Saturday, May 10, 2008

Somebody Else Has To Tell Us We're Naked?

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!"

77 comments: said...

Snopes says the the two house illustration is a parody. Until I rewrite it as one, I've deleted it.

Snopes cleared this post as legit.


sbcblogger said...

Looked like you were having trouble deciding exactly what to post next.

James Gibson said...

"God forbid that a Methodist leader says what no current Southern Baptist is willing to say about our own convention."

A cautionary note: During my last few years in the UMC (I returned to John Wesley's Mother Church in 2005), I saw much of the same kind of behavior among the leadership as is being described here among the SBC. The UMC and the SBC are as far apart theologically as you can get, but the leadership of both seems to have fallen victim to the same unfortunate principle: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Scotte Hodel said...

The Snopes article says the two house illustration is correct; the plans provided at are the parody.

Even so, the house comparison fits very well with the theme of this post!

Anonymous said...

Dr; Wade
You and I must be reading & leaving in a different SBC World.
Every where I go for training in SBC circles the issue of declining churches & baptism is a topic of discussion and serious concerned.
It seems to me that you are on the prowl to pick anything SBC leaders you disagree with say and make it a topic fo SBC leadership bashing

Anonymous said...

Numbers -- what a great game we play with them. I'm sure most know you can make them say what you want them to say.

I have often wondered between the years (say 1985 throug 2000) how many people were rebaptized because they heard sermons about not being sure "you" were really saved.

I know that I can count on both hands and feet the number of people that I know who were rebaptized.

My understanding on this may be wrong (and I hope it is) but these were counted as number of baptized this year. I don't ever remember seeing a number for rebaptized.

Could we have been losing ground over the years and could not see it because of the numbers game?

Tommy G.

Anonymous said...

just a note to Othonial a valdes sr.

Wade will tell you that he is not a Ph.D

Tommy G

Bob Cleveland said...

Said by a Methodist? Proves to me that you don't have to get everything right to get some things really right. And this is definitely really right.

Bob Cleveland said...

AND another thing...

Over the sanctuary doors in our church are the words "My House Shall Be Called A House Of Prayer". Yet the prayer meeting is the worst-attended meeting of the week (how about YOUR church?). A handful of us have even started meeting on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings, early, just to pray. Yet I didn't see any reference to prayer in Dr. Weems' excellent article, and don't recall any reference to prayer, or the lack thereof, in Ed Stetzer's dissertation.

I do know of one church that suspended all programs, at the new pastor's directions, until they'd made the prayer meeting their most important meeting of all. And they did just that. It's the Brooklyn Tabernacle, whose work has been enormously blessed by God.

I repeat: Hmmm......

Wayne Smith said...

For All the ones that Believe what the Baptist Press Article on Paige Patterson as 1st Person say’s, here’s a Hint.

Figures don’t Lie, Liars Figure.

4 They begin by making falsehood appear like Truth, and end with making Truth itself appear like Falsehood. Shenstone


Christopher B. Harbin said...

We hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, and prejudge the conclusions of others--especially to advance/protect our own agendas.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the guy who said that numbers only say what you want them to say. I do believe that we are not growing at the rate we ought to as Southern Baptist. However, I fall somewhere in the middle - we are not reaching people as we should be but also we have not declined as much as some would have us to believe.
I would like to propose a study for someone who is "smarter" than myself and has more "time" than I do. How about doing a study of the churches that did not report on the last ACP? I am a Tennessean and recently I read that the Mid-South Association (formerly the Shelby County Assoc.) is the 5th largest association in the Southern Baptist Convention. I don't believe everything that I read nor do I have the stats to prove that it is. But I do know it is one of the largest associations. I took the latest stats I have (there may be some more recently stats than I have) and I was amazed that at least 25 churches did not report. I glanced at the Nashville Baptist Assoc. and I did not count but it seems that the same trend is present there as many churches do not report. Are these churches simply listed and they do longer exist? I do not know. Do some churches simply not take the time to fill out the ACP? I do recall one pastor asking churches not to report because there were too much emphasis on numbers. Someone with more time than myself should do further research on this matter.
Gene Price
Gleason, TN

Pamela said...

Another more insulting version of this dynamic is 'God has to remove the tares so God can do what He wants to do'. Yes I was told that by members of a church that I and over 200 people had recently left because of dangerously wrong doctrine being taught. No leader wants to admit that he or she is failing at leading for any reason. Of course people may leave because they do not want to submit to Biblical leadership. However way too many people leave a church because of major issues they see when they compare that to what the Bible says. They will only be able to explain away the exodus for so long. God will make sure they face themselves just like all of us that have a real relationship with the Lord will do.

John Daly said...

In the picture the king is starting to get a little paunch. Obviously the leader is not taking care of his body as he should, not leading by example, not tirelessly working for his people. Would the king began to flex and strain and strive for good works. Maybe if he became singularly focused on serving his subjects he wouldn't have time to get involved in needless affairs.

And then his service would inspire his subjects to serve and they would begin to take ownership in the kingdom and the king wouldn't even mind if folks told him he was naked because even though he is the leader, he's wise enough to accept counsel.

And then they lived happily ever after...

Anonymous said...

SBC's taking a more radically conservative position may be one explanation as to why numbers are falling. I can see where a UMC person would jump to that conclusion. But without a whole lot of polling and research one must be careful to make such conclusions.

I think that a more plausible explanation as to why numbers are falling could be because our leadership has been focused upon conservative vs. liberal control which relates to "internal" affairs. As a result our focus on reaching those "outside" has gone lacking.

If this is the case and we've been thinking more about "Southern Baptist" matters rather than reaching those outside the church, it could be the reason we are not originating creative ways to enter the "non-church" culture living all around us.

This would mean that the priority of being responsive to a changing American culture has gone lacking while we fight our control battles. Satan is loving that!

Casual observation suggests that a large portion of American society has moved from a preference for "traditional" church. We fail to acknowledge such things and continue to conduct programs to entice people "into" our church culture. For instance, instead of sending our more mature church members into the "hoods" on Sunday mornings to plant new groups that would grow into new churches they sit in Sunday School classes talking about the same Lifeway lessons they have discussed for 40 years.

If Convention leaders were more involved in forming research and strategy sessions to respond to the lost rather than how to maintain or re-acquire political control we might see numbers increase. We would more likely see a transitioning of the Southern Baptist Convention and the appearance of her church operations into something that more effectively touched those staying at home in their subdivisions and condos.

So many Americans are "unchurched" and without a church culture background these days. Entering into a structured Southern Baptist Sunday School class can be very intimidating. They don't know where to find the book of Psalms or how to lead the closing prayer. We interpret their staying at home as their being spiritually numb. But many are under conviction and ready for someone to explain how to remedy their spiritual lostness. They would be receptive to someone entering "their" culture for that purpose but are not so desperate at this point so as to force them into "ours".

So, rather than concluding that people are repelled by our "fundamentalism", I conclude that the lost are just being neglected.

If this is a plausible explanation, it could be another elephant in the room.

Bob Cleveland said...

An another thing....

Moses struck a rock instead of speaking to it, to get water for the people, and God said Moses'd have to give up his hope of setting foot on the promised land.

On the other hand, we lie about numbers, lose track of people, etc, and expect God to bless us anyway. And even if you don't think "inflating" the numbers is lying, consider the fact that we're telling the public that we've got 16+ million members but can't find but about half of them, and if 8 million were all on fire for the Lord and the other half isn't, 50% hot and 50% cold makes LUKEWARM (at best). And we think God's OK with that. Then when someone points out proof that things aren't OK, lots of folks make excuses.

And we're representing that folks who join and never darken our doors, are members of the Body of Christ. That seems an insult.

Something about those things does not set well with me...

Anonymous said...

rrr...thank you! Your post offers great insight into the current state of affairs in the SBC. Thank you for defining and putting into words just what this young pastor (34) views as the greatest issue facing our convention. Only to communicate this to our current convention leadership! When will we realize (as a convention) that we (churches) are in the people business (and seeing them become followers of Christ) and not the Southern Baptist business!

Clay Alexander
Wright, Wyoming

Jeff said...

So numbers indicate spiritual health. Give me a small strong healthy convention, over a big sick convention.

I could care less about the decline or incline. :)

Isalm is growing pretty fast so I guess they must be healthy.

Tom Parker said...


You said--"I could care less about the decline or incline. :)

Are you joking or being serious.

You also said--Give me a small strong healthy convention, over a big sick convention.

How do you suggest we get to smaller and healthy?

Lin said...

You know, I agree with Jeff. Islam, LDS and others are growing. It is not a clear indicator of spiritual health.

My concern is that we have boasted numbers that are not true. We have to ask ourselves:

1. Were these people really regenerated to begin with? (they left us because they were not of us)


2. Did they go to other denominations or decide to home church?

My concern is less over the decline in numbers than the fact we cannot account for what happened to so many people. Nor, do we seem to know what is really going on with people in our churches.

Anonymous said...

Dr, Page Patterson always gets caught with his hand in the Cookie Jar or with his pants down. Dr. PP’s nominee fo President was Dr Ronny Floyd and the fire truck baptistery. Dr. PP sure knows what he is talking about and always with egg on his face.

Anonymous said...

"How do you suggest we get to smaller and healthy?"

By extracting the sick, filthy rot.


Tom Parker said...

k responded to the following question:

How do you suggest we get to smaller and healthy?

K's response--
"By extracting the sick, filthy rot."

Does you're quote mean you realize you are sick, filthy rot?

Jeff said...

Lin, You get the grandslam award. excellent post, you wrote what I wanted to write.

Your Tom Parker---see Lin's post. It was not I meant to write. BTW, I was about 75% serious.

Gotta go Arkansas is getting nailed again....I think we need Wade to move here so God will like us. :)

Steve said...

One side welcomes a stranger into the house of God and says, "Let me show you Jesus."

Another, demonstrated by our most angry friend, says to the new person, with accusing finger waving, "Hang on there just a minute, Mister, let me show you why you're not going to fit in here."

Which picture represents the growing trend in our once wide-open tent?

John Daly said...

I gladly will cast myself with the "sick, filthy rot." For that is what I am. And if the time comes to bid someone adieu from our church, it's done with tears. They might have been a tare, they might have been a wolf but one does not take joy in casting them out.

Who knows if the gracious manner in the way such a case is handled might lead to true repentance?

Debbie Kaufman said...

K Michael: Who did Christ say he came for? The healthy or the sick, filthy, rotten?

Anonymous said...

"K Michael: Who did Christ say he came for? The healthy or the sick, filthy, rotten?"

Interesting that one would assume I have no interest in true repentance. Anyway, totally not the point here. The point is, when the unredeemed are in places of leadership within the church, Christ is not glorified. We cannot simply say we will do better or try harder. We must indeed fix the problem. Revitalize our churches, and if the sick, filthy liberal rot within our churches refuse to be reconciled, then they must be removed and we must move on.

Separating the tares from the wheat is NOT an analogy for keeping the church pure and holy.

As for evangelism, we should indeed seek to spread the Gospel to all who will hear. But only those who believe can become heirs with Christ, and can enter into the house of God.

The non-elect are not children of God, they are children of wrath. You will know them by their fruits.


Tom Parker said...


Only one word for your last comment--nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Weems makes some excellent points. We would be wise to engage them and ask some tough questions. I especially like this one, “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.” That should be no surprise, it happens all the time in the business world. Dr. Weems gives us some good analysis.

Now a comment about the numbers…

Numbers, numbers, numbers…Everybody is talking about the numbers. Most of the people talking about them don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about. I tried to do this politely at SBC Impact, maybe I should have been a little more “aggressive.”

Do some real statistical analysis, not the headline grabbing, arm chair quarterbacking never played the game type analysis that we see over and over. Look at them closely, and use good methodology and honest assessment. The problems pointed out by that type of analysis will begin to show us that the numbers problems are not recent problems. We should have been talking about them for the last 30+ years. The emperor has been naked for so long he doesn’t know what clothes are for.

Keith Price

Alan Stoddard said...

Wade, you wrote, "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...."

Dr. Patterson actually said, "At the outset one can only say that the picture does not look the way those of us who played a role in the Conservative Renaissance had imagined and hoped."

Am I missing it, or does he admit to the problem? Doesn't he at least acknowledge the problem to a certain extent?

Maybe the problem is the SBC is big enough?

Maybe the problem is we care more about spending money on things that are optional when we should be planting churches with a chance to make it. Give new churches 50 people. Make it a church wide endeavor instead of sending out church plants to just survive for a year or two.

Maybe we need to stop trying to reach of media and social media culture with a new hymnbook.

Sorry for the rant at the end.

Anonymous said...

Please please please dont feed the troll

Too many on this site to respond to K Mike, when you do he has accomplished his goal of removing the conversation from the topic of the post to his ridiculous comments - look, I just fell for it myself!

Jim Champion

Tom Parker said...


For the last 30 years (1979-2008) people in powerful positions in the SBC have mostly ignored the numbers problem. This too is during the CR and so I often wonder why no one is ever willing to admit they should have done better, that it happened on their watch.

Jeff said...

Young Tom Parker, What you tell Jeremiah? His ministry didn't get the numbers people would rave about.....

Don't be quick to blame the CR or to give too much credit.

sarah said...


