Monday, February 05, 2007

Ed Stetzer on the Future of the SBC

5. Some have suggested that the Southern Baptist Convention is likely to decline in the near future. What is your assessment of the future of the Southern Baptist Convention?

I think the Southern Baptist Convention is already in decline in many ways. We just don't recognize it because we have inflated numbers due to how we count. We have gradually lost track of at least 30% of the typical church as they no longer live near the church facility. Also, while our convention churches have remained relatively “flat” in attendance and baptisms have slightly declined, the population has grown tremendously. That’s decline.

First, there are not 16.2 million Southern Baptists. Truthfully, there are at least 8 million that we are not able to locate. There are 16.2 million people on our church roles and about 5 million of them go to church each week. Spurgeon was attributed with saying, “a faith that won’t get you to church on Sunday, likely won’t get you to heaven.”

Second, most of our churches are not thriving. Your NOBTS Leavell Center study did a good job pointing it out—89% of our churches are not growing through healthy evangelism. If almost 9 out of 10 of your churches are not reaching people evangelistically, that's decline—a drastic and dangerous decline.

Thirdly, the SBC is made up of churches—many of whom are doing quite well. But, it can also be said that the SBC really IS the Cooperative Program. It’s the way we work together and fund missions. The numbers show that churches are giving less to the CP every year. Most of our national leaders already know this but we don't talk about it much. The SBC is in decline because the churches are not as committed to cooperation through the Cooperative Program. Al Mohler put it this way in 2003:

"The large infrastructure of modern Southern Baptist life may not survive in the postmodern age. That decision will not be made by the executives of Southern Baptist agencies, nor by the executives of conventions and state conventions. That decision will eventually be made by churches and the churches will point us to that future… For the young generation the issue is this, ‘Is the Southern Baptist Convention the answer to a question anyone is asking?’”


Blogger Tom said...


Thanks for your insights here. I agree with you and hope that other denominational servants will follow your example and speak honestly and simply to the reality of our inflated numbers. Until we own up to this, we will simply go on deceiving ourselves.

tom ascol

8:02 AM  

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