course of the next year, they will be rewriting the constitution, developing a church covenant, and pursuing regenerate church membership. Needless to say, after that meeting, I was greatly encouraged.


  12. I agree with Dagg, but Hunt does have a point. I don’t see anything wrong with saying “we must be very careful.”

    I also feel it should be pointed out you quoted only a small portion of his response, leaving out how he does deal with this at FBC Woodstock. Agree with him or no, it seems to me he’s not simply ignoring the issue.


  13. Bryan,

    I agree with you that what Hunt said was not totally in error. But I do think that he and Dagg stand in clear disagreement with whether the congregation can or should look for evidence of regeneration along with a profession of faith. Hunt says that discerning the state of a professing believer for membership in a local church is something “only Jesus and the angels he assigned can do.”

    Dagg, on the other hand, says that the churches are obligated to exercise the best judgment in discerning “whether he understands and feels what he professes.” To fail in this obligation Dagg calls unfaithfulness and “criminal negligence” elsewhere.

    So apparently at least on this point, either Hunt is right or Dagg is right.

    Regarding the other portion of Hunt’s remarks, you are correct in saying that they do take measures to teach new members (as in the new member’s class). I also believe that Hunt is not ignoring the issue. Like Jeremy, I (believe it or not) am glad to see Hunt as president of the SBC. I have met him personally several times, participated at his Timothy-Barnabas conferences twice, attended his one-day shepherding conferences at Woodstock, and have worked closely with both his student ministry and missions department. I have great respect for Hunt, and though we disagree on some matters, I have reason to be optimistic about the future, especially about the opportunity before him to set an example on this matter of regenerate church membership. Should he lead the way by modeling the pursuit of RCM at Woodstock, that would inspire many other pastors to do the same, and as Hunt shared, inspiration, not information, is what we need. To that I say a hearty amen!


  14. Timmy:

    Thanks for your comments as there are many issues that relate to the whole issue of membership and regeneration, with baptism of children is one of those issues. We will just have to see how this all pans out in the end and if churches really do take regenerate church membership seriously. I agree with Phil though that in truth if membership was looked at biblically one would not have to speak of “regenerate” membership as there is not to be any other type of church membership.

  15. J.D. Hawg Says:

    Timmy,

    FBC Woodstock currently does little in the way of regenerate church membership. I’m a member there and I’m constantly frustrated by the lack of concern on the part of the staff in this area, from Johnny on down. Those desiring membership merely walk an aisle, tell the altar counselor they were saved when they were nine, and they’re added to the role. Hopefully they attend the new members’ class and get plugged into a Sunday School class. But as far as I know, no one every follows up to see if they do. That’s how we’ve accumulated 17,000 members and only 7,000 that show up on Sunday. When someone does profess faith in Christ, they aren’t even asked to give their testimony before the church the way others in our convention do. They just enter the water, nod their head when the pastor asks them if they’ve accepted Jesus as their savior, and they’re dunked into membership. And as was mentioned earlier, more and more of them are under the age of eight. I’m not saying that God can’t save someone that young but it’s hard to recognize the repentance and belief that God requires in someone that young. We get closer to infant baptism every week.

    But at the same time, FBCW’s take on RCM is completely consistent with the “easy believism” that’s often preached by those who fill the pulpit for Johnny, most notably Jerry Vines. I based my salvation on “cheap grace” for 35 years until God opened my eyes to the truth two years ago as Johnny preached on regeneration out of Titus 2. Unfortunately, though, those sermons are the exception, not the rule. There are many times in Johnny’s sermons where he’s preaching on sin and he could go just one step further and say, “And if your life is still characterized by habitual sin, you might not be saved.” But instead it he leaves it hanging, with a simple charge to “do better”. I fully realize that God does the convicting, not Johnny Hunt, but if we’re faithful in presenting the entire truth, I believe that God will reward it.

    Bottom line: numbers are still very important to FBCW. We hear about them all of the time from the pulpit and we see them published in the bulletin from time to time. Yet, we see little growth in attendance and no growth in active membership. Chances are you’ll see little in the way of RCM as they continue to stick with what they know: assisting church plants and sending folks on short-term mission trips. So I guess you can say that FBCW epitomizes a lot of things that are wrong with the SBC. Only time will tell if things will change.


  16. Tony,

    Yeah, you and Phil are right, and Dagg would agree with you (sorry to keep pulling out quotes and excerpts from Dagg!). He writes,

    “If none but true believers were admitted into the churches, there would be an exact agreement between the character of the membership in the local churches, and in the church universal” (142).

