Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the results are in...and they sting a little

the anuual church profile of the southern baptist convention has released the findings from the year 2007. view the report here.

among the results:

number of churches: up 1.06% (473 new churches)
worship attendance: up 0.16% (up 10,092 people attending weekly worship services)
church membership: down 0.24% (down by 39,326 members)
number of baptisms: down 5.46% (down by 18,885 baptisms)

dr. roger s. ("sing") oldham, vice president for convention relations for the s.b.c.'s executive committee, offers a balanced look at the results here.

some excerpts:

The statistical profile generated from the Annual Church Profile
reports submitted by cooperating Baptist churches each year is a
numerical snapshot of what is happening at the local church level.
Though these numbers do not tell the whole story of ministry,
they have value for the Southern Baptist Convention in a number
of ways.
  • First, these numbers help us measure our overall
    effectiveness in terms of church planting and evangelism...
  • Second, these numbers help us see the continuing
    faithfulness of our churches in discipleship and nurture...
  • Third, these numbers help us gauge various levels of
    participation in specific ministries of the church...
  • Fourth, these numbers enable us to monitor church
    giving, stewardship and support for our primary
    ministries of missions at home and abroad...
  • Fifth, these numbers help us measure the total number
    of individuals who actively relate to churches as members...

he concludes:
Clearly, some of these numbers are disappointing. They
will provide an additional catalyst for evaluating how we
can better assist churches in fulfilling their ministries on
the local level. Other numbers continue to be encouraging.
At every level of Baptist life -– local church, associational,
state convention, and SBC -– we will be examining what
we can learn from these numbers as we seek to fulfill the
Great Commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

ed stetzer, the director of research at lifeway christian resources and missiologist in residence offers his assessment here.
some highlights from his point of view:

Three issues rise to the top.
* First, we have to deal with the continued
loss of SBC leaders...

*second issue is the infighting which defines so
much of the SBC—its meetings, its churches, and its blogs.
It is public knowledge that we do not always settle our
differences amicably....

*The third, and most important, issue is our loss of focus
on the Gospel. I find it difficult to even say such a thing,
but, I believe it to be true.
We must recover a gospel centrality and cooperate in
proclaiming that gospel locally and globally...
The Conservative Resurgence failed to
produce a Great Commission Resurgence. It restored our
denomination’s value of Scripture but application is often
absent, at least in the area of evangelism.

i am sure that there will be much discussion in the coming weeks and month before the sbc annual meeting in indianapolis june 10-11. the reasons for decline in membership and baptisms will be as diverse as the number of people offering them.

as for me, pastor of a small church and seminary student, i have my own ideas and opinions.
one number that looks negative may, at least in part, actually be a positive-the decrease in membership.
i hope and pray that churches are starting to take membership seriously(read:"biblically") and are removing names from their church rolls of people who haven't been seen in years or are unwilling to actively participate as members. in the instances that this is the case, i would say that those instances are a sign of health.

of course even if churches being more honest about their actual membership is the reason for the decline, this decline can only be viewed as a positive if it is temporary. perhaps the lord will grant repentance and restoration to those who were dropped from the rolls and they would return back into fellowship as active and committed church members. additionally the numbers should increase due to those who are converted as a result of the proclamation of the gospel. we should pray to that end.

one thing is for sure, our time of bragging "16 million members strong" should cease, and hopefully be replaced with an urgency to learn, know, and spread the gospel.

No comments: