1991 Southern Baptist Founders Youth Conference

This youth camp, which has been sponsored by the FBC of Clinton, Louisiana, has grown into a valuable ministry to young people. The 1990 camp had over 180 registrants. Next year it is scheduled to meet once again in Panama City, Florida, on June 24-28. The theme will be “Building Godly Relationships.” The speakers are Dr. Fred Malone and Dr. Tom Ascol. For more information contact the SBFYC secretary, Cindy Kemp, FBC, P. O. Box 552, Clinton, LA, 70722; phone (504) 683-5153.

Membership Statistics Inflated

The April 25, 1990, edition of the Wall Street Journal carried an indicting article under the headline, “Official Number of Southern Baptists Is Overestimated, Even Their Leaders Agree” (p. A16). It charges that official claims of 14.9 million members are terribly inflated: “Baptist statisticians and even some top denominational officials acknowledge . . . that as many as half of that number no longer set foot in a Southern Baptist Church.” Over 4.4 million of these are “so-called non-resident members, a technical term [which, we might add, has absolutely no biblical justification, – Ed.] that actually allows the counting as members those the church has simply lost touch with.”

“Baptist officials say such members should be stricken from church rolls. But in a denomination where membership is often equated with success, few churches will do that.” Beyond this special species of members, the article also identifies another 3 million members on our rolls who “haven’t attended their church or donated to one in the past year.” That leaves about 7.4 million “active” members. But the picture becomes even more bleak when one considers that, according to Sunday School consultant Glenn Smith, included in this “active” figure are those members who only attend once a year at Easter or Christmas.

Are we not forced to conclude, then, that for many of our churches and ministers the distinctively Baptist doctrine of a regenerate church membership has become a relic, or at best has been relegated to the realm of theory with no practical application? The 1990 Founders Conference, which will address the doctrine of the church, is timely indeed!

Help from the Historical Commission

In its recent “Foundations of Baptist Heritage” series, the Historical Commission of the SBC has included a pamphlet entitled, “Responsible Church Membership” by Charles W. Deweese. This is an excellent little tool to use with new members or with pastors who are not sensitive to the issues touched upon in the Wall Street Journal article mentioned above. After giving a brief historical overview of his subject, Deweese calls for the application to our contemporary scene of those biblical principles of responsible church membership which are firmly rooted in our Baptist heritage. He writes, “The stakes are high. And the regenerate quality of much Baptist church life is at risk. Evidence of the problem includes baptizing thousands of preschoolers, requests for rebaptisms by persons already baptized as ‘alleged’ believers, little attention to candidates’ qualifications for membership, weak admission standards and procedures, inadequate attention to defining and carrying out membership responsibilities, decreased use of covenants and discipline, large numbers of non-resident members and numerous inactive resident members.” To which we add a hearty, “Amen.” You may order this pamphlet through The Historical Commission of the SBC, 901 Commerce Street, Suite 400, Nashville, TN 37203-3620.