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Southern Baptist Decline and God's Bottom Line
The Washington Post ^ | December 2008 | David Waters

Posted on 12/22/2008 7:16:10 PM PST by Alex Murphy

Times are tough, even in the salvation market. After decades of growth, the nation's largest group of Protestants, the Southern Baptist Convention, is reporting losses (in church membership and recorded baptisms) for the third year in a row. Baptisms are at a 20-year low, a figure liable to put an eternity-conscious church into a severe depression.

Cutbacks at Southern Baptist seminaries and agencies are even hitting the denomination's bold, new marketing strategy designed to spread the gospel (and increase the flock) to every soul in North America by 2020. The campaign, called "God's Plan for Sharing" (Yes, GPS), includes a new image media campaign, "We Are Southern Baptists."

But some SBC leaders are concerned that the strategy will fail. The 2009 budget includes zero funding for GPS. "You can't have a vision that doesn't have a funded budget," John Avant, former vice president of evangelization at the mission board, told Bob Smietana of The Tennessean.

Where there is no funded vision, the people perish. It's hard for me to believe there might be a single soul in North America who hasn't heard about Jesus. But I suppose if a church is going to measures its success by cultural standards -- in a market economy, that means statistical gains and losses -- then it's going to look for culturally-appropriate ways to assess its product and improve its market share. But isn't there a more faithful way to measure the church's success?

No doubt there are market forces behind the SBC's declining statistics.

1. The product is less appealing. Southern Baptists still profess the belief in Christ is the only path to salvation. But a new Pew Forum analysis shows that a majority of all American Christians (52%) think at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to

(Excerpt) Read more at newsweek.washingtonpost.com ...


TOPICS: Current Events; Evangelical Christian; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: sbc; southernbaptist
I suppose if a church is going to measure its success by cultural standards -- in a market economy, that means statistical gains and losses -- then it's going to look for culturally-appropriate ways to assess its product and improve its market share. But isn't there a more faithful way to measure the church's success? ...

...The market is changing. Nearly all predominantly white Christian denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal) in America are seeing a slow but steady decline in membership, a decline that reflects changing U.S. demographics. "This is not about orthodoxy or unorthodoxy or failed methods," Baptist historian Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest School of Divinity in North Carolina, told Peter Smith of the (Louisville) Courier-Journal. "This is about demographics and sociology."

Related thread:
Liberal Protestantism and Liberal Catholicism

"Who can be surprised, then, that the Protestant denominations that have been seriously infected with liberalism (the so-called "mainline churches") are rapidly declining in numbers, not just in relation to the national population generally but even in absolute numbers?"

1 posted on 12/22/2008 7:16:10 PM PST by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

Yet, independent Baptist churches are growing in leaps and bounds.


2 posted on 12/22/2008 7:19:09 PM PST by doc1019
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To: Alex Murphy

I was under the impression that conservative sects were growing (Evangelicals, Baptists, conservative Catholics, & Mormons), while the lefty churches were declining (Episcopalian, Church of Christ, etc).


3 posted on 12/22/2008 7:21:00 PM PST by St. Louis Conservative
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To: Alex Murphy

bfl


4 posted on 12/22/2008 7:22:12 PM PST by Oshkalaboomboom
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To: doc1019

Please explain.


5 posted on 12/22/2008 7:22:58 PM PST by St. Louis Conservative
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To: doc1019

Yup - they sure are. I attend 1 regularly and another once a week...

I wished I had this kind of preachin’ when I was growin’ up. My Mom says I was cheated - and she’s right. ;-)


6 posted on 12/22/2008 7:24:03 PM PST by TomServo
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To: Alex Murphy

I don’t know about other Southern Baptist Churches, but at ours we had more baptisms during 2008 that we had had in the last 5-6 years together! Basically we cut down the gimmicks, put a lot of effort in community outreach programs such as Vacation Bible School, and we prayed.


7 posted on 12/22/2008 7:24:34 PM PST by Former Fetus
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To: Alex Murphy

Sounds like they need a federal bail out.


8 posted on 12/22/2008 7:28:02 PM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: doc1019
Yet, independent Baptist churches are growing in leaps and bounds.

Nearly all predominantly white Christian denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal) in America are seeing a slow but steady decline in membership, a decline that reflects changing U.S. demographics.

Do you have information that would prove this article wrong?

9 posted on 12/22/2008 7:29:00 PM PST by Stourme
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To: St. Louis Conservative

What is there to explain?


10 posted on 12/22/2008 7:30:12 PM PST by doc1019
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To: Alex Murphy
Amos 8:11 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD GOD, that *I* will send a famine in the land, NOT a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of HEARING the words of the LORD:

Now ‘social justice’ is spread so far in modern Christianity that the majority think when Jesus said “Feed my sheep”, they think he was commanding soup lines and government welfare.

11 posted on 12/22/2008 7:31:01 PM PST by Just mythoughts (Isa.3:4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.)
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To: doc1019

The article says Baptist church is declining. You say otherwise. I’d like to hear your rebuttal of the article, beyond a simple statement. I’m not being a smart alec, I’m honestly curious about this topic.


12 posted on 12/22/2008 7:31:55 PM PST by St. Louis Conservative
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To: Stourme

Other than everything you posted was in italics … so were do I begin?


13 posted on 12/22/2008 7:34:21 PM PST by doc1019
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To: Alex Murphy

If this is hitting the Southern Baptists, I would think it would be affecting other denominations too.

Or is this just Newsweek harranging the Southern Baptists like they always do the Catholics?


14 posted on 12/22/2008 7:35:01 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: St. Louis Conservative

Explain what?


15 posted on 12/22/2008 7:35:03 PM PST by doc1019
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To: doc1019

How is the church growing? Do you have more than anecdotal evidence?


16 posted on 12/22/2008 7:36:26 PM PST by St. Louis Conservative
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To: St. Louis Conservative
Southern Baptist

Operative words here. Independent Baptist churches are growing in number.

17 posted on 12/22/2008 7:40:36 PM PST by doc1019
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To: Alex Murphy
The product is less appealing. Southern Baptists still profess the belief in Christ is the only path to salvation.

I wonder if the author has a better plan?

18 posted on 12/22/2008 7:40:55 PM PST by Graybeard58
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To: doc1019

source? (or just BS ?)


19 posted on 12/22/2008 7:43:11 PM PST by Nonstatist
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To: doc1019

What’s the difference between the two, and why do you think independent Baptist congregations are growing, while Southern Baptists (apparently, according to Newsweak) are declining?


20 posted on 12/22/2008 7:43:45 PM PST by St. Louis Conservative
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To: Alex Murphy

I’m just geussing here. There are some of the local SBC’s that are on tv here and they are from time to time doing a big emphasis on evangelism. Evangelism for their purposes seems to be talking to total strangers somewhere and sharing the gospel with them. I just can’t imagine how successful that really is. Its sort of a telemarketing apprroach in person. The churches try to get alot of people to do this and I just tend to think that most people are uncomfortable doing that. People are not going to do what they’re not comfortable doing. It seems to me that most church growth or evangelism happens by simply inviting your friends to church who don’t go to church anywhere. When I was growing up that seemed to be the emphasis. We were encouraged to simply invite your friend(s) to come to church with you. Nowadays people are expected to give this sales talk on the presentation of the gospel to get a spur of the moment decision.


21 posted on 12/22/2008 7:46:27 PM PST by fkabuckeyesrule (Na na na na na na na na hey ALAN good-bye!!!!!!!)
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To: Former Fetus

“Basically we cut down the gimmicks, put a lot of effort in community outreach programs such as Vacation Bible School, and we prayed.”

I am not a member of a Southern Baptist Church, but I am a Baptist. I am an independent-fundy Baptist, yet I have attended a SBC and my wife used to be a member of one.

I’ve always believed the Souther Baptist Church was on a crash course to failure. With their focus on drama clubs, teen nights out, and ungodly music—it doesn’t surprise me a bit. There is a simple formula to being successful as a church. It’s the one laid out in the Bible: Preach the word, witness, and pray. Pretty cut and dry. Jesus never, and his Apostles and disciples never advocated becoming more worldly to reach the world. And to me, that seems to be what the SBC is doing with their movie nights and concerts taking the place of preaching.

That’s why I like my Independent, fundamental, Baptist Church. We believe the Word of God as His literal, infallable, God-breathed Word from cover to cover. We also have high standards. Women look and dress like women, and men like men. We stick to the hymns of old, yet have stirring choir music. We don’t “chant” like so many churches do now (saying the same verse over and over and over and over.... ..... ..... .....). We have leaders who lead. We believe our pastor is provided to us by God, and treat him as the man of God ought to be treated. The deacons are below the pastor on the food chain, just as the Apostles were under Christ—not equal, not having “veto” power. The church as a whole can vote a pastor out due to failing to meet the requirements of a pastor listed in the Bible—not for personal disagreements as is so common in churches today.

Hopefully, the SBC will go back to the basics and get away from the mega-church mentality of “numbers equals success.”


22 posted on 12/22/2008 7:47:11 PM PST by Hambone02
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To: Former Fetus
Amen to your stats for my congregation.

This article is in MSM and discusses PEW "research" so much is suspect to me.

Sounds a bit like the usual liberal wishful thinking project.

23 posted on 12/22/2008 7:48:20 PM PST by zerosix (native sunflower)
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To: Hambone02

To add to my comment above, our pastor does not answer to an organization. Our church is independent, meaning that we don’t answer to a convention of any kind. Fundamental simply means that we believe in old fashioned preaching, witnessing, and praying. We don’t go for all the gimickry. Fundamental has become a bad word today, but we are unashamed of our beliefs.


24 posted on 12/22/2008 7:52:13 PM PST by Hambone02
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To: Salvation
If this is hitting the Southern Baptists, I would think it would be affecting other denominations too.

The Catholic Church's American membership dropped by ten million members between 2007 and 2008.

IMO it's hitting just about everyone.

25 posted on 12/22/2008 7:52:51 PM PST by Alex Murphy ( "Every country has the government it deserves" - Joseph Marie de Maistre)
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To: Alex Murphy

Reading some of the posts at the end of that article is simply breath-taking. What a bunch of mental nutjobs.


26 posted on 12/22/2008 7:53:18 PM PST by fkabuckeyesrule (Na na na na na na na na hey ALAN good-bye!!!!!!!)
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To: St. Louis Conservative

There is no “Baptist Church”, there are Baptist churches, all independent and antonymous except for the Southern Baptist. The Southern Baptist organization has began to take on a certain pontifical air, which has turn off most Baptist, thus the decline in their dominance. As for the growth in the independent Baptist church … just look around in your area at the number of Baptist churches being built. If it is not happening in your area, it is happening in others.


27 posted on 12/22/2008 7:53:59 PM PST by doc1019
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To: Hambone02
We believe our pastor is provided to us by God, and treat him as the man of God ought to be treated. The deacons are below the pastor on the food chain, just as the Apostles were under Christ—not equal, not having “veto” power.

In other words, you have your own locally-grown infallible pope and college of bishops.

The church as a whole can vote a pastor out due to failing to meet the requirements of a pastor listed in the Bible

The person or persons who get to decide if a given pastor is "failing to meet the requirements of a pastor listed in the Bible" are the real power in your church.

28 posted on 12/22/2008 7:55:48 PM PST by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: Hambone02

You could have described my church! We have a no-nonsense pastor who has eliminated all the modern nonsense. We have a strong emphasis on the Bible as the only guide for living, and the Cross is preached right regularly. While we do not have a dress code, teens have been sent home occasionally to change into something more appropriate. We only sing the old hymns, except for that canned music for Bible School that matches so well with the lessons. The main difference between your church and ours seems to be the deacons. We consider them more servants than “just below the pastor”. But I agree with you, preaching the Word, witnessing and praying has been the ticket to church growth. And I don’t mean just getting people to change churches, but growth with new Christians, new converts! One more thing, our Sunday school has been pretty united in supporting Voice of the Martyrs by sending bibles to China.


29 posted on 12/22/2008 7:57:51 PM PST by Former Fetus
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To: zerosix

From the Baptist Standard:

“While membership grew, the number of baptisms decreased for the fourth consecutive year.”

The Press understands nothing and distorts everything.


30 posted on 12/22/2008 7:59:06 PM PST by Texas Fossil
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To: Alex Murphy

Membership in our church has doubled in the last four years. I just have a problem with the vast numbers of Catholics in that citation.

Catholics are liking Pope Benedict and are coming back to the Catholic Church, don’t you think?


31 posted on 12/22/2008 8:04:19 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: B-Chan

In other words, you have your own locally-grown infallible pope and college of bishops. —NO. I did not say anything of the sort. He is ordained by other ordained pastors, and just a man like the pope (who is fallable, by the way).


The church as a whole can vote a pastor out due to failing to meet the requirements of a pastor listed in the Bible

The person or persons who get to decide if a given pastor is “failing to meet the requirements of a pastor listed in the Bible” are the real power in your church. —NO. The Bible is the real power in our church. There are certain requirements of a man to be qualified as a pastor. If a man is failing, has failed to meet these requirements, it is the job of the church to remove him, and replace him.

Pastor Qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7

—Above Reproach - An accusation of sin won’t stick to him.
—Husband of One Wife - He must be faithful to his wife. He adores his wife and doesn’t flirt with other women.
—Self-Control - He is the master of his behavior. His behavior doesn’t control him.
—Lives Wisely - He makes good choices.
—Has a Good Reputation - People at church and in the community think highly of him. He is respected.
—Hospitable - His home is open to others.
—He Can Teach - He has gifted insight into the scripture and communicates well those insights to others.
—Not Addicted to Wine - He never gets drunk or over-indulges in alcohol.
—Not Violent - He resolves conflict peacefully.
—Gentle - His manner and words are not abrasive ...he has a good “bed side manner.”
—Loves Peace - Is someone who works toward peace in every relationship he encounters.
—Does Not Love Money - He is not consumed with his retirement fund or the price of gas.
—Manages His Home Well - His family and home are in order, not in chaos. His children are polite and respectful. His finances are in order.
—Not a New Christian - He has proven experience as a faithful follower of Jesus.

Our church approved our pastor back in 1999. Our former pastor did nothing wrong. He simply felt led to take another church that was in need of a pastor. Being a baptist church, we also require that the pastoral candidate is a Baptist.


32 posted on 12/22/2008 8:07:25 PM PST by Hambone02
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To: doc1019

There is nothing more independent than the local Southern Baptist Church. This is good and bad but true.


33 posted on 12/22/2008 8:08:42 PM PST by ThomasThomas ( Never mind.........it may go both ways...)
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To: Texas Fossil
What do you expect from a loser rag like Newsweek.

The baptist Church that I go to has had to build an overhead parking garage, and has funded five other campus locations nearby, and continues to fund seed Church's in such locations like NYC, San Francisco, and others.

Also sends world missions to Russian, Africa, Cuba, etc., and even Los Vegas.

34 posted on 12/22/2008 8:11:00 PM PST by oldtimer
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To: Former Fetus

That’s what I like about our pastor. He is not afraid to tell it like it is. If a youngster is acting up during services, he will call him down. “This ain’t romper-room school here, son!”he says. We don’t have a “dress code”, LOL, we simply dress as a separated Christian would be expected to dress. We definitely don’t judge someone, especially a new convert for how they dress. Things like that come with growth in Christianity. We are the same in the sense of discipleship, it seems. Our church has a program called the “ABC’s of Christian Growth” which is a course for new and old Christians alike that gets you into the Bible to look up answers and read, etc. We just sent a shipment of New Testaments to Chile. Our church has a printing ministry. All year we print and bind literature and Bibles for a specific country, and then ship them in a large container every October to one of our missionaries so they can hand them out. Missions is a HUGE emphasis, too—I guess that would fall under witnessing (the great commission) and all.


