Thursday, May 04, 2006

Decrease in ACP statistics


Recently Baptist Press reported the decrease in baptisms in 2005 based on the latest statistics from the Annual Church Profiles that Southern Baptist churches are encouraged to report. The Florida Baptist Witness gave a similar report on churches within our state. Anyone who knows how to read between the lines and who understands "Baptistspeak" could have seen this coming.

When a story was published a couple of weeks ago acknowledging that at the halfway point of the "Everyone Can" challenge our baptism count was considerably less than projections, Baptist Press gave SBC President Bobby Welch's take on the numbers. Welch initiated the challenge to baptize one million people in a 12 month period. The BP article, entitled, "'Everyone Can' gaining momentum as annual meeting draws near," said this:


"At the midpoint of the Everyone Can challenge, Welch said he is seeing results that cannot be measured in numbers."


That's Baptistspeak for "We ain't nowhere near 500,000 baptisms at the halfway point."

I do not want to be misunderstood on this. My comments are not made with glee nor are they designed to ridicule. I want to see people genuinely converted to Jesus Christ. It is obvious that President Welch does, too. I would be ecstatic if we saw a million new disciples baptized into our churches in 12 months. However, I have a very low level of confidence that even half of those that Southern Baptists baptize are genuinely converted.

No doubt this sounds harsh and perhaps even arrogant and judgmental. Why would I make such a sweeping statement about people and churches that I do not know personally. Well, it is actually pretty easy to understand. My lack of confidence is based on simple statistical analysis. Look at the members that we have on our rolls now. Considerably less than half of them show any consistent signs of being born of God's Spirit. This has been repeatedly pointed out and documented.

If the current fruit of our evangelism is this ineffective then what reason do we have to expect that the future fruit will be any different? I once had an orange tree that produced hundreds of blossoms each summer. In June that tree looked like it was going to produce a bumper crop. But in October, we rarely had more than 5-10 oranges. That was its pattern. After a few years, I came to expect it. Since I never tried to treat the problem at its root by addressing the nutrient deficiencies that the tree suffered, the pattern continued year after year. It was predictable.

Sadly, so is modern Southern Baptist evangelism. Which brings me back to the reported drop in baptisms last year. I don't evaluate that as negatively as some--perhaps most--do. Again, don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that winning fewer people to Jesus Christ is a good thing! My evaluation of the report takes into consideration the pernicious pattern of shallow evangelism that characterizes recent Southern Baptist practice. In light of this, I think it may have been a greater tragedy if we actually reached the "million more" goal. Had it happened, I fear that the self-congratulatory triumphalism that characterizes much of SBC life would have been unleashed and the soul-destroying problems that plague much of our evangelism would have even less of an opportunity to be honestly faced. At least, with these disappointing statistics, those who watch such things find it necessary to be alarmed. I pray that their concern will lead to a more rigorous and fundamental evaluation of SBC evangelism than has been typically given over the last generation. If what we are doing produces a 60% failure rate, then simply doing more of the same with greater commitment and fanfare is no solution.

I don't know why Southern Baptists saw a decrease in our reported baptisms last year. I do know that there is a growing number of churches that simply refuse to report all their statistics. I pastor one of them. We did not report the number of people we baptized last year and we will refuse to do so again this year and every year hence until the powers that be lead us to admit that our reported membership statistics are a sham.

Southern Baptist baptism statistics have been used both to boast and belittle. But, as I have demonstrated on this blog in months past (repeatedly), when one looks beyond the surface, often--very often--the grounds of boasting are revealed to be better suited for weeping and fear.

So, count me out of the statistical smoke and mirrors act that is annually performed by the Annual Church Profile. Maybe if enough churches simply refuse to report, then this issue will receive the kind of serious, thoughtful attention that it deserves. Then, by the grace of God, we may well be forced into the honest admission that something is wrong; terribly wrong. And perhaps we will come to see and believe that our only hope is in the divine forgiveness and renewal that comes through genuine repentance.

55 comments:

Pastor Kevin said...

Tom, Amen.

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

Amen, Tom (the Baptist?!)

loveforthelost said...

How tragic! I can not believe that there are actually Southern Baptists that brag about low baptism numbers. I hope you are sincere in what you said about why you don't post you ACP reports. I hope your real motive is not that you are embarassed by your lack of evangelistic fruit.

Darel said...

2 Samuel 24

Darel said...

(sorry about the double post...)
As Gill says about David's sin:

"so that this appears to be done not through any urgent necessity, but merely out of curiosity, and to gratify the pride of his heart, and please himself with the thought of ruling such a numerous people, and brag of their numbers to other nations, and place his confidence therein; and no wonder it was displeasing to the Lord."

Jason E. Robertson said...

Tom, when you get time can you expand on your comment about the effect it would have if enough SBC churches did not report?

