It is my growing conviction that the Baptist churches in America are behind the age in missionary spirit. They now and then make a spasmodic effort to throw off a nightmare debt of some years' accumulation, and then sink back into unconscious repose. Adoniram Judson link
Thank you all for your kind wishes during my recent serious setback due to my fairly new diagnosis. All of the meds, injections, etc. are finally taking hold and I am starting to feel better and less tired. Hopefully, over the next week, I will get caught up on the blog revamp.
Two conversations with Reformed SBC church planters who seem reluctant to call themselves Reformed SBCers. Why?
1. This week, while waiting in an office for some lab tests, I bumped into the pleasant wife of a young pastor. She told me about a new church they had started. Since i knew that her husband had trained at a Reformed Baptist seminary, I reckoned that their church as most likely an SBC plant. So, being direct, I asked " Is the church a member of the SBC?"
She looked like a deer caught in the headlights. She found it difficult to answer me. "Well, it really isn't like a Baptist church." "Um, it serves the community." "We want young people." "OK, I guess it is a member of the SBC."
She seemed embarrassed by the question. Why?
2. A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with another young pastor who was involved in another church plant nearby. It had one of those goofy names like Resuscitate. So, I asked him whether his church was a member of the SBC. He did not answer my question directly. Instead, he said his church was here to serve the community, not the church. He mentioned how they would stress *grace.* I looked at him and said, "So, your church is a Reformed SBC, right?" He looked shocked and not particularly pleased." How did you know," he sputtered. I told him that I study this stuff.
These two conversations alone are indicative that the SBC has a real problem when their new crop of preachers and church planters are embarrassed to admit that they are even Baptist. We even all live in Raleigh, North Carolina, not Stratford, Vermont. That is why the following article caught my eye.
Both of these conversations are well represented by Growing number of congregations changing name to shed baggage.
These South Florida churches are joining a growing number of Southern Baptist congregations around the country that are quietly moving away from their denomination's historic namesake — worried that it conjured up images of pipe organs, narrow-mindedness or stuffy, formal services.
The reality, pastors say, is that many modern Baptist churches mix their liturgy with rock bands and gourmet coffee, and sermons are more likely to be about personal growth than fire and brimstone.
While their approach to saving souls has kept up with the times, some pastors feel the name has not.
"Baptist today has as many flavors as Baskin and Robbins ice cream. It has no defined meaning, and where it does, no positive meaning," explained Bill White, Christ Journey's lead pastor. Ninety-three percent of his congregation voted to change the name.
The SBC has lost 1 million members in 10 years. Why?
On 6/9/17, Bon Allen of Baptist News Global posted Southern Baptists have lost a million members in 10 years. The simple loss of membership is concerning but it runs deeper than even that. The talking points from certain leaders whose paycheck depends on the success of the SBC might say something like "all denominations are declining due to the rise in secularism." I don't buy it,
Lack of diversity?
Why is the Assemblies of God seeing an increase in membership while the SBC is declining in membership? According to the RNS post, this is due to an increase in immigration from Africa and South America. These folks are more drawn to this AoG. Why? What do they do different? Could it be that they respect the roles that women of color have played in the growth of the church? Could it be they allow for women leaders, especially women who are from a diverse racial and ethnic background?
Take a look at this chart on the racial, ethnic makeup of the SBC.
An historical tie to racism?
Timothy Paul Jones wrote Church History: The Racist Heresy in Southern Baptist History. This is well worth the read.
The founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary were zealous defenders of biblical orthodoxy.
They were also heretics. Their heresy was racism, and this heresy ran deep within them.
…The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845
by men who held to an ideology of racial superiority and who bathed that ideology in scandalous theological argument. At times, white superiority was defended by a putrid exegesis of the Bible that claimed a “curse of Ham” as the explanation of dark skin—an argument that reflects such ignorance of Scripture and such shameful exegesis that it could only be believed by those who were looking for an argument to satisfy their prejudices.
The decline in baptisms is the most alarming detail in these statistics.
Back to the Baptist Global News article. Baptisms are now the lowest they have ever been since 1946!!!!
baptisms dropped to the lowest level in 70 years, according to statistics released in advance of the 2017 SBC annual meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix.
Baptisms, long considered a benchmark for denominational health, fell for the fifth straight year to 280,773. That’s the fewest since 253,361 in 1946.
Folks, this is important. Since the SBC practices believers' baptism, only those who are new to the faith get baptized. Since most evangelicals would say that one of their primary purposes in the faith is to go and make disciples, these numbers should be dismaying. Do Reformed Baptists overlook this statistic because God isn't calling many of the elect into the SBC?
There is a large Reformed Baptist church with a respected leader in North Carolina that is doing all it can to encourage baptisms. He announces that they will be baptizing immediately after the service from the pulpit and anyone can come forward to be baptized. Done! No problemo. Then they report *all* these baptisms that they are doing. But the SBC baptisms are still declining.
In our area, there are several Reformed Baptist churches which all participate in the game of trading members. I know dozens of people who have made the rounds of each of these large churches, staying until they get tired of the hype and move to the next church. Sadly, there is little difference between any of these churches. (These are Reformed SBC churches.)
Church membership, attendance and baptisms are declining while SBC church plants and church affiliations are increasing.
Now this should get everyone to thinking. Shouldn't church plants lead to the unchurched coming to church? Isn't that what people are sacrificing their tithe money to pay for? Shouldn't new church affiliations lead to more people coming into the SBC? From a 2016 Baptist News report:
The number of churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention grew by 479 to 47,272, a 1 percent increase over 2015. The number of Southern Baptist churches has increased the last 18 years. Southern Baptist churches also reported 4,492 church-type missions last year.
Although the number of cooperating Southern Baptist congregations grew, reported membership of those churches declined by 77,786, down 0.51 percent to 15.2 million members. Average weekly worship attendance declined 6.75 percent to 5.2 million worshippers.
In 2015, Christianity Today posted As Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear.
This past year, however, the number of SBC churches grew by 1 percent to 46,449. That’s in part due to church planting efforts, aimed at starting new churches. Southern Baptists started 985 new churches in 2014, up 5 percent from the previous year.
SBC church are infamous for leaving names on the membership rolls at churches. I know. I led a Sunday school class that listed names of people who had never attended. When I asked for the names to be deleted, the church office would not allow it. This is a Gospel Coalition SBC church.
From that CT article in 2015.
About a third of Southern Baptists show up in church each week, with attendance dropping to about 5.67 million Sunday worshipers.
From Christianity Today's Hundreds of New Churches Not Enough to Satisfy Southern Baptists.
The only measure where Southern Baptists are growing is their number of churches, adding 479 churches last year for a total of more than 47,000. But leaders are concerned that they have fewer people to fill those churches. Congregations reported an overall drop in Sunday service attendance (down 7%) and fewer new believers being added through baptism (down 5%).
Even Greg Laurie is coming to the SBC but it won't help.
On 6/13/17, Christianity Today posted Greg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention. Read this announcement carefully. Note the statement "the SBC just gained one of the biggest evangelists and megachurch pastors, as if this is a sign of success. It isn't. That is the problem the SBC has yet to address. It isn't about glitz and megastars, it is about simple faith which is getting loss in the morass of programming.
Following another year of declining membership and baptism, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) just gained one of the biggest evangelists and megachurch pastors in the country: Greg Laurie.
The day after Laurie’s annual Harvest America crusade, he announced that his church would be joining the SBC, which was also holding its annual convention in Phoenix.
Laurie is among the best-known leaders of the Calvary Chapel movement, and the one-time heir apparent to its late founder Chuck Smith. Though his 15,000-member Harvest Christian Fellowship in California will remain affiliated with the 1,000-plus church network even after moving into the SBC, the move makes Laurie’s shift toward mainstream evangelicalism official.
The SBC is shrinking faster than the Methodists.
On 6/9/17, Christianity Today posted Hundreds of New Churches Not Enough to Satisfy Southern Baptists.
