Southern Baptist Leaders Worry Over Declining Baptisms and Memberships
A new report appears to indicate that churches in the Southern Baptist Convention have almost stopped growing, and some are in fact shrinking. Baptisms in the nation's largest Protestant denomination have dipped to their lowest point in 60 years.
The Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources reports 332,321 baptisms in SBC churches last year -- 17,416 fewer than 2009, and the least since 1950.
The numbers have peaked and dipped over the years, but the general trend has been downward. The church's best year for baptisms was 1972, when there was 445,725. They've declined in eight out of the past 10 years.
Total membership of all SBC churches, currently 16.3-million, is down for the fourth year in a row, along with church attendance and Sunday school enrollment.
Baptism statistics are an important measure of the church's vitality because. Unlike Catholics and other Protestants that baptize infants -- Baptists practice "believer's baptism," in which the person who is baptized has to make a personal profession of the faith.
The Reverend Ted Traylor of Pensacola Florida says this report is heart-breaking. "It should have us on our faces, crying out for awakening… We need freshness. We need repentance. We need revival."
Lifeway Christian Resources is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and it released the survey ahead of the church's annual national meeting this week in Phoenix.