A Pastor’s Response to the Recent Report Released This Week on Declining Baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention
A report was released on Monday, May 12, 2014, entitled, “Pastors’ Task Force on SBC Evangelistic Impact & Declining Baptisms.” If you did not see the report, I do hope you will take a moment to read it. There is also a brief video worth watching.
Acknowledgement of and Addressing the Problem
This task force has been meeting since last September, learning, listening, praying, evaluating, and strategizing with our North American Mission Board. I want to break down their acknowledgement of and how to address the problems contributing to declining baptisms.
1. Spiritual Problem Pray for Spiritual Awakening
2. Leadership Problem Model Personal Evangelism and Provide Pathways
3. Discipleship Problem Create a Disciple-Making Culture
4. Next Generation Problem Serve the Next Generation
5. Celebration Problem Celebrate Evangelism and Baptism
I want to thank all of our leaders who were involved in this study on behalf of our churches. I am most grateful for their service.
My Response to the Report
Most, if not all of these findings were somewhat expected, but they did a superb job in crystallizing our present situation for each of us to understand.
I want to share with you a few responses to these findings.
Before I give my responses, please know, as soon as I received this report, slept on it and prayed through it, I sent it to our staff Leadership Team, and requested: Go over this report this week with your teams; we will go through it in our Leadership Team meeting on Monday, plus our next entire Ministry Team meeting.
I share this with you today because I find the report helpful for us at Cross Church. We have talked through many, if not all of these at one time or another over the past six to twelve months. We are continually trying to find ways to improve in each of these areas at Cross Church.
1. Spiritual Problem: Yes, indeed we do. In a recent interview with Dr. Jason Allen of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I stated specifically: Our greatest problem is spiritual, and our only hope is spiritual awakening.
As I have now spent time praying seriously in four different gatherings with 1,500 plus pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention, I can assure you, there is a growing sense of urgency that spiritual awakening is our greatest need not only in our convention, but in America. We must prioritize a major movement of extraordinary prayer personally, in our churches, across the convention, and among evangelicals in America and the world. We need spiritual awakening!
2. Leadership Problem: Yes, again! For months, I have been talking to our team about how God is burdening me greatly in the area of personal evangelism and how we must be much more intentional in sharing our faith with the goal of asking people to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
I am very excited about an upcoming strategy that will be released soon by the North American Mission Board. It will provide a tool to equip our people in personal evangelism. In fact, I will use it on a Sunday morning during worship to equip our people, and then implement ways for engagement, intentionality, and accountability. Therefore, I agree 100% and pray daily for God to open doors and conversations for me to have gospel opportunities with others. The power is in the gospel. We must share it personally and preach it continually. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation!
3. Discipleship Problem: I agree again, and this is why we have taken our church into an organized weekly curriculum for small groups called Bible Studies for Life. This curriculum series is released by LifeWay, and I have the privilege to serve as its General Editor. At least 150,000 small groups use this curriculum weekly. We want our small groups exposed to the Word of God, and we are utilizing this series to help.
Additionally, we are becoming much more intentional on personal discipleship. We believe we have to have multiple ways to disciple people, and most of all, as the report states, “Create a culture of disciple-making.” There is much to say about this area. Needless to say, it is a very needed and ongoing conversation here at Cross Church.
4. Next-Generational Problem: There is no question in my mind that we must get serious about addressing this problem. I am becoming more intentional all the time about mentoring the next generation. I have done so for years, but in the past couple of years, I have taken it to another level.
It is imperative that we address this issue within our churches and our convention. I talked about this in my interview with Jason Allen, referred to earlier. Therefore, we must get serious about addressing this problem.
5. Celebration Problem: We know this, and have been in the process of changing it in our church. We do realize and recognize that we have to work hard at highlighting and celebrating life-change, personal soul-winning, and baptisms.
In fact, just about ten days ago, I announced our own task force within our own staff team that will evaluate everything: from website, to worship, to hallways, to our entire culture, recommending ways we can improve on celebrating. We were moving in this direction before this report was released. The staff members assigned to this task force are not connected to any of these areas. We wanted to give permission to the members of this task force to look at all these areas with fresh eyes. We will implement most, if not all, of their findings and recommendations.
While deeply burdened by the findings released, I am very hopeful about us seeing it turned around within our convention of churches.
Through Christ and the Spirit’s power, we can.
I would encourage each of us to:
1. Wear this burden and act upon it personally and with your church corporately.
2. Talk to God about these things. He is the only One who can lead us and truly insure it is turned around.
3. Communicate these findings with your laypeople and your lay leaders. If you have a staff, communicate it with them also. Evaluate and help them wear this burden alongside of you.
4. When you go inside the Full Report from this group, you will discover these disheartening things: 25% of our churches reported no baptisms at all, 60% of our churches did not baptize one person between the ages of 12-17 years, 80% of our churches baptized one or zero persons between the ages of 18-29, and the only upward tick in trends is that we are baptizing more children 5 years and under as a convention of churches.
The church of America needs spiritual revival and America needs spiritual awakening. We must pray for a movement toward extraordinary prayer! Only this will move us to a higher and deeper commitment to reaching our towns, cities, states, country, and world to faith in Christ. Therefore, “Oh Lord, give us spiritual awakening!”
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd