By Paul Proctor
April 29, 2008
a story from the Christian Post, Lillian Kwon reports that Southern
Baptists are now a declining denomination, meaning they are no longer
getting the Results and Relationships they covet.
The troubling article begins this way:
For the first
time, Southern Baptists can say membership has reached a tipping
point and the nation's largest Protestant denomination is now
declining, says one long-time Southern Baptist.
that many of us have already believed is there is now becoming
real," said Ed Stetzer, director for LifeWay Research, in an
interview featured on MondayMorningInsight.com, a Web site for
pastors and church leaders.
the Southern Baptist Convention fell for the third straight year in
2007 to the denomination's lowest level since 1987, dropping nearly
5.5 percent to 345,941, according to LifeWay Christian Resources'
Annual Church Profile (ACP), which was released this week.
membership also declined by 0.24 percent to 16,266,920.
Later in the article, Kwon offered a quote from the head of LifeWay
Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist
Convention, in response to the findings:
"This report is
truly disheartening," said LifeWay president Thom S. Rainer,
according to Baptist Press. "Total membership showed a slight
decline. Baptisms have now declined for three consecutive years and
for seven of the last eight years, and are at their lowest level
since 1987. Indeed, the total baptisms are among the lowest reported
since 1970. We are a denomination that, for the most part, has lost
its evangelistic passion."
Well, Mr. Rainer, that’s not all we’ve lost.
quick stroll through the trinkets, toys and knickknacks for sale at
LifeWay Christian Stores, formerly the Baptist Book Store,
speaks volumes about our passion, doesn’t it?
Besides being president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, Thom
Rainer is also the author of many books – one of which encourages
churches to simplify and “unclutter their ministry” in order to
“become more effective for the glory of God” – emphasizing “the
importance of eliminating nonessential programs” to “focus on those
ministries that really matter” – which is curious considering all the
clutter and nonessentials being retailed by LifeWay.
Does he honestly think the Lord Jesus wouldn’t pull out a whip and
start turning over tables if He walked into one of LifeWay’s
ecclesiastical emporiums today? No, they’re not temples or houses of
worship – but trivializing God’s Word by putting it on novelties,
notions and assorted household items just so you can sell them to
churchgoers is tacky. And does LifeWay really think there’s nothing
wrong with using the Lord’s name in vain on their products and play
pretties as long as it’s not in a curse word?
there nothing sacred anymore?
Where’s the awe, reverence, fear and trembling of our faith for the
King of Kings and Lord of Lords – in the bottom of a LifeWay bag with
How can we expect the unredeemed to take Jesus seriously, if we don’t?
And what about the books LifeWay offers on Contemplative
Spirituality, aka, Spiritual Formation, from Emerging
Church authors and leaders, many of whom reject absolute truth,
downplay doctrine and encourage their readers to incorporate mantras
and mysticism into their Christian walk?
One of the foremost authors and leaders of the Emergent movement,
Brian McLaren, recently spoke at Willow Creek Community Church in
South Barrington, Illinois at the annual Shift student ministries
conference. Here’s what the SBC’s own Baptist Press had to say about
break harshly from traditional Christian theology that Jesus died on
the cross as substitute for sinful humanity, taking the punishment
that men and women deserved for their sin.
Yet, at this writing, his books are available for purchase at LifeWay
I’m just scratching the surface here folks.
Then, Rainer’s associate, Ed Stetzer, author of last year’s Baptist
Press piece, Understanding The Emerging Church, chimes in
with a predictably progressive proposal in Kwon’s Christian Post
Offering a few
suggestions for change, Stetzer said the Southern Baptist Convention
needs ethnic and generational diversity in its leadership.
he talking about the “ethnic and generational diversity” of the
Emerging Church’s young bohemians?
Stetzer went on to say:
"infighting" has to stop. Debates over theological differences and
boundaries at every denominational meeting would only accelerate the
trend toward decline…
Might he be referring here to The Emerging Civil War that’s
brewing over all the liberal theology and pagan practices infiltrating
Southern Baptist churches around the country and transforming
them into something more culturally relevant?
So, heretical harmony and brotherly blasphemy are better than iron
sharpening iron, huh? Just how does one earnestly contend for the
faith without debate, Ed – sit in a circle, hold hands and hum?
”Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove,
rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”– 2nd
Stetzer reportedly summed up the situation by saying:
"We must recover
a Gospel centrality and cooperate in proclaiming that gospel locally
and globally," adding that, “we must refocus on the Divine Obsession
(Luke 15), the obsession with lost people."
But, how does LifeWay propose to do that selling teddy bears, coffee
cups, flowerpots, yard art and books by men who reject the Whole
Counsel of God? Are we to evangelize the lost with the Emergent gospel
of Brian McLaren?
Seems to me our obsession ought to be for the Living Word of
God rather than the lost. After all, how can they be saved without
Him? Shall we go into battle without our double-edged sword and offer
merchandise and meditation instead?
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”–
mean, is LifeWay really offering biblical solutions for life
here as their company slogan states or are they, in many ways,
contributing to the problems plaguing the SBC and facilitating its
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of
Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he
hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and
bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid
him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his
evil deeds” - 2nd John 1: 9-11
What are your thoughts on this article?