I suggest that it's somewhat missing the point to say that the SBC has a "numbers problem." Would it be a "numbers problem" if the Lord only wanted to bring 200 new believers into SBC churches this year? I suggest that if that's His will, then we should praise Him for working in 200 lives.

The more important question is: Are we being faithful to our Lord?? I think we find the PROOF of our failure not (simply) in the numbers, but primarily in looking at our own unfaithful lives and efforts as churches to faithfully share and evidence the Gospel to our neighbors, co-workers and communities. Paige Patterson isn't the problem, the numbers aren't a problem, I'm the problem.

Additionally, maybe some denominational leaders aren't challenging unfaithful churches enough, but the real problem lies within churches themselves that have lost the beauty of the Gospel message, lost the "weightiness" of God, and thus lost a motivation for sharing the gospel with others. In this regard, I actually think there are quite a number of SBC'ers talking about this problem, although the conversation hasn't spread far enough (most clearly, 9Marks & Together for the Gospel folks).

K. Crowder, If you're suggesting we need to regain the biblical concept of church discipline and meaningful church membership, I completely agree with you. Yet in stating it, you seem to have forgotten that you were once "filthy rot" and every person of "filthy rot" is a person of value, made in the image of God - you're manner of speaking about "church discipline" is completely unhelpful and misleading about what it is and should look like. Also, I wonder why you think we only need to remove "the sick, filthy liberal rot." Don't we also have plenty of "perfectly-healthy, spotless-robe, die-hard-conservative rot?" I would guess that we have more unregenerate people in the SBC who put the trust of their salvation in their belief in inerrancy or family values rather than holding to "liberal doctrines."* Neither way saves, but only the sufficient work of the crucified God-Man for sinners.

The root of our problem is the loss of the weightiness of the Gospel and its effects on every part of our lives as Christians and communities of believers.

* - for the record, I do happen to believe in innerancy and "family values" but I know these can't save my sinful soul and aren't necessary for salvation.

Bob Cleveland said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again here, even though I don't know Emmanuel's membership numbers, and don't really care.

This is about churches which REPORT as members people who aren't around, can't be found, and in some cases simply refuse to be part of the body. We'll always have wheat and tares, but when it comes to the body of Christ, we use far less diligence than UPS or Ford uses in hiring and maintaining a work force. Any HR manager or executive in the country would be fired instantly if his work force was no more accountable than the 16.5 million people the SBC claims as members, or even if the numbers weren't any better than our church (2,500 members, 1,000 there on a good Sunday, of whom 300 are children not counted as members).

If that'd be bad for UPS, how bad is it in the KING'S WORK?

And I don't care how blameless or "not in charge" folks claim SBC pastors are, they're the Elders .. the presbuteros ..of the ekkesia and we know what God says about their giving an account for the souls of those under their biblical authority.

Jeff said...

Bob, I agree 85% with what you wrote, but (I believe you know this) that comparing the spiritual to the secular is dangerous. I am not saying we can't learn from the business world, but our bottom line is entirely different (I know you know that).

Bob Cleveland said...

Jeff, I agree with what you say, but when I see secular businesses adhering to what I believe is a higher standard of accountability and honesty than the Church of the Living God ... whose work has eternal consequences vs business which seldom does, then something is far more wrong than we're willing to admit.

But .. what do I know? I am just a simple 70 year old (well ... next Monday I will be, anyway...) layman without enough spiritual education to know how to explain all the stuff that seems to be OK with the SBC.

Jeff said...

Let's see we have Young Tom Parker, and "old" Bob Cleveland. :) Bob, you know more than you let on.....

Happy Birthday. I'm going to bed. I got caught out in a "little" storm tonight. We had 19 tornado warnings at one time in Arkansas tonight.

My wife forgot to get something for church so like a fool I tell her I'll run to the store. On the way home, the wind and rain got so bad I couldn't see the road. I found the local hospital and waited out the storm there.

Good Night!

Anonymous said...

All this SBC growth stuff is interesting.

Some SBC churches are doing well. The church I attend is progressive, has good music, young dynamic leadership, we don't talk about SBC politics - at all (though we send people to the SBC every year who are knowledgeable on the issues), we have elders (that helps keep the church from being hopelessly politicized), and we are not culturally backward.

Being in the SBC has not hurt us. It has helped. We are up front with our affiliation, but don't make a big deal about it.

The SBC missions programs are efficient and good, and giving to them, not solely, but primarily keeps missions on the right track.

The seminaries are a great deal and a good education. A lot better than spending thousands and thousands of bucks. The local state Baptist college religion profs rag on them, and try to get students to go to Mercer or Richmond. But that is not having as great an effect as Southern, in particular, is getting better each year at attracting a lot of young students who are very committed. (Southern is the closest seminary to us). The Together for the Gospel Conference (not strictly Southern, but Southern is a big part) was great. I think that they had 4 or 5 thousand this year. Much better than anything we will hear at the Pastor's conference or the convention.

Many SBC churches are struggling for a variety of reasons. There are a lot of reasons for that.

LifeWay has done a great job modernizing, building new stores etc. Doing much better than most denomination publishing houses.


Anonymous said...

Wade, please check your email. I re-sent the "lengthy" email from earlier and believe you will be interested in its content. Please confirm that you received it or inform me again if you didn't.

Anonymous said...

b. woodward,

I thank you for your comment but would suggest that by the term "rot" I had something more in mind like a cancer among the saints that spreads until the truth of an inerrant Word of God is mutated into a self-gratifying religion which does not rely on an all sovereign God. This cancer can in some cases look good and feel good but all the while practices a function form of open theism. Sure this type of cancer can span from the conservative to the liberal.

Also, of all the theological concepts, salvation is the one in which I am most confident I have correct. My desire to have the sanctifying work of the Spirit ever increase my knowledge of my God, ever make me more like Christ, ever make me more holy and pleasing unto God should not be mistaken for a works based soteriology. I am a "plus nothing" theologian.

But, while teaching "plus nothing," I must also teach a conformity to Christ that while full attainment is not possible in this life nor totally in the next, and ever increasing faith which desires only the things of God is a sure mark of a sanctified Christian.

Church discipline in Baptist life is so far behind what it should be that to bring church roles to any semblance of the true regenerate church overnight, would require mass excom's such that the fabric of the church would be ripped as was the curtain to the Holy of Holies at the moment of our Lord's death on the cross. Christ would not be glorified in such an action but I must admit that in my frail human mind it seems to me to be the only way possible. I desire greatly to remove the unregenerate from my Lord's Church. It is an honorable desire, but one that is not grounded in a Spirit of Truth. And so I pray for clarity, my church prays for clarity. We seek the wisdom that only God can give on a case by case basis as we seek to restore fellowship with many who never truly had it to begin with.

As I spent this evening in prayer and preparation my heart did truly break for the mothers who will be in church tomorrow and who will hear a message on the righteousness of a Godly woman and who after receiving a gift made by the hands of their children, will likely never see the inside of the sanctuary again 'till Christmas. As I head to bed my heart is ever pleading with the Spirit to convict these young women of their need for a savior. Holidays are becoming to me a time when my spirit cannot phathom the utter and vile rejection of God--even in places of worship.

God give me the Words to say to your people that they might hear your voice.


Anonymous said...

KMC's condemnation of "sick, filthy liberal rot" reminded me of this C.S. Lewis quote:

"We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism."

And, I might add, legalistic ones against liberalism.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the captain of the titanic. Let's keep the band playing....everything is fine. Where's this water coming from????

Anonymous said...

Random related thoughts from a Minister of Education:

1. With God, it doesn't matter where you come from--it matters where you're going (need to know the current condition, and the reasons for it; still, need to plan to do something about it and act on that plan as a Body, with our senior pastors--whom our congregations will follow better than other church staff--in the lead);

2. Part of the SBC's growth problem is spiritual--the other part is administrative/infrastructure/educational; to ignore the second part is to continue to decline, also (church problems often begin as administrative problems--attrition/migration, low quality ministry, unresolved issues; then, the problems become spiritual ones; God seems to permit the first longer than He permits the second);

3. Some need to pray more; others need to pray better, not more (prayer represents "spirituality which is passionate individually" and "worship which is inspiring corporately"--see Natural Church Development research); at some point, the act of praying must conclude and the act of putting feet to those prayers must begin;

4. Putting new believers into small groups not healthy enough organizationally to keep them perpetuates and compounds the SBC's growth problem (return to the basics of biblical growth, as Rainer's "Simple Church" concept suggests--makes precious resources go further, too; do the basics exceptionally well BEFORE doing anything else);

5. It isn't merely reaching folks; it's also keeping folks (must SUSTAIN the RATE of growth over future decades; God designed people to "wind down" physically/spiritually/emotionally over time, but He made the compensations which please Himself [nighttime/times of refreshing/relationships] to wind us back up again and to keep us going);

6. Taking/preaching isn't teaching; listening isn't learning (for folks in our churches to "get" it, will have to teach/coach/train them--that can't be done during 30 minutes of preaching on Sunday mornings); 90% of professional educators, even, cannot get a concept entirely new to them without the guided practice which leads to continual independent practice of the new concept;

