For Southern Baptists, Baptisms and Other Vital Signs Are Down – How Have We Gotten Here?

Yesterday, I did a post on the need for revival among Southern Baptists. In an article in “The Vision,” a publication of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Chuck Kelley explained how baptisms have declined and the influence of Southern Baptists has declined. After writing that post, I began to think about what has happened to cause the current decline in our churches.
These are my thoughts..
First, as Christians we have left our first love. In the book of Revelation, the Bible says the church at Ephesus had left its first love (Rev. 3) and their first love was Jesus. We have done the same. We talk a lot about lordship but the fact is, Jesus is not Lord of the lives of most Christians. You may say, “That’s being judgmental.” No, it’s not.
Lordship means ownership. Lordship means Jesus is directing every aspect of our lives. If Jesus is Lord, we worship, we give, we serve. And Jesus isn’t Lord of our lives because we have left our first love which is Jesus.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. In recent weeks, I’ve been convicted to look inside in my soul and determine what has become more important to me than it should be. I’ve left my first love.
Second, Christians have succumbed to temptation. Let me explain. As human beings we are subject to temptation. And unfortunately, lots of us are allowing temptation to win.
For example, thousands of kids are involved in travel sports or cheerleading or gymnastics. Many of these kids have parents who are Christians. Those parents, are choosing to allow their kids to miss worship on Sundays to play ball etc.. Some time back, I spoke with a Christian parent about this. The person said, the child wanted to play. I imagine the child does. That’s why children have parents so that those tough decisions could be made.
Somehow, we have arrived at a place where Christians seem to feel no remorse over missing worship and allowing their children to participate in these activities. I’m not saying it’s wrong to allow them play. But they don’t need to miss worship to do it.
But, the same could be said of golf, hunting, family activities, fishing, etc.. Christians, of all ages, seem to feel no remorse about missing worship anymore. We have succumbed to temptation.
Third, I think the church may have lowered the standard some. Over the last twenty years, churches and some Pastors have changed. Much of this change has been driven by a desire to reach unchurched people. You are aware of most of the things that have changed.
There is much more “how to” preaching today. There is nothing wrong with some of that. But, have we neglected to preach on hell or the unpardonable sin or judgment or stewardship in our desire to be practical?
Music has changed. I have absolutely no problem with contemporary music. None.. But, it does concern me that there seems to be an entertainment aspect in some worship. Some time back, I was talking with a Georgia Baptist Convention rep about the churches that are growing. He said, “It seems that the ones that are growing are those who have some ‘entertainment’ aspect in their worship.”
He is right. But, worship is not entertainment. Worship is meeting with a Holy God. I feel like we have lowered the standard some in worship.
Now, you may ask how lowering the standard in worship is contributing to where we are? Here’s how; worship should be a time of meeting with a Holy God. And meeting with God leads to conviction. But if worship is more entertainment, is there conviction? And if there isn’t any or little conviction, people are leaving worship unchanged. They come to worship, they enjoy the show and leave… unchanged… unconvicted.
Possibly… To be continued…

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