The SBC Will Be Smaller in 20 Years (by William Thornton)

William Thornton is the inimitable, insightful, sometimes curmudgeonly, rarely acerbic or irascible, always interesting, SBC Plodder

I do think that we’re going to see a winnowing. We’re going to see a clarification of who we are and I do believe in twenty years we’re going to be a smaller denomination, maybe less number of churches but I think that we’re going to be more focused. I think we’re going to be more serious about joining together and reaching the world for Christ.

Frank Page, CEO, SBC Executive Committee, Fault Lines Within the SBC Panel, June, 2014 (go to the 24 minute mark at the end).

If we look down the road at what the SBC will be like two decades hence, what do we see?

Frank Page sees a smaller denomination but one more focused on reaching the world for Christ.

I don’t think any of us can see clearly what we will look like, what we will be like twenty years down the road, but it is somewhat remarkable that Frank Page, our day-to-day SBC leader is honest and forthright enough to state candidly that we are going to be smaller. Give a tip of the hat to demographics, cultural and religious trends, and old fashioned realism.

As for being more focused on reaching the world for Christ…perhaps. The jury is out on that but I see churches less interested in denominational structures, less interested in creating and maintaining the denominational infrastructure, particularly buildings, staff, and budgets than in placing and supporting church planters here in North America, and enhancing authentic Christian witness overseas.

It is noteworthy in this regard that in his address to trustees last month Tom Elliff, lame duck CEO of our International Mission Board, signaled his belief in “new avenues” for sending and supporting missionaries. More on this later, but if there is a vision for the SBC future, it likely will be led with something in this form. Make note here that our grand denominational funding program, The Cooperative Program, which is responsible as much as any  factor for the SBC that we have today is singularly uncaptivating to a new generation of ministers. Our goal with the CP at this stage is to find an acceptable floor for giving; hence, Elliff’s exploratory remarks about “new avenues.”

Any optimists among us who see a larger denomination?


  1. Roger Simpson says

    I believe demographics plays a large role in the size of the SBC going forward. The SBC demographics are going to have to more closely match the general population. Alternatively, we could merge with some other Baptist conventions — such as one of the major Black Baptist conventions — such as the National Baptist convention. I don’t know if there is a Spanish language Baptist convention in the USA or not.

    I don’t have hard data in front of me but I think the demographics over the next 20 years is something like this:

    Anglos — shrinking as a percentage of the population
    Blacks — staying the same
    Latinos — continuing to expand as a percentage of the population
    Asians — growing some

  2. dr. james willingham says

    I must admit to trepidation, when I look at the present situation. Only the idea of a Third Great Awakening which has been prayed for over the past 150 years offers any hope of a different situation. I have been praying for such a visitation for 40 years. God being my helper, I plan to continue so to pray regardless of the circumstances

  3. Adam Blosser says

    Interesting notes about Elliff’s trustee address. Jonathan Akin wrote an interesting post over at Baptist 21 today regarding the IMB.

    He too talks about different funding models. I guess one of the things that is so appealing about the IMB for aspiring missionaries is the funding. It may be that missionaries who have secular jobs to support themselves would be less motivated to jump through IMB’s hoops.

  4. Chris Johnson says

    I would say the actual denomination size is about 45-55% of the actual numbers reported through membership/media (simply poll evening numbers to get the real SBC headcount). With that said, the SBC could actually grow if she follows the principles that the Apostle Paul set forth for Timothy.

    1. Raise up Godly men:
    “Instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”

    Too few are being prepared in the churches!


    2. More men aspiring to Pastor / Elder
    3. More men and women doing the work/service of Deacon/Deaconess
    4. Increase Preaching/Teaching
    5. Increase Discipleship and the study of Christian Doctrine in the churches
    6. Decrease 20 minute Pop Culture sermons.
    7. Decrease Pop Culture marketing programs.

    Those things would be a good start.


    • says

      Chris, I fail to understand why we as a denomination continue to represent our numbers for what we do. They very clearly, to everyone I know, are not an accurate representation of actual, active members in the SBC. We’re cookin’ the books. We’re like a baseball team that reports “tickets sold” as actual attendance. It is unethical. Why in the world would God bless us with desperately needed revival when we cannot be honest with ourselves and the world? I keep waiting for convention leadership to step up and deal with this, but it never happens. Those other qualities you mentioned would be the mark of a revived, fervent church.

      • Mike Bergman says

        But we can’t remove those people off the rolls who haven’t been there in 20 years, how else would their families have assurance of a free dinner when they ask us to do the funeral?

        (okay, that was harsh on my part, but sadly true…)

    • William Thornton says

      Chris, I apporeciate your thoughts but reject the premise that how individual churches report their membership makes God mad and therefore He punishes us by keeping people from being saved and baptized. The whole integrity in church membership push is a feel-good exercise for some among us, not a problem that needs a solution. I say this partly to prove to Dave Miller that I am an iracsible rascal, proudly so.

      Your list has some good (and fairly standard) suggestions although I think we need more good 20 minute sermons and fewer tedious 45 minute ones. The guys I hear bragging that they are “45 minute preachers” actually have about 20 minutes worth of exposition and 25 minutes of filler.

      • Dean Stewart says

        The notion that half the people on our rolls never attend is a myth. If a church has 200 hundred members but averages 100 in
        in attendance one would be dense to think it is the same 100 showing up all the time. I’m guessing here, but I believe that it would take at least 130 different people attending to average 100 in attendance. We may average half our membership in attendance but that certainly doesn’t mean only half our membership attends.

        • Chris Johnson says

          I agree, …there are some local churches that fellowship in a meaningful way, and are eager to serve.

        • Adam Blosser says

          I hear you Dean, but that percentage doesn’t really make me feel any better. I can account for over 100 of the members that the SBC lost this year in my local church. We had all our members sign the church covenant in February as a part of incorporating our church. Less than half cared enough to show up and sign. I can now confidently say that I have at least met every person on our roll. The challenge will be practicing meaningful church membership in a way that the pastor who serves our church 50 years from now will be able to say the same thing without a similar purging of the roll.

          • Chris Johnson says

            Real numbers are always a good place to be though. When Frank Page made the assertion, he may have been thinking about the reported numbers,….not the actual ones.

            That is the reason the SBC, staying true to biblical doctrine, will continue to increase. God is still increasing his church at large, and that includes most of those individuals that populate local churches within the SBC :)

        • says

          The figure from the annual church profile reports is that somewhere around 8 million people who belong to Southern Baptist churches are “non-resident” members. That probably confirms the fact that half of the people on our membership rolls are never in attendance. It’s hard to attend a church if you don’t live nearby, and if they can’t find you.

      • Chris Johnson says

        William, I agree with you that many guys may only have 20 minutes of good exposition. I’ll take that any day of the week….and every day of the week!

        Also, I don’t think God is mad at the SBC for ginning up the numbers. That game has gone on in the SBC for a multitude of reasons….at least from my 40 years of experience. I find it rather silly.

        I think though that each individual church would benefit from knowing the people on the rolls better. But, you will definitely find a good portion that don’t want to be found. Those folks are pretty happy about “just” being on the roll and part of the bigger media number.