35 posted on 12/22/2008 8:18:16 PM PST by Hambone02
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To: oldtimer

“The baptist Church that I go to has had to build an overhead parking garage, and has funded five other campus locations nearby, and continues to fund seed Church’s in such locations like NYC, San Francisco, and others.”

WOW! I’m starting to wonder if this story isn’t your run-of-the-mill Christianity hating Newsweek drivel. . . .
After the crapola they printed about homosexuality and the Bible last week, it is no surprise!


36 posted on 12/22/2008 8:21:28 PM PST by Hambone02
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To: Hambone02
if a man is failing, has failed to meet these requirements

Who gets to decide when "a man is failing" or "has failed to meet these requirements"?

The Bible is the real power in our church.

The person or persons who get to decide what the Bible means on any given subject are the real power in your church.

37 posted on 12/22/2008 8:21:36 PM PST by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: St. Louis Conservative

The article says the Southern Baptist Church is declining. The SBC does not encompass all Baptist churches.


38 posted on 12/22/2008 8:24:50 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
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To: Salvation
Membership in our church has doubled in the last four years. I just have a problem with the vast numbers of Catholics in that citation.

I believe that the Catholic Church is growing within certain dioceses and under certain bishops, yes. But I've never seen hard data that demonstrates an increase in overall numbers - or better yet, a statistical increase in influence on the moral, social, and political climates.

The Catholic Church is failing to stem the tide of immorality here in America. The creedally orthodox Protestant churches are failing as well. IMO we can argue all day regarding whose numbers are increasing or decreasing, but none of it matters if cultural rot is still the result. We are failing to be salt and light.

39 posted on 12/22/2008 8:28:01 PM PST by Alex Murphy ( "Every country has the government it deserves" - Joseph Marie de Maistre)
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To: Alex Murphy

We must double our efforts in the pro-life, anti-same sex marriages, and generally with the education of all within our congregations, children, teens, young adults and adults alike.

And above all — we must fervently pray for conversions to Christianity or Catholicism, whichever is one’s intent.


40 posted on 12/22/2008 8:37:30 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: B-Chan

Trying to force-fit Catholic style hierarchical thinking upon a Baptist church is an exercise in futility. The congregants have power if they feel called by God to exercise it. Otherwise, the deacons are in control over functional church affairs, and the pastor is in control over matters of faith. That is, unless the congregation or the deacons come to believe that the pastor is not what he should be, due to a disagreement over a point of Baptist doctrine or a personal failing that is beyond their ability to forgive, in which case the pastor will be asked to leave, and a search is mounted to locate an acceptable replacement for him. On an individual and family level, Baptists can and often do vote with their feet, and visit other Baptist churches, in search of a new “home,” if they ever become disenchanted with their current home church. That is what you are seeing here, disingenuously reported to appear as if the Baptist denomination as a whole is in decline, when in fact just the largest association of Baptist churches, the SBC, is experiencing a decline. Does this make any sense to you?


41 posted on 12/22/2008 8:38:58 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
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To: Alex Murphy

I’m sure they’re doing better than the Washington Post’s circulation numbers.


42 posted on 12/22/2008 8:42:48 PM PST by King of Card Games
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To: Alex Murphy
warfare within the denomination and the culture, which has included the merciless purging of evangelical moderates

Wow! Is that some loaded language? That makes it sound like a communist or muslim showdown.

43 posted on 12/22/2008 8:44:35 PM PST by Migraine (Diversity is great... ...until it happens to YOU.)
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To: B-Chan

“The person or persons who get to decide what the Bible means on any given subject are the real power in your church.”

The Bible isn’t subject to interpretation. It is cut and dry.


Who gets to decide when “a man is failing” or “has failed to meet these requirements”?

The church. It rarely happens, but if a pastor runs off with the piano player, he would be unqualified, and the church would replace him.

If his children are out of control (and still under his authority), in many cases, he could be considered unqualified—again, rarely happens.

