Southern Baptist Report Shows Decline in Membership
The membership of the Southern Baptist Convention has declined among their churches for the seventh straight year, according to a LifeWay Christian Resources annual report.
The total membership of the SBC stood at 15.7 million at the end of last year, down from nearly 15.9 million in 2012, the report released on Wednesday showed.
"I am grieved we are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness," said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, in a statement. "I continue to pray for revival and a renewed passion for the Great Commission in our churches. May God renew all of us, including me, with a greater heart for the lost."
The report also found that primary worship attendance had declined last year to an average of 5.8 million Sunday worshippers, compared to nearly 6 million the year before. Furthermore, baptisms within the denomination have decreased by an average of over 4,000 during the last two years, which is significant since baptisms measure an individual's commitment to evangelism.
However, the denomination did experience growth within the number of churches opened throughout the country which grew to 46,125 last year from 46,034 in 2012.
While Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said he is thankful for the slight increase, he noted that there is a lack of passion among church members to reach the lost. Page cited a biblical text in Amos 6:1, "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion," when referring to the denomination's dwindling numbers, according to the Baptist Press.
"That warning in the book of Amos is a clear call to the people of God who have lowered their guard, relaxed their vigilance and reduced their commitment and passion for the things of God," Page said. "That very same thing can be said of our modern-day churches as we yet again see a disappointing decline in our ability to reach our continent for Christ."
He added, "God help us realize the great needs that are before us and the great opportunities that are there. Lord, forgive us of being at ease in Zion."
Joshua Hedger, a church planting director, said that about 800 to 1,000 Southern Baptist congregations cease to exist annually, which explains the decline in numbers across membership, attendance and baptisms.
In response, Hedger told The Christian Post in a previous interview that a group of Southern Baptist church planters are working towards creating a movement that will hopefully put an end to dying congregations known as church revitalization. The process usually involves new leadership taking over a declining church, who then implements a strategy on how to grow the congregation again.
"Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and, or disconnected from Scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church," Hedger said. "In some churches, a simple change in leadership and culture takes place. Some fully shut down and allow a new church to take over their facilities, assets, and people. Others find themselves anywhere between those two extremes." CP