Here is a nice surprise: a thought-provoking little booklet on regenerate church membership that I recently spied on my bookshelf even though I do not remember getting this and haven’t a clue where it came from! I was finally able to read this and I found it to be reasonable and convincing. Written by Jim Elliff, President of Christian Communicators Worldwide, Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member is especially timely given the passage of Resolution #6 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual gathering in Indianapolis in 2008 and the wider discussions going on in the Convention concerning regenerate church membership.
I do not concur with all of Elliff’s arguments. I do not, for instance, believe that the invitation system isnecessarily harmful, though, in truth, he appears to stop shorting of saying this (though a perusal of some of the other material on his site suggests that he does appear to hold invitations to be harmful) and though I do agree that the invitation system has certain dangers if not handled in the appropriate way. This is, however, (in my opinion, but probably not Elliff’s) tangential to the greater issue: that local churches which do not exercise appropriate oversight of the congregation, that allow the structures of accountability to disappear beneath the siren song of pragmatism and consumeristic models of church growth, that do not preach on the biblical ideal of a regenerate church membership are inevitably shooting themselves in the foot and are, indeed, harming their own ministry efforts and gospel effectiveness.
I have never been so convinced of the need for a return to regenerate church membership as I am right now. While I suspect that Elliff goes a bit further than I would be comfortable going in certain areas that I would class as “adiaphora” (having an invitation), I wholeheartedly agree with the central focus of this little work.