For years, evangelicals watched their fellow Protestants in mainline denominations undergo widespread and much-talked-about decline, while hoping their more conservative theology would sustain them. Yet, as Ed Stetzer noted a year ago, “Southern Baptists are shrinking faster than United Methodists.”
Where I think the SBC is off track.
Women of color have historically been the backbone of the African American church yet are sidelined in today's SBC.
Why is does the Assemblies of God churches attract more women of racial and ethnic diversity? Unfortunately, with the rise of strict complementarianism within the SBC, leadership roles for women have diminished. Did you know the LifeWay would not sell a magazine which featured African American women preachers? In Report: LifeWay Pulls Magazine Featuring Women Preachers? Why would you want to bring a woman of color to such an organization?
Pastor Tamara Bennett of Pentecost Fellowship Ministries in Sacramento, Calif., said in the Church of God in Christ where she grew up there were no women pastors, but when she was in her early 30s "the power of the Holy Ghost knocked me to my knees."
"I'm just doing what God told me to do," she said.
Hairston told the Atlanta newspaper she was "pretty shocked" to learn the magazine had been pulled. "We weren't trying to pick a fight," she said. "We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches."
LifeWay spokesman Turner did not respond to an e-mail request for comment from EthicsDaily.com in time for this story, but the 2008 SBC Annual said LifeWay stores distribute products "consistent with the Christian values and doctrines set forth in the Bible using the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a doctrinal standard."
As I see women of color assuming positions of influence in the culture in law enforcement, medicine, business, etc; I see a push by many of the Reformed segments in the SBC to emphasize masculine Christianity and male faces, which, unfortunately are mostly white. To women who held the African American church together during those horrendous days of slavery and Jim Crow, the apparent sidelining of the role of the women in the church can be perceived as a kick in the face.
Sadly, there are women in the church who go along with this. For example, there are supposed *strong women* who do not think women should be allowed to read the Bible out loud in church? Seriously? And they wonder why strong women of color don't buy their "I'm not racist" statements.
The rise of authoritarian culture in the church through the Calvinista revolution.
Over a decade has passed since the Young Restless and Reformed crowd has grasped the church by it's proverbial neck. Along with this movement has come abusive church discipline, church covenants, gender rules, silly discussion about whether women can be police officers, etc. It is embarrassing that a book like Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is promoted by many churches in the SBC. Have any of you read it?
Deb just wrote a post Young Restless & Reformed Superstars – Where Are They Now? Could it be that the so called revolution is causing concern amongst the rank and file? As stories like the Sovereign Grace child sex abuse scandal, The Village Church's infamous abuse of Karen Hinckley, churches which won't let people resign, etc. increase, I bet another seat or two becomes vacant.
Yes, yes, I know that the gospel™ dudebros know they are right but the question is "Do they know what they are doing and the impact that it is having?" Do churches like Capitol Hill Baptist Church ever wonder why the church that Mark Dever pastored before CHBC no longer exists? Do they ever check to see why their church plants are failing or dying? Do they wonder why people aren't coming back?
A couple of years ago, a young man came to our blog, asking for help because his Calvinista SBC church plant In the Boston area was threatening to discipline him. Now, this church probably had about 25 members after a couple of years. Our friend disagreed with the new *vision* of the church and decided to leave. However, they decided to discipline him. TWW applied some pressure and the church backed off. Our friend no longer attends any church in the SBC and I don't blame him.
I, too, am one of those 1 million people who left the SBC. I found a home in a liturgical church and am growing in my faith as I experience the love of the pastors, something lacking in my former SBC church whose pastors always told us that they were soooo overworked.
There are no coffee bars, incredible bands, and hipster presentation that will cause the SBC to grow. It will need to dig deeper and get very, very uncomfortable in order to deal with the difficult problems that face the convention. I am not sure they are ready to do so. When pushing the doctrines of grace, hardball church membership, protectionism of churches which covering up child sex abuse, domestic violence and abusive church discipline takes priority over faith and love, the SBC will continue to decline.
Let me leave you with another one of John Piper's strange tweets. I'm sure it will bring them back to church in droves.