During the two-day annual meeting of Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis, LifeWay Christian Rources held LeaderLife pastor’s luncheon, June 15, and called for urgency in guiding people to receive baptism as a respond to the slow growth of SBC membership and the low number of people who actually receive baptism.
At the luncheon, Southern Baptist leaders came up with the two major solutions to the problems: first, launching new Bible classes; and second, enforcing new emphasis on baptism. By encouraging churches to begin new Bible study classes and assisting pastors in their outreach efforts, LifeWay hopes to meet the SBC’s goal of having one million baptisms.
James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay, who is already aware of such trend, referred to the decline of baptisms as the result of a lack of urgency on the part of churches in their attempts to reach people for Christ.
"I've heard from a number of people across our denomination that professions of faith are good enough," said Draper. "They aren't teaching the importance of publicly identifying with Jesus through baptism -- and they're ignoring His command to baptize His followers. Baptisms reflect that people have seriously made a commitment to follow Christ."
According to the Baptist Press, Michael Lewis, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, pointed out three distinguishing facts that shape today’s trend of SBC:
1. In 1900, it took 21 church members to lead one person to Christ, compared to the 43 church members it takes today.
2. While the overall Southern Baptist membership increased by 16.1 percent, the U.S. population grew by 24.5 percent.
3. In 1971, 30 million people did not attend church. Today, that number is 79 million.
"Baptismal waters have flown through biblical times, but what has happened to the flow today?" asked Lewis, citing the plateau churches are experiencing in the number of baptisms compared with the growth of Southern Baptist membership and the overall U.S. population.
However by the grace of God, Lewis said his church has grown rapidly since adopting FAITH as a witnessing tool to draw people to Christ.
"God has ignited our hearts to win our wicked, liberal city for Christ," said Lewis, adding that leaders must properly understand the production as well as the places and the picture of baptism.
"A lot of people have been baptized on the wrong side of the cross -- they must believe first and then be baptized," he noted.