Do Churches Really Discipline for Non-Attendance? A Brief History of Four Baptist Churches

“Baptists of past generations were famous, not only for the frequency with which they excluded members, but for the variety of offenses that were considered worthy of exclusion. One of those reasons receiving renewed attention is non-attendance.” - 9 Marks


My church has a group of deacons who figure out who’s not been in attendance for a while, and we make contact to see if they still want to be members. It’s not an adversarial thing, but it rather simply helps us find out who’s found fellowship elsewhere, who’s leaving the faith, and the like. It’s a ministry tool, IMO.

The thing that puzzles me is why churches don’t do it. There’s no sense in keeping a ton of people on the books who aren’t interested. I vividly remember my childhood church telling me that about 40 of my classmates were members….and at least 30 of them I’d never seen in church, ever. Understood that it’s harder with a big church and sporadic giving and the like, but it’s key.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Baptists disciplined for non-attendance because they believed attendance was part of the covenant obligations of church membership.

Slightly OT, possibly, but has anyone else noticed a tendency among church folks to regard the church covenant as something less than a promise? Kind of like that EULA, when you click “Yes, I have read and agree” without reading or agreeing because it’s written in legalese and you just want to use the app. I had some long discussions with deacons who thought the covenant was just a “guideline” and not a commitment, and I saw any number of church folks acting out the same way.

When I was pastoring, non-attendance was by far the most frequent cause of disciplinary action. It was done solemnly, in love, sometimes with tears, and with on-going prayer for the restoration of the individual(s). To me, this practice seems necessary in churches with congregational rule, otherwise the obvious spiritual issues will be compounded by practical ones, particularly when it comes to achieving a quorum in order to do business (unless, I guess, you maintain an inactive list a mile long).