7. Biblical church growth is spiritual, numerical, ministry, and missions (cf. Gene Mims' "Kingdom Principles" writing)--so EVERY church, despite its potential size or geographic location, CAN grow continually;

8. Andy Anderson's Church Growth Spiral: only model for ministry I've seen which, when implemented over time, sustains the rate of growth in many important areas (including financial; is the end of money worries in all congregations); nothing better has come along (if going to try something anyway, why not try it?);

9. annual ACP reports appear necessary--can't speak with as much accuracy without them (e.g., "folks attending worship alone give 50 cents per person per week--but people attending both small groups and worship give $32 per person per week"--and, "1 out of 400 baptized annually if attending worship alone--but 1 out of 4 baptized if attending small groups and worship"; complete the ACP--fully and honestly--each year);

10. the most innovative thing most Southern Baptist congregations and their staffs can do is: WORK HARD continuously implementing the tried-and-true basics for church health/growth; nothing about the world has so changed that those basics won't still work IF WE WILL; until God begins making people differently than He has for thousands of years (not likely), His church in the 21st century still has a chance (God has put Heaven in our hands, to make much of it what it will be when we arrive there).

These are harder to do than to type!

Scott said...

Happy Pentecost!

Anonymous said...

# 6 again: "TALKING/preaching . . ." said...


I received the lengthy email.



Tom Parker said...


You are right, the CR does not deserve the credit or the blame--my apologies.

Anonymous said...

We must have correct doctrine. Of this I do not doubt.

Had to say that so that people won't misconstrue this (although they will anyway! :-D) Jesus did not say, "They will know you are my disciples by your doctrine." He did not say, "You sheep, come into paradise for I needed good doctrine and you preached to me, I needed rebuke for sin and you corrected me." Jesus did not say, "Have good doctrine about your enemy," nor did He say, "The greatest commandment is this, you must have correct doctrine."

Some of you see my point. For the rest of you, well, it may be time to reassess your fruit....

volfan007 said...

What's really ironic...really, really, is that we have a Methodist telling the SBC what's wrong with us! The Methodist denomination has been losing members by the droves, and yet, he's gonna tell us what's wrong with us. lol.

I, like so many others, left the Methodist Church due to the liberalism in it. Every Southern Baptist Church that I have pastored has had many "former Methodists" in them.

Who can say why the numbers are down? Many Churches just dont take the time to fill out the ACP. Many liberal type Churches have pulled out. Some Churches have cleaned up their rolls...a loss of evangelistic zeal.... a lack of prayer....a lack of obedience in the Pastors and Members...Pastors not caring so much about getting the baptismal numbers notch on their belts, but are trying to counsel with people more, to make sure that they need to be saved, or just need assurance; Pastors taking more time, and being more careful with children-to make sure that they understand....the list goes on and on and on over what the decline in numbers could mean.

But, God is sovereign. He has control over our growth. We need to be sure to stay faithful to Him and to His Word, and love Him, and serve Him; and let Him take care of the numbers.


Steve said...

I don't have any expertise in denominational growth issues, but it might just e that any group grows to one correct size when it is being directed from Above, and can only try for that size when being directed by sinful man below.

Tom Parker said...


It must be tough knowing it all. You strike me as someone who can learn nothing from anyone else. It will be ok in heaven because if someone is a believer they will be there, with no denominational basis. What a shame, what a pity to be unteachable.

Bruce said...

007 I'm with dare a pesky liberal Methodist tell us Southern Baptists anything....

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that there is nothing we can learn from the article because a Methodist wrote it? If you read the article, he's the first to admit the struggle they've had. He doesn't debate theology but simply analyzes the stats and shares commentary on what may be happening.

If I find out I have cancer, I'd be real interested in what another cancer patient (who has fought the battle for years) has to say, even if they were a chain smoking, artificial sweetener lovin, chronic sunbathing, pagan. They still have insight into the experience that I don't have. It's a little short sighted to discount everything he's says because he's (gasp!) Methodist.

Don't misunderstand me here. I agree that the Methodist church has been saturated with liberalism. If it wasn't for the CR (and more, the grace of God), there the SBC would be today. But I honestly believe many react negatively to this article because Burleson (gasp!) comments on it. We aren't being objective here but argumentative simply for the sake of it. The article has thought provoking comments. He may or may not be right. But if he's wrong, it's not because he's Methodist.

So, for whatever it is worth, I encourage everyone to be a little more objective and free-thinking. Quit reacting based upon who's "side" your on.

