Not really, but to hear some leaders comment on the latest Annual Church Profile report you would think so.
Baptisms are down. Membership is down. Average attendance is down.
But, the number of churches is up. Giving is up.
Calls for self-examination, prayer, more witnessing are issued.
Here is a first look, with a wrinkle or two, on the latest SBC statistics.
1. We hate to admit it but biological growth has been a major driver of our numbers. American, Protestant, Baptists aren’t much for having a lot of babies anymore. The megachurches of the 50s and 60s are tearing down their preschool and children’s buildings. My childhood church is in the process of doing just that.
2. Baptisms are less casual among our churches I sense. What many would call the excesses of the past, where many of the Baptist brethren baptized everything from near infants up to a ham sandwich has receded. While some may see this as a cheap way to excuse low baptism rates, I think it has some value. No question, though, that aren’t doing well in evangelism.
3. Statistical reporting by churches and state conventions continues to be a mess. Check the footnotes to the data tables. And don’t overlook that 9,827 congregations (about one fourth of all SBC churches) didn’t report at all and were factored in with old numbers. One wonders if things aren’t worse than the numbers show but we will not delve deeper into that.
4. The Executive Committee has done some calculations and is reporting that the most important giving metric, the percentage of undesignated church offerings given to the Cooperative Program, has declined from 5.18% to 5.16%. Chew on that. If your church is giving around 5% you are average. Give 6%, 8%, 10% or more and you are above average. The SBC president’s church gives below the average, as does every other SBC megachurch so far as I am aware. I haven’t seen the median percentage but if the average is 5.18% then perhaps half, maybe more, of our churches – mega, mid, micro, whatever – give below the average.
5. The total number of churches is up a net of 479, about 1%. NAMB is responsible for much of this, though critics still abound. The total number of SBC churches has increased each year for the past 18 years.
6. Oklahoma and Florida were the only large state conventions where baptisms increased, Florida by a respectable 4.7% and Oklahoma by 1%. No state convention baptized more than the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the less conservative of the two Texas conventions. The mice type in the Executive Committee data tables notes that some churches are affiliated with more than one state convention, so the raw numbers from the states includes some slight degree of duplication.
The macro view of the SBC world does inform us of some things but what counts for the individual SBC pastor and church is the micro view: how faithful are we being to represent Christ in the community and carry out His work?
I’m with Shamgar. It’s fine so long as we do what we can…with what we have…for the Lord (vintage Junior Hill).