On the decline of Southern Baptists


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.

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4 Responses to “On the decline of Southern Baptists”

  1. wackypreacher Says:

    Spin it anyway we want. Good, bad or otherwise, our churches are in need of an evangelistic jumpstart. We are only trading and stealing sheep.
    The old ways, just aren’t working anymore. People drive by churches and don’t see them. They see them as irrelevant and out of touch.
    But the Gospel is still just as powerful and awesome it has always been. Gotta get out of the buildings and share the great good news.

  2. Lee Says:

    Wackypreacher, right on.

    An evangelistic jumpstart isn’t going to happen without a genuine spiritual revival. We have become experts in programming to solve our own problems, and in so doing, we have programmed the Holy Spirit right out of our churches. Our churches need revival, not slick advertising, denominational programs, a great sound system, a quality praise band and good preaching. I’m not sure a lot of our churches would even know what to do if the Holy Spirit showed up in their worship service. It might disrupt their plans.

    I’ve been amazed at the spin that has been put on something that has been coming down the pike for a long time. The gap between total membership and average weekly worship attendance has been growing for several decades, and is now about 10 million. A lot of churches are being encouraged to clean their rolls and to be honest in reporting their membership numbers. The SBC, and the BGCT, are both denominations where a significant percentage of the membership, according to Lifeway’s stats, about 50%, is made up of adults past 60. We’ve aged, and we are not reaching younger people in significant numbers. In fact, we are losing most of the ones we already have in our churches. Unless the SBC leadership figures out a way to mess with the figures that get reported, or manages to convince churches to keep their inflated rolls, subsequent years will show continued declines.

  3. rick davis Says:

    Numbers prove everything and nothing. How many churches report now? How many of the missions? The real question for me is more on infrastructure/trust. The scandals of the last few years, nationally and state wide, have pushed many, and I do mean many, once cooperative churches to feel alineated from previous identity.

    I am hopeful Randel Everett can point us in a good direction.

  4. Tim Dahl Says:

    Gah, that reminds me! I need to get that CPA…errr… APC… err… UPS(?) thing done!



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