The SBC is meeting in Phoenix, AZ this week. The condition of our convention is not good. The numbers are going downward. Here is a small snapshot from the 2016 report,
- Baptisms went from 295,212 to 280,773 a 4.89% decrease
- Worship attendance is down 6.75%
- Giving is down 1%
I am grateful for every soul saved, baptized and put on the road to discipleship. Our convention is still the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. But, there has been a steady decline for the last 20 years. We were told that there were several remedies for this...silver bullets, if you would,
- Start more churches
- Be more contemporary
- Be user friendly
- Get rid of Sunday nights and Sunday School...have Life Groups or whatever in homes
- Do more discipleship
I was, at one point in my ministry, in agreement with all those ideas. It was creative and bold to think that way. What could go wrong?
Starting more churches has largely resulted in member transfer. Being more contemporary and user friendly has caused toxic cultural influence from the world. Getting rid of Sunday nights and SundaySchool has opened the back door for easier member exits. The greater emphasis on discipleship has promoted the “holy huddle” while turning a deaf ear to the cry of the lost.
Our church at FBC Covington is not doing its part to effect change so what I am writing is not to say look at us. I am at times embarrassed by our baptism numbers. I am the chiefest of failures. But, as I look back I see what I think were pivotal moments for the SBC. Those moments sounded like this:
- “Let’s get rid of the invitation. It’s too much pressure on people and a waste of time.”
- “There’s no need for revivals. Besides, no one comes to them.”
- “Having a prayer altar is old fashioned.”
- “So many are turned off by the church people who witness to them. You drive them away.”
When are we in trouble? When we have to be told by others because we can’t see it for ourselves.Collapse doesn’t happen overnight but it will happen slowly, surely, and sadly.
In the SBC, we have those at the top in full time leadership who did pastor churches having 4,000-5,000 in attendance and baptized under 150 per year. That is a dreadful ratio of baptism-to-attendees. Others haven’t gone on a soul winning visit, handed out a tract, or given an invitation in years. We do have great men like Randy Davis, our Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director, and Frank Page, our SBC CEO, and others who are doing a phenomenal job but I am afraid that they are having to do too much of the heavy lifting. Steve Gaines, our SBC President last year and next year, has done a great job in placing heavy emphasis on prayer and soul winning. He was out on the streets of Phoenix witnessing last week. I applaud his example. But, who will follow him?
My input looks like this,
- Greater, much greater emphasis on the Holy Spirit to be felt in our worship services. Too many churches are unaware that He left a long time ago.
- People are hungry for ‘preaching’, not just Bible teaching. The Apostle Paul was a proclaimer of the gospel of Christ. If instruction worked we would be triple in SBC membership.
- Less Sunday morning sermons on Family, Finances, Friends, Fitness and Fads. An emotional appeal on the wages of sin, the pleading with congregants to realize the reality of Hell, and the joyful celebration of Heaven would do wonders to revive a church.
I pray that God will wake up this sleeping giant called the SBC. If not we have a generation coming behind us who will bear the brunt of our failure.