Christianity in the World Today

Some 12,000 Southern Baptists, representing the South’s largest Christian body, converged on air-conditioned Houston, Texas, May 20–23, for their annual convention. Famed for a rapidity of growth both foreign and amazing to many denominations, the Southern Baptist “messengers”—not “delegates,” in keeping with Baptist church government autonomy—were exhorted to advance yet further and faster. If, in taking their good news from the South to Ghent, Rio, Calabar, and Chicago, they felt any inclination to slow to a canter, ample spurring was provided by inspirational messages portraying the staggering needs of the world.

Bugles were heard morning, afternoon and evening in the form of outstanding oratory and moving pageantry. The assault upon ear-gate and eye-gate was reminiscent of The Holy War, by a great Baptist of another century. One is inclined to read a Southern Baptist invasion of a city in terms of a great religious festival and feels that the legions of Lucifer must surely be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers. There is a sweeping momentum which knows no trumpet of retreat.

Rate Of Growth Unparalleled

The Southern Baptists, coming from humble and predominantly rural beginnings, have grown big and rich. At present constituting the second largest Protestant denomination, numbering close to 9 million, they heard themselves described as the fastest-expanding of them all, with every prospect of an accelerated pace in the future. They learned from their executive committee that convention assets as of December 31 were $164,422,978, an increase of $15,000,000 over the previous year. Then they adopted a budget of $17,500,000 for 1959, this representing an increase of $1,000,000 over 1958. ...

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