The SBC in Decline

Sam Rainer

April 30, 2008

I returned home from my hiking trip at the Grand Canyon to a bundle of unread emails and Google Reader items. I tried in vain to get cell phone and Internet/email reception in the backcountry, but God has preserved the canyon from these mind-zapping communication trinkets.

Perhaps like many of you, I was disheartened to find several commentaries on the declines in the SBC. For those of you who don’t know much about the Southern Baptist Convention, click here for some information. It is the denomination to which I belong, and the way in which my church cooperates with other churches for the sake of the gospel.

The facts are fairly straightforward:

Baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denomination’s lowest level since 1987, dropping nearly 5.5 percent to 345,941, according to LifeWay Christian Resources’ Annual Church Profile (ACP). Baptisms have declined annually seven out of the past eight years. Total membership also declined by 0.24 percent to 16,266,920.

My father stated it well, “Although we pray God will bring revival and change, the trajectory is not positive. If current trends don’t change, it seems we are about to enter a period of declining membership.”

News on these declines can be found here, here and here. Good conversations around this issue can be found here, here, and here.

I’ve purposely decided not to write much about this issue. Quite frankly, there isn’t much I wish to say about these declines. But there is a whole lot that I can do to help reverse the trend. As a pastor, I will take personal responsibility for leading my church in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

3 comments on “The SBC in Decline”

  1. kdb1411 says:

    Yours is the best response I’ve seen. Instead of placing blame, just respond by being more obedient to the Great Commission ourselves. Thanks for the reminder that we can all do more and better.

  2. As a Southern Baptist pastor in Washington State, I would say that it breaks my heart that we are experiencing decline. There are several factors, however, that seem to explain this statistic. People are not “joiners” as they once were in America. The media has hit Christianity pretty hard, especially Southern Baptists. Hollywood is portraying evangelical Christians with utter contempt. Other, more charismatic denominations, seem to be experiencing the most growth. Most of all, sadly, is the fact that we are not making evangelism as much of a priority as we once did. It use to be that churches grew without much effort on our part. Those days are long gone. Church and personal evangelism is the only way we will grow in the future, but our members are ill prepared and often unwilling to reach out to their neighbors. Unless this changes, we will continue to decline. In Washington, Southern Baptists are not “around every corner” as in the deep south. We can’t grow our churches the old fashioned way; we have to win each new believer.

  3. Brad says:

    I am ordained minister/Elder in the Old School or as most call it the Primitive Baptist church tradition. I am 28 years old and I can tell you why the Southern Baptists are in decline.

    1. Doctrinal ambiguity- Typical Southern Baptists don’t know what they believe and Christians in general don’t have a clue about basic Apologetics, Bible, and Theology.

    2. Lack of Discipline- Congregations are rife with open scandals caused by members who are not properly discipled or taught the Scriptures, and clergy that adopts any new fad in order to get the people, i.e. numbers.

    3. Unsound practice- Failure to abide in the practices of centuries of Baptists has given the young people of my generation the idea you all have to constantly change church to fit in with the 16 year old crowd. Did Christ fit in? Did He adjust His message so that He would be more popular? Get off the numbers game and get back to being genuine. We are tired of change! Give us something that is constant.

    4. Engage- All Christians in the 21st Century need to engage the culture. We are too Brady Bunch and Captain Crunch! Get out there and be disciples. Been to a LifeWay lately? Full of Brady Bunch stuff! How about reald books instead of stupid Beth Moore smushy books and fiction!

    Just my two cents. I don’t care what we are Baptist, Methodist, Charismatic, etc. We all need to get wake up!

    A Brother,


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