JEFFERSON CITY–For the first time since World War II, Missouri Baptist churches did not baptize 10,000 believers in 2010.
The data, culled from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) congregations’ Annual Church Profiles (ACP), shows that 9,944 went under the baptismal waters from the data year, July 2009 to June 2010. You have to go all the way back to 1943 to find another number in that vicinity—9,426.
The number of people baptized is almost certainly more than the 9,944 that have been counted, but only 81 percent of MBC churches filled out ACPs, which leaves 19 percent of churches unaccounted for. Last year’s percentage was 84 with 11,105 baptisms.
All churches are not equal in their baptisms, but the 9,944 total extrapolated with the previous number of reporting churches suggests a new total of 10,312, which is still a significant drop from last year.
The dip in baptisms comes after Missourians made a concerted effort to saturate the state with the Gospel via GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing), putting 750,000 Gospels on Missouri doors.
“Prayer walking and Gospel-distribution is a sowing activity; it is not harvesting,” said MBC Evangelism Director Gary Taylor. “Baptisms are the result of harvesting, but as any Missouri farmer will tell you, harvesting is always preceded by sowing. We’ve got to remember that.
“I’ve had several pastors call and say they’re discouraged because they haven’t seen more professions from GPS. We shouldn’t follow a microwave mentality and expect immediate results. We should follow the crockpot mentality: be patient, wait, and trust the Lord.”
Taylor said he is grieved for the lower numbers.
“I hope that I’m not just making excuses,” he said. “I guarantee you that no one around this state is more brokenhearted than Gary Taylor. I really believe that if we get back to the basics—praying, equipping, sowing and then harvesting—we’ll see God bless.”
The highest one-year total in recent memory was in 1980, when Missouri Baptist churches baptized 20,784. Since then, the numbers have been going up and down, settling between 14,000 and 13,000 until 2006 when it dipped to 12,548 and 2007 when it slipped even further to 11,063. The next two years were up slightly, to 11,105 and 11,443.
The 30-year trend in numbers yields little by way of a pattern. In fact, significant year-to-year differences suggest a glimmer of hope for next year. In 1942, baptisms totaled 11,431. In 1943 it fell to that 9,426 level before jumping back up to 11,372 in 1944. The 30-year data is available in the MBC Annual.
BRIAN KOONCE / staff writer