Giving to the largest Protestant denomination in the US has shown signs of recovering after five years of decline – but it doesn't make up for a fall of more than $900 million between 2008-13.
Baptist Press reports that contributions to some Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) funds have risen against figures from the previous year in an indication that "local churches are recovering from the lingering effects of the Great Recession".
Contributions to the SBC's Cooperative Programme Allocation Budget rose during the first five months of the 2014-15 fiscal year, to more than $64 million.
Two seasonal SBC missions offerings – the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions – also rebounded. The Lottie Moon offering topped 2007's previous high at $154 million, while the Annie Armstrong offering reached $58 million, the third largest in its history.
However, from 2008-2013, giving to Southern Baptist churches declined by more than $911 million, or 7.52 per cent. Per capita giving also declined from $746.91 per member in 2008 to $712.37 in 2013.
The decline in giving corresponded to a decline in membership: the SBC lost just over three per cent of its membership over the same period and now stands at just over 15,735,000.
The number of baptisms is also declining and has led to soul-searching by the denomination's leaders. Last year a quarter of Southern Baptist churches reported no baptisms at all, 60 per cent said they had baptised no young people and 80 per cent reported one or fewer young adult baptisms.
SBC president Rev Ronnie Floyd wrote on his blog this week about 10 "burdens" for the denomination. He called for "a heart and growing desperation for a great move of God in this generation" backed by prayer for revival and a "great awakening". He also urged the need for more inter-dependence and for a renewed stress on evangelism, saying: "Our problem is not our path, but our pace. We must find a way to accelerate our fulfillment of the Great Commission. In this urgent hour, we must find a way to give all we have and all we are to the fulfillment of the Great Commission."