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SBC baptisms up, membership down in 2009
Rob Phillips, LifeWay Communications
May 18, 2010
3 MIN READ TIME

SBC baptisms up, membership down in 2009

SBC baptisms up, membership down in 2009
Rob Phillips, LifeWay Communications
May 18, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) —

Southern Baptists reported a 2.2 percent increase in baptisms in 2009, stemming

a four-year decline, but membership in the denomination fell and the sagging

economy led to a drop in missions giving, according to the Annual Church

Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in conjunction with

Baptist state conventions.

Baptisms last year totaled

349,737, up from 342,198 in 2008, a year in which Southern Baptists recorded

the fewest baptisms since 1987. Total membership fell 0.42 percent to 16.16

million, and Sunday School enrollment dropped 0.04 percent to 7.75 million.

While the baptism numbers

are encouraging, they do not necessarily signal a reversal of fortune for the

nation’s largest Protestant denomination, said Thom Rainer, LifeWay’s president

and CEO.

“Every baptism is a

celebration of another person finding new life in Jesus Christ,” Rainer said. “The

fact that more people were baptized this year than last year gives us a reason

to hope we’re on the right path. At the same time, we as Southern Baptists

continue to show signs of drifting from our historic commitment to evangelism,

as reflected in the fact that it still takes 46 Southern Baptists to lead one

person to faith in Christ.”

Rainer continued, “The

decline in membership across our denomination, along with the drop in Sunday

School enrollment, indicate that Southern Baptists continue to be distracted

from — or indifferent toward — the command of Jesus to make disciples. I pray

that these discouraging numbers sound a wake-up call to all of us.”

ACP data revealed a slight

rise (0.36 percent) in the number of Southern Baptist churches, to 45,010, and

an increase of 0.37 percent in primary worship attendance, to 6.21 million.

Giving to missions totaled

$1.33 billion in 2009, a decline of 1.8 percent, reflecting the economic

downturn. Through the denomination’s Cooperative Program (CP) and special

mission offerings, local churches voluntarily pool funds to support mission

efforts in their states, throughout the nation and around the world. For

example, Southern Baptists support more than 10,500 missionaries who engage

nearly 1,200 people groups throughout North America and around the world.

In addition, CP funds

support six seminaries, the International Mission Board, North American Mission

Board and other SBC entities (except for LifeWay and GuideStone Financial

Resources, which are self-funding). At the state level, CP funds support a variety

of ministries including church health ministries, children’s homes, disaster

relief efforts, colleges and universities and much more.

To view a summary of

statistical information for the SBC, go to http://www.bpnews.net/pdf/2009SBCStatsSummary.pdf.

To view a summary of

statistical information state by state, go to http://www.bpnews.net/pdf/2009SBCStatsStateConvention.pdf.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Phillips

is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern

Baptist Convention.)