Last week NAMB released the results from its baptism task force study group. For years, leaders and churches noticed the numbers of baptism rates (a key marker of life transformation in our churches) declining rapidly.
On the 2012 Annual Church Profile (ACP):
· 25 % of SBC churches reporting had ZERO baptisms.
· 60% reported no baptisms of young adults (12-17)
· 80% reported either none or only 1 baptism in the 18-29 age group
To be fair, not every church fills out the ACP (please rectify this in your congregation), but of the number that did, we have a significant enough sample for Lifeway Research to extrapolate that these numbers would still hold in the main if every church filled out their report.
The one positive area of growth – preschoolers – is very problematic. I addressed that in this post.
But the numbers from this study reveal something very ominous indeed. I have long been of the impression that it wasn’t that bad. The vague reports of “missing baptisms” were more “Chicken Little” and less solid fact. I saw revival in my church and other congregations in my community. My sense was we weren’t drifting that far.
If, as Ed Stetzer is prone to state, “Facts are our friends,” these friends just punched us in the gut.
A full quarter of our churches baptized no one. That’s over 11,000 SBC churches with no fruit from the harvest. None. Zilch. Add to that the 36,000 of our churches who baptized one or no one in the college to young adult category, and there’s trouble brewing. These types of numbers led the secular press in The Atlantic to publish an article titled, “Baptists, Just Without the Baptisms.”
But it’s the missing youth baptisms - some 27,000 SBC churches didn’t baptize a single teenager – that portends to disaster.
May I suggest something? Something that is one of my deepest concerns?
Friends, what if these trends are simply the evidence that God is removing his candlestick from our midst? Think about it – if spiritual awakening among youth is a clear sign of God moving and we are seeing NO MOVEMENT in our churches, what else should we conclude?
Friends, what if you and I, in our pursuit of the comforts of this day, have simply become complacent in our pews unwilling to reach the lost? What if our desire for the programming we like, or are comfortable with, supersedes our desire for young men and women to come to Christ? What if we have decided that young adults are noisy and loud (they are), boisterous and irreverent (they are), passionate and zealous (they are) and therefore have no place in our comfortable confession?
So what can be done?
I will return to the practical side of this in part #2 of this post.
John Mark Yeats