Published June 13, 2013
NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptists experienced growth in the number of churches affiliated with the convention in 2012 and the total amount given for denominational missions causes. However, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions, most of the ACP metrics declined in 2012 including membership, average attendance, baptisms, and total giving.
The number of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention grew by 270 to 46,034, a 0.6 percent increase over the previous year. SBC churches also reported 4,992 church-type missions last year, 40 more than in 2011, although some state conventions no longer use that designation which may have impacted the total.
Although the number of SBC-related congregations grew, reported membership of those churches declined more than 100,000, down 0.7 percent to 15.9 million members. Primary worship attendance declined 3.1 percent to 5.97 million Sunday worshippers.
Although baptisms were a bright spot in last year’s report, increasing 0.7 percent, this year’s report shows a decline of 5.5 percent to 314,956 people. Reported baptisms have declined six of the last eight years, with 2012 the lowest since 1948. The ratio of baptisms to total members increased to one baptism for every 50 members.
“While we celebrate every new baptized believer represented by these numbers, fewer reported baptisms is heartbreaking,” said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay.
No time to rest
“Southern Baptists cannot rest on what God accomplished through us in prior years. The message of the Gospel is alive, relevant, and powerful today, and the Great Commission task of sharing it should excite and embolden us as Christians,” Rainer added.
Changes in giving to Southern Baptist congregations are difficult to assess because not all Baptist state conventions gather the same data, however total and undesignated receipts reported through the ACP were down 2.4 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.
Total mission expenditures reported by the churches declined 1 percent in 2012, although reported giving to Southern Baptist mission causes increased more than $48 million (7 percent) to $744 million. The “Great Commission Giving” category was added to the ACP reporting form in 2011 as a reflection of each church’s financial gifts to local, state, and national SBC missions causes. Although two more state conventions reported Great Commission Giving in 2012 than the previous year, two states have yet to add the statistic to their annual survey.
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