When I was at NOBTS they seemed to brag on there department of church statistics more than anything else. I can't tell you how many times a man came into our classes and presented the personalized statistics booklet that could be prepared for any church for a fee. The temptation for many guys was to pay the fee, target the easiest demographic to reach (fastest way to "grow the church"), ignore the rest of the demographics, tailor there messages to this target group only, and develop a bad attitude towards anybody or any church that did not have the same target.

But now I could just imagine the experts with their staff and salaries and computer networks... but no reports! Some professors would have nothing to teach. Convention campaigners would have no platform. Would there be a panic? Would there be humility? Would it be viewed politically or theologically? Would there be budget changes? Would Lifeway be effected?

My mind is running here...
thanks for the post, Tom.

loveforthelost said...

I would like to see how you can stretch 2 Samuel 24 to apply to ACP reporting. I wonder if 2 Samuel 24 applies to Acts 2:41. Luke may be in trouble!

loveforthelost said...

Last time I checked, the ACP baptism count was cause for remorse not for boasting. Is it wrong for us to want to know how much money was given to CP?

loveforthelost said...

As I read this entry, I had a hard time detecting if you would say ACP reporting is bad in and of itself -or- what you perceive the SBC leadership's motives are in using these profiles. Clarity would be appreciated.

Darel said...

It's about attitude.

(And for the record, 1) "about 3000" doesn't sound like an actual count was made... and 2) What does keeping track of the money being donated have to do with counting baptisms? )

The question is "Why are we doing this?" The question is not "is it wrong to count", but what is the motivation?

If Tom's church were to count up all its members, and brag about them to everyone and put down other churches whose numbers weren't as "good".... isn't that precisely what angered God against David?

OTOH, if Tom's church keeps its numbers to itself in order to point out the wretched state of affairs, the futility of the "million more" methodology, and promote truth and real discipleship in the churches.... would that not please God?

Scott said...

loveforthelost,

I like the blog name and agree that we need to have a passion for the lost. If you will look back at older Founders Journals or have read any of Tom's articles on this issue you will see that he and his church want to see the lost converted but they also see problems within the SBC in our evangelism efforts.
The Founders have pointed out several times that the numerical data does not "Add Up" to show that we are a healthy denomination. If the number of baptisms are real and these people have actually been converted then one must think about the following:

1. Why does the avg SBC church have to beg it's members to share the gospel?

2. Why do so many SBC church members say that they don't know how or what to say to someone about the gospel. Since this is the case then how do they know if they have been converted if they don't know the gospel or where to start sharing.( I have served at three of the largest mega churches in the SBC and I say this too much).
3. Why do churches have to do High attendance days or special event days just to get it's members to invite people to church. Why do we have to have " Dog and Pony shows to motivate Christians to share the gospel?
4. Why do we have to have programs like FAITH to make Christians comfortable to talk to someone about the gospel. Why can't Pastors just take out the Bible and show our members what the disciples said and show their methodology in presenting the gospel?
5. One church that I served at spent $ 50,000 on a High Attendance Day and $20,000 of it went to a former Miss America. We used her as a draw. You could get your picture made with her and she would sign it.( We had a real High Attendance day with our single men).
6. The rebaptisms that we have in the SBC is a concern. Why are we seeing so many?
7. Why are we loosing so many kids after highschool?
8. Why are there so many divorces in our churches?
9. Why does the avg Christian not read his Bible at least once a week?
10. Most Christians in the SBC don't pray!

WHY ARE THESE THINGS TRUE IF WE ARE CONVERTED PEOPLE?

I don't speak for Tom or anybody else but many of us are calling ourselves any others to be honest about the avg person we see come through the baptismal waters don't match WHAT THE BIBLE DESCRIBES A CHRISTIAN TO LOOK LIKE!
You also mentioned to Tom that maybe the reason he does not report their numbers is that he may be embarassed about their fruit. Again, I can't speak for him but if you will follow Tom's concern over the years about " How things are not adding up in the SBC evangelsim efforts" you will see he has been " Beating this drum for some time" and he wants to see real conversion that matches what the Bible says it ought to look like. Hope this helps and I share your concern in reaching the lost.

loveforthelost said...

Concerning the 3000 number - I guarantee that Luke did not just pull that out of the air.

I've never heard anyone in my life use the ACP counts to "put down" other churches that "weren't as good."

I think it is very dangerous to start judging people's motives. And if that is why there is such outrage gainst ACP reporting, I think we are making an issue out of nothing.

Greg B said...

Loveforthelost:
If you haven't seen people use stats to puff up themselves and put others down, you are very young indeed.
Scott, unfortunately your post is hugely correct. I spent 4 years in a nonSBC church. The difference I noticed and still do is the lack of reverence and exuberance for worship at the Sunday service in SBC churches. Worship is our chief purpose, yet so little time and effort is put into it.
Grace Alone Bros.
Greg Bailey

Hank said...

Scott

Your 10 reasons sum things up well and should be enough of a sign that things need to be dealt with, starting with evangelism techniques. If the ACP counts show a healthy, thriving New Testament type church, yet the concerns you raised are in fact true, we are left with only two choices. The ACP counts; or the Scripture.

Tom

Thanks for your work in preparing God's people to think Biblically about all areas of SBC life. Keep up the great work. It is appreciated very much.

Tom said...

Loveforthelost:
Embarrassed over lack of evangelistic fruit? As in feeling badly because other people might see my shortcomings and failures? No doubt there is some of that in me, but to the degree that it is, it is sinful. The Scripture calls it the fear of man. God already knows and all of my life and ministry is carried out before His face. That reality makes me grieve over my failures and shortcomings--in evangelism, worship, as a husband, father, pastor...and in every other area. What difference does it make what other people think?

I do not think that keeping statistical records are inherently wrong. As one who has an interest in Baptist history, I have learned much by having access to old records. What I protest is what I perceive to be a culture of deception and pride that has developed in the SBC over the last generation or two. Now it is common to hear men boast about baptisms and numbers while decrying any call for honesty and integrity in church membership. Though the ACP is not the reason for the problem, it is the chief instrument that is used to perpetuate the boasting and belittling that regularly takes place in SBC life.
You have misinterpreted me if you think I am "bragging about low baptism numbers."

Jason:

We are thinking in the same direction. Here is what I think could happen. If enough churches quit reporting their baptism and church growth statistics (we simply put "N/A" in those boxes), then the folks whose responibility it is to gather and report those numbers will recognize that their final compilations do not give an accurate picture of what is going numerically on in our churches. This is precisely what some of us have been saying for decades is the cas already through the exhaustive reporting of sham statistics. Those whose reputations hinge positive statistical growth will obviously be concerned and, perhaps for various reasons (and at this point, whatever might motivate them does not matter to me as long as they are indeed motivated) might actually investigate. If the question is asked, "Why are churches not turning in their statistics?" then I believe there will be many who will be prepared to say, "Because of the unchecked lack of integrity that permeates the whole process of assessing church membership and church growth in the SBC."
Maybe all of this is a pipe dream. Regardless, by not reporting our key statistics, the next time a denominational employee decides to "prove" some preconceived and superficial opinion by examing the ACP, his task will at least be more difficult.

deusvult2 said...

To Scott,

I totally agree with you. It's sad that preachers in SBC churches have to pray to God everyday that at least one of their members will come close to sharing the Gospel with someone else. There is also no excuse for why so many people in our churches don't know the Gospel or their faith beyond any Sunday School type answer, even adults. High attendance days, yeah, we've had them, I think more or less to gauge the tithing potential of the members, since my church is all into building and growing and raising money now...big surprise. My pastor says its just all about reaching people, but he's not big on theology or doctrine or expositing the Word. I guess he just wants to reach alot of people...and their wallets and purses. All these evangelism strategies are unnecessary, even though FAITH isn't a bad idea. And man, you hit the nail on the head with the youth. I've seen so many young teens come and go through our youth group and less than a third of them stay in our church, let alone keep going to any church. We only have a handful of people in their 20's, why are they so hard to keep in church! Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, are either under 18 or above 35, and we have a regular attendance of over 400 each week. And whether you agree with divorce or not, there shouldn't be such an escalating rate of divorces among Christians, especially us Southern Baptists, bc we can be pretty darn dogmatic and legalistic about some things and then again nobody preaches against or looks down on divorce! I'm just frustrated I guess, but I really appreciate Dr. Ascol allowing us to use this blog to communicate and get things out in the open, bc we've got to talk bout this stuff and admit it before we can change it. Thanks Tom and God bless!

Mike Woodward said...

loveforthelost,

What is the practical reason state conventions have for posting rankings of baptism numbers in the state papers? If we know we are not healthy (50% or less member attendance, very little personal evangelism among the active set), why would we take pride in being at the top of a pungent heap? If is not pride that motivates this, what is it? Please don't guess at "encouragement". That's akin to using the spiritual term "prayer request" as a means of gossip.


FWIW, I speak as a member of one of the top dog churches in my state. I don't necesarily see this attitude from my pastor, but I have seen it at conferences when a speaker is introduced.

jbuchanan said...

Tom,

I agree wholeheartedly with your concern and appreciate your stand on what you believe. I personally do not think that it is a good idea to not report our statistics to the convention. Instead, I believe that we should send them in and be a model of integrity in reporting. We should at the same time call attention to the facts that our statistics do not reveal a healthy denomintation, as some have claimed, but rather that our efforts are prodcuing more and more of the same bad fruit. Therefore I will continue to submit my statistics and as much as possible bring attention to the failing health of our beloved SBC.

Sam Hughey said...

Tom, you stated, If the current fruit of our evangelism is this ineffective then what reason do we have to expect that the future fruit will be any different, with which I whole-heartedly agree. However, it should be noted that the same who (falsely) accuse Calvinistic Southern Baptists of having either no zeal for Evangelism or being anti-Evangelistic must take notice of their own problems with forcing baptismal numbers to justify conversions (if they are even genuine conversions). I also pray these are genuine conversions but considering the statistics you mentioned, one should be aroused to serious concern with how one justifies numbers before one attempts to (falsely) accuse others merely because of a lack of numbers.

GeneMBridges said...

Loveforthelost,

I encourage you to look back at the articles on Founders about the ACP's, they are disturbing.

Our SBC President baptizes hundreds each year, while his attendance at church is less than half and continues to decline! Then he asks us to "Baptize a Million," and further, the SBC puts up his church as a model to follow.

This ought not be. In my church, we wait to baptize people until they have been properly instructed and manifest some fruit in their lives. By the time they are baptized, they know about church membership, attendance, and are able to understand our confession.

Baptists in the past, beginning sometime in the 19th century, got it into their heads that we should go back to the way they did in the Bible, and baptize professors fairly early after conversion. We forgot that, though that is the biblical model, that not all biblical models are there for us to follow. Rather, they are there to show us what not to do as well. The early church did that and wound up with false professors being baptized rather early (Simon Magus, the father of Gnosticism any one?). As a result, over time churches separated a profession of faith and baptism, likely because the rise of false teachers and to keep men from becoming deacons and elders as new converts. They began catechising the new converts and baptized them when they were more sure of their profession.

This, in our current climate, seems far more preferrable to the current way things are being done. We affirm a regenerate church membership, but we also know believer's baptism is a control, not an fool proof mechanism for weeding unbelievers out. It's rather clear, our approach has done more harm than good to our principle of a regenerate church membership, based on the membership to attendance stats in the ACP's.

In the early days of the Baptist movement, in fact, the first 2 to 3 centuries, church attendance regularly exceeded that of the membership. I am proud to say that, because of the way have organized our own church here, that is true of us on any given Sunday as well. I look out on the big SBC churches in particular, and I see the exact opposite. My last church had 900 members, 600 in Sunday School, and 300 showed on Sunday. Nobody seemed to understand why that upset me so much.

Thank the Lord for folks who are willing to say, "No more." I hope the resolution on statistical reporting passes. This is exactly why it needs to pass.

Nathan White said...

There's been a lot of talk about pride in the arena of reporting numbers, baptisms, etc., but what about the danger of pragmatism?

As we can see already, pragmatic thinking permeates the SBC to the core. How many big name preachers have you heard exclaim 'God is doing a wondeful thing here because of [these numbers]', or 'we know that our methods are successfully reaching the lost because of [these numbers]'?

Personally, I find the issue of Pride in the exclamation of numbers as an obvious defect. However, I think the pragmatic way of thinking is more dangerous, for it is much more subtle. Anytime numbers are used we are all tempted to base our obedience, our methods, and ultimately our theology on the success/failure rate instead of what God has commanded in His word.

Unfortunately, I can see where this is all heading. The powers that be will go back to the drawing board and look at what methods went wrong in reaching '500,000' instead of a million, while completely neglecting the fact that numbers mean absolutely nothing in the spiritual realm.

1 Cor 3:8 –God rewards the labor, not the results.

SDG

Darel said...

Gene,

You are making me squirm.

And I'm not yet sure if it's a good squirm or a bad one....

loveforthelost said...

For Tom:

I apologize if it sounded as if the "lack of evangelistic fruit" comment sounded mean spirited and rude. I did not mean for it to. As I read back over it, I regret how it comes across.

loveforthelost said...

Do those that are participating in this blog believe that Baptism stats should be permanently concluded?

If we don't like those that use a pastor's church's baptism numbers as a way to introduce him at conferences, does not reporting your numbers really solve the problem? If they chose to quit introducing speakers this way at our state conventions and annual convention meetings, would you start presenting your numbers again?

just a couple of questions.

Tony K. said...

Nathan, you are right about pragmatism. The subtle redefinition of ministry success to mean attendance has shipwrecked many churches. The church as an institution in America will survive – even if real Christianity completely dies out. Many churches will even look the same.

Would we be happy if we had increasing attendance, good music, growing budgets and new buildings – but without God changing lives?

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

Thank you for what you are championing here. Too many of my church members and fellow pastors see evangelism as made up of:

1. sharing the "plan of salvation" with a person from a stretch-the-scriptures-to-fit-my-acronymn brochure

2. asking the person to "repeat this prayer after me"

3. baptizing the person

4. calling the person a member

5. bragging about how many times this has happened

This is a false view of evangelism, which produces false conversion experiences and unregenerate church members. It seems to me that your view on ACP reporting is just part of your call for a genuine making of disicples.

Thank you.

Dear Scott,

I appreciate your list of concerns. I share most of them, as well.

Dear Gene,

The answer is not to disregard the New Testament model of immediate baptism. The answer lies rather in strict discipline practices after baptism.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

hashbrown said...

While affirming most everything that has been said about our conventions weaknesses.

I'm not sure I'm convinced that not turning in my ACP helps. If the problem with convention numbers is a lack of integrity, why should those with honest numbers not report them. Shouldn't they set the good example and thus further expose this flaw.

