Ed Stetzer who writes for the LifeWay Research Blog has noted the decline in the SBC. He points out three things that he believes are the cause for this decline. As I read his reasons, though, I was surprised because what I read is not what I’ve been seeing. After just having come back from the Together for the Gospel conference, I was rather encouraged to see that the SBC has been turning around for the better in the past 20 years.
I’m going to list Ed’s reasons and give my opinion on each. I’m not arguing against what he’s saying, but I am questioning him because of what I’ve been seeing. Mind you, I’ve never been in the SBC, these are merely outside observations.
Reason 1: “we have witnessed a serious (and increasing) depopulation of young leaders at our convention. Also, ethnic leadership remains absent after decades of ethnic change in America.”
Response 1: I’m not going to argue his point because the facts are clear, but I would question why there is a lack of leadership? When I was T4G I met many young men who were at Southern Seminary, and they all had hearts to go into ministry. I’d like to know why these young men who’ve grown up in the SBC and are now at SBTS are not pursing a leadership position in that same denomination.
Reason 2: “the infighting which defines so much of the SBC—its meetings, its churches, and its blogs. It is public knowledge that we do not always settle our differences amicably.”
Response 2: What’s the cause for such infighting? I’m from an independent Baptist church which probably doesn’t run into as much infighting as an organization, but the thing I love about organized denominations is just that, the organization. It seems to me that if there is division in the SBC, it’s because the leadership is being more dictorial and not listening to the congregation, and probably not communicating well when problems do arise.
Reason 3: “The third, and most important, issue is our loss of focus on the Gospel.”
Response 3: This statement shocks me most of all because what did we just have last week that was sponsored in large by the SBTS? Oh yah, Together for the Gospel! Perhaps loss of Gospel centrality has occured in the past, but in the past few years since the start of T4G, I would say that the Gospel is not only being recognized as important; but its also being lived out as such now.
Here’s why I think the SBC is leveling out (aka “declining”). I think that with all this coming together for the Gospel, there’s a unity among believers that is starting to cross denominational boundries. That’s why there aren’t as many leaders because young men are realizing that the SBC is big enough to take care of itself. There are other organizations and independent churches out there who are more in need of their help. Any infighting that’s going on right now is probably among the people who aren’t catching the wind of the Gospel unity and are getting too caught up on the little things. I’ll say it again, overall I was encourage by what I’m seeing in the SBC; and perhaps what’s being seen as a negative thing is in actuallity a positive.
I’d like to hear what you think about this, especially if you’re in the SBC or go to SBTS. I’m not trying to be dogmatic about what I think, but this is what I’m seeing. You can check out a few other people’s blogs that are talking about this by following the links below.