From 1978-1983, 30.5 percent of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention were seeing at least a 10 percent increase in total membership over a five-year period of time. During this same time, 51.9 percent of our SBC churches were plateaued and 17.6 percent were in decline.
Declining churches, as defined in this denominational study, are those where total membership declined by at least 10 percent in this five-year period of time. Plateaued is categorized as between growing and declining.
When you compare that with the most recent five-year period of record from 2008-2013, only 25.9 percent of our churches were categorized as growing by at least 10 percent in total membership. During this same five-year period, 44.3 percent of our churches were plateaued and 29.9 percent were declining, meaning their total membership declined by at least 10 percent between 2008 and 2013. Again, plateaued is categorized as between growing and declining.
This should burden each of us. You can see it clearly: As Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, put it: “In the years that this statistic has been calculated, we have never had fewer growing churches and never had more declining churches.”
I want to suggest four actions we can take to see this turn around over the next five years.
1. We need to refocus our churches on evangelizing lost people.
We need to stop imagining that real church growth occurs when we trade members between our churches. Real church growth only occurs when we evangelize lost people.
2. We need to develop a strategy and culture of discipling people.
Real church health can only occur as we disciple our people as Jesus said, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19b-20). Discipleship involves not only baptizing people, but teaching people to obey all that Jesus commanded us to do.
Therefore, we need to develop not only a culture for disciple-making but also have a strategy for disciple-making in our churches.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press