Southern Baptist’s Experience Resurgence in Baptisms, Worship

Southern Baptist congregations saw growth in baptisms, worship attendance and small group participation in 2023, while membership decline slowed compared to recent years, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by Lifeway Christian Resources. The 2023 ACP, a statistical census of Southern Baptist congregations that included responses from about 70% of 10 churches in the denomination, found that membership dropped for the 17th consecutive year, dipping below 13 million for the first time since the 1970s. However, the 1.8% decline was smaller than in previous years. Total baptisms grew by nearly 26% to more than 226,000, approaching pre-pandemic levels. Average weekly worship attendance surpassed 4 million for the first time in three years, while in person small group attendance reached nearly 2.5 million. The overall number of Southern Baptist congregations decreased by 292, totaling 46,906. Church-type missions declined by 170 to 2,474, but additional campuses at multisite churches increased to 680. Undesignated receipts across the convention surpassed $10 billion, while mission spending rose 9% to nearly $800 million.

“Southern Baptists are a force for good. We are sharing the Gospel with more people, gathering for worship and Bible study in increasing numbers, giving billions to support churches serving communities across our country and sending millions to support mission enterprises around the world,” said Jeff Iorg, president-elect of the SBC Executive Committee. “While we often address our shortcomings, it’s also good to pause and celebrate the global good Southern Baptists are accomplishing.” Baptisms were most frequent in Southern states like Florida, Texas and Georgia, though notable increases were also seen outside the region. California led with a 248% increase, and states like Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Alaska saw significant growth as well. Worship service attendance also grew significantly, particularly in traditional strongholds like Texas, Florida and North Carolina. However, states outside the South, such as Colorado, Utah and Idaho reported the largest percentage increases, hinting at the expanding geographical impact of the denomination.

Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, acknowledged the challenges of outreach and discipleship in today’s culture but emphasized the progress made. “Outreach and discipleship are difficult today,” McConnell said. “They require time and commitment when our culture offers numerous distractions and alternatives. The pandemic was discouraging as fewer people engaged in these activities. But as people have re-engaged and new people are participating, there is much to celebrate in Southern Baptist churches today while we invite more to join.” Additionally, state conventions used the ACP to assess how congregations handle sexual abuse prevention; over half reported requiring background checks for all staff and volunteers working with children, while fewer churches provided training for reporting and survivor support. McConnell noted that in 2023, 69% of Southern Baptist churches provided data for the Annual Church Profile, the same percentage as in 2022.

“This represents a massive amount of cooperation among churches and the local associations and state conventions that collected most of the data. But this also means there is more church membership and attendance, baptisms and giving beyond these totals,” he said. In an op-ed, Bart Barber, senior pastor of FBC Farmersville, Texas, said the numbers should give Southern Baptists “reasons to celebrate.” He noted that despite challenges over the past decade, SBC churches have made significant progress in addressing issues such as sexual abuse prevention while resolving theological differences for greater cooperation. Barber applauded SBC pastors and congregations for diligently planting and nurturing seeds of faith, emphasizing that the resulting growth is a testament to their collective effort. “God has been stirring the waters, and an upswing in baptisms has solidly begun. Not only have we experienced a second year of increased baptisms, but we have also witnessed a year-over-year gain — 25.94 percent more baptisms than in 2022 — that leaves no room for doubt about what God is doing among our churches,” he wrote.

Source: Christian Post

Print This Post Print This Post

Comments are closed