A Southern Baptist Decline?

A Southern Baptist Decline?

One of the big stories out of this week’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston is that the denomination is facing a decline. Statistics, which tend to be the measure of all things in Baptist life, show that membership has declined by 0.98% and Baptisms had their second lowest year in the last fifty.

On the surface these are concerning statistics. However, there are other statistics, equally concerning, that generate far less hand-wringing.  Al Jackson pointed out two years ago that of the 16 million Southern Baptists on church membership rolls, some 10 million of them are nowhere to be found on any given Sunday.

Under such circumstances, is a reduction in members and baptisms really bad news? If such things represent people not being reached for Christ, certainly but if they represent a reduction of members in name only, then I’d call it progress, not decline. In fact, it’s possible that real progress would look like a membership decline several percentage points larger which would indicate the recovery  of meaningful church membership in the denomination. That would be progress indeed.

The Original “Deeds Not Creeds”

Pharisee and Publican - Tewkesbury Abbey
Pharisee and Publican – Tewkesbury Abbey (Photo credit: Walwyn)

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee,standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off,would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:10-14