What Has Changed?

Discuss current news and trends taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:27 pm

William Thornton wrote:There's always a mix and "moderate" is a loaded word. I dont think there is much interest in another CR which is what the militant Trads wanted. No one would say the SBC is anywhere in the neighborhood of the CBF on some high profile doctrinal issues.


Makes sense.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Sandy » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:36 pm

The steps the SBC took to address the sexual abuse crisis is as much of a movement as I've seen the convention make in one annual meeting. That's a credit to the elected leadership making sure the issue was brought to the forefront and addressed. They did as much as the polity would allow, but beyond that, with the understanding that the SBC is a denomination made up of independent, autonomous churches, they provided some real incentive and motivation for churches to follow steps to prevent further abuse and to really clean this mess up.

Up until last June, the SBC has been an oligarchy for more than three decades. A few people called all the shots, stacked the boards and committees and there was no real leadership so the denomination stagnated. All of that changed just prior to last year's convention and it appears that some real leadership has been pulled up into the vacuum. It is the SBC, which means that it is always prone to be thrown backward, and those boards and committees are still stacked with the obedient lackeys of the previous oligarchs. But they made some progress this year.

For a decade now, the SBC has joined the ranks of declining denominations, and the decline in membership is serious. More than a million church members have left the rolls of the denomination in a decade. The churches are reaching and baptizing about half of the annual total that was occurring when the resurgence first ran a candidate in 1979. There's a big disconnect in there somewhere. Denominational leadership hasn't been successful at geting a whole lot of churches to follow along for a couple of decades now. Convention attendance has fallen to record lows. Giving executive leadership in the denomination as a reward for service in the resurgence led to decades of ineffective leadership. Adrian Rogers warned against doing that, but no one had much of a backbone to say "boo" to anyone. If there are enough pastors left like J.D. Greear, and David Platt, who still care about the denomination, they might be able to stabilize it, but I don't think they're going to prevent it from going the way of the mainline denominations.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jun 16, 2019 4:31 am

One thing I see is that the baptismal strength of the SBC has always been in the smaller to moderate sized congregations (200 or less in worship). In recent years, the emphasis has been placed on the mega churches and the newer types of churches. Most of those mega congregations grow by gathering members who used to attend smaller to medium-sized churches. There has been little to no emphasis on helping the smaller, often struggling churches where much of the traditional Baptist evangelism has happened.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:48 am

Dave Roberts wrote:One thing I see is that the baptismal strength of the SBC has always been in the smaller to moderate sized congregations (200 or less in worship). In recent years, the emphasis has been placed on the mega churches and the newer types of churches. Most of those mega congregations grow by gathering members who used to attend smaller to medium-sized churches. There has been little to no emphasis on helping the smaller, often struggling churches where much of the traditional Baptist evangelism has happened.


I wouldn't argue strongly with much of this, although there have always been complaints about the SBC catering to larger churches and ignoring smaller, and I judge Dave's "little to no emphasis" conclusion as being out of touch. I've heard it for 40 years. Every large state and many associations have programs in place to help any church with revitalization. The greater problem is that many churches are happy where they are even though they are dying.

There is more mone and effort put into church planting and there should be. Some of these are relaunches. Newer churches account for a considerable percentage of all baptisms reported. The movement from smaller to larger churches is a longstanding trend. Nothing new here.

If any fellowship of churches looks like a collection of larger than average yet dying bunch, it is the CBF. Prove me wrong. I'd be pleased to be dissuaded from that opinion.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:13 pm

William Thornton wrote:I wouldn't argue strongly with much of this, although there have always been complaints about the SBC catering to larger churches and ignoring smaller, and I judge Dave's "little to no emphasis" conclusion as being out of touch. I've heard it for 40 years. Every large state and many associations have programs in place to help any church with revitalization. The greater problem is that many churches are happy where they are even though they are dying.

There is more mone and effort put into church planting and there should be. Some of these are relaunches. Newer churches account for a considerable percentage of all baptisms reported. The movement from smaller to larger churches is a longstanding trend. Nothing new here.

If any fellowship of churches looks like a collection of larger than average yet dying bunch, it is the CBF. Prove me wrong. I'd be pleased to be dissuaded from that opinion.