        • says

          Is God mad about it, I don’t know. But does God honor a lack of integrity in our representing ourselves? Lifeways latest study showed on any given Sunday about 6.5 million of our nearly 16 million reported membership is in church. Of those we know many are there faithfully every week. Let’s be generous and say and say another 25% attend but not regularly. That still only gets us to 10-11 million who we could consider members who actually attend. I’m not like most of you, I didn’t grow up in church and was saved at a later age. I was in business for 20+ years, and a business owner for 12 of those. If I misrepresnted my numbers like that to say, stockholders, what would happen to me? Or to the IRS? I may be completely wrong, but integrity should be one of the defining characteristics of God’s people, and I just don’t see it here. To me it just seems a way to “puff” ourselves up. How many are on church rolls simply to maintain a burial plot? How many are dual members because they were accepted by profession of faith instead of by letter? Or simply by poor bookkeeping? There may be no way to come up with a truly accurate count, but we can be sure we’re not really close when we say 15.8 million members. As it is now, simply being on a church roll is represented by us as being a member of the body, no matter how long it’s been seen you set foot through the doors. I know the church I serve is probably an exception, but when I arrived we had been reporting the same number, 200, for 20+ years. When we did an actual count it was 60. Then I buried 13 the first year. Thankfully, we’re growing again, but we misrepresnted ourselves and skewed numbers for years. We have 46k churches, I can’t believe we were or are the only one’s guilty of that.

          • says

            And let me add one more thing. Of that 6.5 millon reported actual weekly attendance, how much of that is padded attendance. I work in baseball for 5+ years. When you pad attendance, you simpy guess how many are there, and believe me, you never guess low. All of this may simply be a pet peave for me, but as many churches as I see trumping we had “this many this week,” apparently these numbers are really important to us as they make us look good to others.

          • Adam Blosser says

            While I agree that we are not close to the 15.8 million members we report, I disagree that it is due to a lack of integrity. That may be the case for some, but I doubt it is the case for most. It is likely partly due to a lack of backbone with regards to church discipline, and mostly due to laziness. It is easier to maintain the roll of 200+ than it is to attempt to trim it down. In fact, it would likely be unwise for a new pastor to come in and start trimming the roll immediately. He very well may lose his ministry over it.

          • Dean Stewart says

            Adam, I have always held to the Bobby Welch school of thinking when it comes to our SS rolls. To purge the rolls is to say we give up on theses guys. The largest and fastest growing Sunday schools have consistently ran low percentages of their enrollment. The smallest and declining Sunday schools have consistently ran high percentages of enrollment. I haven’t seen exact percentages in a few yeas but I am sure it still is true. I encourage churches to never purge Sunday school rolls. A class should invite each member to every event, function and fellowship even if he hasn’t attended in years. We don’t give up. Now my question is concerning discipline, what attendance standard should be used when disciplining a member?

          • Adam Blosser says

            Dean, I am not speaking of Sunday School rolls when I talk about purging rolls. I am talking about church membership. I can get on board very easily with what you said about Sunday School rolls. My church membership roll must not be a mission field.

            As far as your question goes, I would not consider pursuing formal church discipline on a church member due to lack of attendance unless it can be said that they hardly ever come or don’t come at all. I want to err on the side of grace, but not allow my desire to give grace to prevent me from disciplining the member who never ever shows up to church.

          • Adam Blosser says

            Notice I say formal church discipline. I would myself pursue, and encourage anyone in my church to lovingly pursue, those who often neglect meeting together.

          • William Thornton says

            Jeff, I reject the assertion that a membership list represents a lack of integrity or in an expression of misrepresentation. It is altogether accurate to say that we have 15.8 million members. If you wish for a better metric, get one that you like. If SBC churches self report that many members, then that’s our membership. Get over it.

            How you seek to lead your church is up to you.

          • Dean Stewart says

            Adam, thanks for reply. I am grateful for your efforts for the Kingdom. I would add one more thought. When a church reaches a certain size, and it doesn’t have to be a mega church, SS attendance is all that can be measured. From my perspective, few churches take worship attendance on a regular basis. Multiple services, balconies, hundreds in attendance make it difficult to know exactly who is attending and how regular. I simply do not believe there is a sin problem in the way we fill out our church profile. I feel I can speak intelligently on that matter. As far as the state of the SBC and it’s growth or decline I will leave that to more qualified than me to offer suggestions to solve what problems we have.

          • says

            Adam, in our case it was easy to go from 200-60. It was obvious to everyone, they just had never changed it. We were averaging about 40 people when I arrived and then I saw our first APR report and just laughed. All it took was one meeting with leadership and then the church agreed unanimously to do so. It was indeed laziness. But we were misrepresnting ourselves for years, and I don’t see anyway to say that’s anything but wrong. The first church I pastored had a cemetary. Half our roll was family members who had moved away years ago but maintained membership and paid there 25.00 a year to keep the rights to their plot. Several were pastors who kept their membership at our church while shepherding another church. That’s up to them. We have individual autonomy. Could not imagine pastoring a church I wouldn’t join however. All you have to do is change the rules in how you govern things like a cemetary, but we won’t do that. I never pushed it there as it was not a hill worth dying on by any means.

            William, I agree it is up to every individual church and pastor, but is this really our expectation of what church membership means? Our name simply on a list? I’ve seen countless pastors and Christians complaining about the government when things like unemployment numbers are reported. How the number reported does not reflect the actual number as it doesn’t reflect those who have simply stopped looking for a job or are partially employed. We say it’s disingenious of our government to do so. So we hold our government to a higher standard that ourselves?

            Like I said, I didn’t grow up in church or the SBC, so I don’t exactly view things as we always have in some areas. My background is different. The first business I ever managed had books that were an absolute joke. The store was showing customers they had not seen in years and merchandise on rent to them we never had a chance in finding, was paid for already by us, yet showed up as monies on our books. I wrote them off. Almost lost my job for it, but after mandatory meetings to explain what I did, and then showing how we were actually growing now instead of chasing our tails, our district adopted it as policy. The company didn’t. They went public years later with a propped up opening stock price based upon projected money from accounts and opened at 25.00 a share, closed at 7.00 a share that day. Almost went under. I caught extreme heat for not buying in, but I knew how we were doing business and that it was all a mirage. Had a bunch of friends lose their shirts that day. Outside investors saw through it though.

            And you know what, the world sees through our mirage as well. One look at a study such as the one at Lifeway and it’s obvious. For an individual church, all it takes is some initiative and backbone. For our convention, and understand, while it may alienate me from some, I don’t look at it the way we’ve always done it. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but it’s clear how we do it is not representative of who we are. For our convention and it’s lobbying efforts their is surely more clout saying we have 16 million than say 10 million. But does the end justify the means? We can respectfully disagree, but I just don’t see how claiming we have “this” when we all know we don’t reveals a way of dealing with it that shows integrity before the world

          • William Thornton says

            Jeff, I can appreciate how you seek to lead your own church but on membership reporting you are just howling at the moon. It’s not up to you to tell any other church how they should count or not count members. It is a completely extrabiblical concept anyway.

            So far as I am aware, there is no carrying cost for inactive members but I commend you for your business acumen.

          • says

            I have real mixed feelings about the issue of removing folks from the membership roll. Since the NT church did not have a roll as we understand it, I see no clear Biblical evidence tho there are some relevant verses that one can look to. I have been happy with the active/inactive concept. I am not sure what that really means, and there are some issues here that are not satisfying to me but that is what i have done.

            To remove a name takes church action. The questions to me are what are we removing them from? What should be done with them once removed? I would not want to lose track of them because if there once was an interest, could that interest be revitalized?

            At the least there must be a clear statement as to why this action is to be taken. Another question is what is in the best interest of the church? A final question what is in the best interest of the individual? When those issues are settled then action has a reason and purpose.

          • Andy says


            I think removing members is something each church does differently, and having inactive members is one way to do it. In my mind, even that should be a congregational decision. Either way, a church needs to have some way to say, “These are the people who are here, who participate, who can vote on decisions. Simply having a list of former members would suffice for contact if the need ever arose. (Although for us, much of the contact information is decades old and not accurate anymore.)

            It is a congregational decision because it allows members to be involved in outreach to those who have not attended for a while.

            However, for the majority, they are either dead, moved to another state, or attending/members of another church in the area, or simply have decided to give up on church. For our church, we have decided that a year of non-attendence (excluding those providentially hindered…military, health reasons, college students, etc.) is enough that we CAN removed someone.

            Our process is to search, try to contact and invite back as many as we can. Some we can’t find. After reasonable efforts, It makes sense for them to not be members anymore.

            It should not be offensive to anyone that they are no longer a member of a church they haven’t attended in years. I don’t call myself a 4-h member anymore…I call myself a FORMER 4-h member. I am also no longer part of the Panera bread Team…I’m a FORMER Panera Bread employee. I left voluntarily, and should not expect to still be listed among their employees and get the employee discount and other perks. That would make no sense.

          • says

            while i see some minor differences, i think you and I are on the same page. I admire and respect you thoroughness is dealing with this issue in your church. Because of that I would think you have little difficulty in accomplishing this task.

          • andy says

            DL, Just so I’m not taking undue credit…I am not the senior pastor, or the one leading our membership efforts…in most cases my role is that of organization and detail work…as I am but a lowly staff pastor. Our church has right around 200 attending most Sundays, but currently have around 500 members on the roles…6 years ago it was closer to 800. Most of those are already inactive, so they can’t vote should they try to return.

    • says

      I don’t disagree with what you say. However, it seems to me that what we need is more churches that understand what THEY need. Change will occur as churches change not as denominations change churches, or as seminaries change preachers.

      • says

        I noted in a post below I like the idea of active/inactive. At least, if done by some sort of uniform standard, it would allow us to reasonably say this is who we’re actually working with. For us, we sent out letters stating that because of inactivity, the person would be removed from our roles if we were not contacted. The vast majority of the letters had bad addresses as we hadn’t had contact with the folks for years. Many others were children who had grown up in the church and moved away long ago.

        The most vexing question is what constitutes an active member. We’ve all heard of or even experienced times where a crucial vote was held and all of a sudden people who have not been seen in years were there to vote. This is still problematic in smaller churches. The first church I served voted down a new Sunday school addition when about 30 folks who had not been seen in years showed up. The church I’m at now outsed a pastor in this way 20 or so years ago. We’ve set our standard I believe rather liberally at 1 year. If we have not seen you in one year(we exclude those serving in the milatary and shut ins obviously) you get a letter. No response and you are removed. Thankfully, since the intitial correction, the only folks who have left for good(we still see them albeit irregularly) are the ones who have passed. We do need to have some standard for church membership, whether it was in the bible or not, as it does exist now. People who are long inactive have no business deciding business in the church. It’s in no way fair to the folks laboring for the Lord

  5. says

    I am as proud Southern Baptist. I attended a SB college. I received a seminary education for a $50 per semester matriculation fee because of the CP. As a HMB/NAMB appointed missionary I received a salary from the CP for 20 years. I owe much to SB. It pains my heart to agree that in the next 20 years SB will be much smaller than we are now. It pains my heart to agree with William T’s observation of young pastors.

    There is an “up side” however to both ideas. With younger pastors being less interested in SB structure etc. there will be less emphasis placed on the ego needs to serve on boards etc. I fear we have compromised much in order to be elected to boards. I have long believed that this is one reason for easy believeism/baptisms. He who baptizes most gets more recognition. Maybe this will cease.

  6. says

    I have been a Southern Baptist (SBC) my whole life, all 40 years. Born and raised in a Southern Baptist church (baptized at age 7). I attended a Southern Baptist university for 4 years (BS degree), attended a Southern Baptist seminary 4 years (MDiv degree), have pastored 3 Southern Baptist churches. I am knee deep in SBC. I have attended endless meetings and have read the latest statistics (all the numbers are DOWN). No one asked me but this is what I would do if asked to help the Southern Baptist Convention survive for another generation.

    My Ideas for Southern Baptist Convention to survive
    –Streamline convention. Focus on 4-5 organizations—Lifeway, IMB, Seminaries, Ethics & Religious Life Committee, Disaster Relief.
    –Outsource and create Missions partnerships with Haggai institute, Campus Crusade, Samaritan’s Purse, Awana, Celebrate Recovery, DivorceCare. Why recreate the wheel & duplicate?
    –More webinars & cancel most meetings & conferences. Group chats online
    –Focus like a laser on church planting and relaunching dying churches. Have as many church plants strategically aligned with a sending church as possible.
    –Network less on region, more on interests and do so by online resource centers. Put big emphasis on online resource centers. Skype, Google+, Cisco Webex
    –Sell administration buildings. Rent office space from churches & rest work from home. Follow Golden Gate Seminary’s lead and sell valuable properties and pour the income back into growth of the ministry. Less focus on fancy buildings, beautiful campuses and more focus on effective, streamlined ministry.
    –Partner with groups and orgs that are working…Catalyst, Passion Conferences, Youth Specialties–humbly join what is working. Cut what is dead
    –Actively connect seminary graduates with mentor. Aggressively connect retired pastors to pass the baton. Don’t just leave it to seminaries.
    –YouTube channel–answering quick questions
    –Support what is already organically working. Think beyond territory.
    –Seminaries begin partnering with other universities for bivocational degrees—MBA, JD, Teaching certificate, Engineer. Share campus space and realistically prepare grads for bivocational work. 80% bivocational. Prepare that way
    –To reduce conflict, make for smooth transitions, and empower the younger generation, have a 70 yr old mandatory retirement for seminary presidents and top executives

    What are your thoughts???

    • Adam Blosser says

      How do you focus like a laser on church planting when NAMB is not in your 4-5 entity plan? I am not saying it can’t be done. I am just interested to know how you would plan to make it happen.

      • Tarheel says

        By having local churches do it with help from associations and state conventions.

        • Adam Blosser says

          I hear ya Tarheel, but the question is for John.

          He does not make any mention of state conventions and associations. You say, well he is talking about the national convention not those levels. Fine, but if so, he is talking about the national convention focusing like a laser on church planting. The question remains: how is the national convention (not state conventions and associations) to focus on church planting like a laser without NAMB.

          • Tarheel says

            Yea, I figured I was butting in so it took my comment to the bottom of the comments. 😉

          • says

            I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers (but a lot of opinions!) but what I do know is this heavy top down model is not working. We must dramatically change the paradigm the SBC is operating on and become much more lean, far less linear, and eliminate more middle levels like NAMB & State Conventions. Days where SBC officials sit in big fancy buildings, serve as highly paid consultants, and expect people to come to big events should be over. Sell the buildings. The wealth of knowledge rests in the churches and lay leaders. I would focus on hub churches and follow their lead rather than seek to duplicate what they are doing. I care deeply about the SBC and believe the Cooperative program is one most brilliant plans in church history. But the overall top down model has to change. Pour the money into the local churches that are doing things right–making disciples, growing and expanding. Be a part of what’s already working now. The reality is very few are coming to these national and state convention meetings. Why have them and spend so much money on them when resources could be used to much greater use to further the gospel. Those are my thoughts.

  7. Tarheel says


    You said “Make note here that our grand denominational funding program, The Cooperative Program, which is responsible as much as any factor for the SBC that we have today is singularly uncaptivating to a new generation of ministers.”

    Are you sure about this? Some of the strongest pastoral CP Advocates I know are aged in their upper 20s to low 40s.

    • William Thornton says

      We can swap our anecdotes, David, but I see younger guys as questioning why we still put most of the CP in southern state structures, staff, and budgets leading to an understanding that the CP does not express their priorities of reaching NA and the world.

      • Adam Blosser says

        Of course all I have to contribute to this discussion is more anecdotal evidence. I attended 3 (was a member of 2) SBC churches growing up. All of them were pastored by men older than my parents, but not old enough to have one foot in the grave. I do not remember any of those three men as strong advocates of the CP, though the churches did give to the CP. In fact, I didn’t know much of anything about the CP until I came as the youth pastor to the church I now pastor. I learned even more of course, and became a strong advocate of the CP when I enrolled at SEBTS. My point is that the strong connection to the CP likely fell off before the current generation of pastors. It has continued to decline because the current generation of pastors was trained by the previous generation whose commitment to the CP was not as strong as we may like. Just my two cents.

        • William Thornton says

          …but it makes old dudes feel better about things to blame it on the younger guys. 😉

          • Tarheel says

            Yea, William – I’m sure it does. But it feels better to us to blame y’all. 😉

  8. John Wylie says

    Not really that difficult of a prognostication. Not only will the SBC be a smaller denomination, but the adherents to Christianity will decrease as well. The Bible already told us this a long time ago. I echo the words of the Apostle John, “…even so, come Lord Jesus.”

    • Adam Blosser says

      Adherents to Christianity will decrease? That is likely the case in America, but make no mistake, the number of adherents to Christianity is not decreasing. God is building His church globally.

        • John Wylie says

          Chris and Adam,

          While I certainly respect your points, the Bible does make it clear that adherents to the faith will decrease before the end. Luke 18:8

          • John Wylie says

            What I mean is that the number of adherents ON THE EARTH will decrease. Of course, the kingdom is ever expanding in the sense that every time a person comes to faith in Christ the kingdom expands, but that’s not to say that the number of adherents to Christianity will be always expanding on the earth.

          • Chris Johnson says


            Interesting point and gets to the bottom line pretty quickly. I think that we should take the attitude of Paul,…where he would as soon die and go to hell than one of his kinsmen parish. The gentiles are still being called at astounding numbers.

            The last 500 years have been wrought with alarmist theology, super dispensationalism and the like…. , but we should take care not to diminish the call and obedience that is present in the triumph.

            What Luke wrote at that portion of the letter….. the context seems to point at the final consummation of God’s judgement, releasing Satan to deceive the nations and the transition to God meeting out justice and wrath on the earth. There certainly will be a great and greater amount of tribulation on the earth just previous to those events. But praise God, the church will be ushered out of the scene before the wrath is dispensed.

            “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

            Jesus makes it extremely clear that when the Son of Man comes it is not to bring a second chance at Salvation; but judgement. The time is now,…and the numbers will continue to increase. I personally believe we have some time to go, as we are in the infancy of the tribulation IMHO.

            I would not be too alarmed at the warning of diminishing returns…. God is active!… even in America. I love the way Luke uses the term “However”.


          • John Wylie says


            Thank you for your response and I certainly get what you are saying, but please don’t interpret me as an alarmist. In fact, my point is not to be alarmed, God already told us that these things would come about. I certainly don’t endorse trying
            to use these things as cop outs either.

          • Chris Johnson says

            John, I was making a general point. Not really pointing the comment so much at you.

            There are a lot of “Left Behind” adherents (nasty and ignorant view of eschatology) still out there today though, and sometimes the church at large (mostly in the media) can get a little jumpy. If anything the alarmist may be the Executive Committee author speaking about a near term decline in the SBC.


          • John Wylie says

            Just out of curiosity, what eschatological paradigm do you hold? Post-milliennial?

          • Chris Johnson says

            Well, in a very short answer….not a Post Millennial view. The golden age paradigm does not fit well with what Christ was showing the Apostle John in Revelation. I would be more along the lines of a “Redemptive Millennial” view, where before Christ’s second coming, the world does come against the church in very real and combined effort among the nations. I don’t see that so much escalating to a huge degree today, but there will be a future time where the church is persecuted by the world in a much greater way than it is today.

            I am currently assisting a friend in completing a commentary of the Book of the Revelation. His four year project has been a very in depth journey through Revelation that I had not endeavored in the past. It has been a great blessing to me and our church body!

            Maybe SBC Voices will allow some of that commentary to be presented here in about a year ….when close to publication.


          • says

            I would still like some clarity on “nasty and ignorant” theology. Regarding persecution, you are correct in that we do not face it a great deal in America, but you are wrong when one looks at other part of the world. There is great persecution.

          • Chris Johnson says


            My apologies,…I did not intend to offend anyone that may believe in some of the conclusions that Tim has come up with recently to try and explain what John turned to see as the Revelation.

            There is definitely not enough time in this post to address the many hermeneutical gymnastics one must enter into, in order to follow the linear path that Tim has dramatized in his series.

            I would like to address some of those in the future though. Being raised in and near the Left Behind series teaching, I found it refreshing to study the Book of the Revelation and discover in more consistency the blessing that Christ reveals to John about these last times.

            The term “ignorance” was only used in the context of a consistent hermeneutic, …certainly not a personal attack.


          • says

            No offense taken. I was just looking for the point of reference. I am a Pre Trib, Pre Mil but the series draws some conclusions that are not warranted by scripture. But thats the movies. A movie on the book of Leviticus which is true to the text would not sell many tickets. :-)

          • says


            Would you tell Adrian Rogers and John MacArthur that their eschatological view is “nasty and ignorant”? Why would you revert to that language when it was not necessary.

            D. L. said you did not offend him. You offended me.

            Thomas A. Magers, II

          • Chris Johnson says


            Yes, I would tell John M. that he is a bit off on his assumptions. I have read his commentary on Revelation, and one of his best Old Testament scholars, Bill Barack is probably one of my favorite teachers. I’ve met John and he would probably take it well.

            I never had the pleasure of meeting Adrian, but I have met his son. Most of you know him from this blog. He is one of the great preachers of our time!

            As far as the Left Behind views…. they are very young views, and probably do qualify for good bit of scrutiny,… since a good portion of a generation have cut their teeth on the premise of those dramas.


          • Chris johnson says

            Definite agreement….. Messy theology mist remain consistent and comprehensive. I want Dave to write a blog on this subject!

        • Dave Miller says

          Amazed at how people continue to use ridicule and derogatory

          toward pre-trib. It is as if we are called to walk in love except if someone still holds to dispensational views, then name-calling and insults are fine.

          • Chris Johnson says

            Come on Dave…. there are a lot of folks that continue to hold to Dispensational views….. maybe not the entire opus of the theology.

            I think there are portions of the Dispensational view of the last days that are consistent with scripture. The main problem I have found with sticking to the entire Dispensational program is the departure from a consistent hermeneutic and where one places Israel at the end. That tends to be all over the map and can get a little messy.


          • Tarheel says

            Well, DL….I agree they started in the wrong place and therefore went even more awry from there. 😉

          • Chris Johnson says

            You guys are just being cruel and bullying now…. Dave, I think I might become offended, …eventually. :)

  9. says

    I hesitate to say what I really believe in a forum such as this because I know what will come. But caution to the wind, here goes…….I think the time has come for a total and complete focus on personal evangelism to get as many people as possible ready for the Rapture, because I believe it to be very very close. There I said it. Now go!

    • Tarheel says

      Rapture? There ya go with the whole people getting wings to fly away talk again! Lol. 😉

      • dr. james willingham says

        Don’t feel bad, Tarheel. His brother-in-law is a Post-Millenialist who thinks we have anywhere from 20,000-900,000 years plus a 1000 generations of converts throughout the starry heavens. None of it, however, will come easy. I am still looking for people to get hold of Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt and plead the nearly 100 promises there as reasons for God to visit us with such attendant wonders as occurred in the First and Second Great Awakenings and in the launching of the Great Century of Missions. I now add the prayer that God will open the eyes of his servants to see the reasons for the theology preached by Edwards, Whitefield, and a host of others and why that is more evangelistic, missionary, and persuasive than any other theological view point that can be advocated. Just think of a 1000 generations on a quadrillion worlds, all converted and living for the glory of God. Just read Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ and Fuller’s Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation for starters. Its there, but you really have to look for it. Just think of the Intergalactic or inter stellar Baptist Convention with quadrillions of churches (sorry I don’t don’t know the larger numbers. And do you think I wasted the 40 years I have spent praying for such a visitation. You fellows ought to start googling Tesla and Electromagnetic Propulsion, along with Carr, Brown, and several others, Then take a look at the universities doing research on warp drives and elector magnetic propulsion, etc. Big schools don’t spend money in science and engineering unless there is a worthwhile motive behind it.

          • dr. james willingham says

            D.L., you are simply quoting R.G. Lee at the ’63 SBC, when he said that in the Dentist chair, when the Dentist said say, Ahh, I would say I am not going to says that word. I have not done so for many years, and I am not going to start now. Love you too, after all we got premil from the get go at Calvary what with Reagan and Campbell, both former staff members to R.G., besides getting to hear Lee at Calvary. You all should read the late David Lutzweiler’s The Praise of Folly, a biography of C.I. Scofield. And then do some research on where the view came from and who it got off the hook of being the Antichrist. Research, brethren, is an important part of your repertoire. Besides, it makes the future more attractive for the glory of the Lord. Brethren, D.L. is one sharp dude, and he could do things with these FBCs that all the rest of us only dream about. However, the only bad habit he has is in not listening to his brother-in-law; it is almost enough to make me give up in despair. Almost.

  10. William Thornton says

    Frank Page sees us as smaller. If we’re smaller there will be a smaller funding pie (certainly in real dollars if not total dollars). Who will suffer loss? Which of our organizations will do anything other than fight over the shrinking pool of funds?

    I read, Adam, Akin’s piece on IMB funding. I’d guess that in the next few years we will see conflict as the IMB searches for systems that provide them greater funding and other entities see this as a threat.

    • Adam Blosser says

      When I first started reading Akin’s post, I thought he was talking about ways to get more money to IMB so we could send more full-time missionaries. While this is already being done, I am skeptical of fostering that approach for the reason you mention above. After reading further, however, I understood the emphasis of point two in his post to be on adding more bi-vocational missionaries to our force. Elliff does seem to hint at additional funding sources in his address though, and I am sure Akin would like to see more money given to IMB as would I.

  11. Tarheel says

    I still think much if what NAMB and state conventions do for church planting and missions is duplicative. I also think that churches plant churches not denominations – so the emphasis and responsibility must shift from NAMB to local churches for that.

    (I also realize I’m taking about what some state conventions do… others just collect the money and fund whatever liberal BWA/CBF Avenue that they want.)

    • says

      Is it realistic for small churches to plant other churches? In theory, yes.

      However, in reality, when many baptist churches are too small to support a full-time minister (and this is likely to become a more serious problem as our population ages particularly in rural areas), doesn’t it make sense to partner so that small offerings become large when pooled together and utilized by experts in the field?

    • Adam Blosser says

      My perception is that NAMB and many state conventions are doing a much better job of working together nowadays. Of course that is just a perception; I cannot verify it.

      I obviously agree that churches plant churches, not denominations. I still maintain that the national level is helpful for centralized coordination of church planting efforts, especially in our current condition. If we had a state convention in all 50 states with equal amount of resources, I would agree with you that NAMB is unnecessary. We don’t. NAMB, at least in theory, helps coordinate our church planting efforts across North America. They do so in part by work with state conventions. I realize that state conventions could cut out the middle man and coordinate those efforts among themselves. I guess I am arguing that I think that would be less effective. Pioneer state convention X may be a lot better at convincing legacy state convention X to provide funds for church planting to them than pioneer state convention Y. The hope with NAMB is that they can look at the situation across NA objectively and provide funds where necessary.

      Also, if churches plant churches and that leads us to get rid of our national church planting entity, shouldn’t that be the case overseas as well?

      • Tarheel says

        No. Cause we have a great number of largely untapped resources in the United States namely local churches that we just don’t have overseas and lots of places.

        • Tarheel says

          I would like to see however even with IMD a stronger direct connection between the US local churches and church planters in the field.

          So in principle yes the idea of the churches plant churches does extend to the IMD but the practical matter is that we don’t have resources of local churches internationally he like we do here.

          • Tarheel says

            And who says that local churches within the the legacy conventions would only plant churches in their states? Would they not plant churches in the pioneer Areas? Thus helping those pioneer churches plant churches?

          • Adam Blosser says

            Did you even read my comment before you responded to it?

            “NAMB, at least in theory, helps coordinate our church planting efforts across North America. They do so in part by work with state conventions. I realize that state conventions could cut out the middle man and coordinate those efforts among themselves. I guess I am arguing that I think that would be less effective. Pioneer state convention X may be a lot better at convincing legacy state convention X to provide funds for church planting to them than pioneer state convention Y. The hope with NAMB is that they can look at the situation across NA objectively and provide funds where necessary.”

        • Adam Blosser says

          I agree in part. The problem is that the same thing you are saying about the situation overseas is also true (even if not at the same level) in the more pioneer states where there aren’t a lot of churches and resources. That is why NAMB is focusing its attention on “Send Cities.” That kind of cohesive plan for reaching NA is helpful in my estimation.

          • Tarheel says

            But do we NEED – NAMB to do that (at least as it is currently set up?) ….The SEND cities could also be focused by state conventions who would help the local churches in their state plant churches there…local churches would then involve themselves in planting churches within the targeted areas and those that they may determine independently as well.

            For example two churches, in the same legacy state convention, could partner in the gospel (financially and logistically) and work toward the funding for the planting of two churches over the next 5 years. The state convention could also partner with them financially. One church plant might be in an under reached part of their state (yes, these places do exist in every state) and the other in a pioneer state. If every, or even most churches did this….I envision it working. Larger churches could (and should) do more…but even the smallest of churches could (and should) be directly involved in this as well.

