Baptisms continue three-year slide toward 13,000
By Allen Palmeri
January 24, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Baptisms in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) continued to decline ever so slightly in 2005, finishing just above the 13,000 level at 13,060.
Baptisms have fallen from 13,325 in 2003 to 13,243 in 2004 to the current level. Statistics are measured over the span of a 12-month church year, which roughly correlates from July of 2004 through June of 2005.
“Did we have the privilege to baptize 26,000 in 2005?” asked Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) State Evangelism Director Bob Caldwell. “The truth is I don’t believe we were even close.
“Does this cause me to fear shooting for a large number again this year? Absolutely not! Because, one, we all know God is big enough to do it, and two, because if we don’t succeed we will not make God look bad. He is God!”
Caldwell has established a goal of 20,000 baptisms for 2006. The goal will be achieved, he said, if each MBC church baptizes four more people. Pacesetter churches, based on the number of baptisms per average Sunday School attendance, will be expected to lead the way.
One of those Pacesetter churches is First Baptist, Wentzville, which baptized 42 in 2005 and finished fourth in its category of 301-400 average in Sunday School attendance. The pastor of First Wentzville, Ralph Sawyer, is also president of the MBC. He said he will try to do his part by seeing 46 baptisms while at the same time recognizing that “there’s an obvious ebb and flow because we leave the results to God. All we can do is faithfully share our faith.”
First Wentzville was typical of the statewide decline in baptisms from 2004 to 2005 as it slipped from 55 to 42.
“Some people who have been saved through our ministries are students or young people out of Catholic backgrounds whose parents won’t let them be baptized,” Sawyer said.
The MBC president said it is “extremely encouraging” that many Missouri Baptists are sharing their faith consistently and continuing to reap a harvest of more than 13,000 souls. However, the numbers from 2003-2005 are also “extremely disturbing,” Sawyer said.
“The trend of the number of baptisms declining over the last three-year period is extremely disturbing and even alarming,” Sawyer said. “It shows us that we are not fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We’re not seeking and saving the lost as we have in days gone by, so obviously there’s a great need for us to examine ourselves – to the degree that we love God, and to the degree that we love people.”
Sawyer reiterated that while baptism results are up to God, there are some things Missouri Baptists can do better.
“We can ask every day, individually, and then as churches, corporately, that God fill us with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Secondly, we can take the emotion that we have for lost people and we can translate that into a commitment of our will to share our faith consistently. It takes a lot of hard work to do that. Thirdly, we can pray for more laborers, because the harvest is plentiful, and the laborers are few. Then we can turn right around and be an answer to that prayer by determining we will be a laborer for the Lord.”
The complete list of Pacesetter churches with associational affiliation and baptisms is as follows, broken down into the average Sunday School attendance category:
Average 1-50: Fairview, St. Louis, 55; Hermann First, Dixon, 51; Rock Springs, Barry County, 46; Keystone, Tri-County, 27; Emmanuel Vietnamese (mission), St. Louis, 26; Smithton, Harmony, 25; Southside, St. Louis, 25; Roby, Texas, 25.
Average 51-100: Union, North Grand River, 47; Allen Street, West Central, 37; Washburn First, Barry County, 34; New Life, St. Louis, 34; LifePoint, Tri-County, 33; Cape County Cowboy (mission), Cape Girardeau, 30.
Average 101-150: Harmony, Pulaski, 61; Hurley First, Tri-County, 60; Splitlog, Shoal Creek, 55; Strasburg, Blue River-Kansas City, 41; Pierce City First, Lawrence, 39.
Average 151-200: Platte City First, Clay Platte, 47; Harmony Heights, Spring River, 40; Higginsville First, West Central, 36; The Bridge (mission), Tri-County, 35; King Hill, St. Joseph, 28; Bethel, Heritage Southern, 28.
Average 201-300: West County Community, St. Louis, 76; Mexico First, Grand Crossings, 63; Villa Ridge, Franklin County, 53; Meadow Heights, Non-Associated, 50; Savannah First, St. Joseph, 43.
Average 301-400: Miner, Charleston, 69; Canaan, St. Louis, 57; North Heartland, Clay Platte, 50; Wentzville First, Twin Rivers, 42; Oak Grove First, Blue River-Kansas City, 41.
Average 401-500: Crystal City First, Jefferson, 95; Westside, Pulaski, 76; Kimberling First, Tri-County, 42; Calvary, Greene County, 41; Birchwood, Blue River-Kansas City, 36; DeSoto First, Jefferson, 36.
Average 501-750: Warrensburg First, West Central, 130; Lynwood, Cape Girardeau, 105; Poplar Bluff First, Cane Creek Stoddard, 56; Concord, Concord, 45; West Plains First, Howell, 41.
Average 751-above: Pleasant Valley, Clay Platte, 272; Raytown First, Blue River-Kansas City, 210; Arnold First, Jefferson, 127; Forest Park, Spring River, 123; Ridgecrest, Greene County, 92; Second, Greene County, 92.