First off, please forgive the long delay in writing….got caught up in SBC/Indy mode….stories to follow!
Many would think that the Southern Baptist Convention does not have a problem with evangelistic emphasis…but we do.
We can measure evangelistic effectiveness (yes, I know the Spirit moves, but we in the SBC still obsess about the numbers….) in two ways: as compared with primary worship attendance and as compared with resident membership. By the way, only 71% of church members are resident members and only 33.7% of church members are primary worship attenders…thus the growing demand for more accurate membership counts
PWA has only been collected since 1991 (thanks LifeWay Research for the data!). So in 1991, there was one baptism for every 11.55 primary worship attenders (think regular pew-fillers)…by 2007, it increases to one baptism to 17.77 attenders! That’s an average increase of 1 attender every THREE YEARS!
Resident membership was collected from 1950 (as far as I know!) to 2005…which means we can look at the decade averages! All of you statistical freaks like me can now rejoice! For the unintiated, the t-test number is the probability that the two neighboring averages from the same distribution of values…so the lower, the better! Anything above 0.05 means they are not significantly different.
Average Resident Members per Baptism (t-test with next group)
1950′s: 15.21 (1.65E-07)
1960′s: 20.69 (0.018 )
1970′s: 23.49 (0.007 )
1980′s: 27.34 (0.522)
1990′s: 28.02 (0.294)
pre-1980: 19.80 (4.04E-10)
1980-1994: 27.88 (0.821)
post-1979 : 27.95 (1.21E-12 w/ pre-1980)
Summary: The number of resident members per baptism has increased significantly, from 13.89 in 1950 to 30.51 in 2005, an average increase of 1 resident member every three years. But more specifically, the increases occurred before 1979…yeah, something that can’t be blamed on the Conservative Resurgence! Yet the flip side is that our efforts for doctrinal orthodoxy have done nothing to reverse the trend, since the number has only stabilized since then.
Let’s cut to the chase: we need to stem the flow…we need to DECREASE by 1 primary worship attender or resident member every three years…hey, let’s try every year! And for that to happen, we need some leadership…which I hope we will find in Johnny Hunt. He had the second highest baptism percentage (baptisms per PW attender) of the 2008 candidates. His 7.5% is DOUBLE the average of SBC churches! We have had the vigor of Bobby Welch…which didn’t motivate us. We had the irenic “blip” of Frank Page…which made us feel good, but didn’t kick us in the butt. Perhaps two years of Hunt will tip the trustee boards in favor of evangelistically minded representatives, that with God’s help might set the example we need in all our struggling churches and associations.
Personal note: Please pray for a revival series I am helping to co-ordinate. It will occur this October in the association(s) in my state with the lowest average baptisms. May others catch this vision to help one another bring in the harvest and may God bless our efforts and open eyes, ears, and hearts to the Gospel we bring!