On Wednesday, June 5, Baptist Press released the most recent statistics about the status of the Southern Baptist Convention. You can read that article here. I am just one Pastor of a local church but I would like to give my perspective on a few of the highlights and the report itself:
*We have 270 more churches this year than last year.
*We have 46,034 local churches in our convention, along with 4,992 “church-type missions” operating; IF these would be or should be combined, this means that we have 51,026 local churches and “church-type missions” operating.
*Baptisms were down to 314,856, which is a 5.52% decrease and the lowest since 1948.
*Membership is down to 15,872,404, which is a decrease of 0.66%
*Weekly worship attendance is down to 5,966,735, which is a decrease of 5.52%.
As I stated above, I am just one pastor, but I want to focus on these statistics and perhaps one day I may share a few thoughts on the rest of the statistics released.
Three Brief Observations About These Statistics
1. Our total number of churches is growing so be encouraged; however, it is imperative that we continue increasing the number of congregations due to the demographic reality of many aging churches and the urbanization of America.
2. Our total baptisms are down significantly so be burdened; however, this can be turned around by having more churches planted, churches being revitalized, and having a much greater commitment to evangelizing people. Yet, what is very disturbing is that this number reflects the lowest number of baptisms through Southern Baptist churches since 1948. Our status is even more severe than these baptismal numbers indicate when we consider that we have thousands more churches today than we did in 1948, as well as we have millions more Americans today in population. This is heartbreaking.
3. Our weekly worship numbers are decreasing, which is not surprising to me as people, including many leaders in our churches, are coming to church less frequently in a given one or two month period of time. Therefore, when you take this grim reality, combine it with an even more grim reality that we as a convention are not reaching lost people as we should, the result is what we have before us. Additionally, the devaluing of church membership must be addressed so people will know and own the basics of the Christian life like Dr. Thom Rainer has stated so powerfully in his newest book, “I Am A Church Member.”
Two Specific Actions To Consider
1. Personally and collectively in our churches, we must begin to call upon the Lord with desperate hearts for a fresh move of God to take place within us as leaders and in our churches as members. Additionally, our prayers need to be action-oriented, appealing to God for:
*Strategies in how to penetrate the lostness in our communities as well as strategies to equip our people on how to win others to Jesus Christ.
*Strategically plan the type of Gospel invitations we give weekly, however we give it — public or private — we must have urgency and intentionality must arise in calling people to Jesus.
*Strategic actions to happen now in reaching children, junior and senior high students, and university students. Intimidation and excuse-making must cease. Local churches near university campuses must stop handing responsibility off to some para-church ministry. We must advance into this demographic of society like never before. This is our future.
I have additional thoughts relating to this whole spiritual need, but let’s not kid ourselves: we have to pray AND act. Without prayer, we will never penetrate lostness dramatically. We are desperate and in need of God. Prayer must become prioritized in our lives and churches.
2. We need to simplify our reporting system of the Annual Church Profile. Whether a church is small or large in membership, the probability of completing this report annually and accurately will be more likely if we could see it more:
*Simply, like in a one-page “reality” report
*Consistent, meaning the same questions appear annually
As a Pastor, who watches a team of gifted staff members expend much time to insure our church report is accurate and fulfilling what is requested, I always think of the church I grew up in that ran 30-40 people. Statistics are important measures and significant to progress; but more importantly, they serve as a measure of some of the things God seems to be doing in the lives of people.
Therefore, I am suggesting the development of one simple form that churches of all sizes can follow, regardless of where they are located, so that we may not only obtain more information but more accurate information. If we could create a simple, consistent, and systematic means of obtaining information, we might find more churches able to report what God is doing annually.
Please understand, these suggestions may have a limited positive affect on the dismal baptism numbers and a few other issues highlighted in last week’s report. Yet, as one pastor only with no influence in the process, I just wish it could be addressed in some way.
Be encouraged, God is moving in many of our churches, from the smallest to the largest. We are seeing pockets of His power being unleashed and experienced. We just need it happening in all of our churches. And I believe we want to see it happen.
Do Not Make This Mistake
This reality report that was released last week is not a convention problem so be careful of blaming “the system” or asking “what our state conventions” should do better or what the “Southern Baptist Convention” should do better. Please get this: The Southern Baptist Convention is simply compiling and releasing what our churches are telling them happened throughout the last year. Pastors, church leaders, and all church members, we must own it!
This is our problem, no one else’s! We need to pray for one another and help one another become more effective.
I can promise you this about our associations, our state conventions, and our Southern Baptist Convention: the desire, passion, and goal is to assist our churches to be more effective in reaching our communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why these entities do what they do. Sure, they have to evaluate, even as we evaluate, but this one is on us. May we see the next great move of God in our lives and in our churches.
The Southern Baptist Convention Has A Strong Vision
While we do many things, everything we do should be committed to presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. I have been thinking about the vision God is now creating through the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe this vision is so strong and becoming more clear all the time, that it appeals to all generations — from the youngest to the oldest. In other words, it is a cross-generational vision that is emerging through what we are doing. What is it?
1. Theologically conservative, committed to biblical fidelity.
2. Reaching the unreached peoples internationally.
3. Strategically planting Gospel churches nationally.
4. Extending compassion through hunger and disaster relief ministries dynamically.
Listen friends, you present these four things to any age leader or any evangelical church, telling them about what God is doing and everything else we are doing that I did not mention, and they will see this vision as being compelling, concise, and clear. Lord, fall upon our 2013 meeting this week.
Yours For The Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Pastors, there are many benefits of taking a few days away from your ministry. In my younger years, I wondered if I could afford to be away. But the longer I am in the ministry, the more I know that my body, my family, and my church need me to take a few days away from the ministry. It is profitable for all parties.
When we first started out in ministry, our time away from the church was mainly spent with our families. It seemed like when we arrived at Jeana’s family home, six hours away, or at my parents’ home, 11 hours away, we were on a retreat. Our families played with and cared for our boys while we rested and slept. It was not about where we went, but being away was always profitable.
Since today’s blog is directed towards pastors and church leaders, let me share a few of the benefits I have found in taking time away:
Benefit #1: Diversion relaxes the mind
Regardless of where you may go to be away from your ministry — it is a diversion. This diversion relaxes the mind. Stepping away from the daily grind is very beneficial for the mind. Even though technology can keep us connected, and even if you enter into a time of some decision-making, you are still removed from your normal ministry routine.
Benefit #2: Learning refreshes the spirit
When I am away in a friendly, relaxing place I choose to learn. I am able to read books I’ve wanted to read, rather than books I must read. I am able to take some more time for running and exercise, which provides me opportunities to listen to pastors and teachers who mentor me through their podcast ministry. Earlier this week, I wrote a blog about, “Four Books I Read While Away For A Few Days.” I encourage you to read that post to see what I did and read during that time.
Now, when it is just Jeana and I away for a while, learning can occur much easier than if we take a week away with our children and grandchildren. That time away is much more engaging, but again, beneficial as a diversion. The season of your life definitely determines the benefits of being away.
Benefit #3: Changing pace rests the body
Time away from the ministry always should result in a change of pace. Your schedule should not remain the same; in fact, you need to insure it changes some. When we go away, decision-making is lessoned. Quite honestly, here is what will comprise a day while Jeana and I are away. These things you can count on:
*We always begin our day with God — while at home this is usually very early most days. When we are away, we sleep later.
*We exercise nearly every day while away — we both do this, using the time to learn, grow, and be mentored by someone through listening to a podcast of some kind.
*We will spend our days together — this may be at the beach, or shopping, or every now and then we take in a movie.
*We will eat — this is usually our biggest decision of the day in our time away. We will usually go to an early dinner and we greatly enjoy this time together.
*We will usually drive around, taking in the environment — this is refreshing to both of us, but especially for me.
When your daily pace is changed, your body is more likely to become rested. In the few days away we just had together, I came back rested.
In closing Pastor . . .
Take time away. There is nothing noble or spiritual about refusing to go away. Yes, through the years, I have had to force myself to do so. There have been times when I’ve left the office feeling fearful of what may happen while I would be away. There have also been occasions that while I was away my time was jeopardized by problems at the church. Just recently, my biggest issue was that I felt the “treadmill of life” that I had been on for several months was running so fast I was not sure I could get off of it.
So Pastor, there will always be reasons to not be away from the ministry. But let me be completely honest with you. There are three major reasons you need to be away:
*YOU need it
*YOUR family needs it
*YOUR church needs it
Therefore, take the time. Let God use it in your life.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd