Friday, March 31, 2006

migration or harvest? part two

It looks like I didn't do my homework very well. Two days before my previous post Thom Rainer, another Southern Baptist, made the following statements in another Baptist Press article:

The numerical evidence seems clear. The American church is dying. We are not reproducing Christians. American church growth is typically the transfer of members from one congregation to another, rather than the conversion of the lost. I guess I could blame the churches, her leaders, and stubborn church members. But I must confess that I too often fall short in my own evangelistic zeal. Sometimes I get so busy that I fail to do the main thing.

Perhaps the first step for all of us is the confession of our own sins of disobedience, our own failures to take the evangelistic mandate seriously. Perhaps if we determine that the problem begins with me, then we can be a part of the solution.

Note, Rainer's comments are the result of analyzing evangelical churches across denominational lines not just the SBC. It sounds like we have more to be concerned about than Southern Baptists migrating to our churches. We need to consider whether we are simply paying lip service to the "evangel."
How many evangelical churches does it take to raise one convert sounds like a joke gone horribly wrong. We need to join Rainer in recognizing this problem by falling on our faces.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

a baptist's concern and the EFCA factor (migration or harvest?)

Some Southern Baptists are recognizing that they are at a cross-roads as a denomination. One of those men is Doug Baker and his article in Baptist Press is an insightful look at a denomination that must consider its history as it looks to the future. The entire article is worth reading particularly as he considers that, "Without the recovery of a denominational imperative that a local congregation is the most important and indispensable agent for Christ and his kingdom, the denominational beast easily could eat her own young." But I want to draw your attention to some comments he makes regarding the growth (or lack thereof) of the SBC in comparsion to the EFCA:

The question remains: Is theological conservatism SBC style compatible with healthy churches who aggressively work for biblical preaching and discipleship beyond the level of theological pabulum? The SBC needs only to look at other theologically conservative denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) and see their rapid growth (fueled by some former Southern Baptists who left the denomination) for an answer.

The most recent Religious Congregations and Membership study published in 2000 by the Glenmary Research Center indicates that during the last decade a continued trajectory of decline was experienced by the mainline denominations. While the Southern Baptist Convention grew at an overall rate of 5 percent over the last decade, the PCA grew by 42.4 percent and the EFCA grew by 57.2 percent. The question sociologists who study religion are beginning to ask is how much resettlement is taking place between the various conservative denominational options. In other words, is the growth of these two denominations (the PCA and the EFCA) specifically related to religious conversion or denominational migration? If the answer is from denominational migration, then the SBC should take note.

If the answer is denominational migration, then the EFCA should also take note. Are we growing as a denomination at the expense of another evangelical denomination? If so what does that mean for the future of our denomination? Could making changes in our statement of faith make this even more tenable? Is this desirable? Obviously we would prefer to grow due to true conversions, but what are we to think of migrations, and how should we avoid them ourselves?