Southern Baptists see the largest decline in 100 years …… | Information reporting
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) lost 2 percent of its members last year – the largest decrease in over a century, according to the annual report.
Certain governmental conventions have reported increases in baptisms and church growth, including in locations outside of the strongholds of the SBC Bible Belt. Overall, the denomination's annual church profile, published today by LifeWay Christian Resources and collecting statistics for 2019, shows a serious decline and a major challenge for leaders who are concerned about evangelism and attachment.
"As Southern Baptists, we have a lot to do to fulfill the Great Commission of our time," tweeted Adam Greenway, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in response to the report.
The loss of 288,000 congregation members last year increased the total number of SBC members to 14.5 million, from the peak of 16.3 million in 2003. Average attendance at services remained relatively stable at 5.2 million.
The total number of baptisms, a milestone for the denomination, fell 4 percent to 235,748 – the lowest number since World War II. After two years of growth, the donation fell slightly to $ 11.6 billion. SBC churches spent $ 1.1 billion on missions.
“These numbers cannot tell the story of all the evangelistic endeavors many individuals and churches have made in the past year. However, they point out that on average, fewer people come to Christ and are baptized for the efforts of the same number of people in a community, ”said Scott McConnell, Executive Director of LifeWay Research.
"The Southern Baptist Convention is not immune to the increasing secularization among Americans that can be seen in more of our children and neighbors who have no interest in coming to Jesus."
Last year, researcher and statistician Ryan Burge, who analyzed other Southern Baptist identity survey data for CT, found that fewer children who grew up in the SBC remained in the denomination than adults, suggesting that the larger factor for the decline of the SBC is not the battle for new converts; it keeps its own.
Evangelical identity has stabilized in just under a quarter of the U.S. population in the past decade, and non-denominational Christianity has increased with the decline in Protestant denominations.
SBC statistics are based on ecclesiastical data compiled by state conventions that represent about 75 percent of churches this year, similar to the past years. Without full participation, however, the annual release totals are questioned by those who say the results are not representative.
This year, the executive committee chairman, Ronnie Floyd, who heads the denominational committee outside the SBC annual meeting, also questioned the process. For the first time, a state convention did not provide membership numbers at all: Oklahoma. The profile used estimates based on previous data to calculate the number of Southern Baptists in the State of Sooner.
"There is no way we can know how best to meet the needs of our 47,500 churches if we only get the data they need from just 75 percent of them," Floyd told Baptist Press. "The consistency of our data collection timing, the consistency of the questions that are asked of our churches, the acceleration of the response time and the increase in the response rate are crucial for us to get accurate and up-to-date data on cooperating churches in the SBC."
The dilemma stems from the structure of the SBC: Churches cooperate with conventions by giving missions, but are autonomous in their leadership and decision-making. All reporting is voluntary.
A similar problem arose when abuse victims lawyers asked the SBC to ask churches to provide information on abuse cases. They have asked the denomination to compile a database of known perpetrators, but the leaders state that they are not supervised to do so. SBC President J. D. Greear mentioned that an abuse question was added to the annual church profile.
Approximately 12,000 churches have not included data about their congregations in the report this year. McConnell said he views the report as a snapshot of the SBC rather than the whole story.
But even this limited snapshot has a clear impact on executives like Floyd.
"It is essential for our future that evangelism remains the priority of our churches and conventions," he said. "We are often on the hunt for the winds of our own preferences, opinions, problems and social media streams, but together we have to imagine a new future based on a unified vision of the Grand Commission."
While overall baptism declined, some conventions saw double-digit growth. Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Colorado, Utah-Idaho, northwest (Washington and Oregon), Hawaii and Puerto Rico resisted the trend with growth of over 30 percent.
In Iowa and Hawaii, they also saw membership growth of more than 20 percent.