Southern Baptist president Frank Page has encouraged Baptists to be optimistic and get back to winning souls in America.
"I encourage evangelism to be at the heart of who we are and what we do," he said recently, according to Baptist Press.
Serving a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Page continues to remind the more than 16 million-member denomination of the need to share the Good News especially during a time when baptisms have declined.
"Is God through with churches that are declining and/or plateaued? Is the hand of God removed from those churches? The answer to that is an unequivocal no," he stated.
Page pastors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., which experienced its highest number of baptisms last year and hit another record this year. When Page first arrived at the church in 2001, the church had been in a slow and steady decline, he said. While baptisms have now risen dramatically, Page cautioned Southern Baptists that the number is still low compared to many churches.
"Compared to what God wants for us, our number are abysmally low," he said, but they're making progress.
"God can breathe life back into churches once again," Page noted. "God can show victory that eclipses anything in the past. Let us reclaim a spirit of optimism for our churches once again. Let us be soul winners and witnesses with the Good News of Christ."
In 2006, the number of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches fell for the second consecutive year, dropping to 364,826 – the lowest annual total since 1993, according to a survey by the denomination. National membership increased — but by less than 1 percent.
At SBC's 2007 annual meeting in June, when Page was reelected as head, Page urged Southern Baptists to overcome their differences, mainly doctrinal, and join in the winning of the lost to Jesus Christ.
"Southern Baptists constantly need to be reminded that we are a people who are evangelistic at heart," he said.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the country with 16.3 million members in more than 42,000 churches.