For the record, I feel the same way about how many have reacted to Patterson's article as well. Breath everyone...calm down and breath.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "free thinking"

volfan007 said...


You said,"Are you saying that there is nothing we can learn from the article because a Methodist wrote it?" I never said that. I said that it's very ironic and very funny that a Methodist is gonna tell us what's wrong with us,and that some people would take what he says very seriously.

You said,"We aren't being objective here but argumentative simply for the sake of it." I'm not for or against anything just because Wade is for or against something, nor am I just trying to be arguementative, no more than you are by saying what you've said to me...right? I was simply sharing an opinion.

And, my opinion is that it's ironic that a Methodist from a very liberal denomination that has been declining for years and years is discussing what's wrong with the conservative SBC. And, that anyone would read what he says without red flags going up everywhere.

Hilliard, do you think that there is any possibility that this fella might be just a little bit biased in his comments?


Tom Parker said...


You still are not willing to learn from someone else outside of the SBC. We should take what this guy said seriously, the SBC has some serious problems.

Bob Cleveland said...


I'm not prone to argue with folks but I note you've said a fair amount about Dr. Weems and about Methodists, but I don't see much about what Dr. Weems said. And what he said seems to be the truth.

I'd be interested in your observations on what he actually said.

Anonymous said...


"Hilliard, do you think that there is any possibility that this fella might be just a little bit biased in his comments?"

I'm struggling to see what his "bias" would be. He didn't attack the SBC or speak negatively about us in anyway (imo). In fact, I felt it was quite the opposite. So, I'm not sure what his hidden agenda would be. What is it that I should be suspect of or fear concerning this man's article?

Anonymous said...

Ditto on Bob's comment

Tom Parker said...

Bob and Pastor Hilliard:

I wish to join both of you in waiting for a thoughtful analysis from 007.

Gene Prescott said...

Resident member and baptism numbers remain important metrics of church health, but not as exclusively as they were in prior years. Increasingly, as Baptists embrace other cultures such as Asian and Hispanic, traditional membership does not measure the extinct of the impacts.

Even so, the percentage of the world that is Christian (or Adherents including Baptists) has been diminishing for decades. This in spite of new effort churches not affiliated denominationally and movements such as the Emergents.

Robust numerical growth is necessary for percentage regression not to occur in increasing populations.

Interestingly, my pastor's sermon today used wind power in an associative way with the Holy Spirit. However, he didn't mention how small of an impact harnessing wind will have on the meeting the growing demand for electricity in China or India.

So I wondered whether a remnant can clothe a naked world.

volfan007 said...

To answer all of you, I again quote from my comment above...

"Who can say why the numbers are down? Many Churches just dont take the time to fill out the ACP. Many liberal type Churches have pulled out. Some Churches have cleaned up their rolls...a loss of evangelistic zeal.... a lack of prayer....a lack of obedience in the Pastors and Members...Pastors not caring so much about getting the baptismal numbers notch on their belts, but are trying to counsel with people more, to make sure that they need to be saved, or just need assurance; Pastors taking more time, and being more careful with children-to make sure that they understand....the list goes on and on and on over what the decline in numbers could mean.

But, God is sovereign. He has control over our growth. We need to be sure to stay faithful to Him and to His Word, and love Him, and serve Him; and let Him take care of the numbers."


r. grannemann said...

Jeff and Lin,

LDS and Islam are both growing because of high birth rates. That's not an excuse for Baptists, but it just a fact that not many religions are growing these days by making converts - except for atheism.

Tom Parker said...


You sure do an excellent job of spinning. Too much passing of the buck. I guess the problems of the SBC are no one's fault.

Anonymous said...

"But, God is sovereign. He has control over our growth. "

If I might add that no one will end up in hell that does not belong there. When we are about the Lord’s business, numbers are insignificant.

In the end, the same number of people will be saved no matter how many mistakes we make, no matter many people accept the call to missions, no matter who is in charge, and no matter what rules or guidelines we put in place.

But let it be said of me and mine: "they were faithful to the end and desired the absolute truth of the knowledge of the living and written Word of God."


Lin said...

LDS and Islam are both growing because of high birth rates. That's not an excuse for Baptists, but it just a fact that not many religions are growing these days by making converts - except for atheism.

Sun May 11, 11:05:00 PM 2008

Where do you find the stats on this?

Chuck Morton said...

One of the points Patterson attempts to make in his appeal for fidelity to Southern Baptist culture is a return to our being..."Southern Baptist people...almost entirely from the working class and not highly valued in the social order". I find it most comical that one who struts onto the Convention floor, from the suites of the Convention hotel, would have the audacity to lament our divergence from the "not highly valued in the social order".

What is even more surprising is the fact that Patterson's remark had no impact here on this opinion page.

Patterson, I believe, caught a glimpse of his own naked backside; and recognizing it he, like many of us, chose to ignore it.

I think a better discussion here would be ways we can better encounter our culture, identifying once again with those from whom we have distanced ourselves. Or will we gracefully parade down the streets reveling in our nakedness before a culture that can clearly see we have on no clothes.

r. grannemann said...



"The new federal study reported that Utah's "fertility rate" -- the number of live births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 -- was 93.1. That is 41 percent higher than the national average of 65.9."


you will see the percentage or Mormons in Utah is 62%. If the non-Mormon population has a birth rate that mirrors the national average, then that means Mormon birth rate is about twice the national average.

you will find:

"The total number of Muslims is huge, a little more than one fifth of the world's populaton. The growth rate of the Muslim population, which averaged 1.9 between 2000 and 2006, is also far higher than the world's population growth rate, which averaged 1.22% in the same period. It is also much faster than any other major religious group."

Anonymous said...

Interesting read:

HOw many years behind Great Britain are we as a nation?


Lin said...

r, Thanks so much for the links. I will check them out. I knew about the birth rates...that is obvious. But there is also a concerted effort for converts in both camps.

With Muslims, it is hard to measure but I do know that my city alone has seen 3 new Mosques in the past 8 years. It never ceases to amaze me to see all the blue eyed women with their heads covered. Talk to teachers in inner city schools and they can tell you about all the little American citizens who now cover their heads.

And don't even get me started on the 18 year old 'elders' who have rung my doorbell in the last year to recruit me to the LDS. So far, it has happened 4 times. Each time, they try to convince me they are talking about the same 'Jesus' as I believe in.

By the way, The Patriarchy Movement has been promoting the Quiverfull ideology for years. Many in our SBC have been skirting around it for years. (It is a sin for Christian couples to not want children)

Seems the others are not the only ones racing for the Domination of America.

Anonymous said...

K Michael,

Are you saying you know who is elect and who isn't? You can determine that?

Camel Rider said...

Since you can know who is chosen or not....can you check in my people group? If no one is chosen I prefer to return home instead of continuing to learn arabic. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Bryan and Camel,

I am not sure if you either of you actually read my post, but let me suggest you do just that. I did not directly mention the elect, and I most certainly said nothing about my knowledge, or lack there of, of who the elect are.

But thanks for chiming in.

Eric Lockhart said...

This is my first time to post on your site, though I have read it for a while. I will first state that I have not read all the other comments, so if I repeat what has been said, sorry.

I fear that often there is a tendency to go to the extreme. If one group, or person, that we do not agree with goes one way, there is an over-correction to the other side. And then a statement to show how stupid, arrogant, or how much of a liar the one who does not agree with us is. I say that to say, it does not have to be one or the other.

Is there some serious problems with the SBC, especially concerning growth and evangelism? Yes, but I have heard that addressed, even by Dr. Patterson, who seems to be despised by most on this site, though I am sure it is out of Christian love for the hope of restoring him. But, have the numbers also dropped because some are cleaning up the rolls? Yes. I personally wish more would, and can give testimony that the church God has allowed me to pastor has dropped from 156 members to 60 members over the past 2 years, all the while baptizing 12 (happy to say 10 of those are very active in our church). So we supposedly lost 96 members, but in real attendance we have gained 12, though as far as effectively reaching our community we have barely made a dent.

I am not sure how well I am communicating my point, at 1:30 in the morning, but I don't understand why it has to be one or the other and cannot be both. Why can we not just say, "I am not sure I completely agree and another perspective would be.." I thought you were open to different view points. Yet, you continuously paint Dr. Patterson as intentionally deceitful and extremely arrogant, though you do well to never point blank say so.

If I am wrong, I would sincerely love to be corrected.

Anonymous said...

If Baptists are worried about losing numbers of members, don't worry. Remember, Lord Jesus started with only 12 disciples. If your message is the same as His, of course, your "denomination" will grow again. Is your church based on His words, actions, and examples in the Holy Scriptures? Is your time spent actively caring for the sick, the poor, the hungry, the handicapped, and the rejected members of your community or have you withdrawn to safely and only "fellowship" with your own kind? Be more trusting in God as a loving Father, and then, get on with His real work. You are so very much needed. People will notice how you care for others, and they will come and pray with you again.