The Southern Baptists just concluded their annual convention in Orlando. Attendance this year was estimated at 11,000 which sounds great until compared to the 45,000 that gathered in 1985.
It seems the Southern Baptists- like most of the rest of us- are suffering from declining numbers, graying members and conflicting philosophies.
The big push at the convention was fueled by their Great Commission Resurgence committee. One supporter of this committee’s recommendations said:
It’s time for Southern Baptists to get out on a limb, to get out of our comfort zone and trust God. … Southern Baptists have a tendency to be full of so much fear. Where is the God who brought us where we are? We’re going to make a decision whether to hold what we’ve got or to take the land. … The bottom line is, we can do it. We can do it now.
That sounds good, but not all agreed. Another who opposed the ideas presented by this committee stated:
Too much emphasis was placed on money and organization and not enough on spiritual renewal.The recommendations are about moving the chairs on the deck of the Titanic as the ship goes down into an icy, watery grave.
Sounds like they are having a bit of a struggle in casting a unified vision. I can relate to that. It is all indicative of the fluid times in which we live. Church as we know it is changing. The “old paths” may serve well those of us comfortable in them, but younger generations no longer are connecting to them. Consider this quote from the convention:
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The last two years, attendance at the SBC annual meetings has been marked by a noticeable increase in young pastors. Their presence gives the feel that the graying of the denominaton—or at least its leadership—could be reversing. However, they have given notice that they want change—more hands-on missions, more passion for reaching the lost, more missions in the places where the gospel is not welcome, and a more vigorous, youthful tone from a convention long guided by wealthy older suburban pastors.
If satisfactory change doesn’t come soon, the young bucks will move on. Many feel more comfortable in a nondenominational context, anyway. And there’s another irony. Many historically oriented observers predict the erosion of the Cooperative Program means the SBC will become a much looser, smaller collection of quasi-independent churches
I find this excerpt fascinating. I see a mirror of this attitude within my circle among the younger crowd. Loyalty to a church even if they were reared in it- is no longer a given. They will no longer just accept things because that is way it has always been done.
We can like it or not, but that is the way it is. Our church will either change, adapt and utilize this younger force for the Lord or they will go somewhere else that will.
If we are smart and visionary we will begin now to embrace this group and the changes they represent within the framework of our church body and theology. We will make a place for them at the table, listen to their hearts, focus their energy and help equip them for ministry.
If not, get ready to start seeing our churches shutter their doors.
As the Baptists now acknowledge- the times they are a-changin. If we ignore it, then we will be passed by and just be remembered as the church of yesterday.