The Baptist Press just released the Annual Church Profile report for 2015. The article opens with the decidedly Scripture-oblivious words, “Southern Baptists may find cause for hope in the latest Annual Profile Report. The Southern Baptist Convention added more churches in 2015, due mostly to church planting efforts.”
Look. I love the Southern Baptist Convention, but I can assure you that the very last thing I have any concern about is finding “cause for hope” in anything the SBC does these days. My hope, my assurance, lies in quite a different place. The SBC would be wise to start placing their own hope – and obedience – in the same place.
Here’s the news. Inclusive of this latest statistical data, since 2002 the SBC has lost nearly one million members (952,972). Some of those lost were, of course, already “lost” before they temporarily planted themselves in an SBC pew. Some of them were given false absolution, granted full church membership, and promised “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” because they repeated some prayer or walked some aisle. That message apparently didn’t work out and they walked.
Others, no doubt truly regenerate, were driven to find more (authentic) Gospel-friendly shores where Scripture isn’t merely given the lip service of sufficiency but is actually believed, preached and taught.
(Here’s a thought. Why don’t we charge LifeWay Research with the task of tracking down every departing soul from our midst and find out why they left? Perhaps, like the real Gospel is to a fallen world, that truth might just be too divisive for the SBC intelligentsia.)
From 2014 to 2015, the SBC lost over 200,000 members. (204,409) Well yeah, but, here’s the great news! We planted another 294 new churches! Yippee! Give Kevin Ezell a raise! (Ezell is the President of the North American Mission Board.) Proving Christ right, but not knowing it, the SBC is perhaps the leader in building more churches while simultaneously losing more members than any other “We will build the church” denomination on the planet.
Read in a different, far less than self-aggrandizing light, here’s what the latest ACP report reflects. In 2015, for each new church planted by the SBC, 695 members were LOST from the membership rolls. That ratio is worse even than 2014 over 2013, when nearly 632 left the ranks per new church plant. But it’s only in the bureaucratic aristocracy of upper echelon SBC-dom that any “cause for hope” might be proclaimed.
(Build one church = Lose 695 members!!! Whoever cast this vision of lunacy … can we puh-lease lose him from our leadership? Make a note, please. I am not opposed to church planting. Not at all. I’m opposed to churches that do not preach and teach the actual Truth of Scripture. Clearly those are the majority in the SBC.)
It is disobedience to the Word that produces the epic unbuilding of the church that the church planting wizards and faux gospel pastors of the SBC are able to accomplish in massive annual numbers. It takes a decided effort and an intentional disregard of the problem – viewed in a purely Biblical light – to tolerate the fact that vision-casting, seeker sensitive, felt needs, purpose-driven drivel is a failure. It’s a failure precisely because it is all unbiblical.
Eventually, folks realize what’s being sold from the pulpit is nothing less that Christianized charlatanry, aimed at keeping pew sitters happy, engaged, and, of course, giving. But what’s being hurled from the dais, from the big screens behind it, or via “worship” tunes wailing from stage speakers, is a doctrine-free, Bible-lean course that will not feed authentic sheep. And the entertainment of the goats from it isn’t working too well either.
(To be sure, the follies and failures of the SBC’s “let’s build the church” endeavor are assuredly not impacting the “true” church. It’s just a tragedy that the SBC has moved so far from Scripture that it has become blinded to its own errors.)
The Bible is actually pretty clear. (Perspicuity … it’s part of the doctrine of Scripture, FYI) The church exists to edify the sheep. The real sheep, authentically regenerated by the Spirit of God and not by the incantation of a nonsensical, non-Scriptural prayer, must be fed the Word. In turn, those sheep share the Gospel.
Yet, in the Baptist Press article, Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, says “While a decrease in baptisms is very disappointing, we don’t take for granted 295,000 baptisms. We should rejoice with each of those individuals who chose to follow Christ.”
(Umm, last time I read the Bible, it says salvation belongs to the Lord. I can’t “choose” it, regardless of how hip, slick, and emotionally-manipulative the worship “experience” is. Regardless, far more are choosing to leave than choosing to stay. Somebody must be getting the words wrong to that salvation-inducing sinner’s prayer, I guess.)
Since the goats that have been ushered into pews don’t actually eat sheep food, SBC churches have changed the menu. (Warning: Eating this diet of disobedience will result in massive bloodletting … of members from the ranks!)
The SBC has taken upon itself the task Christ reserved for Himself. “I will build my church.” He didn’t mention light shows, monotonously-lyric-ed praise music, and “its-all-about-you” sermons as tools He would employ. He said “the gospel is the power of God for salvation” and then charged His sheep to go proclaim it.
If the cooperating member churches of the SBC would jettison tolerance for “other” gospels, stand firmly against false teaching, preach and teach actual Scripture, a funny thing will happen. Christ will, indeed, build His church.
The mission we’ve been given in Scripture is only capable of being accomplished by the method we’ve been given in Scripture. Scripture is sufficient because our God is sufficient. He has decreed the mission and the method. Too bad the SBC doesn’t believe it will work.
Like I said, I love the SBC. But it in no way resembles anything close to the “true” church that Christ is building. I just pray that we’d be obedient to the sufficiency of Scripture so that our image might just change to look a little bit more Christ-like. Who knows? Souls might actually be saved along the way. After all, Jesus promised that very thing.
As it stands, though, the frustrated flock of genuine sheep sitting in SBC pews best be on the lookout for further tourniquet-tightening methodologies from the ivory towers of the SBC to stem the hemorrhaging. Apparently, they just don’t have a copy of the Scriptures.
The purpose-driven downgrade continues …
(The downgrade, by the way, is not the loss of members. The downgrade is the loss of Scripture. The epic membership decline is the evidence of it.)
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim