The SBC is struggling with both a lack of evangelism and a decreasing number of children. Christianity isn’t dying, but our denomination is moving in that direction.
In 2018 Southern Baptist churches reported 246,442 baptisms, the smallest number since 218,223 in 1944. There were almost twice that many baptisms in the 1970’s. This trend reveals our need to prioritize sharing the gospel, and that means also recognizing who we are sharing the gospel with, and most of our country is younger than you might think.
The median age of the US is 37. That means that half of Americans range in age from birth to 37, and half of Americans are ages 37 and older. (Tupelo, MS where we live has a median age of around 36) *data from US Census Bureau
In 2019 there were more people 22 years old than any other age in the country. At the same time the median age of the avg SBC church is 55. It’s not there aren’t young people, it’s that we aren’t reaching them.
This doesn’t mean that older members in our churches don’t matter. In fact, it means the opposite- that older and more mature members have never been more important to the mission of the church.
But, this is new territory on both accounts for our denomination. We’ve never been without children in our churches, and we have never been less evangelistic. I think these are intertwined because the younger you go in our country, the higher the percentage of lostness gets.
We don’t need to change our message, but we do need to share the message. We don’t need to be like the culture, but we do need to recognize that our message isn’t familiar to this culture. Because they haven’t grown up around the gospel, younger Americans just don’t have the foundation that people had 25-30 years ago. They need more relationship, they need more investment than we are used to giving. We can’t settle for “that’s just how they are.” The fields are ripe for harvest, we just need laborers.
The current state of affairs in our country, and in our churches requires that we go against our preservation reflex. We need to engage our culture, not just do what it takes to keep who we have. The gospel always goes out to others, it doesn’t stop with us.
We need to prioritize evangelism and discipleship, and I believe we have the right people to invest and lead us through this.
Why do I think we have the right people? Because who we have is one of the most preached too and Bible studied denominations in the world. It’s time for all of that investment of the Word to bear the fruit of reaching the lost and making disciples of the people around us… while at the same time being devoted to loving and ministering to one another in the church.