Monday, June 13, 2011

The Gloom and Doom Convention in Phoenix

Half of Arizona is on fire, a fitting backdrop to the SBC's annual meeting in that state, which Plodder deems the "Gloom and Doom" convention.

The SBC reports the previous year's statistics just prior to its annual meeting each year, held in June. I suppose that in the past statistics gave us figure fueled Baptists extra bragging rights. Not last year. Not this year. Possibly not in the forseeable future.

Baptisms down 17k, continuing a general trend decades long. Membership down. Worship attendance down. Giving down. Lottie Moon down.

"Lack of passion" sayeth our Fearless Executive Committee Leader, Frank Page. "I told ya so" sayeth Associated Baptist Press which reminds those who follow our triumphs and travails that the Conservative Resurgence was supposed to increase everything.

Look for extra church-bashing, clergy-bashing, general fume and fuss preaching, lecturing, flogging, flaying, and cajoling in Phoenix this week, all under the guise of extra unction.

Expect a gaggle of the brethren to remind us that it takes a gazillion Baptists to generate one baptism. Anticipate finger pointing at the calvinists who don't believe that anyone is ever saved sufficiently to be baptized, at the traditionalists who are hindering the advance of the kingdom of God by (gasp!) singing old hymns instead of spiffy new dittys. See if the Baptist Identity group gets slammed for being too narrow, the egalitarians for being too broad, the sub-calvinists for doctrinal deficiencies, the megachurches for sucking the life out of thousands of smaller churches, the smaller churches for lacking vision and passion.

Naturally, expect pastors to be blamed for everything.

If you get most of your SBC news from the vast number of bloggers, you have good reason to be depressed. We've got bloggers pronouncing the death of the SBC as we know it, the fracturing of the convention, and about everything else that might get a look.

It's not an excuse but the SBC reflects the general trend among mainline denominations, just later and slower. Baptisms will likely continue to trend downward with spurts where they bump up. Per capita giving will continue to decline, with years of dollar increases when the economy improves. The numbers of churches, up this year by more than 700, will increase.

How about a little optimism here?

We have new leaders at our two chief entities, International and North American Mission Boards. We have a new XComm leader. Everyone in SBC life is being forced to look hard at things, mainly because money is short. I think the eventual outcome will be positive, but that doesn't preach as well as negative stuff.

But I have to be honest. SBCers do gloom and doom well.


Dave Miller said...

I just posted on this, William, but I am hearing much more hopeful things from a few people that perhaps some good things are happening and it is not all doom and gloom. We shall see.

Tom Parker said...


Didn't people say the "Conservative Resurgence was supposed to increase everything."

That is what I remember hearing for all the years as the takeover was being completed.

Why has this increase in everything not happened?

I know the current argument is that it is the economy, but the takeover has been going on for over 30 years so the economy can not be the only reason.

I am not positive about the future of the SBC and I sincerely hope that I am wrong.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

William - it certain is not all gloom and doom.

First Baptist Dallas is collecting over $100M for a brand new "Crystal Campus" and grand water fountain that will "architecturally" lead people to Christ, while the members are praying over their vials of holy land dirt from the construction site.

First Baptist Jacksonville has brand new pews, carpet, wall coverings, and stage.

And the SBC has a large stable of church marketing consultants and "generosity consultants" poised to lead us to church growth and more giving.

So things certainly are looking up for the SBC!

William Thornton said...

Hey, Tom, how about a little optimism? Bet you can find some...somewhere. :)

Our association is in a pilot "generosity" campaign conducted by state convention folks. I have no complaints about how it is being handled with respect to the churches.

Tom Parker said...


How is this for being positive? I am positive things are going to get worse. There is just too much infighting among the factions.

I will say again, I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

I was in a meeting of pastors just yesterday when someone went on a rant about new church plants refusing to include 'Baptist' in their names. I remember that same conversation taking place in that same ministers conference among those same people twenty years ago. Our structures are older, our leadership is older, and our thinking is just old. Young leaders are hard to find in the SBC and other denominations because young leaders don't want the involvement and apparently don't really need it. Their focus is on building their churches, not building a denomination.

The first headline out of the SBC meeting this morning? The president declares that dress for the week is business casual. There are no ties on the platform personalities so far!

JL Carver

William Thornton said...

No ties? Impressive...but what if the larger egos require the latest tie and hanky combo?

Anonymous said...

If the SBC is shrinking (and it most certainly is) then the negative bloggers will have to share some of the blame along with the mega churches and mega pastors that they so despise. If God chooses to bless and prosper churches like FBC Dallas and a bunch of others, then we shouldn't stand around and criticize. Maybe if we would all get busy in our own churches we might be able to build some new buildings too.

BTW, I am not a member of FBC Dallas.