Southern Baptist numbers on the decline

Southern Baptist numbers on the decline

By Kevin Payne

The Southern Baptist Convention is lamenting its less than stellar growth for 2016.  While Southern Baptist gained almost 500 churches and took in a staggering $11 billion, they claim the numbers show the poor state of the church.

“Virtually everyone who sees these figures will react negatively and lament the poor state of our churches, our lack of evangelistic fervor, and our increasingly irrelevant programs,” said Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.  “We should all lament.”

According to an historical analysis by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the denominations is down to its lowest baptisms since 1946, lowest worship attendance since 1996 and its lowest membership since 1990.

“The true bad news is that when you put last year in the context of all previous years, it indicates the SBC is in the midst of a decline that shows no signs of either slowing down or turning around,” said Chuck Kelly, the seminary’s president.

There is no denying the decline of the largest Protestant denomination in America any longer.  The SBC lost almost 78,000 members last year, according to the Annual Church Profile released ahead of its annual meeting.  Southern Baptists have now lost a million members since 2003.

The only area where Southern Baptists seem to be growing is the number of new churches.  The SBC reported that they added 479 churches last year for a grand total of more than 47,000.  But SBC leaders are concerned that they do not have enough people to fill those new churches.

“Southern Baptists remain the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the increasing number of Southern Baptist churches and the denomination's church planting efforts is something to build on,” said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway.  

“I pray that all of us will see the urgency of the moment,” Rainer said.  “We must make the Great Commission the heart of all we do and say.  These latest numbers should be received with a broken spirit and a God-given determination to reach people for Christ.”

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