There’s a been a lot of discussion in the Baptist blogosphere about the information released by LifeWay recently that indicates Southern Baptist baptisms are down as is the membership of the entire denomination.
Like many others, the statistics concern me greatly. The strength of Baptists always has been our evangelistic zeal. We are committed to the Great Commission.
Shortly after the stats were released, BGCT statistician Clay Price helped put the drop in a bit of historical context. Clay indicated that looking through the years, God appears to use stats such as the drop in baptisms to awaken a new evangelistic zeal.
From a story I wrote this morning:
Historically, the number of Baptisms has risen and declined in a cyclical pattern, Price said. When Baptists see a decrease in baptisms, they typically put more emphasis on outreach and examine ways they can be more effective.
The number of baptisms taking place in Baptist churches was high in the 1950s, promoted highly through the “A Million More in 54” campaign. Baptisms dropped in the mid-1960’s, but rebounded in 1972. They dropped again toward the end of that decade, but rose again in the 1980s.
Baptisms dropped in the early 1990s, but increased through the Texas 2000 evangelistic emphasis. Recently-elected BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett was launching Texas Hope 2010, an effort to share the gospel with every non-Christian by Easter 2010, before the latest statistics were released that indicated baptisms across the Southern Baptist Convention are down.
Having noted the cyclical nature of baptisms statistics, Price said the recent downtown in baptisms by Southern Baptists must be taken seriously.
“In God’s providence, Baptists tend to refocus their outreach when baptisms begin to drop,” Price said.
I pray that Clay is right, that God uses these stats to awaken a need to share our faith with those around us. There are a lot of hurting people who are looking for answers to life’s big questions. We know that the only way people can find truth in their lives is by having a relationship with Jesus Christ.