            It would be a paradigm shift – but I think that is needed. We have invested and IMO, rested too much on NAMB to do what we as local churches should be doing. There are WAY too many churches in our denomination who rest on NAMB and even IMB too much and are not directly INVOLVED, in addition to GIVING toward the cause. This is to our shame.

  12. says

    Demography is destiny. Is that all that controls us?

    Standing at the turn of the twentieth century, things looked bad for almost everyone in the West. Theological liberalism was rampant in almost all the major denominations and seminaries (outside the South). Evolution and its attendant materialistic philosophy was all the rage in the media and the ivory tower of public (and major) private universities.

    Yet, great revivals swept the nation in the twentieth century. Men like John R. Rice and later Billy Graham held great crusades throughout the land–defying the trends. Fundamentalists stood against Bible deniers and it is not shocking that denominations that valued the Bible flourished while liberal counterparts withered.

    Maybe the way through the shifting demographic issue is not a new outreach program, but a return to methods that worked in say the melting pot of New York City during the nineteenth century? George Marsden in his book on Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism pointed out the Tuesday Meetings for prayer in New York City as one of the catalysts for a great revival and spiritual awakening in that place.

  13. says

    I don’t see a larger denomination, but I do see a more faithful one as long as we continue to have significant resistance from the world. An easy world results in complacency. It’s easy and socially helpful to be a church member. The focus is on not sinning because there appears to be little need to do much else. A hard world results in the winnowing of false believers that Frank Page mentioned as well as a honing of those that remain. In a hard world, the necessity of actively fulfilling the Great Commission becomes more apparent. You don’t have to try hard not to sin as much as you are focused on trying to accomplish God’s purposes because if you don’t there’s no reason to even be a part of the movement of God, even if you are a relatively moral person who would otherwise just show up on Sunday morning.

    I’ll add this: as other denominations succumb to ideological attacks, the members of those denominations faithful to God will flee to those denominations who hold out against the social and political pressure to change. Therefore, unfaithful denominations will shrink quickly and faithful denominations will shrink slowly by comparison. But those who remain will be faithful.

    Martin Luther addressed it after a fashion in the last verse of A Mighty Fortress:

    That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them, abideth;
    The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth:
    Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
    The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
    His Kingdom is forever.

  14. says

    “. . . So far as getting together is concerned we don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention, as it is, does not have to survive . . .” – Adrian Rogers.

    (excerpt from his no compromise stance on the Word of God)

  15. William Thornton says

    One wonders what exactly my SBCV friends consider to be “middle layers” in our grand denominational structure. A few observations:

    State conventions are between the King of SBC Life, local churches, and the two entities for which the SBC was created, first IMB then NAMB. Doesn’t that make the state convention a middle layer? But a layer that receives the bulk of the money flow and decides how to use it and how much to release to the SBC entities?

    If church planting is best done by associations and state conventions, how’s that working? Overall we are adding a net of abouttwo churches annually *per state convention*. In my state we show a net of a single church addition every few years. I’d say that the record here is not good. State structures, particularly the legacy state ones, are locked into a budgetary mode that emphasizes a few institutions, centralized staff in a HQ building, and not a lot of resources given to church planting. Under the old NAMB, we were rewarding legacy states for things other than success. My hope is that this has changed.

    If we are indeed going to be smaller, one hopes that we will find a way to be more focused on the parts of our work that are working and let those that are not die a natural death. We cannot live without the IMB. We can live without NAMB but would face innumerable difficulties in developing comprehensive strategies. We could live with fewer seminaries. We could live without the ERLC. We could live with state conventions being clearing houses for funds rather than permanent structures with expensive buildings and staffs. We need associations but could live without small numbers of churches thinking that there is some profit in hiring a staff guy.

    • Adam Blosser says

      “We can live without NAMB but would face innumerable difficulties in developing comprehensive strategies.”


      • Tarheel says


        You quoted William;

        “We can live without NAMB but would face innumerable difficulties in developing comprehensive strategies.”

        The you said;


        Foreseen difficulties are not in and of themselves sufficient reason for not doing something.

        If we agree we can live without it, then lets talk about how best to make that happen…instead of dismissing the idea out of hand.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Agreeing we could live without it and thinking that is the best course of action are two different things.

          I have a sermon to finish writing. I’ll be back later to finish setting you straight. 😉

        • William Thornton says

          You are missing this. We could live without NAMB but do you really expect state conventions, whose constituents are within their borders, to be motivated to develop, fund, and implement a continental, strategy? We had a form of that through NAMB in the cooperative agreements whereby states competed for slices of NAMB’s budget. It was a mess.

          You’ll have to show me a plan that has states eschewing their parochial interests.

          • Tarheel says

            Yea, I understand that…William.

            Our churches would have to bring that to fruition.

            Our churches (theoretically at least) – have more influence over state convention directives and activities than we ever could over NAMB…this paradigm shift would have to start with the churches. It would have to start with an understanding that we (collectively) have turned over missions to the “big govt.” (yes I said that…because the political messes we find ourselves in are not dissimilar to the ones we find ourselves in within our denomination).

            The church planting and missions engine has to be the churches…I see the engine now as NAMB and state conventions…we only need one engine and it should not be either of those…it should be the local church.

            So, IMO the more vest the responsibility in our local churches the better off we will be.

            Perhaps NAMB will continue to exist, but as I indicated earlier, not in its current form.

            In its current form there are lots of plants (most?) where church planters are hired by and are employees of NAMB with no connection or accountability to a local SBC church…I do not think that is right. IMB needs improvement in this regard too.

            I am not sure how to do it…but the principle behind my assertions is the idea that local churches have forsaken to NAMB and IMB what they should be doing.

            A church not directly involved in missions and church planting (over and beyond contributions to CP) is not truly involved in church planting and missions. I strongly feel that our current structure encourages this.

            I do not say that to disparage the CP, it is not the problem in my mind…the problem is the bureaucracy and structure that encourages churches to forsake biblical mandates to SBC entities.

          • Tarheel says

            “You’ll have to show me a plan that has states eschewing their parochial interests. ”

            Fair enough….could it be though that our churches are not parochial as our state conventions?

            Could it be that if we stopped encouraging and fostering within our churches an attitude that that giving to the CP is enough…
            just let us ‘professionals’ handle it completely from there” that it may blow all our minds what we could do?

            Could it be that NAMB is only source of “strategists” and that pastors and members are also capable of thinking outside of the box and smattering the entire country with gospel centered church plants and missionaries?

          • Tarheel says

            ..and that our state conventions are so protective of “their turf (and money)” because of the ‘power’ of NAMB?

          • Tarheel says


            Could it be that NAMB is *not our* only source of “strategists”

          • says

            Churches should plant churches. If we would put the same national emphasis on making existing churches healthy that we have placed on church planting then our churches would plant churches to the point there is no need for NAMB.

            My fear is that we are just planting more unhealthy churches, We must continually strive to make churches healthy from the day of conception. I do not see that.

          • says

            Maybe, church revitalization should be an associational ‘job’ ….I think many do focus on that.

            I do not know for sure, but I would think that Joel R. likely focuses on such in MD…and you probably do too out west?

          • says

            I appreciate the kind word of confidence, however i am not so sure at times. there is a lot of work to do in this area. I truly believe that this effort is absolutely necessary for the future. If not we will make the same mistakes with the what is now new plants.

          • William Thornton says

            David, Tarheel, cline says: “So, IMO the more vest the responsibility in our local churches the better off we will be.
            Perhaps NAMB will continue to exist, but as I indicated earlier, not in its current form.”

            Other parts of the conversation here convey the belief that one reason churches are unengaged in church planting is that they view NAMB as fulfilling that role. Perhaps. But do you or anyone think that if NAMB disappeared that churches would instantly recover discarded responsibilities?

            I don’t. We would invent some cooperative body to help us pool our resources and create a comprehensive strategy for church planting. Associations wouldn’t work – too local and too many led by near retirement ex-pastors. State conventions have a record of church planting already. It is not stellar, nor do any devote considerable resources to the task.

            Thus, we would reinvent NAMB.

          • says


            If you agree that these responsibilities are for the church and not an entity – then why would we continue to sluff it off to an entity?

            I’m not sure the kind if overhaul needed can be done without dismantling. The beauracracy is entrenched and immovable.

            IMO, there’s two reasons we need to change NAMB.

            Biblicaly we’ve gotten the responsibility and authority wrong (its the church, not the entity that God ordained to carry the gospel to all nations)….and pragmatically NAMB is duplicative and wasteful.

          • Adam Blosser says


            Tarheel has another name as well that he would like for you to use when you address him. His full name is Bryan David Cline. He would like for you to make sure you pronounce “Bryan” as “Brine” so it rhymes with “Cline.”

          • volfan007 says

            Brine Cline…..I like that…..okay, everybody…from now on, let’s call David “Brine Cline.”

            David :)

  16. Jess says

    I’m not as optimistic as some here on Voices. Every where I go I hear complaints such as, Why don’t we evangelize our own nation first? When we get evangelized first then we can reach out to other nations. At one time in our nation I think we were evangelized, but not any more. All we have to do is look around us and see our country needs God.

    Homosexuality, gay marriage, adultery, fornication, alcohol, drugs, and etc. is a common practice in our nation, and growing leaps and bounds.
    Look at what happened to Germany under Hitler, He spread to fast, to far, to thin, and as a result lost his own nation. Look at the Roman Empire, it was spread to fast, to far, to thin, and was defeated.

    All I hear about here on Voices and in the churches is that there are two types of people , lost sinners and saved sinners, with this type of doctrine no wonder we lost our own nation for Christ. When someone is saved they should want to follow Christ and not practice sinning. Yes, we all sin, but the Holy Spirit convicts us to the point we are ashamed of that sin and we repent. If we call ourselves just a bunch of sinners, how is the rest of the world suppose to look at us?

    Cooking from scratch is better than store bought food any day. I hope some of the higher up’s read what I have written. Sometimes we may have to start from scratch.

    I’m convinced our churches are not evangelizing this nation. One has to be in love with Jesus before this can happen.

    • says

      “All have sinned” is linear in action. we cannot take that out of Scripture. I still sin. Not proud of it…. Get convicted and repent… But I still sin. I am a saved sinner. My sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. Even those I will commit tomorrow.

      • says

        I on’t think the world condemns us for our sin. I think they condemn us for our holier than thou, morally superior attitude, especially when they see that we ain’t.

      • Jess says

        D.L. Payton,

        You are right, Sir. Did you notice the ed on the end of sin, meaning past tense. I think you need to study exactly what repent means, also a few other words like convict, new creature, and Saint. You need to look into 1John, and James. Let no man deceive you he that sinneth is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning. In James, I will show you my faith by my works.

        No matter how hard you try, you cannot get away from the Scripture, and blame your sin on Scripture. God will not allow me to do that, and I don’t believe he allows you to either. Eph. 2:10, Eph. 5:1-6.

        There are some who teaches a very heretic doctrine, instead of teaching righteousness they are teaching sin, another words it’s ok to sin as long as one is saved, Sorry, that doctrine is not in the Bible, but yet many are on board with it. Also look up good works, and find what that means.

        • Jess says

          D,L, Payton,

          Yes, the world condemns us for our sin. Ask any lost person how a Christian suppose to live. A morally superior attitude is sin and needs repented of. I wonder if Jesus had a morally superior attitude when he whipped the money changers out of the temple.

        • says

          I have studied extensively for 50 plus year these scriptures and i stand by my statement. I am correct in what I said. No amount of proof texting will change that.

        • says

          You make two major mistakes (1) You set up straw men and knock them down by saying things no one is saying, an old and worn out ploy. (2) If one follows your line of thinking to is logical conclusion, one get dangerously close to perfectionism.

          No, Jesus did not have a superior attitude when he drove out the money changers. Nor did he when he forgave the women taken in adultery or when he gave Peter three equal times to affirm him for the three time he denied Him. (Good grief, now you got me proof texting) :-)

          • Jess says

            D. L. Payton,

            Sir, your linear action as opposed to punctiliar action is where you went wrong, no doubt. Sometimes we have back up and let God talk to us and not man.

          • says

            No my brother, I am right. God HAS spoken in His holy inerrant word; “i have sinned, am sinning, will sin”. Don’t preach truth out of the Scripture because it does not conform to your predetermined theology. You must, my brother, always “EXegte, not EISegte”. When you can accept that truth you will get good theology.

        • dr. james willingham says

          Jess: have you read Paul’s comment in I Tim.1:15, where he speaks of Christ coming to save sinners and then adds, “Of whom I AM CHIEF.” Now that is present tense and no doubt about it. And if you want an example from Paul just look at Acts 15: where the contention was so sharp they parted asunder, contention being the word for enraged, something that Paul says agape love does not do in I Cors. 13:5, the term is not provoked or enraged at all, same word as in Acts 15. But Paul did exactly that in Acts 15.

    • Jerry Smith says

      On the subject of personal evangelizing, is it that many of us feels by placing money in the collection plate with our church using that money to support missionaries to evangelize both in country & abroad this relieves us of the responsibility of personal evangelizing thus we free to go about our work of making money & enjoying the worldly pleasures our money will buy us?

  17. Andy says

    Here’s my pessimistically hopeful outlook:

    1. I think our overall number of churches will remain similar for quite a few years, because of the balancing effect of church planting and churches closing. I think the unhealthiest churches will close, and hopefully more healthy churches will be planted, which will hopefully leave us with 45,000 stronger churches than we have presently.

    2. I think our total real church attendance number at our churches will actually INCREASE. We may not know this because of the way numbers are reported (I think states should simply ask churches to report both inactive and active members…that would be an easy way to see the reality on the ground), but I suspect it will be true. Will it increase enough to keep up with population growth…I don’t know.

    3. I think our reported membership will go down as more churches decide to clean up their roles…our church has been in this process for quite a few years, so I suspect others are as well.

    4. If I am right about the first 3, then the actual CP giving may not decline as much as some have predicted. I do think it WILL decline. But if you previously had 5 million actual church attenders giving to churches that gave 10% to the CP, and sometime in the near or far future we have 10 million actual church attenders giving to churches that give 5% to the CP (or perhaps 2-4%)…the decline will not be as great.

    It is my opinion that church planting and church revitalization are the only hope for continued CP levels…percentages are going to keep decreasing for the reasons William has put forth…I don’t see that turning around…but half the percentage from twice the pool keeps things steady…and in fact helps IMB, which is where some of that other percentage is going.

    • William Thornton says

      Maybe. But churches already report weekly worship attendance, so it’s not like the total membership number is all we have to look at. If you start seeing churches report increases in worship attendance, then we can all be optimists.

      I’d love to join you in thinking that our fewer churches will be healthier churches. There’s no evidence for that, though.

      One notices here from your thoughtful comment that the discussion is not about increase but about less decrease than we might think. I see no reason to think CP will ever increase as a percentage of church offering plate dollars. I see nothing in the way of changes happening that would motivate churches to increase their percentages, which leaves leaders with the only increase program they have ever had: “You churches just give us more money.”

      If IMB comes up with some hybrid that encourages direct giving from churches (other than the LMCO) I see this as having a good chance of working.

      • Andy says


        Thanks for the update. I did not know churches reported attendance. (You can tell I’m not that plugged in). Does anyone know what actual attendance numbers and trends look like? All I hear about is membership.

        You are right that when 5,000 churches have died, and 5,000 new one’s have been planted, there’s no guarantee they will be better…but we can hope, can’t we?

        I agree that very few churches are going to significantly increase CP percentage, and many will decrease. My own church does not give a percentage, just a set amount. It’s easier to budget.

        • says

          I totally agree that the emphasis should be on planting and revitalization.
          The emphasis on planting is superb. However I feel that the emphasis on revitalization is “flying second seat” to planting. In addition I would like to see more emphasis in our church planting training events placed on how to keep the new plants healthy.

          Generally I think your comment is spot on. Thank you for good thinking

          • Tarheel says


            Your point is well taken that planting and revitalization shoukd be a both/and and not an either/or endeavor.

            I also agree that the current “atmosphere” is more either/or focusing on planting.

          • says

            If we could get right what you have been advocating, i. e. churches planting churches, then each church can place proper emphasis where it belongs. When we follow the national training courses we can get off track by emphasizing what they say. I am not AT ALL against the national training, I am simply saying that these types of events cannot cater to all cultures throughout the nation with a one size fits all. At the local level the culture can be exegeted more carefully and completely.

          • Andy says

            I know I’m the one who brought up revitalization, so this may come out as double-speak…But I don’t know how much national or state conventions can do in terms of church revitalization. It will take the churches themselves taking responsibility for reaching their own friends & Neighbors for Christ, and for treating their fellow church members with humility, holiness, and forgiveness. It will take individual pastors leading them in that direction. It will take Seminaries that educate, empower, and empassion men to do this. I hate to say it, but if I knew of a church that needed revitalization, I would most likely not turn my state convention for help.

          • says

            I agree completely, with regards to what national and state conventions can do. I think you are here spot on. I would also add that i am not sure that is their task or that it should be relegated to them. Certainly the entities can provide resources, but each church must accept the responsibility for its own health. Somehow we got the idea that state or national people are those who know better how to do it and can tell us how. This just is not true.

            The promise re. “the gates of hell” is given to the church not a convention.

          • Tarheel says

            “The promise re. “the gates of hell” is given to the church not a convention.”

            That’s right.

            Nor an entity.

          • Tarheel says

            Andy…about churches doing it and the state and national conventions being I able to do much about revitalization is exactly right.

            I’ll keep saying it. Local church is the place for this stuff!

            Until (if ) our churches and pastors stop sluffing off what God has commanded us to do in his word – to the state, national, or associational conventions – we’re always gonna have a tail wagging the dog.

        • says

          Andy, revitalization is going to require some real outside the box thinking. I agree, the state or local agencies can’t really coordinate this, but they can be of service. The church I serve is a prime candidate. We’re inner city in a densly populated area. 1700 households and 6000 people within a mile of the church, the vast majority lost. Every ethnicity and religion you can think of. The church turned inward when the neighborhood changed about 25 years ago, but the mission field is as ripe as any I’ve ever seen. In our little neighborhood are 3 even smaller churches than us, 2 Pentacostal and one IFB. I’ve begged them for us to cooperate in reaching out to the neighborhood together but all have refused. We have an SBC mega 2 miles as the crow flies from us but our neighborhood isn’t a blip on the radar to them. Through working with our local association I have managed to build partnerships with 2 other SBC churches in different parts of town, but they are works in progress. It’s so difficult to get churches to think about working for the kingdom instead of just our own churches. We’re actually working toward an African American church adopting us as a mission field to help with workers in the field. I have a golden opportunity to be trained by a national company to teach parenting classes at our church(a huuuuuge need where we are where their mostly are no families as we would define them). It would partner with local law enforcement and the school district. We’ve had a partnership with our Sheriff’s Dept and we’re moving forward with them. They will coordinate the school districts. Problem is, it will take about 1500.00 dollars to pay for my training and neither I nor our church has it. I’ve been appealing to our state convention for some assistance, but no repsonse, and they are familiar with the program. We’re making progress step by step in our neighborhood and have become a far more outward thinking church, but with a little help, we could see God make some noise here. Meanwhile, we’re basically the only show in our little part of town, other than the Mormons and JW’s who are all over the place, and people continue to go to hell. A revitalized church here could see emense fruit.

    • says

      Andy, I like the idea of reporting active and inactive members to give us a more accurate portrayal of who we really are. Some commonly accpeted guidelines would be needed to be consistent. I also applaud your churches efforts to clean up the rolls. Is something I fell very strongly about.

  18. Jess says

    Does anyone know what the SBC is doing to help all the refugees at the border of Mexico and the U.S. I think it would be a great opportunity to do some evangelism, and fill some empty stomachs.

  19. Ron F. Hale says

    We must do a better job at “strategic-prayerful-planning” and follow through.

    Local churches are not effectively strategizing (sp?) to reach their communities. Then strategy has to be turned into purposed steps toward the future. If you do not get your money behind your mission through effective budgeting and your future “time & energy” on the calendar — then you will not have the money to do what you need to do, nor the specific times planned in advance to accomplish it.

    Local churches are drifting from one Sunday to the next. Local associations are drifting from month to the next. State Conventions are drifting from one year to the next. The SBC is drifting from one decade to the next.

    Few are taking the time to study their community, talk to key community leaders about changes and needs, talking to effective church leaders who are making an impact in their area, hosting prayer and planning times, and developing a process for change. A Track plus Action equals … Traction!

    Without a strategy it will be tragedy –we shall get smaller.

  20. dr. james willingham says

    All of it not backed with prayer will not last. I have seen so many programs, etc., over a half century. Look at what Carey, etc., did by praying for seven years before going to India. They started something that is still going on to this day.

  21. says

    Southern Baptist must ask if we will admit, not what we think will happen, but what already is. For many years we have held the title of largest Protestant denominaiton due to our total membership numbers, not our active memebership. If we count our active membership, we already are a smaller denomination than report. This is a matter of whether or not we will bear false witness.

    If we were honest about who actively follows Christ with us, then we could look forward to being a larger denomination. I pray for us to report our active membership more faithfully, and begin using a new metric such as the number of SBC members it takes to reach 1 for baptism. Both of these measures will allow us to better track growth.

  22. dr. james willingham says

    According to the Evangelist Rolfe Barnard, who at one time was W.T. Conner’s choice to succeed him in the chair of theology at SWBTS (this is what I have heard from fairly reliable sources), the next awakening/visitation will not come until everything is dead as a door nail. So that might imply that the great SBC will have long ceased to exist. While I do not go to that extent of despair, we might well be facing some tough years ahead. However, once true prayer, real prayer, prayer pleading the promises recorded in Edwards Humble Attempt, promises pleaded by Carey and others, then the visitation will surely and quickly (in a single day?) follow.