Another bad year for Southern Baptists

The Southern Baptist Convention has released an abbreviated version of its annual statistical report — and it’s another year of mostly bad news.

  • The number of state conventions is DOWN.

  • The number of associations within the states is DOWN.

  • The number of churches is DOWN.

  • The number of church-type missions (e.g., church plants) is DOWN.

  • The number of total members is DOWN.

  • The number of baptisms is DOWN.

  • Weekly attendance is DOWN.

  • Small groups attendance is DOWN.

  • Receipts are … UP.

For a few years church plants were running ahead of failures, with the result that the church count was up even as the membership was in decline, meaning SBC churches were cannibalizing each other; that couldn’t last forever, as this years statistics demonstrate.

But how can receipts be up as everything else declines? It’s difficult to know from the data so far released, but my guess is that the hardcore are digging deep. It’s been clear for years that sane people were leaving the denomination as it hardened into lunacy, and those who remain are probably digging into savings to keep that rickety mess standing.

Longtime readers know of my love of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s a beautiful area and, better, it has an amiable, laid-back culture vastly more congenial than the south. For years, I’ve cheerfully explained that it’s because there are only seven Southern Baptist churches — and three of them can’t find pastors. Well … bummer. Now there are nine Southern Baptist churches; mercifully, three of them are still unable to find a pastor.

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