    But the fact is, knowing that we are fallible people, even the wisest and most discerning among us, will make errors in judgments in accepting members regarding their spiritual state. However, the ditch that we have fallen into as Southern Baptists is the one that makes no requirement for examination and discernment of one’s spiritual state beyond their profession, such that anyone who answers “yes” or prays a prayer is immediately baptized.

    If believer’s baptism is the gateway to regenerate church membership, then revisiting how we handle this divine ordinance is one of the first orders of business. I fear we have trampled over this ordinance, whether naive or intentionally, to great consequence. Baptists cannot have congregational polity apart from regenerate church membership, and churches cannot have regenerate church membership apart from a correctly handling of believer’s baptism.


  17. A very disappointing start to Hunt’s presidency. At best, he seems to have misjudged the time to offer this warning. As the resolution was passed with such a majority, he seems out-of-step with the Convention.

  18. Alan Cross Says:

    At our church, we have an interview process and a class for potential members. We tell them what is expected of them and we hear their testimony. We judge it, so to speak. The requirements to enter the church are faith in Christ that has led to the new birth, and believer’s baptism by immersion. No more. Not everyone who becomes a member stays true to their commitment, but our attendance is very close to our membership. I cannot fathom a church that would let someone join just by walking the aisle, but it does happen.

  19. cody Says:

    I went back to read the entire interview with Hunt. To me it seems that we have vastly different understandings of church membership. Attendance does not make an active church member much less walking an aisle or attending a new member class. Until we go back to scripture to discover what it means to be a member of the body then we will find it difficult to have regenerate church membership or even meaningful membership.

    Most people in the SBC have never known these ideas of membership. I did not until I discovered Mark Dever’s 9 Marks a few years ago.

  20. Chris Says:

    Timmy,
    I appreciate your willingness to engage in dialogue and ask thought provoking questions. I also appreciate your willingness to speak positively about someone with whom you have disagreements. If more of us did that in the convention, I think we would take a giant step forward to seeing the beginnings of a Great Commission resurgence. I think I may start calling you the “compassionate Calvinist” as an homage to our out going U.S. president.

    Chris


  21. Alan,

    Thanks for sharing what you guys are doing, and also thanks for sharing your thoughts about the future of the SBC.

    Cody,

    I would argue that not only is there a vast difference in understanding of church membership, but as a result to congregationalism failing due to the lack of regenerate church membership, we have vastly different form of church government as well. What I mean is, churches (especially megachurches) are run in a CEO/corporate style of multi-tiered structure. In other words, while most of these churches would disagree with “elder-rule” (verses elder-led), they function in a way where the pastor can act and decide unilaterally in the life of a church without any checks or balances. This is because the leadership does not trust the congregation due to the tacit understanding that it is comprised of so many potential unbelievers (case in point: when the business meeting where a vote on an issue ushers in twice as many voters as Sunday morning worship). I have seen this first hand in several churches and confirmed elsewhere. If we can get a right understanding of church membership and see congregationalism work as it should, then perhaps our form of church government will change as well.

    Chris,

    Thanks for your kind words. It is my goal to address the issues and not individuals, but often it can be misunderstood that I am addressing people (resulting in ad-hominem attacks). I share your desire for a Great Commission resurgence and look forward to cooperating in whatever way I can to see good things come of the SBC in the future. BTW, I attended your church when it was first constituted a couple of times with K.J. I don’t think you remember, but it was good to see what was going on there.

  22. ChrisB Says:

    I don’t see these quotes as contradicting. The second says we have to try, the first just says be careful. It’s the same question I’ve heard for years — if you want to exercise church discipline, for what sins should someone be disciplined? If lust is equated with adultery, how can we ignore it? But how can we detect it? And who would surive that test?

  23. cody Says:

    What sins should someone be disciplined for?

    All of them. Church discipline should happen in the everyday life of every member of the church. My fellow believers should hold me accountable to God’s commands. Meaning I have to invite them into my life and be willing to be transparent. Sadly we pick and choose parts of scripture to follow. Which would beg the question that if you do not practice church discipline then do you believe scripture is authoritative and sufficient?

    It would only be in the cases of habitual and unrepentant sin that you would need to bring them formally before the church. There should be many checks before that ever happens.

    We should pray for churches that discipline their men over the sin of lust.

  24. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    What sins should one be “disciplined for: All of them. Well no, not quite or we would all be being negatively disciplined constantly by the church. There are sins that need to be dealt with publically, others privately, others, left to God to administer.

    “We should pray for churches that discipline their men over the sin of lust.” Their women too?

