The number of baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention fell in 2010 by 4.98 percent, according to the latest report.
Southern Baptist churches reported 332,321 baptisms in 2010, down from 349,737 in 2009, as shown in the recently released Annual Church Profile compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions. Total membership also declined by 0.15 percent from 2009, making it the fourth straight year of decline. And primary worship attendance dropped 0.19 percent.
According to Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources, baptisms in the Convention are at their lowest level in 60 years.
Echoing concerns, Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, stated, “I pray that all of us will see the urgency of the moment. We must make the Great Commission the heart of all we do and say. These latest numbers should be received with a broken spirit and a God-given determination to reach people for Christ.”
Pastor Ted Traylor, from Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., lamented the numbers on his blog (www.tedtraylor.com).
“This report should break the heart of every Southern Baptist,” Traylor wrote. “It should have us on our faces, crying out for awakening. It should have us asking God for our old men to dream dreams and our young men to have visions. We need freshness. We need repentance. We need revival.”
The report did say that the number of Southern Baptist churches rose 1.59 percent to 45,727 from 45,010 in 2009.
“I do find encouragement in the increase in the number of churches,” Rainer said. “Hopefully a church planting trend in our convention will lead to the gospel of Christ being shared with more people than ever before.”
As SBC leaders evaluate the data, their responses vary.
“While the numbers do show the convention of churches on a decline in the current year, our overall snapshot for the past decade is a picture of plateau or stagnation,” Traylor said on his blog. “We are hovering at the same place year after year. Our model of ministry is not keeping up with the changing culture. It is fast paced and we are walking slowly. We do have churches that are growing, reaching and making disciples. Yet, we have thousands of churches that are not baptizing anyone. I mean zero. And many others are just trading members with other churches.”
Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee and a former SBC president, is quoted by Baptist Press as saying he is sad to see this report and that it “seems to indicate a lack of passion for winning our world to the Lord. That will turn around when we repent of our sins and seek the power of our Lord in our evangelistic efforts.”
“I am convinced that we are doing many good things but will see this situation change only when the churches and people of the SBC return evangelism to the top priority of our Kingdom activities,” Page added.
Stetzer issued a commentary about the situation that can be found at BetweenTheTimes.com. He says change in the SBC needs to come in several areas – a renewed passion for churches to live on mission, a greater emphasis on ethnic diversity, a plan to raise up a new generation and more new churches in the Convention.