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SBC Membership Decline Fifth Straight Year

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World — Membership numbers for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reflect disturbing trends for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Although the SBC saw slight increases in baptisms and the number of congregations in 2011, its overall membership dropped for the fifth straight year, to just under 16 million.

Ed Stetzer, vice president for research at SBC-affiliated LifeWay Christian Resources, says that patterns behind the raw numbers are of even greater concern. Many have noted the long-term decline of America’s mainline denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, but Stetzer argues that the SBC is also locked in its own cycle of stagnation. Unless the denomination changes its approach to evangelism and church planting, he says, Baptists should expect the numbers to get even worse. Based on the current trajectory, Stetzer writes, “we are catching up with the Methodists, and will match their decline rate consistently by 2018.”

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