Baptisms down for 5th straight year
Number in MBC churches hit lowest point since 1943
JEFFERSON CITY—Baptisms in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) continue to fall in what has grown to be a five-year slide that has taken the number down to its lowest figure since World War II.
With 85 percent of churches and missions reporting as of Jan. 14, the number of baptisms for 2007 was reported as 11,071. That is the lowest it has been in the MBC since 1943, when the number was 9,426, and it is barely one-half of what it was in 1955, when it had swelled to 21,697—a high mark since the advent of such statistics in 1917.
“We’re not seeing folks baptized in Missouri because Missouri Baptists are not telling people in Missouri about Jesus,” said MBC Interim Executive Director David Tolliver, who began serving in April. “We need to be more honest about that as individuals and in our churches.”
The five-year slide began in 2002 (see related chart.) During the first year of the downturn, the number of churches and missions in Missouri Baptist life was 1,983. The current total is 1,984, which is a net increase of one church.
“This (the baptism number) is more evidence that our churches are unhealthy,” Tolliver said. “When our churches are healthy, our people will be discipled and they will therefore be regularly sharing their faith. We need a Holy Spirit-filled revival. We need to stop doing business as usual in our churches.”
Baptism statistics are measured over the span of a 12-month church year, which roughly correlates from July of 2006 through June of 2007. In 2006, the percentage of churches and missions reporting was 88.
“We are Baptists because we believe in the high priority of evangelism—or at least we say we do,” Tolliver said. “I’m convinced the key to this is our churches offering training and opportunity for people to evangelize.
“If I’ve got 50 folks in my church on Sunday morning, and 20 of them tell me that they told somebody about Jesus this week, then to me that’s as good as 20 baptisms. It’s up to the Spirit of God to save folks. It’s up to us to tell folks.”
Gary Taylor, MBC state evangelism director, lamented the fact that Missouri Baptist churches appear to have grown cold toward Jesus.
“I think the judgment is on the fact that we’ve left our first love,” he said. “We got away from it. If we loved Him like we did, we wouldn’t ignore Him like we do.”
Meanwhile, the MBC has announced this year’s “Pacesetter” churches, or those that have led the MBC in baptisms for the past year. The complete list of Pacesetter churches with associational affiliation and baptisms is as follows, broken down into the average Sunday School attendance categories:
Average over 1,001: Pleasant Valley, Clay Platte, 257; First Harvester, St. Louis Metro, 144; First Arnold, Jefferson, 139; Forest Park, Spring River, 130; Second Springfield, Greene, 118.
Average 751-1,000: First O’Fallon, Twin Rivers, 85; South Haven, Greene, 56; Concord, St. Louis, St. Louis Metro, 33; First Ozark, Tri County, 31.
Average 501-750: First Warrensburg, West Central, 97; Concord, Jefferson City, Concord, 53; Lynwood, Cape Girardeau, 50; First Cassville, Barry County, 46; First Poplar Bluff, Cane Creek Stoddard, 41.
Average 401-500: First De Soto, Jefferson, 79; Westside, Waynesville, Pulaski, 68; First Oak Grove, Blue River-Kansas City, 56; Broadway, Springfield, Greene County, 53; First Nevada, Osage River, 48.
Average 301-400: First Forsyth, Tri County, 61; Miner, Charleston, 44; First Marshfield, Webster, 30; Faith, Festus, Jefferson, 26; Calvary, Republic, Greene County, 23.
Average 201-300: West County Community, St. Louis Metro, 81; Strasburg, Blue River-Kansas City, 61; Meadow Heights, Non Associated, 55; First Odessa, West Central, 52; First Sedalia, Harmony, 30.
Average 151-200: First Nixa, Tri County, 32; Stonebridge, Greene County, 32; Frazier, St. Joseph, 27; First Hermitage, Fellowship, 26; Union Hill, Holts Summit, Grand Crossings, 26; Bethel, Independence, Heritage Southern, 22; First Mount Vernon, Lawrence, 21.
Average 101-150: Osage Hills, Lamine, 41; Cornerstone, Sedalia, Harmony, 33; First Garden City, Blue River-Kansas City, 31; Covenant, Mount Vernon, Lawrence, 28; Second Cabool, Texas, 24.
Average 51-100: Allen Street, West Central, 56; Tenth Street, Trenton, North Grand River, 45; Ozark Mountain Community, Tri County, 43; Excelsior Springs Baptist Church, Clay Platte, 40; Emmanuel, De Soto, Jefferson, 38.
Average 1-50: Iona, Cape Girardeau, 47; Smithton, Harmony, 46; New Harmony, Salem, Dent County, 42; Set Free of Riverside, Clay Platte, 41; Cape County Cowboy, Cape Girardeau, 40.