According to the Bible, he would be brought before the church and the charges laid before him. He would explain his position or the circumstances, what he may be doing to fix the issue. He would leave, and the deacons, along with the membership would discuss the problem and decide by a vote at some point what to do.
It’s basic church discipline 101 that would be applied to any member. Usually members get away with their faults as long as the church isn’t directly involved, while the Pastor, being the church leader, usually won’t get away with certain issues.


44 posted on 12/22/2008 8:50:06 PM PST by Hambone02
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To: Alex Murphy
Where there is no funded vision, the people perish

LOL. They really said that. An abuse of an abuse of scripture.

It's hard for me to believe there might be a single soul in North America who hasn't heard about Jesus.

Oh, they've mostly heard the name. What they mostly haven't heard is the whole "born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law""crucified, and after three days raised" thing.

45 posted on 12/23/2008 5:41:41 AM PST by Lee N. Field (Dispensational exegesis not supported by an a-, post- or historic pre-mil scholar will be ignored.)
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To: Texas Fossil
Yes, they do, purposely but I do NOT believe that the actual numbers of baptisms fell either though that could be the case in some smaller congregations.

We are aware of at least to congregations in our area where the pastors left the pulpit, either willingly or were forced to do so. One could assume that for that reason, baptisms fell.

46 posted on 12/23/2008 7:18:18 AM PST by zerosix (native sunflower)
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To: Hambone02

It seems their are alot of of people critical of the Southern Baptist church.

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December 23, 2008 8:39 AM | Report Offensive Comment

Posted on December 23, 2008 08:39

Fred217 :
When the nation, as a whole, embraces the concept that being anti-Gay is as anti-American as being anti-Black, then the SBC will drop its’ institutional pandering to homophobia. (How many churches, SBC, Mormon, etc. would not let blacks join until the last 2 or 3 decades?) Once you get to that point, the light will come on about equal legal rights (the right to not testify against a spouse in court proceedings, adoption rights), denial of tax benefits (social security pensions, inheritance), and the civil rights to not be discriminated against in employment and housing.
Churches can let in whomever they want, but secular rights under the Constitution should not be subject to ecclesiastical review.

December 23, 2008 3:02 AM | Report Offensive Comment

Posted on December 23, 2008 03:02

IpiTombi :
The life span of bigotry masquerading as religion may be a million years, but it ultimately dies a slow death. When I hear Southern Baptists, all I hear is Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, intolerance, prejudice, and racism. My prayer is that they continue to lose membership. They are an ignorant and arrogant bunch.

December 23, 2008 1:21 AM | Report Offensive Comment

Posted on December 23, 2008 01:21

aardman :
The demise of the Southern Baptist Church and their theology of hate, intolerance and hypocrisy is actually good for mankind.

When I hear someone proclaim “I am a Christian”, I immediately expect that person to be self-righteous, moralistic, xenophobic, narrow-minded and disdainful of anything non-white and non-heterosexual. They are also very quick to find scriptural justification for legally sanctioned lethal violence —from capital punishment to waging a war of choice in Iraq. But Jesus’ teachings on peace-making and mercy and compassion seem totally invisible to them.

I now realize that it is not all Christian sects who are like that but mainly just the Southern Baptists. And that Christians who noisily trumpet “I am a Christian” for all to hear actually are lacking the humility that marked Jesus’ life as described in the Bible. Sadly too, humility is not the only Jesusly (yes I just made that adjective up) trait that they lack.

December 23, 2008 1:14 AM | Report Offensive Comment

Posted on December 23, 2008 01:14

orionexpress :
The average person with any degree of intelligence, is starting to wake up to the fact that the Southern Baptists have basically been a Religion of Hate, Bigotry, Prejudice and mostly a bunch of shysters. I lived in Rome ,Ga for five years and basically there message of LOVE is, Praise the Lord Jesus and now pass me some rope so I can make Nooses.

December 23, 2008 12:17 AM | Report Offensive Comment

Posted on December 23, 2008 00:17

bldlcc :


47 posted on 12/23/2008 7:20:23 AM PST by Augustinian monk ("Can't we try bombing them with kindness?")
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