Southern Baptists Tackle Shrinking Numbers

Reaching the lost has taken on new meaning for the 16 million Southern Baptists who may be on the brink of decline.

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Frank Page re-emphasized the need for the denomination to focus on bringing lost souls into God's kingdom and announced that a long-planned multi-faceted evangelism strategy will be presented during SBC's annual meeting in June.

"The recent report of a decline in baptisms and membership in the Southern Baptist Convention re-emphasizes that for too long we have been attempting to raise baptisms among non-revived people in non-revived churches," Page said, according to Baptist Press. "The lack of connection with lost people and the lack of urgency for soul-winning and personal evangelism is a direct indication of our lack of spiritual passion and love for the lost."

LifeWay Christian Resources' Annual Church Profile last week showed that baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denomination's lowest level since 1987. Total membership dipped by 0.24 percent after decades of growth and some say membership has plateaued and is on a trend toward decline.

Page pointed out a disconnect between churches in the denomination and the culture today.

"Many of our people simply do not know how to relate to people in 21st-century culture and have been frustrated at their inability to communicate the Gospel. Many believers do not know people who are outside the Kingdom and often do not even know their own neighbors," he said.

While many churches may have passion for the lost, they simply do not know how to reach people in this culture, Page recognized.

The North American Mission Board, the domestic mission agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, will present a multi-faceted, flexible evangelism strategy to help pull churches together to focus on reaching people for Christ. Churches will be able to choose strategies appropriate for their unique contexts.

One of the aspects of the initiative is prayer.

"Are we serious about praying for the lost? God's people need to be mobilized into a mighty, praying army," said Page in a column on Baptist Press. "I am convinced that the key to spiritual awakening is prayer. I am convinced that Satan is wishing to distract and to disrupt our prayer lives."

The annual SBC meeting in Indianapolis is themed "Fulfilling The Mission" and takes place June 10-11.

"Of all the things that could come out of the meeting in Indianapolis, the greatest for our continent would be that we come away with a common direction in presenting a very positive, life-transforming message about Christ," said Page.

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