In a post called “I Want You To Want Me”, Frank Turk, over at Pyromaniacs, posts about the gospel and the variations of it presented in churches today. It was timely for me, considering the second failure of the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt a resolution calling for the integrity of membership roles in SBC churches.
For the uninitiated, SBC churches are notorious for having large membership roles on which are many people who cannot be found and haven’t been to church in years. Years ago, we had a fund raising campaign we called “Avenues For Advance”. This was a take off on our name, Travis Avenue Baptist Church.
Part of the gig was to visit every member of the church on the rolls and tell them about the campaign (ok, hit them up for money). I made a lot of visits, say 30-40. It was interesting. Some of the folks did not know they were on our church roll and wanted off. Some had quit coming because they got mad. Either someone did not choose them for the softball team or the preacher said something the did not like or it was Tuesday.
One lady told me she had not been in years, but if you cut her heart open, she would “bleed Travis Avenue”. She told me she loved Dr. Naylor more than anyone. I pointed out that he had not been the pastor for a couple of decades. I should point out here that, a few years ago, we began to clean up our rolls and the church is now half the size it once was, but we know where a lot of them are.
Churches also have people who come, but aren’t members. They also have people who came by “statement” or by “transfer of letter” and their beliefs aren’t necessarily tested. Also, many churches have lots of people who filled out a card and “prayed that “prayer”, but have little idea what they were getting into.
At the same time this is going on, the leadership is the SBC (and by that I mean those in charge) is continually crying about church members who are not involved, especially in evangelism, which has become the Holy Grail for SBC leadership. But, hey. Lots of these poor folks never heard the Gospel, lots were never required to sign on to it, and others came because their emotions were shamelessly manipulated.
When you go visit someone for “follow up” after an evangelistic event, what do you find? Many won’t talk to you. Most are not interested in coming to church. Others got what they wanted, which was a get out of Hell free card, and they don’t want anything more. What happened there? What didn’t happen might be more important. There was no conversion. There was no taking up the cross to follow Christ. There was no subjecting of the self to the lordship of Christ, no since of becoming a disciple.
So, you have churches with large numbers of lost people in them. Lost people can’t be disciples or followers of Christ. No matter how many goals are set by the denominational leaders, no matter how many inspirational sermons preached by pastors to pastors, no change will happen until we honestly deal with these issues.
Let’s just be honest. Honestly.