An Interview with Tom Ascol
In the new issue of Credo Magazine, we published an interview titled 10 Questions with Tom Ascol: Pastoral Insights on Reformed Theology, Regenerate Church Membership, and Confessionalism. Tom Ascol is Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., and Executive Director of Founders Ministries. He is the editor of Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry. In this interview, Tom shares wisdom from decades in church ministry. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
Years ago, you put forward a resolution at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting on church membership. Why is recovering regenerate church membership paramount to the health of the local church and the Southern Baptist Convention?
One of the most significant contributions that Baptists have made to Protestant Christianity has been our emphasis on ecclesiology. One of the most significant contributions that Baptists have made to Protestant Christianity has been our emphasis on ecclesiology. Click To Tweet At the heart of our understanding of the church is the conviction that a church is to be comprised of people who have been born of God’s Spirit. Because of our commitment to congregationalism, this biblical conviction is of greater practical importance for us than for other types of churches. If a church is comprised of significant numbers of unregenerate people, then the desires and ways of thinking of that congregation will be carnal and not spiritual. They will not submit to the authority of God’s Word or follow its teachings—especially where it blatantly contradicts the current wisdom of the world. Such a church will inevitably fall under the judgment Jesus rendered to churches at Sardis and Laodicea.
You’ve pastored Grace Baptist Church since 1986, a church that affirms the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith along with the New Hampshire Confession of 1853. To young pastors just beginning ministry, what value is there to adopting a historic confession as a church congregation?
A commitment to a robust confession serves a church well. It safeguards a congregation from every new, unbiblical fad that arises. It serves as a signal to the community and a reminder to the congregation that in certain, important doctrinal areas, the church is not looking for truth, it is convinced it has found the truth and willingly confesses it. A good confession provides doctrinal accountability to members and leaders. Those who teach and lead have a help and standard by which to measure their own ideas and convictions regarding the Bible and its teachings.
A time-tested confession, such as the two you mention (and that we use), also demonstrates that a church is standing in a historical stream of Christian churches who have tried to be faithful to the Lord in their days, as well. I highly recommend utilizing a confession of faith in your church.