At our associational meetings, a booklet of all the "stats" are passed out. As everyone's eyes scan the pages for the most baptisms and the biggest givers, we also look for anomalies. Things that are just not normal.

A friend of mine has a church that has tried to develop a more honest roll. And guess what? It stands out! People wonder why so many of those on the roll actually come to church.

People talk about it and it does bring attention to the huge gaps in the typical SBC church. More and more conversations are being had about "the numbers" at the associational level.

I think a lot of pastors would like to clean up their rolls, it would only encourage them to see ever-increasing numbers of churches doing it. I dont'think N/A communicates that, or will start a trend that will lead to our repentance as a convention. When most people see an N/A, they assume that the church has a slacker for a church clerk.

As seminaries like Southern keep pumping out pastors who care about meaningful membership, the example will only be multiplied.

When an association has a large number of their churches reporting very different types of statistics (credible one), I think peer pressure can start working the other way. Churches will become embarrassed to have lost so many of their members.

Perhaps I am a bit naive. But I believe that the next generation of pastors will change things.

BTW, we removed 82 from the "non-resident" roll of our church last Sunday night. I do think people will notice that our membership went down at the next associational meeting. I think many pastors will be jealous because they would really like to do it too.

Scott said...

Bloggers,

Great comments and advice so far. Let me mention a few more things that I believe we need to stop in the SBC and repent of:

1. At a church where I served as Minister of Evangelism I was told to call two other churches in our state to compare where we were to them in baptisms. I will not comment further what I had to do to get the info.
2.Back in the mid to late 90's in the megachurch sceen a Youth Pastor at 100 baptism goal hanging over his head. One church that I served at it was expected that the two youth pastors had to see 100 baptisms in the Youth area or his tail would be run off.I will not comment further on this!
3. Many Pastors have been fired who faithfully preached the word and shepherded well but they were compared to a local church in town and if his baptisms didn't add up " Well you know the rest".
4. I have experienced and have had other pastors tell me that they have served at places where the Senior Pastor would calender X amount of events so they could count on x amount of baptisms . This is scary! I did this at one time as well! I baptized people that should not have been baptized as I look back.

THIS STUFF STILL GOES ON BUT I'M ENCOURAGED WITH WHAT MOHLER IS PRODUCING AT SOUTHERN" WELL ROUNDED MINISTERS"! SOME OF THE SOUTHERN BLOGGERS SEEM VERY BALANCED IN WHAT THEY TALK ABOUT. VERY ENCOURAGING !

THE MONEY THAT HAS BEEN SPENT IN THE SBC ON THE POWER TEAM, HEAVENS GATES AND HELLS FLAMES IS VERY INTERESTING. I WOULD BE WILLING "TO BET" THAT MOST OF THE CHURCHES THAT HAD THESE EVENTS HAVE KEPT HARDLY ANY. I SAY THIS BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE AND FRIENDS BUT IT SURE LOOKS GOOD ON PAPER AND IT WILL EVEN GET YOU TO BE THE SBC PRESIDENT!

MASS EVANGELISM IS NOT WRONG BUT THE QUESTION IS: IS THE GOSPEL BEING PREACHED?

WHAT IS ONE WAY TO FIX IT?

PUT A SEMINARY TEAM TOGETHER LIKE AT SOUTHERN AND HAVE PROFESSORS TEACH WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS MAKES ONE A GOOD SHEPHERD!

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

Editor, this is one of the better articles you have written in recent
days.


These are very sad times when our memberships are meaningless! And they will remain meaningless unless,and until,there is genuine spiritual revival and scriptural reformation in our churches.

I continue to pray that both will occur and that we Baptists will not
go the way of other apostate
religious denominations.

May God in His grace save us from our selfish, sinful selves!

2 Chronicles 7:14

GeneMBridges said...

The answer is not to disregard the New Testament model of immediate baptism. The answer lies rather in strict discipline practices after baptism.

I disagree. The NT testament tells us to baptize after conversion. It sets the parameters of a regenerate church membership. It includes no mandate to baptism immediately after conversion, and the examples we have do not come from local churches in their normative state, namely the Ethiopian eunuch, the Philippian jailer, and the baptism in Jerusalem.

We do find something rather interesting. In Samaria, they baptized before Peter and John arrived to give their approval and, by them, lay on hands so that the new converts might receive the Holy Spirit. Phillip had baptized Simon Magus. Simon Magus was a spurious convert, and was rejected by Peter, who told him he was still in bondage to sin and needed to repent. Simon went on, according to early church writers, to become the father of Christian Gnosticism.

So, the pattern we actually have in the NT in Acts isn't necessarily shown to be a normative pattern. The baptisms so depicted are immediate, but they are also witnessed by Apostles and for a particular reason, one that fits the narrative intent of Luke.
As such there is no model set up for Christians of every age to follow on the timing of baptism. It is up to each individual local church.

In that day and age, baptism was highly public as well and in running water. By this logic, we should remove baptistries from our churches and go back to the river. The early church in Jerusalem also "held all things common." That came back to bite them later, and the other churches had to take up an offering to support them. They immersed baptismal candidates 3 times, one for each Person of the Trinity too. In the absence of running or standing water, they were known to pour as well. This was the practice of some early Baptists too, so, if we're going to follow the model of the early church, then it would seem we should take that into account as well. Do we? No, we immerse. Only on the mission field have we been known to grant exceptions. We sacrifice mode before meaning-for admittedly pragmatic reasons.

They began to separate baptism and conversion for the reasons outlined above. The catechical process grew from a few weeks to up to 3 years. There were objections to this at first, primarily from those who believed baptism is a means of grace, the grace to stand firm against the wiles of the devil. The response was that sound teaching, not water baptism, was a more appropriate means of grace for such a thing. For those taking their views of the means of grace in communion and baptism from Zwingli and Bullinger, it seems rather odd to attach a view of baptism as a means of grace and, presumably to the Lord's Supper, which is closer to Calvin.

As Baptists we affirm a regenerate church membership, and we also teach that baptism signals entrance into the local church membership itself. As such, baptismal candidates must undergo the same process that all other new members must endure. I submit that Baptists have been far too busy, for the very reasons Tom as outline, accepting letters from each others' churches without question, so we have unregenerate members coming to us by more than just baptism, because of the lack of discipline in the churches, and because of the fact that new members are accepted prior to new member orientation and very often before their letters are received, if they are ever received at all.

The way to control this, in my experience in both a small Reformed Baptist church and in my home church, which has a membership of over 5000 members and is one of those churches that publishes high numbers, is to ensure first that those who we baptize are in fact regenerate, before we baptize them. This means that they must not only give a credible profession of faith, but they must pass through the new members orientation process, since we connect baptism to both the outward sign of membership in the New Covenant and to membership in the local church itself. For us that is at least one month to six weeks of classes, a pastoral interview and examination, followed by a vote of the membership. New members sign the covenant. Then, we baptize the unbaptized. The other alternative is to baptize as the outward sign of being regenerate and thus in the New Covenant but disconnect baptism from membership in the local church.


Loveforthelost..A pastor should simply be introduced at conferences by his name. He should be known by what he teaches or writes. If numbers are mentioned, then mention them ALL. What would happen if say, Brother Bobby was introduced at a Bailey Smith Conference like this:

This is Brother Bobby Welch. He is here to talk about the Baptize a Million Program. Brother Bobby's church has baptized x number over the past four years. Then add: ?" It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004.they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.
In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers.

Come, Brother Bobby, please deliver an encouraging word to us and tell us about your ideas for baptizing a million.

The point is rather simple: If we're going to use numbers, then let's be honest about the numbers. Maybe, just maybe, if we were more honest with them like this, we'd not abuse them the way we do.

Bart said...

The words of J. L. Reynolds, the nineteenth century pastor of Second Baptist Church in Richmond, VA, seem so appropriate these days in the SBC:

"It becomes the disciples of the Saviour to guard well the door of admission into their fraternity. Upon their fidelity, in this respect, depend its efficiency, prosperity, and safety. An accession of nominal Christians may enlarge its numbers, but cannot augment its real strength. A Church that welcomes to the privileges of Christ's house, the unconverted, under the specious pretext of increasing the number of his followers, in reality betrays the citadel to his foes. They may glory in the multitudes that flock to their expanded gates, and exult in their brightening prospects; but the joy and the triumph will be alike transient. They have mistaken a device of the enemy for the work of God. They hailed, as they thought, an angel of light; they have received Satan. I admire and love the many sincere and zealous Christians that are found in such Churches; but I fear that this Trojan horse will finally prove their ruin."

Bart

Jason E. Robertson said...

thanks for the link, Tom. We greatly appreciate you and your ministry.

Tom said...

There are some great thoughts on this thread. I appreciate the point of view of Hashman and Jbuchanan and would never try to insist that everyone should take the same stand on reporting that I have.

Bart:

Great quote by Reynolds. Could you send me the source? Thanks.

Chris Bonts said...
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Todd Wilson said...
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Todd Wilson said...

Well said, Tom. As I noted on my blog, the fact that membership is up to 16.2 million, Sunday School remains at around 8 million, representing less than half of church membership. Take into account that Sunday School membership includes infants, children, two-time visitors, etc. and that this does not reflect actual attendance shows that those serious about Bible study in those 16.2 million is quite disturbing.

Bart said...
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Bart said...

Tom,

The Reynolds work is published on reformedreader.org. Just go to Baptist & Reformed Books, J.L. Reynolds (on the left), and it will take you to his Church Polity. The quote I referenced is located in chapter six ("Members of a Church") and is found near the bottom of the page.

Thanks for all your great work.

Bart

Scott said...

