SBC demographics can go in different directions – ethnicity, internal numbers, etc.
We will focus on internal demographics. Sometimes, when we confront our past, it is not a pretty picture. We cannot be afraid of confronting the truth about our past as we take a macro view of the past. Numbers don’t tell the stories, but just objective realities. The magnitude of the numbers makes it hard.
4126 churches submitted a few statistics in 1846.
Sporadic reporting since, especially during the Civil war years.
- 1845, baptisms and total membership.
- 1968 total receipts
- 1991 total attendance.
We have to confront the brutal facts.
4 historical issues. Silent period.
What happened during the Silent Era. 1920 during 1949?
During this time, the SBC had 0 net new churches. It was actually negative. Negative 129 churches.
Data is not too specific. Was it funding? WWI? Depression? But we are often more robust in hard times. We reached people, we just didn’t start new churches.
One tidbit – 1919, “75 million campaign” Home Mission Board was one of the funding groups. Did they churches possibly give over responsibility to start churches to the national entity?
CS Carnes embezzled 600K + of HMB money.
Are we truly an evangelistic denomination?
1845 our mission board was established and we have always been a mission/evangelism board. Even with declining baptism #s, we have had a long run as an evangelistic organization. Still, the declining evangelism #s should give us pause. Per capita baptisms may be the best number to measure baptisms. Ration of members to baptisms. One person per 51 members.
It took 51 of us a year to reach 1 per for Christ. In our best year, it took 18. Sixty years ago, it took 1/3 as many people to reach someone for Christ.
1. Decline in cultural baptisms.
2. Greater economic affluence – these are inversely related. We stop evangelizing when we are more comfortable.
3. Failure to replace programmatic evangelism. It’s effectiveness waned. But we didn’t replace it with something else.
4. Busyness of churches. We are busy doing good things.
5. Busyness of church members. We passively disobey God’s commands.
6. Unbiblical concepts of church membership. “What have you done for me lately?” mOre concerned with getting our preferences met.
7. Conflict and criticism. These deplete resources.
8. Prayer deficits.
We are not reaching people because we are not trying to reach people.
Have we ever truly been a Sunday School denomination?
1891 Convention – not held at church. Contentious issue of starting a Sunday School Board. Held at an Opera House. Broadus spoke to the issue. The BSSB was voted in overwhelmingly.
Flake, known for his methods, was also big on teachers knowing doctrine, in small group involvement, and in SS outreach.
Since 1972, there has been essentially no growth over 40 years. The numerical data says we have not been a SS denomination for 4 decades.
- We develop a program.
- We declare the program salvific.
- We discard the program as outdated.
- We don’t replace the program with anything else.
We have closed our front doors and opened our back doors.
Has our increasing denominational affleence become a negative influence?
Where do we go from here?
Real issue is with Christians and local churches.
Four characteristics of Healthy Congregations
1. Strong reliance on God’s Word
2. Intentional about Evangelism.
3. Involvement in Small Groups
4. Vibrant intentionality about Prayer.
We’ve become complacent, comfortable and defensive. We need to create new models that encourage these healthy congregation characteristics.