US Southern Baptist decline continues, latest figures show

The decline in US Southern Baptist church membership is continuing, according to figures shown in the latest Annual Church Profile (ACP) report.

An analysis by LifeWay shows that the average number of worshipers, baptisms and giving to missions also declined from 2014-15.

However, the number of Southern Baptist churches actually grew by 294, to a total of 46,793 – the 17th year in a row the number of churches increased. Giving to churches rose, but giving to denominational causes fell.

According to the ACP figures, members declined by more than 200,000, to 15.3 million, while average weekly worship attendance declined by 1.72 per cent to 5.6 million worshipers.

There was also a decline in baptisms, which fell 3.3 per cent to 295,212.

The figures represent the ninth year in succession that membership numbers have fallen. Reported baptisms have fallen in eight of the last 10 years, and the proportion of baptisms to members has fallen to one in every 52 members.

Southern Baptist leaders made no attempt to gloss over the figures. SBC executive committee president Frank Page said: ""God help us all! In a world that is desperate for the message of Christ, we continue to be less diligent in sharing the Good News. May God forgive us and give us a new passion to reach this world for Christ."

LifeWay president Thom Rainer said: "The ACP report shows many faithful Southern Baptists continue to worship, share the gospel, give generously, and live in community with other believers. We praise God for these efforts every year."

He added: "While a decrease in baptisms is very disappointing, we don't take for granted 295,000 baptisms. We should rejoice with each of those individuals who chose to follow Christ."

He also stressed the increase in the number of churches, saying: "People underestimate the importance of momentum. It only takes a few people in each church, being intentional about sharing their faith, for some new momentum to build."