    And we do. The problem being is who knows who lusts? Billy Graham once said something like, “If a man looks at a woman once that is appreciation. If he looks again, that is lust.” I take it that he was confessing his sin. We discipline in two ways. The fear that tribunals would be initiated or that rampant abuse of power will ensue if RCM is pursued is fear mongering, a canard. Abuses happen now and my guess is that it happens where there is a greater number of unregenerates in power than where there are not. Preaching the word faithfully, and teaching doctrine clearly and faithfully, does the job of disciplining hidden sin and of separating the sheep and the goats. If there is anyone who has the charis of discerment, as Peter did with Simon, let him step forward. But short of that, most sin that happens in the church goes on unaccounted.

    We discipline because it is commanded by the Great Commission. The shame of the SBC is its emphasis upon evangelism and baptism to the neglect of indoctrination. Dagg is absolutely right, but at his time, it was common practice to catechize. Catechesis is a great way to attempt to discern the the sincerity of the profession of faith. Is it too much to ask that SBC churches fast from the lust to baptize and to grow for the sake of instruction? Making disciples is far more than revivalistic evangelism. The commission requires that the petitioner abandon all and come and follow Christ. It was more than three years of training before the disciples were taken into the fold. Testings, that is the model, not merely walking the aisle and making profession. As Eric Redmond says catechism is tremdously important. It should be started as a requirement before baptism. What good are new membership classes if placed after baptism. They do not work for members coming from another congregation if they are inadequate in substantive knowledge of the faith. The leadership needs to be able to discern who is and is not indicating that they will be faithful. One means of doing that is intensive instruction. Our Great Commission requires, that evangelism not be done absent the teaching, and it will not do to place teaching in chronological order after baptism only, for it takes teaching before one knows that they are a sinner and that Christ died for their justification.

    Then discipline is two fold, both postitive and penal. The question that is being thrust forward is not merely that we insure that our membership is regenerate, but that the chruch itself is regenerate. That is, is it alive to the necessity of teaching them both to keep (doxas) and to do (praxis)? Are our churches equipped for the missional education role that is mandated in both the Great Commission and in the BFM. Sadly, this is not the case. My guess is that for most churches there are no systematic studies in the doctrines of Historic Christianity, nor is there education in the history of the church universal or of the SBC itstelf, doctrinally and historically. A neglect of education results in division due to ignorance.

    Hunt will have to deal with his own predjudices brought about because this is the milieu in which he matured into, in the SBC. The division that it has caused is all too evident, today, or there would not even have needed to be such a vote on an issue that is clearly addressed in the BFM. Programmed ignorance must be set aside for honest instruction without predjudice for majoritarian theology over against the minority position. I think this is really what is at the heart of the deadness of hearts. Specifically, that systematic theology is not exalted but is rather shunned. So also is academic honesty when dealing with competing, yet historically compatable theologies in accord with the SBC’s BFM. It is this, and not mere neglect of members or of membership unregeneracy. SBC’ers are for the most part loving and caring people. Unfortunately that is not enough to keep the sheep from wandering. As soon as they find others offering like kindness or more, they’re gone. We need knowledge instilled in the people. Woe, to the shepherd who eschews knowledge; “my children are destroyed for the lack of knowledge.”

    Rengerate membership must then start with the repentance of the leadership, which amazingly was nearly rejected as if the leadership is immune from sin. God forbid a pastor should repent of unregenerate attitudes! Let’s get it right. Some can boast of tens of thousands, but cannot boast that even active members have sound knowledge of the word of God. If it is the case that our churches are pastored by the unregenerate in attitude, if not in nature, we can bet that the quality of the sheep fares no better. And my guess is, that there are as many unregenerate pastor’s as there are unregenerate members in both senses. My personal experience is to have had pastors who did not even know what faith was, or who God was.

    It is this elitism displayed by certain sectors of the SBC that somehow separates the sheep from the “old goats” in the pulpit- this attitude that it is the other guy and not me- that is one pervasive cancer in the SBC that demonstrates that a large portion of it is dead. As Redmond said, we all need to take stock and examine our own hearts to see where we are dead and in need of God’s life renewed in us.

  25. Laura Grace Says:

    Thomas, you said in response to Cody’s comment, “Well no, not quite or we would all be being negatively disciplined constantly by the church. There are sins that need to be dealt with publically, others privately, others, left to God to administer.” Maybe we’re just operating with different definitions of church discipline. It seems like you see it as public confrontation and public repentance.

    Here’s how I see church discipline happening in my church: God disciplines us in the context of the local church through the preaching of his word and the proclamation of truth in the worship service. We apply God’s discipline to each other in community when we pray for and encourage and confess sin to each other. If ever there comes a time in our lives when we fail to receive this kind of ongoing “minor course correction,” then the more formal church discipline may have to occur — private confrontation with elders and pleas to repent, followed by public dismissal from church membership if those pleas fall on deaf ears.

    In my reading of scripture and limited experience, I think the reason we “do” church discipline is because the Lord disciplines those whom he loves. God uses the structures of church discipline (in the broad sense I outlined above) to sanctify his people. In other words, it’s not about us trying to keep the church pure by calling people out on their sins, it’s about faithfully preaching and teaching the word, allowing the Gospel to discipline hearts, and taking stronger, more focused measures as the situation warrants.


  26. I think Laura makes an important point. God uses the structures of church discipline to sanctify His people, and that may often happen in step one of Matthew 18–that is, in the more informal, everyday commitment of one believer to another. I have come to find over the years that this is precisely what biblical (nouthetic) counseling is all about. It is applying the gospel to our own hearts and the lives of others with love and care. In other words, such biblical counseling is the gospel applied to our lives in very practical and ruthless ways.

    It is a most unfortunate thing that the only time discipline is applied is in the latter stages or where it is in public domain. If we as believers, covenanted and committed to our brothers and sisters in our local churches, take personal responsibility for the spiritual health and wellbeing of one another, I think that the issue of corrective church discipline would be rarely needed. The problem is that we are not applying the gospel to our lives as well as others that we may grow in sanctification and persevere in holiness. Sometimes the greatest structures for discipline in a local church are those moments we too often pass by because either we are in too much of a hurry, or we simply don’t want to “get messy” by doing the hard work of lovingly correcting one another in a spirit of humility and grace.


  27. Phil,
    “To me, the term “regenerate church member” is redundant.” I agree. At any rate I doubt many, if any, SBCers who were at the convention will go home and clean their church roles. After all those unregenerate church members are paying the bills.

  28. johnMark Says:

    Laura,

    It sounds more like you’re mostly speaking of discipleship rather than discipline. Maybe I am not understanding well here, but when I think of discipline I am thinking of formal church discipline as carried out in Matthew 18. By that I don’t mean that it must be taken all the way through, of course, because the main objective is repentance and restoration.

    We always hope the first private confrontation is enough.

    Mark


  29. Now Keith, that is a very harsh way of looking at things, no? Of course, time will tell, but in the meantime I hope to continue the conversation over this very important matter. Who knows? You might be convinced otherwise . . .

  30. Laura Grace Says:

    Mark — discipline and discipleship have the same root, no? I guess I see it as a continuum. Like I said, we discipline because God disciplines his people. I dunno. Maybe I’m being too broad.

    But what I’m trying to avoid is the narrow definition of church discipline that ignores the discussion of God’s discipline in Hebrews 12, for instance, which addresses us in our struggle against sin. It seems that temptation and sanctification are particularly in the writer’s mind — God disciplines those whom he loves… THEREFORE… strengthen each other, encourage each other with the word. I’ve had conversations with SO many Christians for whom “church discipline” = excommunication; surely that is too narrow a definition! I think the Matthew 18 passage needs to be read alongside Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians, especially because Mt 18 seems to be about personal offenses. It addresses just one type of disciplinary situation that elders will have to deal with.

    Is this clear at all? Sorry if it’s not!!


  31. […] Timmy Brister out with his […]


  32. I truly hope I am.

  33. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Thanks Laura- I also said: “Preaching the word faithfully, and teaching doctrine clearly and faithfully, does the job of disciplining hidden sin and of separating the sheep and the goats.” It prolly got lost in my verbosity.

    I see the Gospel as the primary means of discipline, and I too see discipline as a continuum, rebuke, reproof, correction and training in righteousness so that the people of God will be fully equipped. Which is why I mention the need of the church to repent as Eric Redmond covers in his fine address at the Founders Breakfast. It is not just non-attenders, nor the uncommitted attenders, but it is the “priesthood of believers,” layman and leader alike. The Regenerate Church is a church that is healthy head and toe.

    Hopefully, this Resolution will provoke engagement more fully in ecclesiology, not just baptist distinctives, but a renewed interest in wholistic teaching of what the body of Christ should be and should be doing. We as baptists are not alone in decline. And it is not just membership but what a White Horse Inn series is pointing to, the loss of the Gospel. The answer can only be that we rediscover The Book. Leaders such as TA have be criticized for mentioning recovering the Gospel. I happen to think they are right. As with the Great Commission ,for whatever reason we have imbalanced it, focussing on converts and baptism while neglecting the faithful responsibility to insure that the proselyte is matured.

    I am convinced that truth as revealed in Scripture is the key health. To that end, investment in a renewed interest in doctrinal acuity will do what the word says, build up the body of Christ in the faith and love of God.


  34. First another Dagg quote, “The possession of love to Christ is required of every one who seeks admission into a Christian church. The members who admit him are required to demand a credible profession made in obedience to Christ’s command. Beyond this they cannot go, and here their responsibility ceases. But in every case in which a false professor is admitted, the law of Christ is violated by one or both of the parties.”

    Second another Hunt quote, “When someone comes forward (to be a member of Hunt’s church), I have a trained counselor, and I want that trained counselor to go back and make sure this person understands what it takes to become a believer. We have new-member classes. It’s not mandatory, but we highly recommend they go, and the majority do go through our class.”

    It is a bit unfair (isn’t it) to slice two quotes out of their contexts and not at the very least strongly encourage the blog readers to read up prior to reaction.

    I am not particularly a huge fan of Hunt, but since what I quote above comes just prior to what is quoted on your blog it seemed reasonable to give at least a bit more credibility to Hunt’s own intentional “filtering” for membership.

    And Dagg at least admits that there is a distance beyond which the truly regenerate church cannot go in deciding these things. This seems to coincide in some measure with Hunt’s point which you quoted.

    For Hunt, a better passage to allude to might have been the parable of the wheat and the tares. Here the servants are told not to pull up the tares lest in doing so the wheat be damaged.

    Finally, why not compare Hunt with Ranier? Ranier is admits that his own church has clear flaws in this area.

    Ranier also states in the article you reference, “Only churches that are connecting with their communities and living incarnationally should attempt to clean their rolls. So if your church is not evangelistic, does not have a missions program, and does not do outreach, then do not even think about cleaning the rolls. Pour your pastoral energies into getting the church to obey the Great Commission first.”

    This is an interesting quote from Ranier as it sounds very much like Hunt in the same article being quoted here, “I’d like to challenge them to come up with a prayer campaign. I’d like to challenge them to use our evangelists (preachers who who specialize in leading revival services). Whatever is important to the pastors becomes important to the people. For some reason, it’s not been a priority with a lot of our pastors. We need to talk a lot more about being intentional. It can happen to any of us. I’ve been a pastor for 32 years. I went through two years of a major plateau with (church growth). A lot of it had to do with not being focused myself and a failure to refocus and think what are the most important things.

    Sometimes when you are not fishing, you’re fighting, and I don’t think we’re fishing. Jesus said, ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ If you’re not fishing, what are you doing? Probably meddling in somebody else’s business, coming up with something you don’t like about the fishing industry. I want to get us back to fishing.”

    It seems there are lot of things and ways to make quotes play off of each other.


  35. […] and Deemed Credible: Mere Words Alone Do Not Suffice On the heels of my previous post where Dagg argues that, while churches are not infallible in their judgment, they should consider […]


  36. Hyper-Calvinism and Southern Baptists…

    Many times in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) we hear concerns over Calvinism and how it can split a church or destroy evangelism. And just as many times the Calvinist answers that those charges are not true. But are they true? Well, theology …

  37. Gene Bridges Says:

    Timmy wrote:

    Before the 1950’s, no records were kept of children baptisms because it simply did not occur. Now, increasing percentages of baptisms are of children under the age of six. For example, if you go to the archives of the Sunday when Hunt announced to his church his run for president of the SBC, they baptized several children so small they could not stand up in the water. And this is an all too common reality among SBC churches today, and evidence that we are divorcing the ordinance of baptism from regenerate church membership and any credible evidence or experience of grace that is discernable to the leadership or congregation.

    You know, you should keep this quote filed away for future use.

    Use it:

    1. Every time Ergun Caner (or any other non-Calvinist Baptist) criticizes John Piper’s church for what they thought about doing a couple of years ago with adults and NOT children.

    2. Apropos 1 every time a critic of Baptist Calvinism calls us “Presbyterians” as an epithet.

    Reformed / Sovereign Grace Baptists do not, as a rule, baptize toddlers.


  38. Gene,

    You are exactly right. For all the talk about “Baptist Identity” going on these days, Baptists (and mostly non-Calvinists at that) are acting more like Presbyterians by the day. Whey many disagree with the theology of the Westminster Divines, they seem quite sympathetic in their practice.


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