Friday, April 25, 2008

Those Weakening Hands

Here is a piece of news that Southern Baptists did not want to hear: membership and baptisms have declined. While IMB missionaries are reporting increases in overseas membership and baptisms, the churches holding the proverbial ropes are weakening. So what's happening?

Why is this taking place now? One site quotes expert Ed Stetzer, also providing a link to Stetzer's own site. Stetzer gives three issues that must be discussed to address this historic and unprecedented decline for Southern Baptists:

  • The absence of young leaders and ethnic leaders in denominational life.
  • Denominational infighting.
  • (most importantly) We’ve lost our focus on the gospel.

Add to Stetzer's opinion other important factors such as:

  • Our love affair with American culture
  • Undisciplined churches
  • (most importantly for me) a growing indication of prayerlessness

When you work in a group with so many members (over 16 million) it becomes very easy to rest on those historic laurels. We have gotten large and lethargic. Large is good; lethargy is deadly.

Why is this significant to someone working in South America? Consider the following:

  1. Our future international missionaries come from this declining pool.
  2. Lethargy eventually reveals itself in lethargic missions support; this is not just financial in nature. We are currently blessed with a surge in personal participation on the part of SBC churches. But this will not continue if those churches are losing the battle "back home."
  3. Denominational infighting creates such a lack of focus that important things as winning lost America and reaching a lost world fall in the cracks.

Pray for the SBC. Pray, pray, pray for revival.