Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What is REALLY happening to the Southern Baptist Convention?

I just happened upon the Associated Baptist Press site and read this intriguing article about the health of the Southern Baptist Convention. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary says that "all is not well" within the SBC. Even though the Convention has experienced a conservative resurgence over the past 25 years, there are statistics that indicate the SBC is evangelistically anemic.
Baptisms have plateaued and membership is stagnant. The most baptisms are occuring at only a small percentage of SBC churches. So if there was this great conservative reformation of the SBC, why is it that we remain weak in the areas that we should be so strong in. Southern Baptists are experiencing the effects of a generation that was raised in program driven churches. This generation was never discipled and now they are the leaders of our churches and denomination. Our churches are evangelistically anemic because they are not equiped to reach out beyond the walls of their church. We must continue to teach God's heart for his people and that the great commission is an imperative command to make disciples. We have no choice in the matter. Frankly, if we are leading lives that are not involved in Great Commission work then we are living in disobedience.
Read the article for yourself...

Danny Akin warns of 'grave weakness' behind SBC's slumping evangelism
Date: 05/17/2005

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (ABP) -- "All is not well" among Southern Baptists, according to seminary president Danny Akin, who cited slumping evangelism statistics as evidence of "grave weakness" in the denomination.

The Southern Baptist Convention has "experienced a conservative resurgence, a return to our biblical roots," but not to "a full restoration," Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told a group of conservatives in North Carolina. "There is still work to be done. There is still ground to be regained."

For the SBC and North Carolina Baptists, he said, "we need to be honest; all is not well. There are many things yet to be done, there are many areas of grave weakness, there are many areas of disobedience to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Akin was one of two keynote speakers May 6 for the annual meeting of Conservative Carolina Baptists, who met on the Wake Forest campus of Southeastern, one of six Southern Baptist seminaries, which were at the heart of a 25-year political and theological turnaround in the SBC.

Akin cited a recent journal article in which seminary professor Thom Rainer said, "An honest evaluation of the data leads us to but one conclusion: The conservative resurgence has not resulted in a more evangelistic denomination."

Rainer, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, cited statistics to demonstrate the denomination is less evangelistic now than it was before the conservative reformation began in 1979. Baptism totals in the SBC have remained about the same while the number of church members has increased dramatically, Rainer noted in the seminary's Journal of Theology. The SBC has reported declines in baptisms for four straight years.

In 1950 Southern Baptists on average recorded one baptism for every 19 church members, Rainer wrote. By 2003 the ratio had more than doubled, to 43-to-1, suggesting Southern Baptist church members are less effective at evangelism.

Moreover, a relative few Southern Baptist churches account for most of the baptisms, Rainer wrote, while the majority of SBC churches are "evangelistically anemic," baptizing fewer than 12 people a year.

However, Rainer added, the statistics would be even worse without the conservative movement. He surveyed a group of churches aligned with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and found their baptism ratio was 92-to-1.

Akin cited other research by Rainer that estimated half of the members of SBC churches are "unregenerate." Churches should police "these big, fat, sassy" church membership rolls, Akin said, to prevent unsaved people from serving in positions of influence in the church.

In light of the downward evangelism trends, Akin urged North Carolina Baptists to become "rabid dogs for evangelism" and defend "the exclusivity of the gospel," which contends that salvation comes only through Jesus.

He also defended Southeastern Seminary's commitment to biblical inerrancy, noting faculty members are required to affirm three doctrinal statements that affirm that belief. "If they want to believe something else, fine, they can go teach somewhere else as well," he said.

"We have been accused of being bibliolaters," Akin said, but wrongly. "We love the Bible and honor the Bible, but we worship only the Lord Jesus Christ."

"It grieves me that even in this state there are divinity schools that take great pride in saying, 'We have no confession of faith,'" Akin added, but without naming the schools.

North Carolina is home to at least three other Baptist-supported divinity schools -- at Campbell University, Gardner-Webb University and Wake Forest University. None of the schools lists a statement of faith on its Web site. Requirements of faculty were not immediately available.

"I would challenge [North Carolina] Baptists to only support organizations that are passionate about getting the gospel to every single person," Akin said.

He said the budget plans of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which allow support for a number of moderate Baptist organizations, is "far too complex," he said. "Furthermore, we're not sending enough money to our national convention. We are not!"

"If we give more to reach the world, [laypeople] will give more to reach the state," he said. "It is a foolish strategy to think we need to hoard it and keep it here."

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