Tom,

This may cause a stir but it needs to be shown and also this effects how we(SBC) view God,man,evangelism,and baptisms.Here it is:

Please notice the comments made from SBC president Bobby Welch( You can find this at www.baptistpress.com under Recent News and the title of the article is (
NAMB trustees urged to find 'clear, confident choice' for president;new missionaries,chaplains approved)

Bobby Welch " Don't mess up.On behalf of 16 million Southern Baptists in 45,000 churches,don't mess up.You've got to get this right BECAUSE THE ETERNAL DESTINY OF UNTOLD MILLIONS DEPENDS ON YOUR CHOICE.THAT'S HOW IMPORTANTYOUR SEARCH IS !

A few comments I will make:

1. That statement really sums up the theology of most Southern Baptists.
2. The statement is not scriptural and does not glorify God but exalts man.
3. It is very important who we elect and who God has ordained for SBC president. An avg Southern Baptist can say based upon that statement that Salvation rests in the right minister and decesion of the person.
4. If I was a NAMB trustee I could not sleep at night after hearing that because if I don't get the right NAMB president then some or all the elect may not be saved.
5.This is why many could not have supported Johnny Hunt because he believes this as well.
6.Bobby Welch seems to not understand that Salvation is of the Lord Jonah 2:9 and John 6:44.
7. Bobby seems to be placing something above the mandate of the local church doing evangelism.

I'M ALL FOR GETTING SOMEONE SOLID IN HIS VIEW OF GOD AND MAN BECAUSE THIS WILL HELP HIM IN HIS METHODOLOGY IN EVANGELISM. I'M ALL FOR GETTING SOMEONE WHO LOVES TO TRAIN CHRISTIANS IN EVANGELISM AS WE SEE IN SCRIPTURE( WHAT IS THE GOSPEL AND PLEAD WITH MEN TO REPENT AND BELIEVE).I'M ALL FOR GETTING SOMEONE WHO CAN DEFINE WHAT A NT CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE AND FUNCTION.


WE WONDER WHY WE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH NUMBERS AND UNREGENERATE CHURCH MEMBERSHIP ?

Chris Bonts said...
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FBCW said...

I serve in a -mega- SBC church - We have a Evangelism Conference for pastors every year. The rhetoric that goes on during the introduction of each speaker is numbing and sad. My heart breaks for the hot hearted, small church pastor whose sole purpose is to Glorify God - how he feels when these man centered accomplishment accolades are spilled out.....

This whole subject reiterates our foundation is off.. We (I speak generally) are focused on reaching people BEFORE and AHEAD of glorifying God - Therefore we will do anything... and I mean anything to reach people -

Parenthetically - this desire (reaching the lost) is a noble and just and good one.. to that there can be no doubt - the problem is .... the problem is when we substitute anything - Numbers - in front of our devotion and glorifying God it WILL NOT be blessed - He is Jealous - I fear the rocks will cry out if we do not reform our ways.

Because our #1 task is not glorifying God and it is making the numbers - We have watered down, consolidated and made easy the gospel - Shucks - we mean good - we are so theologically dumbed down that we dont have any conviction for the Lord Himself. We think we do Him honor but we are really honoring ourselves. We base everything on -making the sell-

I am guilty sometimes... I just want to glorify my Lord and leave all the numbers and all the results up to Him.

What if we preached the WHOLE counsel of God and lifted and glorified and exalted and magified the name of Jesus and see what He does with the people we are blessed with?

What if people cried out at the end of a service "What must we Do!"

deusvult2 said...
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Bart said...

deusvult2,

Why is slander of another brother in Christ appropriate? Does God approve this?

Bart

Chris Bonts said...
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hashbrown said...

What's the name of Floyd's church?
I've rumors about a fire engine baptistry, are they true?

deusvult2 said...

Bart,

Yeah, you're right, I shouldn't have said that, I'm sorry. I guess I'm just frustrated that we can't get a president nominated who isn't anti-calvinistic. I just know Gaines is not pro-calvinistic, he's of the same traditon of Adrian Rogers and I guess that's why he fits in at Bellevue, but I know God can use great men like Steve like he used Adrian, even if I don't agree with them all the time. So, I publicly apologize for that. Just because I don't prefer someone doesn't mean they aren't God called men who love Jesus as much as I do.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

From all I am reading and hearing it appears to be a time of GREAT DESPERATION regarding the future of the SBC.


Surely it is time to pray earnestly for divine direction, guidance and wisdom.


May our sovereign God give us DISCERNMENT regarding the next person to be nominated and
elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Chris Bonts said...

It is true. Ronnie Floyd's Church has a Fire Engine Baptistry and they launch confetti after kids are baptized in their children's ministry. Their entire children's ministry center was designed by a guy from Disney. A friend of mine was on staff with them and verified the rumors...The name of the church is FBC Springdale Arkansas.

Geary Burch said...

This is a revolutionary idea...you won't believe what somebody told me a few weeks ago (no, he was not a SB.) He was talking about evangelism and what he likes to do (invite them over to eat) and said the goal was to open their eyes to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and dicsiple them into...(are you ready for this) a church! Not a SB. church. Not a methodist church,(not that there is much of a differnce any more), but as long as they were in a bible-believing true church. Is that not crazy?! Not through shallow methodology and pragmatism do we try to convert people to Southern Baptism(-ism) under the guise and speech of authentic evangelism, in order that we can boast in our numbers and latest methods that work (all to the glory of the SBC I might add). What a concept...do you think I can find some acronym for this concept and use it?

