Baptists in decline?

USA Today reports:

NASHVILLE — Baptisms fell to their lowest number in 60 years among Southern Baptists, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention began declining three years before this 2005 photo of Rev. Jim Cross of First Baptist Church in Donelson, Tenn., baptizing Luke Charlton, 7.

By Mark Humphrey, AP Baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention began declining three years before this 2005 photo of Rev. Jim Cross of First Baptist Church in Donelson, Tenn., baptizing Luke Charlton, 7.

The new numbers are a sign that the denomination is in trouble, Baptist leaders say.

“This is not a blip,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay. “This is a trend. And the trend is one of decline.”

In 2010, Southern Baptists baptized 332,321 people, or 17,416 fewer than in 2009, according to a report released by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. This marks the eighth time in 10 years that baptisms have declined and the lowest number of baptisms since the 1950s.


My comments:

I’m not surprised.  Romans tell us that:

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Romans 10:13-14 (ESV)

Too many churches have substituted culturally relevant, seeker sensitive, “how to feel good about yourself” activities and talks (I dare not call them sermons) instead of preaching the gospel. Just ask yourself one question “Would Jonathan Edwards be invited back to preach at my church after delivering Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?”

If not, your church social club may be happily driving down the wide path of a seeker sensitive, purpose driven non-gospel centered religious group.  The narrow path, however, is rarely taken anymore (Matt 7:13-14).

News such as this should cause us to rend our garments, throw a little ash on our heads and have us crying out to God in repentance for not making the gospel of Jesus Christ our first and only reason for being (1 Cor 2:2).

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One comment on “Baptists in decline?

  1. I heard on a podcast recently that the size of the church itself has remained steady. People are just shifting around to churches with another name on the marquee. Right now, Community Church is a very popular name.

    The Baptist church I go to in New Jersey tried to change the name last year when they discovered that in our area, the word “Baptist” has some seriously negative connotations in the community. The proposal was met with violent opposition from a tiny minority, and in the interest of fellowship was shelved.

    Note that the church had NO intention whatsoever to change theology. The church Constitution, theology, doctrines, schedule, everything but the name on the sign and letterhead would remain the same.

    A single datapoint about declining numbers of Baptists needs more datapoints to interpret. Does it literally mean fewer people are becoming Christians, or just that they’re going to churches with other names?

    (Also note the church I go to in VA is an SBC church).

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