The Next Big Southern Baptist Debate: Purging the Membership Rolls

Shrinking numbers may get even smaller – and that’s good news for many Baptists.

I was wrong. The election of Johnny Hunt as president of the Southern Baptist Convention did not actually generate much analysis in the Baptist blogosphere. Instead, almost all the discussion is about a resolution on church membership numbers.

Numbers were a key theme of the meeting this year, and none were good news:

  • 9,500: Expected number of "messengers" (delegates) at the convention.
  • 7,200: Actual number of messengers.
  • 419,342: Baptisms in Southern Baptist churches in 1999.
  • 345,941: Baptisms in 2007.
  • 5.5%: Drop in baptisms between 2007 and 2006.
  • 3: The number of consecutive years in which baptism numbers have dropped in the SBC.
  • 22: Number of years that outgoing president Frank Page says it will take, given current trends, for the SBC to lose half its churches (from about 44,000 to 20,000).
  • 39,326: Drop in membership Southern Baptist Convention between 2006 and 2007.
  • 10: Years since the last drop in membership.
  • 2: Number of years SBC membership has declined since 1926.
  • 16,266,920: Members in 2007.
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