The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, continued its drop in baptisms, membership, and weekly attendance in 2015.
Some contend the declining statistics result from tightened bookkeeping regulations while others note lacking evangelism, patheos.com reported June 8.
Even so, with record-breaking church planting and renewal efforts, Southern Baptists have reason to hope for a prosperous future in its latest Annual Church Profile report, Lifeway.com reported.
The Southern Baptist Convention added more churches in 2015, due mostly to church planting efforts. Churches also experienced an increase in total giving.
However, according to the Annual Church Profile compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with state conventions, other key measures declined.
Those included membership, average worship attendance, baptisms, and missions giving.
A bright spot in the ACP data was the increase in churches. The number of churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention grew by 294 to 46,793, a 0.63 percent increase over 2014. This is the 17th year in a row the number of SBC churches has grown.
At the same time that the number of SBC-related congregations increased, reported membership declined more than 200,000, down 1.32 percent to 15.3 million members.
Average weekly worship attendance declined by 1.72 percent to 5.6 million worshippers.
Southern Baptists also experienced a decline in baptisms, down 3.3 percent to 295,212. Reported baptisms have fallen eight of the last 10 years. The ratio of baptisms to total members decreased to one baptism for every 52 members.
The SBC is an association comprised of more than 15 million members in over 46,000 churches in the United States. Individual church membership is typically a matter of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior and submitting to believer baptism by immersion
"God help us all! In a world that is desperate for the message of Christ, we continue to be less diligent in sharing the Good News," said Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee president and CEO.
"May God forgive us and give us a new passion to reach this world for Christ."
"The ACP report shows many faithful Southern Baptists continue to worship, share the Gospel, give generously, and live in community with other believers," said LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer. "We praise God for these efforts every year.
"While a decrease in baptisms is very disappointing, we don't take for granted 295,000 baptisms," he said. "We should rejoice with each of those individuals who chose to follow Christ."
An increase in the number of churches, aided by Southern Baptists' church planting efforts, is also something to celebrate, Rainer said.
"People underestimate the importance of momentum," he said. "It only takes a few people in each church, being intentional about sharing their faith, for some new momentum to build."
Southern Baptists increased giving in 2015. Total and undesignated church receipts reported through the ACP increased 3.51 percent and 4.64 percent respectively.