Ongoing concerns over SBC declines

June 26, 2020

Like many of you, I missed gathering with friends for this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla. As you know, the meeting was canceled in late March due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Canceling this year’s annual meeting was a shocking move at the time, but it has proven to be the correct decision as our nation continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19. I’m thankful for the wisdom and foresight of our SBC leaders to make this difficult but necessary decision for the safety and well-being of the thousands of messengers from our churches who would be attending the meeting.

Despite the cancelation of the annual meeting, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC executive committee, and other SBC entity heads provided updates about how God is at work in our convention during a special two-hour online event held June 2. SBC President J.D. Greear delivered his president’s address via video on June 9, the same day he would have shared with messengers in Orlando.

Amid these updates came the unsettling news of the continued statistical decline in membership and baptisms among Southern Baptist churches based on the data from the 2019 Annual Church Profile (ACP). In analyzing the data, Baptist Press reported an overall drop in membership for the 13th consecutive year. Membership numbers fell by more than 287,000 (about 2%) from 2018 to 2019, which was the largest single-year drop in more than 100 years. Total baptisms across the SBC fell by more than 4% from 2018 to 2019.

According to the ACP data, overall membership numbers in North Carolina showed a drop in membership of about 29,500, which reflected a 2.6% decrease from 2018 to 2019. While our state’s membership numbers reflected a similar trend with SBC numbers, our state’s baptism numbers were even more concerning. Total reported baptisms in North Carolina fell by about 11.6% from 17,511 in 2018 to 15,483 in 2019, a drop of more than 2,000 baptisms from the year before. Moreover, more than 2,200 of our approximately 4,300 N.C. Baptist churches reported no baptisms in 2019, which was up from 2018.

Our temptation might be to say that even though we are not doing well, we are still doing better than some other churches or conventions. That is an unacceptable attitude. We should be determining that by the grace of God, we will improve our efforts to minister, cultivate relationships, evangelize, baptize and disciple. We can reverse these declining trends if each of us make a firm commitment to God that we will change our attitudes, repent, share the gospel with others and give people an opportunity to accept Christ as Savior.

While these numbers are troubling, I share many of the same concerns that Dr. Floyd has expressed regarding how data from our churches is collected and reported. Furthermore, there are concerns over the number of churches that choose not to complete the ACP. LifeWay Research reports that 25 percent of our Southern Baptist congregations do not report any data. In North Carolina, roughly only 61% of our congregations complete the ACP.

It would be nice if the SBC had other ways to collect this information from churches, but no one has been able to suggest a better method for collecting this information that allows Southern Baptists to track our trends and understand our needs. I welcome hearing ideas and suggestions from pastors and church leaders if you have a good solution to this dilemma.

“For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)


by Milton A. Hollifield Jr.  
/  Executive Director-Treasurer  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

Statement on the release of SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force report

Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, released the following statement today (Sunday, May 22, 2022) following the release of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force report.“Today’s release of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force report...

3 training options to offer worship ministry certification

Worship leaders can now pursue further equipping through three training options offered in partnership between N.C. Baptists, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Fruitland Baptist Bible College. The training provides worship leaders with the understanding and tools to...

Caraway celebrates 60 years of ministry and memories

North Carolina Baptists joined forces in July 1962 to cultivate a powerful new tool to help churches reach and disciple more people — Camp Caraway. Now, decades later, the camp continues to serve N.C. Baptists and will celebrate its 60th summer this July. Situated on more than...

How leaders can bridge generational gaps in Asian American churches

Many Asian American churches provide spaces for Asian immigrants to continue worshiping similarly to how they did in their home countries. They offer a familiar community and a home away from home. What can often be overlooked, however, is the cultural gap between immigrant...

On death and dying, as it relates to churches

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, wrote the classic book On Death and Dying. This work, chronicling lessons she learned with terminally ill patients, outlined the five stages that all people go through as they near death. Beginning when they are...

4 symptoms to watch for when assessing pastoral health

In preparation for this article I confess I did Google, “How to know if a pastor is healthy?” The number of articles, blogs and sites addressing the increasing issue of pastoral health did not disappoint. After all, we are hopefully coming out of the most difficult time of...

Fisher retires after 36 years at Caldwell Association

Dale Fisher received quite the surprise on his 70th birthday. Not only did ministry colleagues serenade him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” during the N.C. Associational Missions Conference in early April, they also recognized Fisher for his long tenure of service in leading...

The power of a name: God’s faithfulness in mental health

If I have learned one lesson this year, it’s that there is power in a name. When we give our struggle a name, we are able to better distinguish truth from lie and work toward healing. Naming opens the door to freedom and sheds light on truth that can feel uncomfortable, exposing...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!