Jim Elliff, president of Christian Communicators Worldwide, has issued a bold warning that should be heeded by Southern Baptists as well as Independent Baptists and others. In an article entitled "Southern Baptists; an Unregenerate Denomination", (http://www.ccwonline.org/sbc.html) Elliff analyzes the frightful statistics pertaining to church membership and attendance. Out of 16 million members on Southern Baptist church roles, only roughly 6 million (37%) show up for their church's primary weekly worship service and only about 2 million (12% of the members) return for Sunday evening service (in those churches that still have one).
Elliff asks, "When all factors are considered, these figures suggest that nearly 90% of Southern Baptist church members appear to be little different from the 'cultural Christians' who populate other mainline denominations. "Let me illustrate in rounded figures by looking at some of the churches where I have preached as a guest speaker. Each could be any Baptist church in any city. One church had 2,100 on the roll, with 725 coming on Sunday morning. Remove guests and non-member children and the figure drops to 600 or less. Only about a third of that number came out on Sunday evening, representing less than 10% of the membership. Yet another church had 310 on the roll with only 100 who attended on Sunday morning. Only 30-35, or approximately 10%, came to the evening worship service." This sad picture is the product of unscriptural church polity, such as being careless about receiving members and not requiring clear evidence of repentance (Acts 26:20), the "inactive" membership philosophy, and failure to exercise church discipline.
Further, Elliff warns that the vast majority of reported professions are equally bogus. "In the Assembly of God's 1990s 'Decade of Harvest,' out of the 3.5 million supposedly converted, they showed a net gain of only 5 new attenders for every 100 recorded professions. When one considers all of our supposed converts, including those who refuse to follow Christ in baptism and who never join our churches, our numbers are much the same. Doesn't anybody see that there is a serious problem here?"
Elliff gives five suggestions for cutting down on false professions:
(1) "We must preach and teach on the subject of the unregenerate church member."
(2) "We must address the issue of persistent sin among our members, including their sinful failure to attend the stated meetings of the church."
(3) "We should be more careful on the front end of church membership." Here Elliff warns about three things: the modern invitation system, the practice of receiving new members immediately after they "walk the aisle," and a lack of wisdom in dealing with children.
(4) "We must stop giving immediate verbal assurance to people who make professions of faith or who respond to our invitations. It is the Holy Spirit's task to give assurance."
(5) "We must restore sound doctrine." We are glad to see someone warning about these matters, and to each of these points we say a hearty Amen!