What Will Happen to Southern Baptists?

Today is the first day of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting for 2017. We are meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. The meeting is expected to draw between 4000–5000 messengers from across the 47,000 congregation SBC. We have eight messengers from FBC Covington attending.

This is an interesting convention for a number of reasons. The issue that most concerns me is the decline in the convention. This is something that I have never seen before. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone alive who has seen anything like this among Southern Baptists. The Southern Baptist Convention, because it is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, may be a warning signal to all denominations.

In one sense, the news for Southern Baptists is good. We have seen an upsurge in the beginning of new congregations all across America. Many of these are in the 32 Send Cities (as designated by the North American Mission Board). These congregations will help reach an America that is increasingly secular and the big cities in particular which are vastly under-churched.

In another sense, the news is not good. We have recently seen a decline in church membership and we have the lowest number of baptisms since 1946. This is not good news, and it is very concerning.

Unfortunately, our tendency at bad news is to proclaim “woe is me” and wring our hands. This is obviously not a godly response.

How should we respond, and what should we do?

I have two suggestions.

First, I suggest that pastors and teachers fervently and urgently seek to equip believers to do the work of ministry. Yesterday afternoon I talked with a pastor who said “My duties in the church often keep me from knowing and spending time with losrpeople.” I think most pastors would express the same sentiment. Part of our problem has been that we expect ministers to do the work of ministry. While that sounds good, it is not a biblical perspective.

Pastors and teachers are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4: 11–13).

It is time for us to follow biblical principles.

Second, it is time for followers of Christ as a whole to do the work of ministry. While most pastors do not engage numbers of lost people, all non-pastor’s engage almost exclusively with nonbelievers. We see people who need Christ at work, at school, and in our neighborhoods.

These are people who desperately need to know the hope, joy, and peace that comes through Christ. How will they hear if you and I don’t take the gospel to them?

It’s not just Southern Baptists who are in decline in America. It’s all denominations. This will not be an easy correction, but it can be done if pastors do their work of equipping the saints to do their work of ministry to a lost world.

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  1. Kathy Talazac
    Jun 13, 2017

    Praying for Gods wisdom and blessing. And I saw that AHG has a booth there!

    • Floyd Smith
      Jun 13, 2017

      Who is AHG?

      • Waylon
        Jun 13, 2017

        American Heritage Girls is a scout-like group but from a truly Christian perspective.

    • Waylon
      Jun 13, 2017

      Yes, they do.

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About Waylon

I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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[Two Kinds of Wisdom] Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. — James 3:13 (NIV)