Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Can't get a crowd at any national SBC event these days?

"No one goes to the convention anymore," laments some of the brethren who have been around long enough to remember the sardine days where 20,000, 30,000, and 40,000 messengers could pack into a meeting venue.

Not quite true. It's just that the crowds are heavily diminished. Here are the past five years:

2010    Orlando          11,070
2011    Phoenix            4,814
2012    New Orleans    7,814
2013    Houston           5,103
2014    Baltimore         5,294

Toss out Orlando, the attendance bump for which we can thank Mickey Mouse. Look askance at New Orleans because it's a nice venue with the crawfish, beignets, and all that. That leaves SBC attendance in the 5k range. Pretty low for a denomination where millions gather each Lord's Day to worship in almost 50,000 churches.

Consider this: The North American Mission Board's SEND NORTH AMERICA conference scheduled for this summer already has over 7,200 registrations. Toss out maybe a couple of hundred unpaid registrations and that is 7,000 registrants paying $129 per person (early registrants paid $89) to attend.

The SBC annual meeting costs zip, only food, transportation, and lodging, nothing to attend.

So, why would seven thousand Southern Baptists pay good money to attend an SNA conference when the SBC meeting is free?

There are a lot of reasons why in 2015 Southern Baptists aren't that keen to attend the SBC annual meeing and slap backs, glad hand, and engage in the annual bragfest with old friends.

  • It's boring.
  • There's nothing much going on these days.
  • Folks don't see much value in attending.
  • Nothing much will change in the old ship SBC.
  • Neither my presence, my vote, nor my voice count for much in the SBC.
  • Decisions are pre-made by an oligarchy of SBC grandees and conventions just ratify them.
In contrast, NAMB's SNA conference engages enthusiastic participants who have an interest in planting churches. Church planters, potential church planters, churches that are interested in sponsoring a church plant all are eager to attend.

Of course, the goal is not to have a rousing conference with a great attendance. The goal is to plant churches. So far, SNA is young enough not to have a reportable track record of churches planted and a record of how they are doing, but Southern Baptists are engaged in the process.

Factor in the reality that a vocal segment of SBCers don't really like NAMB and the attendance figures are indeed impressive.

Suppose, pastor, you have a modest budgetary item, say $1,000, to spend on conventions and conferences. How would you spend it?

Many are choosing to forego the SBC annual meeting for SNA or other opportunities. 


You tell me.


dr, james willingham said...

There is no theology that commands respect, that hold attention, that engages the mind and heart, that unites and motivates. The original beliefs could do that, contrary to what most people think today. After all, nothing is more stirring, more drawing, more attracting that a Great Awakening. You ought to read the effort a Mr. Cole and his wife made to hear Mr. Whitefield preach. They rode the horse, then he ran beside it, then he rode with her gain, and all that time they were surrounded by a multitude of people going just as hard as their horses could carry them or pull their buggies. Except for the noise of the horses and the equipment, a great silence reigned. It was like a matter of life and death, and that day Mr. Cole was saved. His experience is in many of our American History books on the college level, or were, when I studied them. There is more that I could say, much more about the conversions of vast multitudes, all of which changed an immoral and profligate society into a Christian nation and prepared the way for the colonies to become united, when nationhood took its rise here.

John Waters, FBC Statesboro GA said...

We see the same issue at state conventions, here in Georgia where I serve as well as across the SBC. Many leaders don't see the purpose or value of the annual meeting, so they are connecting to other "annual events" that are more highly valued. State conventions of the future must re-think and re-tool themselves to be as effective as possible for the next generation. Same thing is probably true for the national SBC, but I'm not as well-versed there.