Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BAGBR Baptisms

The Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge is my home association. I am always interested in what is happening there evangelistically. Here are the statistics I mined out of the State convention reports from the past few years.

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011
Churches and Missions 103 104 100 97
Total Baptisms in Association 731 611 689 639
Churches Reporting 2 Baptisms or Less 34 35 32 30
Churches not Reporting Anything 12 19 14 16

Not too impressed.

When I have time, I will count out the median baptisms.  The PDFs can’t be processed by a spreadsheet program so I will have to enter it all in manually. My guess is that it will be around 4 baptisms per church.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why Growing Your Church and Reaching Your Community are not the Same Thing

"Growing your church" and "Reaching your community" are the most queried search terms leading people to this blog. Sometimes these phrases are separate, but more often than not they appear together, “How can I grow my church and reach my community.”

Growing a church and reaching a community are both great goals, but they are not the same goal. They seek two different ends and require two different strategies.

When one thinks about growing a church, they usually think in terms of numerical growth, attendance, or the oft cited B’s: baptisms, budget, and buildings. However, when one thinks of reaching the community, they are thinking of how to communicate the gospel to those in the area that are outside the church. The two ideas can work hand in hand, but the second one is much larger in scope than the first.

Imagine a couple of fishermen on the lake in a fishing boat. They have a goal of catching as many fish as they can. What they can fish, however is limited by the size of their ice chest. Whatever technique they use, whatever part of the lake they fish in, their work is done when the ice chest is full.

Whether or not we want to admit it, churches operate much like those fishermen, concerned with outreach until the building is full. Then they turn to maintenance or expansion (a more expensive option). Churches that choose to expand, continue the outreach until the new building is full, then they turn must make the decision again, expansion or maintenance.

Even the largest mega churches are unable to reach an entire city. At best they reach 1-2%. In my opinion, the question that needs to be asked is not, how can we grow our church, but rather how can we reach our community? What is it going to take? What needs to change about the way we are doing things? Those are harder questions to answer.

Thinking of the fishermen might help when thinking of the task of the Great Commission. What would they need to change? What is our parallel?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr. Kelly’s Observations on Evangelism in the SBC

Kelley Dr. Chuck Kelley, the president and professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an article called “The New Methodists,” highlighting the decades of stagnancy and decline in the Southern Baptist Convention. I met Dr Kelley a few times and he has always impressed me as a man in love with God. I always want to read what he has to share.

Below is a brief summary and some some quotables from the article. You can read the whole article here:

My Summary

In 1945 Southern Baptists baptized approximately 257,000 people into their churches. In 1955, only ten years later, they baptized approximately 417,000 people, almost doubling in just ten years.  How did we do it?
  • from their earliest beginnings they emphasized church planting.
  • [they] continually affirmed for the congregation the importance of sharing Christ with the lost.
  • [they] used decisional preaching… preaching which calls for an immediate and public response.
  • personal evangelism throughout the community.
  • Sunday School became the cultivation strategy for SBC churches.
  • [they] used revival meetings as their primary harvest tool.
It was not the individual methods used that produced such an incredible harvest. Rather, the interaction of those methods with each other created an integrated process described in the New Testament as sowing and reaping.

[Southern Baptists have] reduced planting, neglected cultivation, and not surprisingly have found the harvest coming up short.

Money [for evangelism] is not the crucial issue reducing our fruitfulness. Having more money will not turn things around.

The gospel’s power is not the crucial issue. Our message has the same power to transform any human life today that it had in the first century of the church.

Discipleship is the crucial issue. 

We are not anointed – that “we” would be you, me and all of us at work in places with little evidence of the activity of the Holy Spirit. We are so not anointed we have come to accept not being anointed as normal.
[We] have become so focused on discovering a method that works; [we] fail to realize an integrated process is far more important than any one method that is a part of that process.

More importantly, Southern Baptists are becoming the new Methodists.
  • Universalism is settling into our pews as more and more Southern Baptists believe and behave as though they believe a personal relationship with Christ is not necessary for one to be right with God.
  • Tolerance is beginning to overtake conviction as growing numbers, particularly of younger Southern Baptists, are less comfortable with taking a firm stance on moral or doctrinal issues.
  • More importantly, our behavior, the way we live our lives, is blending more and more with our culture. We are growing ever less distinct and recognizable in the crowd of our nation’s population.
When our baptismal numbers started to weaken, we intensified our focus on evangelistic strategies and methods. Hear this from one who is an evangelist by calling. We should have paid more attention to our discipleship process.

We are blending in more than we are standing out.

Our problem is not that more of us don’t witness to our neighbors. Our problem is that more of us do not look like and live like Jesus.

Here is what we know stated as simply as I know how to state it:
In times past God has worked through our Southern Baptist churches in a mighty way. In times present God is not working in a mighty way through our churches. How are you going to respond to this?
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