Declining Numbers for Southern Baptists Heartbreaking

Overall Declining Numbers for Southern Baptists Heartbreaking, Says Leader

compiled from churches belonging to Southern Baptist Convention for the
association’s Annual Church Profile for last year show declining
numbers in several key areas, including membership, average attendance,
baptisms and total monetary giving. Despite some positive news shown by
an increase in the amount of membership churches, SBC Executive
Committee President Frank Page expressed his discouragement.

I first heard the report of our ACP, I said, ‘God forgive us and God
help us.’ We are thankful for every person won to Christ and every
person enrolled in Bible study and discipleship and involved in
missions,” said Page, as reported in a Baptist Press article by the
communications director for LifeWay Christian Resources.

“We are thankful for the millions who are a part of worship in our Southern Baptist churches,” he said. “However, my heart breaks when we realize the overall decline in our numbers.”

Center Baptist Church

Center Baptist Church (Photo credit: Gerry Dincher)

The ACP, compiled by LifeWay
Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions,
showed that the number of churches in the SBC grew by 270 to 46,034, a
0.6 percent increase over the previous year. SBC churches also reported
4,992 church-type missions last year, 40 more than in 2011, although
some state conventions no longer use that designation which may have
impacted the total.

Although the number of SBC-affiliated
congregations grew, reported membership of those churches declined by
more than 100,000, down 0.7 percent to 15.9 million members. Primary
worship attendance declined 3.1 percent to 5.97 million Sunday

LifeWay Christian Resources states that although
baptisms were a bright spot in the 2011 report, increasing 0.7 percent,
the report for 2012 shows a decline of 5.5 percent to 314,956 people.
Reported baptisms have declined six of the last eight years with 2012
recording the lowest since 1948. The ratio of baptisms to total members
increased to one baptism for every 50 members.

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we celebrate every new baptized believer represented by these numbers,
fewer reported baptisms is heartbreaking,” said Thom S. Rainer,
president and CEO of LifeWay.

“Southern Baptists cannot rest on
what God accomplished through us in prior years. The message of the
gospel is alive, relevant and powerful today, and the Great Commission
task of sharing it should excite and embolden us as Christians,” Rainer

Page added, “Let’s get perspective on this. Where are people
won to Christ? Where do people go to church? Everything depends on the
local level. It is where everything of significance occurs.

questions that every Southern Baptist must answer are, ‘What am I doing
for the Lord? Am I winning more or less people to Christ? Am I giving
more or less to missions? Am I being faithful in my support of my

Although LifeWay said changes in monetary giving to SBC
congregations are difficult to assess because not all Baptist state
conventions gather the same data, the research group reported that the
total and undesignated receipts reported through the ACP were down 2.4
percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. Total mission expenditures were
also down, but the amount of giving to Southern Baptist mission causes
increased by more than $48 million (7 percent) to $744 million.

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