In this year’s April 13 edition of the Biblical Recorder we published a list of the largest Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches in North Carolina. That list was extracted from a larger list of all SBC churches that reported 1,000 or more in Sunday morning attendance. It was published by Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and was drawn from 2011 data submitted by churches.
Rainer recently produced another list using 2012 data. The 595 churches on his list make up 1.3 percent of all SBC churches. Second Baptist, Houston, led the national list with a reported 25,892 in Sunday morning attendance. Texas dominated the list with 136 large churches followed by Florida (64), Georgia (59), Tennessee (48) and North Carolina (34).
We are publishing a list of the North Carolina churches that made the cut. It should be noted that all numbers are self-reported by the churches and drawn from the 2012 Annual Church Profile (ACP). If no ACP is on record, the church cannot be included in this list.
The 2011 data identified 36 churches in N.C. with attendance of 1,000 or more. The 2012 data listed 34 churches. Two churches are new to the 2012 list, Nations Ford Community Church, Charlotte, and Hopewell Baptist Church, Monroe.
Four churches on the 2011 list did not appear on the 2012 list. Data was not available for three Charlotte churches: Elevation, Carmel Baptist and First Baptist; and a fourth church in Eden, Osborne Baptist. Elevation does not typically submit an ACP. The other three churches cited procedural oversights in submitting their data.
Adding the 34 on the N.C. list with at least 4 other churches whose data would place them in the top 1,000, they make up less than one percent of all 4,466 Baptist churches in the state. But the Sunday worship attendance of the largest churches made up about 17 percent of all N.C. Baptists in worship.
N.C. had 2,684 churches report worship service attendance in 2012. The total worship attendance reported was 401,673 resulting in an average of 150 people per reporting church. About 60 percent of the total number of churches submitted their data through the ACP. Among large churches about 90 percent submitted their statistics.
Numbers tell a story; they communicate a message. When studied over a period of time, the changes in numbers can tell a huge story. They may reveal weaknesses, even failures. We will be poor stewards and irresponsible to ignore the message communicated by numbers. Not long ago I listened to a pastor rail about his distaste for “the numbers game.” He boasted that his church does not submit numbers to the denomination. He was not interested in being party to “competition” through numbers.
The next words out of his mouth described how his church was celebrating a specific, numbered anniversary. That number matched the number of new churches they would plant in a specific number of years.
He identified the number of new groups they would start, and set the goal for the number of people they would have in attendance. I sat in disbelief as he rolled out another half-a-dozen numerical goals. His distaste for reporting numbers sounded more like a love affair with numbers when talking about his goals and ambitions.
It’s easy to be sanctimonious when talking about numbers. We can get hung up over numbers, and we can get equally hung up over ignoring numbers. Whether they are perceived as good or bad, they are what they are.
It’s time to prepare to fill out your church’s ACP. Without it, your church cannot register any messengers for the SBC annual meeting or the annual meeting of North Carolina Baptists. It is important for many reasons. We hope you will take time to complete the ACP. There is no need to fear or ignore the numbers.