SBC Loses 1 million members in a decade

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SBC Loses 1 million members in a decade

Postby Sandy » Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:48 pm

http://churchleaders.com/news/305047-so ... -2016.html

Lots of concern, I see, but not much in the way of solutions, other than "more". Do more evangelism. More church planting. More missions minded.

It might be good to get Lifeway's research department to find out why churches are declining. Most of the 240,000 baptisms are children of church members, because if you look at the figures, while membership declined 78,000, weekly worship attendance declined by almost 400,000. So most of those baptized were already going to church. And a clear ten million members, two thirds of the total membership, are not attending church at all. So in just a year, nearly 10% of the people who were attending a Southern Baptist church stopped doing so. That many, in just one year.

I don't know if the SBC has the wherewithal, or the will, to look honestly at what is causing the decline. Too many SBC leaders are megachurch pastors, so looking at the effect of having an entire segment of churches ignore the Biblical narrative about how the Holy Spirit draws believers into various churches based on their gifts from I Corinthians 12 and set up a church that "attracts" believers based on what they can offer them in an inwardly focused approach, is probably out. So is any thought that there might be just as many problems with their own conservative interpretations of Biblical theology, which could be just as wrong, and just as repulsive, as the "liberal" theology they claimed is responsible for the decline of mainline Protestant denominations.

If you consider the past decade as a whole, the SBC is losing membership and attendance at a slightly faster rate than the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ, and not all that much off the mark of declines in the ELCA, PCUSA and the Disciples of Christ.
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Re: SBC Loses 1 million members in a decade

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:42 pm

Sandy wrote:
If you consider the past decade as a whole, the SBC is losing membership and attendance at a slightly faster rate than the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ, and not all that much off the mark of declines in the ELCA, PCUSA and the Disciples of Christ.


It is a cultural shift, not liberalism or conservatism.
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Re: SBC Loses 1 million members in a decade

Postby William Thornton » Tue Jul 11, 2017 4:50 pm

There's no disguising this. The SBC's statistical procedure is to carry over data from the last year or two for churches that do not report. This means there is a lag in data because after a few years these churches are no longer counted. A growing number of churches do not report, 20% and rising, I believe. It used to be that associations would hector churches for the statistical report. With less interest in the local association my guess is that marginal churches just don't bother with reporting. I know some SBC pastors whose churches are well-established who deliberately choose not to report.

There are a lot of irrelevant SBC churches which don't have much of a vision beyond showing up next Sunday. There was a slight uptick in the numbers of churches, probably a combination of planting efforts and established churches choosing to affiliate with the SBC. Many of these are dually affiliated. I have never seen a breakdown of these.
My stray thoughts on SBC stuff may be found at my blog, SBC Plodder
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Re: SBC Loses 1 million members in a decade

Postby Sandy » Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:17 pm

I do agree that this is the result of a cultural shift. Some of it is simply the movement of people to non-denominational churches. That is hard to track, because most of those congregations don't keep membership or attendance records. We track the local church membership and denominational affiliation of our student body for the CMA district that operates the school, and if you click the denominational affiliation column, more than half of our students go to a church in the "non-denominational" column. I think the figure runs close to 65%. But the church researchers are telling us that even the non-denominational evangelical churches are experiencing a decline in membership and attendance.

For Southern Baptists, the shift in the way evangelism and discipleship is being done is part of the problem, at least, from my perspective. Sunday school is fading, fewer people are involved in small groups for discipleship, and the "Wednesday Night Youth Group of Banana Splits and Balloons" has replaced Bible study and relationship building that were once the bread and butter of the baptism figures. People are leaving the church sometime after they turn 18, and since they are not raising their families there anymore, congregations are aging, and the deaths outnumber the new members and baptisms at the other end.

Southern Baptists have also allowed a blending of conservative politics with conservative theology, to the point where a lot of people can't recognize the difference, and this appears to be a major turn-off for a large percentage of the younger members of the churches. I don't know that anyone has done any research, or if anyone really wants to do any, that might discover a huge percentage of younger church members don't think like the old white folks do when it comes to social issues and even politics. I could point to dozens of former students of mine from Christian schools who don't line up with conservative politics, and who express resentment at the political influences that exist in their churches. It might change once the leadership of the denomination falls into the hands of a younger generation, if that ever happens.

I know the churches sending in their annual reports has become a problem. That's a little disconcerting in a denomination that almost worships numbers. But I know, while I was still working in an SBC environment in Houston that a lot of pastors don't want to send the statistics in, because they don't want to expose themselves to the criticism that comes when the attendance is falling, and the baptism numbers are down.
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