I promise not to make a habit of this, but after giving in to curiosity about another prominent church in the SBC I looked up their statistics for the last 4 years based on the Annual Church Profile (ACP). What I found was a situation that appears to be far more serious than I imagined. I present these figures as further indication that church life in the SBC is desperately lacking. If churches do not return to meaningful membership and biblical church discipline, then there is little hope that some congregations will resemble anything close to a church in the next 20 years.
Again, this is from the ACP of a prominent Southern Baptist church in the south. The pastor has been a prominent leader in the SBC and a man who, in many ways, deserves respect and honor for his life and testimony. Yet, look at what I found:
21555 resident members
683 other additions
9035 primary worship attendance
21686 resident members
720 other additions
9186 primary worship attendance
21987 resident members
652 other additions
8828 primary worship attendance
22189 resident members
667 other additions
9168 primary worship attendance
In 4 years, according to the ACP, this church baptized 3331 people and had 2720 other additions. This means that 6051 people joined the church from 2001-2004. Yet, the primary worship attendance in 2001 was 9035 and in 2004 was 9168 or a total increase of 133. The resident membership increased from 21555 in 2001 to 22189 in 2004, a total of 634.
Once again I want to go on record acknowledging that statistics do not tell the whole and maybe not even the most important story about a church. But since our denomination is so captivated by them, these are worth considering.
Is this the kind of evangelism that we want to propogate in the SBC? The kind that has to baptize 5 people to increase a church's membership by 1 resident member 4 years later (3331:634). Or that has to baptize 25 people to gain 1 new worshiper 4 years later (331:133)?
Is this the model that we want to hold up as a pattern for other churches?
I realize that there may be all kinds of extenuating circumstances that help put these statistics in a different light, but my fear is that these kinds of percentages are not at all uncommon in typical SBC churches.
The need to address these issues is patently clear. The good response to the resolution idea may be a good start. Southern Baptists simply must be encouraged to face up to the realities behind our sham statistics. Souls are at stake. Real evangelism is at stake. The gospel is at stake. The manifested glory of God is at stake.