For many years, we have lamented the decline in baptisms that we have witnessed across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). While it’s heartbreaking to see these declines, I don’t believe that the numbers alone paint a complete picture of how many people are placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
Yes, we have much work to do as Southern Baptists to reverse these trends, and these statistics should motivate every one of us to be more intentional about sharing the gospel with those we know who do not know Christ. However, something we can do a better job at is emphasizing the importance of baptism and having your church complete the Annual Church Profile (ACP).
The ACP is the instrument that churches use to report statistical data from their congregation that is used by associations, state conventions, the SBC and LifeWay Research for a variety of purposes. One of the many metrics used in the ACP is a church’s number of baptisms in a given year, which is used by LifeWay to compile statistics from across the SBC.
Your church’s participation in the ACP is vital to make sure that the data that is reported is as accurate as possible. Last year, only 60.5% of our North Carolina Baptist churches submitted their data. I would love to see the number of our churches that complete the profile increase significantly.
As a former pastor, I realize that gathering the data for your church and completing the ACP form takes time. But we can’t report on data that we don’t have, so let me encourage you to complete the ACP so we can truly understand what’s taking place in our convention of churches and better understand the trends on a local, state and national level.
While baptism is not essential to salvation, it is essential to obeying Christ.
Baptism numbers garner a lot of the attention related to the ACP, and rightfully so. After all, we have the term “Baptist” in our name. Baptisms are important, and they are one of the measurements that we use as Southern Baptists. But baptism numbers alone don’t reflect how God is at work.
Many people who come to faith in Christ delay or put off being baptized for a variety of reasons. As we call people to repentance and faith in Christ, I would also like to see us call people to baptism and help them understand why it is so important. While baptism is not essential to salvation, it is essential to obeying Christ.
I hope that you will take time to complete your church’s Annual Church Profile. The state convention’s deadline for completion is Nov. 15, but each association has its own deadline. Check with your local Baptist association to know when to submit your information.
Remember that insights and information gleaned from the ACP helps us celebrate the kingdom work that is taking place. It can also help you and your church see trends and make wise decisions about future ministry. Your information also helps us as a state convention better fulfill our mission as we seek to assist your church in fulfilling the Great Commission.
To learn more about the Annual Church Profile, visit ncbaptist.org/acp. If we can answer any questions or offer any assistance related to the ACP, please don’t hesitate to contact state convention staff member Russell Schwab at [email protected] or 1-800-395-5102, ext. 5582.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” — Philippians 1:3-5 (NKJV)