ST. LOUIS, MO — Last week Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared his thoughts about the denomination’s Annual Church Profile. The Christian Index published his comments as reported in Baptist Press.
Floyd began by mentioning the positive things worthy of note: a growing number of churches, increased giving through the national Cooperative Program, a record Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and a very encouraging increase to date in Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
A matter of concern was the church membership decline of 204,409. However, note the membership decline over the past five years:
2011 – a decline of 157,932
2012 – a decline of 105,708
2013 – a decline of 136,764
2014 – a decline of 236,467
2015 – a decline of 204,409
Five-Year Decline – 841,280
This precipitous decline in Southern Baptist church membership is alarming. It is true that 8,661 churches failed to turn in their Annual Church Profile, but that was the least number of churches failing to report in the last three years.
Roger S. “Sing” Oldham, vice president for Convention Communications and Relations, addressed the members of the Association of State Baptist Publications at the SBC meeting in St. Louis and stated, “These baptismal statistics mean that of the 38,132 churches who did turn in their Annual Church Profile, baptized 295,212 people or an average of 7.74 people per church.” In other words, it takes 52 Southern Baptists a whole year to baptize one person.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd, who will conclude his presidency today when the Convention messengers choose a successor, has stated, “Our greatest problem is spiritual, and our only hope is spiritual awakening. God has been burdening me greatly in the area of personal evangelism and how we must be much more intentional in sharing our faith with the goal of asking people to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.”
Oldham added, “Because of the decline in baptisms Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and Thom Ranier, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, have appointed a task force on disciple-making.”
Reports from NAMB indicate that the task force, consisting of Southern Baptist pastors, will recommend steps churches can take to improve the disciple-making process in their congregations and spark a disciple-making movement throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.
“This group will suggest a transferrable process that any church can use in any context,” Ezell said. “The priority will be leading people to the gospel and then putting them on a pathway toward spiritual growth and maturity.”
Rainer is hopeful that the group’s recommendations will help churches make the transition to more effective discipleship.
“So many churches do not have a clear process for discipleship,” Rainer said. “I’m confident this team of proven pastoral leaders will help us better understand how to help our churches make and grow disciples.”
Oldham indicated that Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN, would serve as chairman of the task force.
Gallaty said, “Biblical disciple-making includes both inviting – evangelism – and investing – discipleship. We cannot have one without the other. For years we have been ‘decisionistic,’ but we need to be more ‘disciplistic.’ We must shift our mentality away from seeing decisions and baptisms as the end of our ministry to seeing them as the beginning of a lifelong discipleship journey.”
The following pastors have been named to the task force:
Adam Dooley, Sunnyvale Baptist Church, Sunnyvale, TX; Robby Gallaty, Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville, TN; Eric Geiger, ClearView Baptist Church, Franklin, TN; Johnny Hunt, First Baptist Church, Woodstock; Paul Jimenez, Taylors First Baptist Church, Taylors, SC; Mark Marshall, The Glade Church, Mt. Juliet, TN; Kevin Smith, Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, KY; and Pavel Urruchi, Erlanger Baptist Church, Erlanger, KY.
Ezell said the task force will present a report at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.