Monday, April 03, 2006

Church Rolls and AWOL Members

Since everyone seemed pretty pro-discipline in the last post, I thought we would talk about a little discipline project we're doing down at the local church. Ashamedly, dear reader, our membership roll is grossly bloated. If you look up FBC Plaquemine on the website, you will find that we boast over 400 members. Unfortunately for us, a good Sunday's attendance is only around 135. So where in the world are the other 265 people?

Some of those are on the "non-resident" roll. That means that they are members who now live out of town. I believe that this list was originally created for men in the service who went overseas on duty. Now, I am afraid it is simply a "catch all" list for AWOL members. That said, there are a little over 270 souls on the "resident" membership roll. It is those that I am most concerned over.

It is probably that church discipline has not been practiced at FBC Plaquemine in a good 40 years. In fact, I am not certain that it has ever been practiced, though it may have been. I hope to correct that. We have checked the resident membership list, we have highlighted all AWOL members, and we are going to be contacting them in the near future. The bottom line of this contact is to find out where they have been, why they aren't attending, if they are followers of Jesus Christ, and to let them know that if they do not begin participating, their names will be removed from the membership roll.

Some of the faithful readers of this blog are thinking, "Wow, what a great idea." Other, more seasoned readers are thinking, "Dude, you're gonna get fired." Actually, both may be true. But I take the words of Scriptures literally and seriously, and so I feel that I am constrained to act in this manner. Thus saith the Lord, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account" (Hebrews 13:17). I will give an account for how I shepherded this people. If I am rejected for keeping watch, then I will be shed of that burden. No eternal loss for me there. If the people accept their covenant responsibility because of this action, then our church will actually grow while it shrinks numerically. Pray for us while we continue in this process. We wish to act wisely. The deacons have already given unanimous support for this move. We'll be making those visits and sending those letters very soon.


pilgrim said...

The Church as a whole needs to take membership more seriously.

It is not on par with membership in a Gym or a social club.

While there is no single verse that says, "Become Thou a memeber of a local congregation" that teaching is found throughout scripture.

(For an excellent unwrapping of that see Dn Kistler's chapter on Church Membership in a book he ediited--Onward Christian Soldiers, Protestants affirm the Church. It's published by Soli Deo Gloria.)

In addition to the lack of discipline, and reluctance to carry it out, another reason is if you purge your membership rolls of those who do not attend, you can't boast of a larger church.

Gummby said...

Do you guys have elders? 'Cause if you do (and maybe this is just naivete on my part) I would think the decision would be made unanimously on a subject like church discipline.

BugBlaster said...

Our church (not SBC, it's a "Bible" church, but is baptistic) has been doing this sort of thing for years. It is done at least twice a year. It is a good process, and has led to restoration in some cases, and disassociation from apostates in others.

It goes through the deacons board at our church (we don't have elders). After discussion of the case the deacons request the pastorate to attempt to make contact and seek restoration. Only if that fails does it come back to the board, which then unanimously decides on the course of action.

pilgrim said...

Well we know where most of our missing members are.

The PCA Book of Church Order gives them a year. Then we can remove them.
Of course we will reach out and if they request it--we'll waive the year.

It is a good idea to weed things out.

Mike Perrigoue said...

Glad to hear you're taking this next step.

I just left a very large Community Church. Being sort of sensitive to them still calling me a member I called the Executive Pastor to let him know we were not coming back. He told me not to worry, that our names would eventually drop off of the list.

How do you like that!

No contact. No discipline. No shepherding. Just an automated computer system programmed to drop your name and membership status after a predetermined amount of time has lapsed.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Brad,

I support what you are doing. I pray it goes very well.

Love in Christ,