Southern Baptist Decline

Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant tradition in the United States, are in decline.  They have lost nearly 1 million members over the last decade yielding a membership of just under 16 million. Conversion has always been an essential reason for growth in this Evangelical denomination.  Since peaking in 1999, the number of baptisms conducted each year has declined by 25%. So What? Emma Green, associate editor for The Atlantic and author of the article I linked to above, raises an Read More …

Religion in America: A Map

This map, based on the 2010 census data, shows the largest religious groups in each county of the U.S.                                   So What? While the Catholic Church is the largest religious tradition in more counties than any other group, the Southern Baptists are a close second and are a majority in the vast majority of counties in the Read More …

Baptists & Communion Confusion

According to a new survey conducted by LifewayResearch, 96% of Southern Baptist (SB) churches have more inclusive communion practices than are allowed by their denomination's faith statement.  The latest edition (200o) of the Baptist Faith and Message Statement lists baptism and church membership as prerequisites for Communion / Lord's Supper / Eucharist.  According to the survey, 96% of SB allow non-members to participate and 65% allow those who have not been baptized to participate. So Read More …

Review of A Faith of Our Own

Meet the Author Jonathan Merritt launched his career while still in seminary when he organized a group of leaders concerned with creation care, and founded the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative.  He earned a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Emory University. Merritt writes and speaks about a wide range of issues related to faith and culture.  He has published over 300 articles and written two books: Green Like Read More …

Marketing a Mainline Congregation

Martin Thielen, Senior Pastor of the 7,600-member Brentwood United Methodist Church, wrote the cover story for the July 26 (2011) edition of the Christian Century about his experience marketing his previous parish.  Initially a Southern Baptist, he left that denomination when it took a fundamentalist turn to become a United Methodist pastor. In the article he shares what he learned while Senior Pastor of  Lebanon First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, TN.   During his tenure the Read More …

Religious Coalition Gets Involved in Major League Baseball

Writing for USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman explains the intersection of a religious coalition and Major League Baseball: A coalition of 25 religious denominations, including Christians and Muslims and Jews, is throwing some heat toward Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the players, saying the time has come to ban smokeless tobacco in the upcoming contract negotiations. Leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention and the United Methodist Church (the two largest Protestant Read More …

What Is Required to be a Christian? Less than Expected

What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? is both an important question and the title of a popular new book by Martin Thielen.  According to Bob Smietana's March 13 article in The Tennessean the book was released in January and "has become a surprise hit, with a second printing on the way." Thielen is a former Southern Baptist who left the denomination when it took a fundamentalist turn.  He is now an ordained United Methodist pastor who serves as the Pastor of Lebanon First Read More …

An Overview of American Church Membership

Earlier this week the National Council of Churches released its annual analysis of church membership: 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.  According to the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, editor, the data in this year's report suggests that recent membership trends have continued: "That is, churches which have been increasing in membership in recent years continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in recent years continue to decline." The yearbook reports a Read More …

The Presbyterian (PCUSA) Church is Deathly Ill

"Where Have All The Presbyterians Gone?" could be the title of a denominational funeral hymn for the 2.3 millionmember PCUSA, but is actually the title of a recent Wall Street Journal article by Russell Moore.  Moore (pictured at left) is a Southern Baptist minister who currently serves as the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church. Jack Haberer, a Read More …

Could the End Be Near for Denominational Universities?

Bobby Ross Jr. wrote an article for the January edition of Christianity Today in which he offers evidence that the era of denominational universities has past or soon will.  He begins with these words: Faith-based universities with historically strong denominational ties - Nazarene, Mennonite, and Southern Baptist schools among them - are enrolling fewer students from within their own ranks. He provides several examples including: A decline from 70 to 53% of students enrolling in the 18 Read More …