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Tag: Actual Southern Baptist Church Attendance

Is the Southern Baptist Convention Growing?

southern baptist attendance

Today, the Biblical Reporter breathlessly reported:

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) spent 2023 serving Southern Baptists in their efforts to reach North America with the gospel through church planting, compassion ministry, evangelism and chaplaincy.

In 2023, NAMB celebrated a milestone in church planting—more than 10,000 new churches started since 2010—and a record-setting total of $70.2 million given to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO).

“If we make the Great Commission the top priority, our best years of ministry are ahead of us,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. “As Southern Baptists, we’ve faced challenges within our family of churches and dealt with external pressures from our secularizing culture. We continue to focus on Christ and His mission through it all, proclaiming the gospel and participating in God’s mission to build His kingdom in North America and around the world.”

Every year, NAMB tabulates the number of churches Southern Baptists planted the previous year. In 2023, NAMB noted that the class of 2022 church plants—639 new churches—pushed the total of churches Southern Baptists have planted since 2010 beyond the 10,000 mark.

Wow! The Southern Baptist Convention has planted over 10,000 churches since 2010. Reading the excerpt above might give the uninitiated reader the idea that the SBC is g-r-o-w-i-n-g. It’s not.

In May 2023, Lifeway Research reported:

Within the Southern Baptist Convention, multisite congregations reported 585 campuses in addition to their first location. The SBC saw 416 fewer churches and 165 fewer church-type missions associated with the convention in 2022 than in the previous year.

Fewer churches, not more. The SBC is known for playing games with statistics. “We started 1,000 new churches in 2022! Praise Jesus.” The small print says, “We closed 1,416 churches in 2022, a net loss of 416 churches. Further, a ploy the SBC uses to prop up new church numbers is to close churches and re-open them with a new name. First Baptist Church of Podunk, Kentucky becomes Grace Fellowship of Greater Lexington, Kentucky. Same people (or perhaps more people from a merger with another declining congregation), same pastor (or perhaps a super-duper church planter), and same building.

The numbers are clear, the SBC is in numeric freefall. Having a record Annie Armstrong offering doesn’t change the fact that 13.2 million were on Southern Baptist church membership rolls in 2022, yet on any given Sunday, only 3.8 million people were in attendance at a particular church. Less than 1/3 of Southern Baptist Christians attend church on Sundays. This statistic is the true measure of the health of the SBC.

Membership peaked at 16 million in 2005. That same year, almost 10 million members were nowhere to be found on Sundays.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser