“Could it be that we have considered baptism to be the finish line and not the starting line?” Robby Gallaty asked messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.
“Could it be that we have spent a lot of our time teaching people what they’re saved from, and we haven’t spent time teaching people what they’re saved for?”
Gallaty set forth the recommendations of a Disciple-making Task Force during the June 13 report of the North American Mission Board at the SBC annual meeting. Gallaty is a Tennessee pastor who has chaired the task force since it was commissioned two years ago by NAMB and LifeWay Christian Resources.
At the beginning of the report, NAMB President Kevin Ezell stated, “Southern Baptist Convention, we do have an evangelism issue that we need to address,” yet it is “symptomatic of an even deeper problem that we have when it comes to discipleship — to make disciples that make disciples that make disciples.
“Thom Rainer and LifeWay combined with the North American Mission Board and myself two years ago appointed a discipleship task force to study where we are in the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes to discipleship because we do believe that it is key to turning around evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Ezell said.
The task force made three recommendations to churches: increase efforts toward Bible engagement; examine the connection between salvation decisions and group involvement; and examine the number of groups that multiply on a regular basis.
Gallaty said Southern Baptist churches have baptized 7.1 million people over the past 20 years — yet overall weekly church attendance has declined over that same period.
While Southern Baptists have been seeking ways to stem the downturn in baptisms and church attendance, the task force’s research indicated that if churches had simply retained those they had baptized, then the SBC’s membership figures would be doubled.
The task force discovered a disconnect between tracking baptisms and incorporating those new converts into an active life of discipleship and service within the local church. While Gallaty painted a troubling picture, he also outlined solutions.
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Source: Baptist Press