Southern Baptists See Biggest Drop in 100 Years

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As baptisms and membership continue to decline, top SBC leader challenges the annual report process.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) lost 2 percent of its membership last year—the largest drop in more than a century, according to its annual report.

Certain state conventions did report increases in baptisms and church growth, including in places outside the SBC’s Bible Belt strongholds. But overall, the denomination’s Annual Church Profile—released today by LifeWay Christian Resources and capturing 2019 statistics—shows a trajectory of serious decline and a sharp challenge for leaders concerned about evangelism and retention.

“We have much work to do as Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission in our time,” tweeted Adam Greenway, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president, in response to the report.

The loss of 288,000 church members last year brings total SBC membership to 14.5 million, down from its peak of 16.3 million in 2003. Average worship attendance remained relatively stable at 5.2 million.

Total baptisms, a landmark metric for the denomination, fell by 4 percent to 235,748—the lowest number since World War II. Giving was down slightly to $11.6 billion, after two years of increases. SBC churches spent $1.1 billion on missions.

“These numbers are not able to tell the story of all the evangelistic efforts that many individuals and churches have put in this past year. They do indicate, however, that the efforts of the same number of people in a congregation on average are seeing fewer people come to Christ and being baptized,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“The Southern Baptist Convention is not immune to the increasing secularization among Americans that is seen in more of our children and our neighbors …

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