LifeWay: baptisms decline, churches increase
Russ Rankin, Baptist Press
June 10, 2011

LifeWay: baptisms decline, churches increase

LifeWay: baptisms decline, churches increase
Russ Rankin, Baptist Press
June 10, 2011


— The number of baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

in 2010 fell by nearly 5 percent, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP)

compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state


Southern Baptist churches reported 332,321 baptisms in 2010, down from 349,737

in 2009, a 4.98 percent decline. Total membership in 2010, reported at

16,136,044, represents a 0.15 percent decline from 2009 and is the fourth

straight year of decline.

“I am saddened to see this report which seems to indicate a lack of passion for

winning our world to the Lord,” said Frank Page, president of the SBC

Executive Committee and a former convention president. “That will turn around

when we repent of our sins and seek the power of our Lord in our evangelistic


“I am convinced that we are doing many good things but will see this situation

change only when the churches and people of the SBC

return Evangelism to the top priority of our Kingdom activities,” Page said.

Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, said, “I pray that all of us will

see the urgency of the moment. We must make the Great Commission the heart of

all we do and say. These latest numbers should be received with a broken spirit

and a God-given determination to reach people for Christ.”

The report did, however, indicate a key positive change: The number of churches

in the Southern Baptist Convention rose to 45,727, an increase of 1.59 percent

from the 45,010 reported in 2009.

“I do find encouragement in the increase in the number of churches,” Rainer

said. “Hopefully a church planting trend in our convention will lead to the

Gospel of Christ being shared with more people than ever before.”

Primary worship attendance in SBC churches

mirrored the decline in overall membership, declining 0.19 percent to 6,195,449

in 2010.

“As Southern Baptists, so much of our identity comes from missions involvement

and a passion for the Great Commission,” Rainer said. “We certainly pay

attention to categories such as missions expenditures because this not only

supports our missionaries but also the training of our future pastors and

church leaders through our convention-affiliated colleges and seminaries.

“As we look upon fields white unto harvest, we should be ever aware that it is

critical that we proclaim Christ to our neighbors and those we come in contact with

on a daily basis,” he added. “It is critical for our churches to not just get

people in the door, but to also train them and disciple them in how to share

their faith.”

The Cooperative Program (CP) of the SBC, a

voluntary contribution from local churches, supports mission efforts in

individual states, throughout the United States

and around the world. CP also funds six seminaries, the International Mission

Board, the North American Mission Board and other SBC

entities (except for LifeWay and GuideStone Financial Resources, which are


While several categories of the ACP

reflected decline in 2010, totals for various categories were affected by the

fact that not all state conventions asked churches for all the information in a

way that would allow proper year-to-year comparison.

For example, total mission expenditures in 2010 totaled $1.3 billion, down from

$1.33 billion in 2009, with one state convention not reporting these figures.

Total tithes, offerings and special gifts received in Southern Baptist churches

totaled $10.68 billion, a decline of $153 million from 2009, but again with a

state convention not asking churches for this information.

Impacted categories and their 2010 totals include:

  • Total tithes, offerings and special gifts: $10,680,023,357
  • Undesignated receipts: $8,911,796,522
  • Total receipts: $11,720,820,320
  • Total mission expenditures: $1,302,479,654
  • Value of congregational property: $42,509,449,468

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rankin is manager of editorial services for LifeWay Christian

Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)