EDITORIAL: Time to drop Baptist?
Is it time for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to drop Baptist from its name? With baptisms falling for the third year in a row among Southern Baptist churches, maybe it is time for the SBC to change its name to something like Southern Programmers Convention, Southern Churchgoers Convention or Southern Squabblers Convention. Apparently, baptisms aren’t as important to Southern Baptists as they once were. Southern Baptists are having a hard time living up to their name.
Does the thought of a name change get you fired up? Are we tromping on sacred ground by even suggesting it? We can hear it now. “I’m a Southern Baptist and proud of it!” Great! Are you proud of the fact that according to LifeWay’s Annual Church Profile (ACP), the number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches has fallen to the lowest level since 1987? Where are the Boomers when you need them?
Last time we checked, there were more than 16 million Southern Baptists. But then again, we better look fast because we are losing ground in this category as well. Membership in SBC churches fell from 16,306,246 in 2006 to 16,266,920 in 2007. Baptisms in 2007 dropped nearly 5.5 percent to 345,941, compared to 364,826 in 2006. Given these numbers, it takes 47 Southern Baptists to see one person come to know Jesus as Savior. Can you imagine if Jesus’ disciples had operated with the same mentality and motivation? It would have taken them more than four years to see their first convert! Think about it; when was the last time you shared your faith with someone?
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, was right when he said, “This report is truly disheartening. Baptisms have now declined for three consecutive years and for seven of the last eight years, and are at their lowest level since 1987. Indeed, the total baptisms are among the lowest reported since 1970. We are a denomination that, for the most part, has lost its evangelistic passion.”
We have lost it alright! Apparently our get up and go for evangelism has got up and went! We are pitiful! We don’t deserve to have the name Baptist in our denomination’s identity if we don’t identify with lost people any better than this. It is time we wake up and open our mouths and start sharing the love of Jesus with our lost neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends. Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Are we serious about a name change? Not without a fight! It is time we turn this nose dive in baptisms around! The Great Commission isn’t just for preachers. The Great Commission is the responsibility of every believer. Read it again for the first time. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Going and making is the key. It took 47 of us to see one person baptized last year. If by next year it takes 10 of us to see one person baptized, we would see 1.6 million people come to know Christ. Imagine what would happen if every Southern Baptist led just one person to Christ in 2009. We would see more than 16 million new believers. Let’s go get them!