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Stetzer Comments on SBC Decline

Last week, LifeWay Research released the results of a new survey revealing that baptisms, worship attendance, and overall membership in the Southern Baptist Convention declined in 2010. Baptisms fell nearly 5 percent, their lowest level in 60 years. This is also the latest result in a four-year trend of decline in SBC membership. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, said he hopes SBC churches see “the urgency of the moment” and receive the latest research numbers “with a broken spirit and a God-given determination to reach people for Christ.”

However, Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, boldly called denominational leaders out in a challenge: “It is time for the Southern Baptist Convention to move from denial to decision,” he said in a commentary on BetweenTheTimes.com. Stetzer recalled warning SBC representatives in 2008 of the impending decline, and he calls on the SBC to make immediate and bold changes in several areas: (1) SBC churches must “see the church not simply as an institution but as an agent of God’s kingdom-mission.” (2) A greater focus and emphasis on intentional ethnic diversity. (3) The SBC must win more young people to the faith: “SBC will not last forever based solely on the presence of its elder statesmen and women,” he said. (4) A greater emphasis on church planting. Stetzer closed by saying, “When will change come?  I don’t know. Some will keep going as before—considering slow decline as acceptable as long as they can keep doing church in a way they have grown to prefer. Some are content to successfully manage decline. Yet, for others, knowing that 2010 saw the fewest number of new believers going through the baptismal waters since Eisenhower was president will break their hearts. They will weep for the lost.”