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Southern Baptists see decline in baptisms, church membershipcomment (0)

June 5, 2014


Southern Baptists experienced growth in the number of churches affiliated with the convention in 2013, while other key measures declined, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.

The number of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) grew by 91 to 46,125, a 0.2 percent increase over 2012. SBC churches also reported 4,789 church-type missions in 2013, a decline of 203 from 2012. However, some state conventions no longer use the designation of church-type missions, which may have impacted the total.

While the number of SBC churches increased, reported membership of those churches declined by 136,764, down 0.9 percent to 15.7 million members. Primary worship attendance declined 2.21 percent to an average of 5.8 million Sunday worshippers.

For the second year in a row, Southern Baptists experienced a decline in baptisms, down 1.46 percent to 310,368. Reported baptisms have declined seven of the last nine years. However, the decline in 2013 is not as sharp as the previous year’s decline. In 2012 baptisms declined 5.5 percent.

Commenting on the annual summary, Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said he is thankful for an increase in the number of churches but lamented a “lack of passion for reaching people for Christ. The numbers of people in our continent are increasing dramatically while our evangelistic efforts are failing in many places and in many ways.”

Total and undesignated church receipts reported through the ACP decreased 2.7 percent and 1.4 percent respectively. Total missions expenditures reported by churches also declined by 1.5 percent in 2013. However, reported Great Commission Giving increased 4.5 percent from $744 million in 2012 to $777 million in 2013. 

While several categories of the ACP reflected a decline in 2013, totals for various categories were affected by the fact that not all state conventions asked churches for the information in a way that would allow proper year-to-year comparison.

Statistics for the national ACP are reported by individual churches to their local association and/or state convention. National totals are compiled and released after all cooperating conventions have reported. 

John Killian, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and pastor of Maytown Baptist Church, said of the ACP, “I would hope that all local congregations see the benefit of allowing the needed information to be processed so that decisions might be made concerning evangelism strategies, needs for prayer and the most effective placing of funding for ministry. Accurate information is needed so that wise decisions might be made.

“I would plead with all Alabama Baptist local church leaders to make certain that the Annual Church Profiles are filed with the local association and the state convention — not as a result of a mandate, but resulting from a happy and loving cooperation for the good of the body of Christ,” Killian said.

(BP, TAB)

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