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?


Blogger Jack said...

I think we may be attracting disaffected Baptists who have gotten disgusted with SBC politics or policies. I don't think that people within the SBC, born and bred in the essence of the SBC, realize how disasteful and annoying some of us find SBC tone and tradition. But I don't see us as an extraordinarily evangelistic group, either.

Monday, April 10, 2006 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Of course "tone and tradition" in the SBC can mean a whole range of things. I know more than a few who are solidly dedicated to reforming the SBC from within; my hat's off to these brothers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I can only reflect from personal experience. The SBC in my NJ hometown was liberal. Some of the SBC churches in Columbia seemed OK, lots of them not. The pastor of Gateway BC, where our son Alex attended pre-school, had its pastor get booted out for engaging in husband-and-wife swapping with another couple. One of the SBC churches in Irmo was hyperCalvinist.

Houston Texas was where a lot of my distasteful experiences with a SBC church happened. Every negative SBC cliche' in the book seemed to be the way things were done all over the city.

My apology to any SBC-er who gets offended at my words. I'm sure there are godly, loving, sensible SBC churches. But I don't think that died-in-the-wool SBC-ers understand how much of a turn-off aspects of the SBC can be to even other conservative evangelicals, let alone lost people.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 1:47:00 PM  
Anonymous sean said...

Such is the wonder of churches that are part of the "free church tradition." It was a Southern Baptist Church in Houston that shared the gospel with my parents when I was a toddler. I am eternally grateful for the solid evangelical commitment of the good folks who directed my father (who was at the time an atheist) to the Lord and began the process of nurturing and discipling our family. They didn't get it all right, I tend to think that they were a little to eager too baptize me when I was merely a tot, but who does get it all right all the time?
Jack, I do agree with you. I'm thankful that the EFCA has not done anything silly and embarrassing, like boycott Disney, let's hope that the revised SoF - if it's approved (especially with it's statement regarding implications of the gospel) does not lead us down that path!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 4:39:00 PM  

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