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol and Everybody,

Are we really supposed to elect as SBC President someone who has a fire engine baptistry?

In my church I'm struggling with how to protect children from making a false confession and being baptized at an age too young to remember. Children are all so different, and salvation is so internal, that it's hard to know how to do the right thing in each case.

But I'm pretty sure that having a fire engine baptistry is a step in the wrong direction.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

jbuchanan said...

I would have to admit that a Fire Engine Baptistry is a bit over the top. I've only heard Dr. Floyd preach a couple of times so I cannot really say whether or not he would make a good President. I am not worried one way or the other about who becomes President. Obviously I have my preferences, but these men do not feel that at this time God would have them run for the office. What I am most concerned about is that as Baptist's we are more and more forgetting two important principles. The first, is the centrality of the local church. If true reform and revival is to occur it must begin in the local church. Second, we are forgetting that the Bible gives the primary responsibility for evangelizing and discipling children and youth to the family. The role of the church is to disciple the moms and dads so that they can then raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. But in nearly every SBC church we try to replace the God ordained method with Sunday School, AWANA, and other programs. Now there is nothing wrong with these programs if we keep in mind that we must also equip the parents. But that is not how it works. We are losing 80% of the kids that grow up in our churches but we keep doing the same things over and over again believing that someday it will all get better. Let's go back to the Bible and put the church and the family back into their Biblical roles.

hashbrown said...

Buchanon said,
We are losing 80% of the kids that grow up in our churches but we keep doing the same things over and over again believing that someday it will all get better.

BINGO!

pastor-fbc-clarendon said...

Dr. Floyd's “Fire Engine Baptistery” should automatically disqualify him as a nominee as SBC president. I was on staff there as an Associate Missions Minister for nearly three years, and I can verify these accusations are all true. The wacky, tacky baptistery sits in the front of the room in an over-the-edge “Toon Town” created by Bruce Berry from Nickelodeon studios. Dr. Floyd actually shared the gospel to Mr. Berry (who has long hair) at a meeting where Berry got on his knees and professed faith in Christ! Unbelievable! Thanks to Dr. Floyd’s reckless commitment to sharing his faith to even long haired hippies, Mr. Berry is now putting his crazy “Toon Town” ideas in churches all over the nation. I feel kids need to learn what’s really important about church: hymnals, straight backed pews, stained glass windows, and for goodness sake, regular baptisteries! Why, if we get kids thinking church is fun and baptism should be celebrated, they may all want to come, hear, and respond Dr. Floyd’s outrageous message.

By now you may have detected a small amount of sarcasm…good for you. The truth is either you wish you had the idea first (which makes you a hater) or you can’t stand to think about doing something a little different (which makes you on your way out). Get off the fire engine thing. Dr. Floyd’s testimony is in his character, his family (one son planting churches, the other serving at a Christian school), his explosive ministry (read the stats for yourself), his relevant and powerful preaching, and his unshakable faith. Why we would ever want someone like that as President of the SBC is beyond me…

pastor-fbc-clarendon said...

Not sure what happened first time...posting again...

Dr. Floyd's Fire Engine Baptistery should automatically disqualify him as a nominee as SBC president. I was on staff there as an Associate Missions Minister for nearly three years, and I can verify these accusations are all true. The wacky, tacky baptistery sits in the front of the room in an over-the-edge Toon Town created by Bruce Berry from Nickelodeon studios. Dr. Floyd actually shared the gospel to Mr. Berry (who has long hair) at a meeting where Berry got on his knees and professed faith in Christ! Unbelievable! Thanks to Dr. Floyd's reckless commitment to sharing his faith to even long haired hippies, Mr. Berry is now putting his crazy Toon Town ideas in churches all over the nation. I feel kids need to learn what's really important about church: hymnals, straight backed pews, stained glass windows, and for goodness sake, regular baptisteries! Why, if we get kids thinking church is fun and baptism should be celebrated, they may all want to come, hear, and respond Dr. Floyd's outrageous message.

By now you may have detected a small amount of sarcasm...good for you. The truth is either you wish you had the idea first (which makes you a hater) or you can't stand to think about doing something a little different (which makes you on your way out). Get off the fire engine thing. Dr. Floyd's testimony is in his character, his family (one son planting churches, the other serving at a Christian school), his explosive ministry (read the stats for yourself), his relevant and powerful preaching, and his unshakable faith. Why we would ever want someone like that as President of the SBC is beyond me...

volfan007 said...

once again, i see hyper calvinists who are more comfortable attacking those who are trying to win souls and do missions than they are in actually getting out there working to win souls. every calvinist that i know had rather read a book or write posts on blogs trying to convert people to calvinism than they are in trying to reach the lost.