The Weekly Standard on Southern Baptists

Mark Tooley has profiled the 2008 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention for The Weekly Standard. He writes:

‘Are Southern Baptists “dwindling”? Recent headlines about the annual meeting of the 16.27 million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) refer to its ostensible struggles with membership decline. Having lost 40,000 members last year, America’s second biggest religious body was described as “dwindling” . . .

‘The SBC’s once surging growth has certainly flattened, and at their annual meeting, the 9,500 SBC delegates fretted about the decline in baptisms and other ill omens. . .

‘The generation of SBC pastors who fought the 1980s battles over biblical inerrancy is fading. And many younger pastors have hoped the SBC would move beyond its historic controversies. In 2006, they elected the relatively young Frank Page, a South Carolina pastor, as the SBC’s president. Page, though still conservative, ostensibly would offer a “softer” image for a new 21st century SBC. How effective Page was as the SBC’s image crafter is unclear. Earlier this year, he involved himself in an imbroglio when he endorsed an unofficial global warming statement that seemingly chastised the SBC for its official skepticism that climate change is entirely human driven. Page’s stance put him virtually at odds with public statements by the SBC’s longtime public policy spokesman, Richard Land, who heads the church’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.’

This is an interesting article, but it doesn’t say anything about what I think was the most important item to come out of this convention—the resolution on regenerate church membership. It is precisely on this point that so many churches are falling short of the great commission to make disciples, and Tooley doesn’t even mention it.

I don’t hold anything against Tooley for missing the point. I just hope Southern Baptists don’t.


  • Joshua

    As a former Southern Baptist, I left the church very well equipped as a Christian. However, thats because I ran after it. In the 4 SBC churches I’ve attended in my life, the biggest problem is people come to church with the expectancey of what the church is going to do for them, not what they AS the church are going to do (which is what Christ instructed us). Being comfortable is dangerous, because there is nothing comfortable about the gospel.

    I hope and pray that the SBC doesn’t die off, which I don’t think it will, but I also hope and pray for it to come to its senses.

  • Kris

    Hello Joshua.

    I think the church should be expected to do for its new members. That is where we have failed in disciplship. A person will not likely mature without the loving nurture of a church home. Without mature believers there is no one to teach the new believers.

    We often critize people for coming expecting what the church can do for them. For new believers this should be what they expect. Instead they are getting messages or teaching that are geared for those who should already be matured.

    That is why we lose so many after they profess faith in Christ. Of course, the standard response is, “they must have made a false profession”. Do we expect our children to know all the things of life from the start. Neither should we expect new believers to have a mature knowledge of Christ after ‘regeneration’. Christ didn’t!

  • Kris

    BTW Denny, thanks for this post.

    I think this is what we should be focused on, it seems much more important than many other issues that draw much more commenting.


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