A Baptist church in Cave City, Kentucky, about 90 miles north of Nashville, made headlines this summer. In fact, it became an all-out media circus. The cause? A letter.
A letter from the pastor was sent to about 70 members of the church who apparently had not been attending services, supporting the church financially or sharing in the work of the church.
Here’s a portion of what the letter said, “Cave City Baptist Church cherishes you as a member of this fellowship and the doors of Cave City Baptist will always be open to you. But,” [due to their inactivity and lack of participation] “your name has been removed from the membership roll."
Within two days, newspapers and television stations had reported on the letter in Nashville; Louisville, KY; Lexington, KY; and Bowling Green, KY. Headlines included: “Church members furious after pastor revokes memberships” and “Kentucky church sent letters kicking out members over common transgressions.”1
As you can probably imagine, the media made it a far bigger spectacle than it should’ve been. And the surprising source of it all? A Facebook post by a man who hadn’t been to the church IN TWENTY YEARS! (You may want to read that last sentence again.)
The pastor of the church, Ryan Broers said, “Many attempts for several years were made both in letters and in person when people could be located and were willing to speak. If anyone feels they received the letters in error, they are welcome to call and have a conversation with me.” He said “sending the letter was a collaborative decision made by him, associate pastor Steven Wilson and the chairman of deacons, with ‘the deacons’ support.’" Broers has pastored Cave City Baptist for only about a year, but the process of contacting absentee members has spanned the past eight years, he said. At least three letters have gone out, and home visits have been attempted, the pastor said; noting shut-ins receive pastoral visits and are not subject to church discipline for failing to attend.2
A faith that can’t get you to church won’t get you to Heaven.
According to Baptist Press, “Among Baptists to defend the church, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Hershael York said in a series of tweets that he asked the Lexington Herald-Leader staff member who reported on Cave City Baptist ‘if the Rotary Club dismissing members for non-attendance and non-payment of dues is noteworthy.' York, dean-designate of Southern’s school of theology, added that a fair headline would be, 'Church requires members to take their commitment seriously.’”3
David Prince, pastor of Lexington’s Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, tweeted that the Herald-Leader (newspaper in Lexington, KY) was “outraged a church would care about its members enough to hold them accountable. Where’s their outrage over other groups that have standards?”
At Crossroads, we’re not interested in purging rolls but we are interested in people living out their faith.
Someone said, “A faith that can’t get you to church won’t get you to Heaven.”
Paul told Timothy, “The Lord knows those who are His,” (2 Timothy 2:19) and JESUS warned in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
JESUS made it clear, “You’re either for me or you’re against me … ” (Matthew 12:30). There’s no middle ground. There’s no middle of the road with JESUS. In fact, He made it clear in Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
You’re either IN or you’re OUT.
If someone has to send you a letter to ask, “where have you been?” it’s a pretty good indication …
© 2018. Barry L. Cameron
1 Roach, David. “Church's Roll Purge Incites Media 'Circus'.” Baptist Press, 20 July 2018, www.bpnews.net/51302/churchs-roll-purge-incites-media-circus.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.