Monday, June 30, 2014

In the next 20 years the SBC will be smaller

I do think that we're going to see a winnowing. We're going to see a clarification of who we are and I do believe in twenty years we're going to be a smaller denomination, maybe less number of churches but I think that we're going to be more focused. I think we're going to be more serious about joining together and reaching the world for Christ.

Frank Page, CEO, SBC Executive Committee, Fault Lines Within the SBC Panel, June, 2014 (go to the 24 minute mark at the end).

If we look down the road at what the SBC will be like two decades hence, what do we see?

Frank Page sees a smaller denomination but one more focused on reaching the world for Christ.

I don't think any of us can see clearly what we will look like, what we will be like twenty years down the road, but it is somewhat remarkable that Frank Page, our day-to-day SBC leader is honest and forthright enough to state candidly that we are going to be smaller. Give a tip of the hat to demographics, cultural and religious trends, and old fashioned realism.

As for being more focused on reaching the world for Christ...perhaps. The jury is out on that but I see churches less interested in denominational structures, less interested in creating and maintaining the denominational infrastructure, particularly buildings, staff, and budgets than in placing and supporting church planters here in North America, and enhancing authentic Christian witness overseas.

It is noteworthy in this regard that in his address to trustees last month Tom Elliff, lame duck CEO of our International Mission Board, signaled his belief in "new avenues" for sending and supporting missionaries. More on this later, but if there is a vision for the SBC future, it likely will be led with something in this form. Make note here that our grand denominational funding program, The Cooperative Program, which is responsible as much as any  factor for the SBC that we have today is singularly uncaptivating to a new generation of ministers. Our goal with the CP at this stage is to find an acceptable floor for giving; hence, Elliff's exploratory remarks about "new avenues."

Any optimists among us who see a larger denomination?


Anonymous said...

SBC will be smaller and no more or less focused on 'winning' people to Christ, in addition to being perceived as less relevant to people's day-to-day existence.

Its authoritarian and dated approach to matters religious will reach into the future, thus allowing the past to impede its progress. Those that no longer wish to travel a worn-out road will have left; yet the more irrelevant the SBC becomes, the stronger its leadership will assert the convention is heading in the right direction.

One will continue to hear “if we do more, pray more, give more, love Jesus more ....” But more of (much of) the same of what SBC members (i.e., mostly clergy) do really begs the question: “do they really love Jesus or their perception of him that justifies their special status?”

The focus of SBC is on quantitative change, given it knows what it needs to know and only needs to do it more, better, quicker, efficiently. Its past as prologue orientation makes qualitative change difficult, notwithstanding this type of change being the expectation for converts.

Until it can come to grips that things evolve and that in time the process underlying things itself evolves, it will not be able to appreciate the creative dynamic that undergirds all existence. That is, SBC’s notion of God will be more limited than it might otherwise be.

I don’t see much of a future for SBC. I only see a slightly better one for CBF.

Anonymous said...

I see no future for the CBF and very little, if any, for the SBC. Just look at their preachers and their constant harping on money and that's as far as you need to look.

Unknown said...

Might we already have a smaller denomination? I fear that our reporting processes have hidden the reality of our shrinking over the past decade.

Anonymous said...

Anon1: "I don’t see much of a future for SBC. I only see a slightly better one for CBF."

Anon2: "I see no future for the CBF and very little, if any, for the SBC. Just look at their preachers and their constant harping on money and that's as far as you need to look."

Anon1: If the concern is over CBF preachers' harpings on money, which is then suggested to negate a future, would this not also negate the future of SBC, given its incessant appeals for CP dollars?

Lee said...

As to Frank Page's comment, "We're going to see a winnowing," well, I think it has already started. We are in a post-denominational church era, and a lot of people don't look at the brand name anymore, even in the South. Non denominational churches, especially the mega churches, grow by attracting members from denominational churches, because they minister inwardly, and that attracts a lot of younger, less mature Christians who see church as another weekly social activity like a soccer league or softball travelling team. The SBC loses its share of people to those. The denomination's publishing house reports that half of the Sunday School enrollment is in the adult category, past 55 years of age. That stat alone indicates that a smaller SBC is in the cards for the future.

The SBC is also a denomination made up of a collection of diverse, mostly smaller, independent, autonomous congregations. Some of them are cutting edge, ministering in areas where they hit the target and reach the lost. Most of them turn inward, develop habits that create a closed group, and slowly die. They don't decline as fast as most mainline denominational churches do, that have to deal with bad decisions made by clergy boards to go outside of scripture, but they still develop habits that turn people off.

How do you change that?