I can only speak to what I see in VA and NC where I have been a pastor. Church vitality gets a lot of lip service, but very little actual attention and almost no money. If I assume priorities are what is reflected in the state convention budgets, then I see very little money spent on smaller and moderately sized churches. At the same time, the state bodies want those churches to continue giving to the state body. In fact, messenger status at the BGAV is based now not on membership but on money contributed to the state bodies budget, not money sent through it to other bodies. Thus, several smaller churches now have no actual messengers to the state meetings. Also, I realize that there are going to be losses of churches, and some of those are needed. I rejoice in the starts and relaunches of churches. Several of the relaunches have actually been multi-site expressions of existing churches. I think the jury is out on how well that works with televised sermons from the central congregations. I hope there will be a lot more focus on the ethnic realignment of some of the congregations closing. Where I see the lack of attention is on rural, town, and small city churches. Not all of those are exactly what they seem. There is an SBC church plant in the area where I am now serving an interim. It is located halfway between two strong CBF churches and was evidently planted (by the SBCV) to try to draw from both the CBF congregations which seem to have been their target. If it succeeds, it will be at the expense of the existing churches since the area is losing population, except for senior adults who have come to an upscale retirement community of about 200 people.

I would not disagree with some of your characterization of certain CBF churches. I can show you some exceptions with very vital ministries and continuing outreach, but there are certainly those that fall under your caricature of all of us. There are success stories, but there are also churches that will likely close in the next twenty years, so it's hard to predict what is the outcome. In doing interim work, I am trying hard to reverse some church paths, but it's tough to get churches, regardless of theology, to shift to new models and approaches. Where I attend when I am not doing interims is one of the success stories. It's a rural crossroads church that was down to six attending some six years ago and now often has 100 in church. Our pastor is a woman who obviously didn't get Al Mohler's memo. She usually does one of two baptismal services each year in the Nottoway River with multiple candidates. In many ways, this was a relaunch with a totally different focus from the past. People now drive past other churches to reach it.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:55 pm

I appreciate your answer.

If state conventions set aside sums for "helping" small or average-sized congregations, exactly what form would the help take? I've been in enough of these sized churches to grasp that not a few of these would like a grant to complete deferred maintenance or any of a number of things to help the church just keep slogging on. NAMB is planting ethnic churches by the hundreds and many of these are relaunches of dying churches whose neighborhoods have changed. I'm not sold on the efficacy of higher level plans to hep smaller churches but assistance is available. Unlikely, though, to see it take the form of cash spread around.

A new SBC church was attempted one block from my own. It has now failed but I suspect another will be attempted. Strong SBC or CBF churches need not fear their members being syphoned off though we all live and will die in the consumer church culture.

Interesting that the BGAV has this policy to marginalize churches for low giving. Sounds like a shortsighted response to the loose program of cooperation the SBC has always used.

There's an ecclesiastical shakeout under way. As a whole, the six SBC seminaries and the two mission boards are very strong and stable. I suspect that the CBF is re-imagining a bleaker future. Any slight movement of the SBC to the left has consequences for the CBF, even after all these years.

You and I will not live long enough to see where all this goes, ultimately, but it's interesting to see it unfold.

And as an aside (and I'm far from being a. Expert on such things), some of the best writing I see comes from Bill Wilson.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Sandy » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:09 pm

I wonder how many church and denominational leaders, SBC and CBF, glance at the posts here. They could learn a lot from the experience.

Dave Roberts wrote: In fact, messenger status at the BGAV is based now not on membership but on money contributed to the state bodies budget, not money sent through it to other bodies. Thus, several smaller churches now have no actual messengers to the state meetings.


That seems counterproductive. I started Cooperative Program education in Sunbeams before I started school. There were fewer megachurches back then, but it was a pretty standard rule of thumb that the smaller churches were the bread and butter of the whole system of the Cooperative Program. So they don't count money sent to the BGAV that goes on to the SBC?

William Thornton wrote: If any fellowship of churches looks like a collection of larger than average yet dying bunch, it is the CBF. Prove me wrong. I'd be pleased to be dissuaded from that opinion.


I wouldn't say CBF has a corner on the market of aging, dying congregations. The "church culture" that has developed in a lot of SBC congregations that worship in red brick buildings with while columns and steeples, pipe organs, pianos, choirs and hymnals is experiencing the same thing, the only real difference being which version of the BFM they claim. My wife and I were members of one of the core founding and supporting congregations of CBF for more than a decade. It was a great church with an age-graded Sunday school, plenty of volunteers, Wednesday night supper, choir practice and prayer meeting, and graded choir program. We had a massive pipe organ with an antiphonal rack above the balcony, a full, four-part harmony choir that could do a rendition of Handel's Messiah that had the composer sitting up in his grave to listen. The preaching was among the best I've ever heard, one of the highlights of membership there. The decline in attendance began because the neighborhood around the church began to deteriorate in the late 1970's, but then it made a turnaround with new development in the late 80's and was booming with multi-family housing, Gen Xers and Millenials and all kinds of trendy retail. Their response to try and reach this booming neighborhood was to tweak their existing programs and go on cable with their worship. There are a lot of mid-sized SBC congregations who are stuck in that same rut.
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