What can be done to stop the decline of the Southern Baptist Convention? That is the question raised in this post from the Tennessean.com. I’ve read some good points on a few other blogs, but wanted to offer a few observations here.
The Conservative Resurgence was God’s work, even if it was accomplished by less than perfect leaders. Even if the results haven’t been all we hoped. When people turn back to God’s Word it is his work. Have we gone far enough? Maybe not. Giving verbal agreement to inerrancy is a good start, but we also need to look to the Bible as sufficient for our faith & practice. From my experience that is not the reality in most SBC churches.
“The power of demographics” should be appreciated, but if our churches truly preach the Gospel their is a stronger power at work. (Consider Romans 1:16)
The claim that the SBC has “placed controls on local churches” is confusing. If the sociologist means the denomination pressures and influence churches then he might have a point. It seems that actual controls would be more of an issue for church planters.
Ed Stetzer calls for “a grass-roots evangelism revival” in the churches. While that is true, it’s a little like saying sick people need to get better. What is the real problem, what really keeps regular Southern Baptists from spreading the Gospel? If we lack skills and information, then a denominational training program might help. But what if the problem is spiritual? Maybe we really do hate our neighbors. Maybe we really don’t believe in Jesus like we claim. “Innovative practices” can’t overcome these problems – if we don’t love God & neighbor then someone needs to come and give us the gospel!
The whole baptism to membership ratios are nonsense. Why do I say that? Everyone knows Southern Baptists do not practice church membership, they mainly keep a lists of people who historically claimed membership. The number of members has no correlation with church attendance or baptisms. Run it through your statistics programs – these reported numbers do not mean anything. Plus, baptism is practiced with little consistency. Teens get baptized when the re-dedicate, even when they were baptized in kindergarten. Not to mention the cross-denominational baptisms. It’s all tied back to recovering the practice of regenerate church membership. (Which would cut us down from 16 million to around 5 million members!)