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Southern Baptist Baptisms Down
The number of Baptist baptisms has dropped the lowest in 60 years.


The new numbers are a sign that the denomination is in trouble, Baptist leaders say.

"This is not a blip," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay. "This is a trend. And the trend is one of decline."

In 2010, Southern Baptists baptized 332,321 people, or 17,416 fewer than in 2009, according to a report released by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. This marks the eighth time in 10 years that baptisms have declined and the lowest number of baptisms since the 1950s.

Stetzer pointed to two factors for the baptism decline. Southern Baptists are getting older, meaning they have fewer children who are being raised in the faith. And, Southern Baptists have lost their enthusiasm for evangelism — the practice of bringing new people into the faith, Stetzer said.

"Baptists love to talk about evangelism as long as someone else is doing it," Stetzer said.

Rainer said Baptists need to spend more time spreading the faith to nonbelievers. In the 1950s, he said, there was one baptism for every 20 Southern Baptists.

"Now, it takes 40 of our members to baptize one person," he said.

Baptist leaders also believe that attracting more minorities would help reverse the decline. About 19% of their churches are African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American or other minority congregations.

"We've got a long way to go for more ethnic diversity," Rainer said. "We are still a very white denomination."

It sounds to me as if there isn't so much interest in ethnic diversity as there is in 'who else is there that is gullible enough to buy our brand that we haven't already targeted?'.

I think they're acutely aware that the numbers of baptisms have dropped because people are either religion shopping and hopping, or 'organized religion' isn't their thing but they still believe in god, or they've completely abandoned religion and/or believing in any god altogether, and not because Baptists aren't multiplying enough anymore and indoctrinating each generation in their brand of religion.

One reverend likens the sheeple to 'customers' of religious goods and services.


"This report should break the heart of every Southern Baptist," wrote the Rev. Ted Traylor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., on his blog. "It should have us on our faces, crying out for awakening… We need freshness. We need repentance. We need revival."

"For many people, they attend church as 'customers' of religious goods and services," said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry for LifeWay, in an interview with The Huffington Post. "To thrive, we need a lot less consumers and more co-laborers -- people who are showing and sharing the love of Christ with their neighbors."

Stetzer said he believes the decline can be attributed to less interest in evangelism and an aging Southern Baptist population that is having fewer children who are joining the denomination.

Well, what with the usual fare, and now designer religions, and even non-belief, added to the menu, what do they expect?

And even though there has been a decline in baptisms, donations to missions and membership, some think part of the answer is to keep building more business offices, umm, I mean churches.

"We've been so Southern and so white for so long that the annual meetings look like a loaf of Wonder bread," Stetzer said. Black, Hispanic, Asian and other minority congregations make up 19 percent of Southern Baptist churches.

A major denominational restructuring that church leaders approved last year to funnel more funding to missions and church planting in order to gain new converts has shown mixed results, the report indicated.

While the worship attendance was down a fraction of a percent to 6.2 million in 2010, LifeWay did find an increase in the number of churches. There were 45,727 Southern Baptist churches last year, compared to 45,010 in 2009.

"I do find encouragement in the increase in the number of churches," Rainer said. "Hopefully a church-planting trend in our convention will lead to the gospel of Christ being shared with more people than ever before."
Bob of QF
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
I think that a lot of people who would have joined the denomination 50 years ago now just stay home, read their Bibles and perhaps watch some televangelist.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Catman, I think you are correct. Numerous things I have read indicate that the main stream protestant religions are losing members to more evangelical denominations or individual churches. The percentage of americans who claim they are christian has remained fairly stable for some time.

It is also my understanding that the number of people who openly declare themselves atheist has increased. I suspect that this is more to do with greater acceptance of atheists at least on the coasts and in major cities.

That Southern Baptists are losing members is not nearly as important as the total number of americans who claim they are christian.
Edited by JohnH on 06/14/2011 01:30
It has become somewhat more socially acceptable, at least in some circles, to 'come out' as an atheist. The high profiles of Dawkins and Hitchens, and in particular Dawkins' credentials and excellent public debating skills, have helped. I would like to think that there are actually more atheists, and there probably are, but part of its apparent gains are due to a higher percentage 'coming out'.

I agree that the total number of Christians is more important than a decrease in Southern Baptists, but to be fair, Hypatia wasn't making a claim concerning that. I think the decrease in the Southern Baptists has ramifications, but I wouldn't care to speculate on exactly what they are.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
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