Share This Page

Fewer Southern Baptists evangelize, researcher finds

| Saturday, June 14, 2014, 8:37 p.m.

BALTIMORE — From Billy Graham's roadside tent revivals to Jerry Falwell's TV ministries to Rick Warren's 20,000-member megachurch, Southern Baptists dominate the evangelical brand.

This is apt for the country's largest Protestant denomination, whose doctrine says nonbelievers are doomed to hell. Sharing one's story of coming to Christ and bringing others along are among a Southern Baptist's core responsibilities.

But as the group held its annual meeting last week in Baltimore, the top agenda item was this: The evangelicals are not evangelizing.

Baptisms have been going steadily down in the past decade for the first time since records started to be kept in the 1800s, according to the denomination's LifeWay Research. Other LifeWay research about devout Protestants generally shows other measures down as well, such as how often people look for ways to share the Gospel or to make intentional relationships with nonbelievers.

“I always resist the word ‘crisis,' but in this case, I think when your name is ‘Baptist' and you're named after baptisms, yes, this is a crisis,” said Ed Stetzer, a pastor and author who is president of LifeWay Research.

Thousands of Southern Baptists at the meeting approved a resolution vowing to revitalize the practice and prayed for forgiveness.

Eighty percent of Southern Baptist churches baptize only one person between ages 18 and 29 per year, said Fred Luter, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “If we were working in a secular job with these kinds of reports, many of us would have been fired a long time ago.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.