The SBC, like most all denominational entities, is the proverbial “rope of sand” with respect to it’s past and it’s future.
It survives with the generations that had loyalty to such enterprises, even when, and especially when, member-support and attendance could be more for the image of things than any Great Commission. The character and work ethic of its members forged ahead. The 60’s saw a plateau and the convention has declined since the 70’s.
The “young bucks” (45 and under) don’t seem as ready to burden themselves down with such company loyalty or in some cases, image-keeping. (hence the steady decline in numbers) Their desire for organization beyond the simple local congregation is just not as much a force. They are not as divested in the SBC brand. They, like all denominations, swim upstream against a very progressive, liberal culture.
I watch as contemporary culture does the same thing to the Mills and Xers as it did the Boomers and previous generations. Contemporary culture wants in, no matter the year, and today’s “Evangelical” church has put out the welcome sign as big as ever. Why? contemporary culture has fame, money and perceived success. Panicking pastors are petrified as people play the pamper-me but don’t push me games. (Alliterated P sermon there) Everyone is guessing still on how to get Millennials to commit and the Gen X group to care.
The Gen X group (34-49) and the Millennials (18-33) don’t get excited so much about keeping the old mother-ship afloat as the Boomers and their forefathers. They want to inherit the Swiss Chalet, not the 1965 homestead still outfitted with shag carpet. By and large they want their church to have a stage, moving lights and performance band complete with set-lists and front-man. (fog machine optional) They don’t want to be saddled down with payments and high maintenance on a church building that smacks of early American with that “church look”. Besides, these inefficient buildings are not “green” and the carbon footprint is simply unacceptable.
A population growth upwards to 500 million is expected by 2050. 10,000 more churches are needed just to meet basic population growth. By 2040, half of the SBC Churches we see today will be gone on the present path of decline. At present in 2018, less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend any church in America.
Many new Southern Baptist leaders are sold on the satellite–high tech image-driven model of big and better. They want names that reflect status and stardom–Big time celebrity pastors who look good on camera. It’s the era of rewarding the big and shunning the small. All the show-shopping sensationalism and perverted biblical doctrines but with that nice home town feel.
Disassociation is critical too. Certain death is to mention “Southern” or “Baptist”. (known to be homophobic, misogynistic, prejudiced, and anti-bout anything—if secular Media has the scoop and truth)
Millennials (professing Christian or not) are relatively equal in their support for Same Sex Marriage, homosexual behavior, sex before marriage, and abortion as their non-Christian or non-religiously affiliated counterpart. (nearly 70% in favor) Their desire to be “non-offensive”, “tolerant” and “progressive” means that they must disassociate themselves from any group that stands against moral “sin”. (including Southern Baptists) They also must disassociate themselves from the bible and its teachings in favor of feelings and compliance/acceptance with secular culture.
Gen-Z–Born after 2002, “the Linksters” (linked to technology out of the womb) will take disassociation from church on cue as their parents. These will join the ever-growing community called “The Nones” (check box-No Religious Affiliation)
80% of youth drop out of church after high-school according to Lifeway surveys. They also report that two-thirds return and find their place in a congregation once again.
One stop, mega shopping (on line or not) has closed many of the mom and pop shops in small town America. It has done a number on the smaller (under 400) church as well because of the same reasons. Add to this the reality that Millennials are more likely to move and to be disengaged from their job. This not much incentive to stay, build and grow churches either.
The average age of a Southern Baptist (just a couple lower than Methodists, Presby’s and the like) is appx. 62.
There are now more pastors over 60 than under 40. Average full time pay is $55,000 and Bi-vocational part time is $20,000. These salaries, combined with fewer full-time pastorates available, mean that many Seminary graduates take jobs in Not-for-Profits and other Social ministry positions rather than local church ministries.
The average size of a Southern Baptist church, according to the 2014 Annual Church Profile (ACP) report, 90% of the churches reporting average fewer than 272 in their worship service, and 75% average fewer than 131. Churches with under 400 members are stated to be the most at risk for closure.
It’s gonna take more than Flakes formulas to fix the Snow-flake crowd we are trying to convince to love Jesus and follow Him as a Southern Baptist, much less as a disciple of Jesus (Christian). All that taking up your cross thing, along with Jesus asking us to obey Him, is a real hold back. It seems not enough care exists for overcoming this paradigm that is bigger than us all.
Prejudice stubbornly remains:
Truly, the fields are white, and the skin colors are less and less so. Does this factor still offend some Southern Baptists? You bet your Dixie flag it does. Still a few more years before all that dies away. Until then, this is a legitimate reason for any church group to diminish.
The child called SBC was birthed and grew in a time conducive to corporate stigma and a large volunteer base. (stay at home moms) She is old now and the retirement center is in view if we go by statistics. (down 1 million over the last 10 years – just over 5 million in attendance on any given Sunday) She is as uncertain of her future as ever.
We shall see if JD Greears’ leadership of the SBC finds sufficient followers to do the labor for fields still white unto harvest.
We shall see if the continued contemporary trends of secularizing the church so as not to offend the masses with the truths of the gospel will do something more than defile the church while it still declines.
We shall see if the now traditional trend of Praise-Me-Bands has any future or say so in the matter of dignity and scriptural integrity in worship.
We shall see if the God-talks from the no-pulpit, with shirt tails out and muscles bulging have the power to keep-em-coming.
The Bride of Christ (the church) is taking the same insult as the male-female relationship of the society and home. The future shows no sign of changing unless it is more in the direction of secular-hedonism and emasculation of the church.
Yet, the God of Christians who choose to associate and congregate as “Southern Baptists” (on the church sign or not) is the same “yesterday, today and forever.” His capabilities have not diminished, nor have his desires and commandments. Therein lies our hope and our stay, not anyone’s Convention or statistic.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand