Baptists Chasing Methodists

Baptists Chasing Methodists June 25, 2012

From Christian Post:

Membership in the Southern Baptist Convention dropped again over the last year, according to a new report. The largest Protestant denomination in the country now counts less than 16 million members.

This marks the fifth straight year the SBC has lost members. Primary worship attendance has also dropped by 0.65 percent to around 6.16 million.

One Southern Baptist and researcher lamented that the denomination is not only experiencing decline but an acceleration of decline.

Compared to a 0.15 percent drop from 2009 to 2010, membership fell by 0.98 percent from 2010 to 2011.

“Based on the trend of annual percent change in SBC total membership, we are catching up with the Methodists, and will match their decline rate consistently by 2018,” said Ed Stetzer, president ofLifeWay Research, in his blog. “This trend points to a future of more and faster decline — and it is a 60-year trend.”

The Annual Church Profile, compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources, was released Tuesday ahead of the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Thousands of SBC messengers, or delegates, will be converging on June 19 to fellowship, discuss resolutions, and elect new leaders. Perhaps the most anticipated event of the two-day meeting will be the likely election of an African-American as president for the first time in SBC history.

After decades of continuous growth, the SBC, established in 1845, began to see its membership plateau around 2004 as baptisms were on a slow decline. The denomination reported a drop in membership for the first time in many years in 2007. At that time, some predicted the decline would continue.

After reporting its lowest number of baptisms in decades in 2010, the SBC saw an increase in baptisms in 2011.

According to the report, baptisms increased by 0.70 percent to 333,341.

Celebrating the higher number of baptisms, Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, said in a statement, “God’s Word is being proclaimed and God’s Spirit is continuing to move in the hearts of people, drawing them to repentance. This is something that should excite us as Christians who care about the Great Commission.”

The SBC also added 37 more churches and now counts 45,764 churches. Still, the increase in churches is small compared to previous years, Rainer pointed out.

Despite a little uptick in a few areas, looking at the math, Stetzer says the trend is clear and the SBC needs to “stare reality in the face and fight for our future” rather than merely manage decline like many of the other Protestant denominations.



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  • saladyears

    I’d also like to see the demographic breakdown. I would bet that the average age of an SBC member is rising as fast as the rate of membership is declining.

  • John

    I have been a member of SBC churches for over 40 years, and you can see for yourself not only the decline in members but the increased average age of the ones who stay. I saw it start in the early 80’s when the fundamentalists began taking power in the convention hierarchy and by the 90’s the moderates were run off. Lately it’s been Calvinists versus non Calcinists and while this may not lead to folks leaving, it does leave a bad taste in ones mouth. Infighting, bickering, and power grabs seem to be the norm at the convention level. I have been blessed to be in a great church fellowship with various theological beliefs, yet we can do missions, evangelism, and worship together. But I’m sure in other places people are just turned off and go looking for a more loving and grace filled fellowship.

  • Can you “chase” in a downward spiral direction?

  • If “emerging church” theorists are right about postmodernism, it is going to start having some very obvious major consequences as society shifts away from Christendom. Here we go!