Many of you have read the article from Baptist Press, written by Paige Patterson, that explains away any discouraging conclusions over LifeWay's data on the decreasing membership of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Patterson acts as if it is no big deal, and that people viewing the statistics as a negative reflection on the SBC are like those who see ghosts and goblins.
Not many of you may have read, however, an interesting article by Dr. Lovett Weems, who also comments on LifeWay's statistics for the SBC. Dr. Weem's is sort of the United Methodist equivalent of John Maxwell. Alan Riley, who sent me the article, informs me Dr. Weem's heads up UMC’s Lewis Center for Church Leadership and has written some great articles on leadership and influence. In this week’s edition of their weekly newsletter, Leading Ideas, he addresses what other churches can learn from the SBC membership decline. It’s a somewhat long article, but is really interesting to see how the SBC – and the numbers decline that has been much in the news lately - is viewed by UMC leaders compared to Dr. Paige Patterson and other Southern Baptist leaders.
Several notable pull-outs from the Weem's article include:
*** “When membership declines, the natural tendency is to explain it away… when the Southern Baptists showed their first membership decline in seventy years, some blamed the loss on a new computer system, while others said it was a temporary downturn as churches “clean” their rolls. (Methodists have used the “cleaning the rolls” mantra to explain slow growth or no growth for over a century.) Even allowing for the imprecise nature of church rolls, membership decline should be seen for what it is: a lagging indicator that some other important things need attention.”
*** “Although the Southern Baptist Convention has always been conservative, in recent decades internal wars have led to a much more ideologically conservative, some would say fundamentalist, church. And this may be taking a toll on membership. The denomination’s first membership loss came in 1998, after the Convention passed a resolution about "wives submitting graciously to their husbands."”
*** “Some anticipated that evangelistic fruitfulness would be renewed in the wake of the more conservative emphasis, but this has not been the case. Becoming more conservative does not correlate with more new believers any more than just becoming more liberal does. There are many other variables.”
*** "With maturity comes a level of organizational complexity that can be a barrier to growth. And as churches and their members prosper, there is a temptation to become removed from the practices that led to success in the first place.”
**** “Some demographic indicators suggest that Southern Baptists may be joining that cohort of mainline denominations that has been losing members since the 1960s, suggesting perhaps that well-established denominations, regardless of their theology, are increasingly unable to reach new Christians.”
The full article can be read here.
God forbid that a Methodist leader says what no current Southern Baptist is willing to say about our own convention. It is almost like the vast majority of Southern Baptists are silent while our leaders pass by proclaiming "health" and "all is well," dressed in magical clothes' sold by the con artist named power and self-deception, only to have a little boy (Weems) from another town, who knows no better, shout out, "Hey, you're all naked!"