Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If You Call A Dog's Tail A Leg ......

.. Then how many legs does the dog have?

The answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.

The SBC, and its much-maligned Committee appointed by Bryant Wright, has just given us an excellent example of the downside of that thought. They have suggested that, rather than change the name of the Southern Baptist Convention, officially, that we simply add the word "Great Commission Baptists" to our name, unofficially.

That's a worthy goal, but it surely doesn't make the SBC any more of a Great Commission organization, collectively, than it was yesterday. And if you look at the numbers, it sure doesn't look like we were.

Some interesting numbers I've found: We seem to have had 16,287,494 members in 2005, which fell to 16,136,044 in 2010 .. the 4th straight year of decline. Of those members, attendance numbered 6,024,289 in 2005, growing to 6,195,449 in 2010.

It should also be noted that if our church it typical, close to 20% attendance is children too young to be included as members. Which really depresses the percentage of attendance even further.

Compared to 2005, we now have 2,028 more churches, about 150,000 fewer members, and around 170,000 more people attending.

Simple math says that, if the churches added (2,028) had the average membership, they'd have about 352 members. And about 135 in attendance. Take out the new churches and their members and the SBC would have about 715,000 fewer members and nearly 275,000 fewer in attendance. In that case, other than number of churches, we're down every way I can think of (not including dollars here).

NOTE: The above doesn't include the effect of folks leaving one SBC church to form another. But it sure seems telling to me.

Does the evidence I've been able to find .. and what I see in our own church .. seem to indicate we are a "Go and make disciples .. teaching them to obey everything I've commanded you..." group of people?

Not to me, it doesn't. And to me, that's the great tragedy of the SBC at this time. A refusal to acknowledge it .. much less address it ... much less take action concerning it.

If the SBC and the local and state associations can throw out churches for renting space to a GLBT group, or for having a woman in a pastoral position, or for failing to "be in friendly cooperation", but not be able to take any action regarding predators in the ministry, or an overwhelming failure to make disciples ... (1) to be a disciple of one: a) to follow his precepts and instructions; 2) to make a disciple a) to teach, instruct) of some ten million people God has sent to us ... then I have to believe that the aim of the SBC is to perpetuate itself and insulate itself from problems.

That's not the great commission.

Calling us that, formally or informally, won't change that.

No wonder our supply is dwindling.

Oh yes .. an afterthought .. I've asked dozens of members, some who were viewed as spiritual leaders .. why one must be baptized to join a Baptist Church. Not one has ever known the answer. And the answer is simple .. the Baptist Faith and Message, to which we subscribe, states that a church is a "Local assembly of baptized believers..". We don't seem to have taught our own members what's contained in our fundamental confessional statement of faith!

Shouldn't the SBC be addressing these things?

2 Comments:

At 9:23 AM, February 27, 2012, Blogger Nathan said...

Bob, you have mentioned your Presbyterian background on many occasions. I'm curious about your transition to an SBC church.

Were you baptized when you joined an SBC church?

Just curious.

By the by, I enjoy your contrarian voice in all things SBC, including the fact that a name change doesn't change us in the least.

 
At 10:15 AM, February 27, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Yes, in fact, I was. I'd been sprinkled as an infant (before WWII) in an Evangelical United Brethren Church, which carried me through our Methodist and all our Presbyterian years. I knew that Baptists were folks who held the belief that the appropriate response to salvation was to be baptized, so I viewed it as simply an "entrance requirement", and did so at age 45.

Bit of esoteric trivia for you: The Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church, at which point it became the United Methodist Church. Another bit: 5 years later, the membership in the United Methodists was actually less that it had been in the Methodist Church before the merger.

Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting.

 

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