Southern Baptist Convention suffers largest decline in church membership

Protestant denominations are suffering declines in membership. Challenges like secularism, feminism and socialism are causing people to leave the church. And the response so far seems to be one of two things. From the conservatives, we hear that pastors need to teach the Bible more clearly. And from the progressives, we hear that churches need to adopt the political causes of non-Christians.

Here’s an article about the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, reported in Daily Wire. This is written by Ben Zeisloft.

He writes:

Membership in the Southern Baptist Convention witnessed the largest single-year decline in at least a century as the nation reels from the aftermath of lockdown mandates and pastors become concerned about the denomination’s theologically liberal drift.

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination saw a decline from 13.7 million members in 2021 to 13.2 million members in 2022, a decrease of more than 3% which continues the trajectory seen over the last three years, according to data released by Lifeway Research, a provider of church business services for the Southern Baptist Convention.

I’m what you would call a conservative, Bible-believing Christian. I don’t come out of a background of crazy sin and rebellion. But I did grow up in a non-Christian home, and my influences at that time were my two selfish parents, television, foolish students with no life experience, and public school teachers. So, I considered myself just as lost as any sinner. My brother actually continued down the path laid out by these influences, and our lives now are like night and day. My view of Christianity is that you put away your own selfish desires, and take up new Christian priorities. You stop worrying about what happened to you. You start looking for things you can do to build the relationship with the Boss.

My development as a Christian involved learning how to defend Christian truth claims and moral values to non-Christians, with reasons and evidence. But the perspective of people who grew up in the church is really different from mine. I tell them that church attendance is declining, because people have intellectual questions, and they have no reasons to think that our moral teachings are better. The church leaders disagree. They say that we just need to be nicer, and judge less, and have more fun activities to draw people in.

My friends who support the SBC know more about Disney and Star Wars than they do about how to defend basic Christian truth claims. They don’t want to learn how to make a case for God’s existence, Jesus’ resurrection, natural marriage or right to life. So, Christian churches just continue down the path of decline. The leaders think that Beth Moore is a better champion of Christianity than William Lane Craig. They promote Beth Moore, not William Lane Craig.


Those who continued to profess Christianity became increasingly theologically liberal in their beliefs: a survey from Ligonier Ministries found that the share of self-identified evangelicals who believe “gender identity is a matter of choice” rose from 22% to 37% between 2020 and 2022, while the share who believe “the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today” more than doubled from 11% to 28% over the same time horizon.

Record decline in Southern Baptist Convention membership occurs as hundreds of pastors throughout the country notice the liberal direction of the denomination. The trend is perhaps most palpable at the institutional level: Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber and other leaders have faced criticism for neglecting to rebuke the dozens of churches which have installed female pastors, a practice denounced in the Baptist Faith and Message.

Officials at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the denomination’s public policy arm, meanwhile endorsed a red flag law in Tennessee months after they opposed a bill in Louisiana that would have criminalized abortion for all parties involved, even though Southern Baptists passed a resolution affirming that “the murder of preborn children is a crime against humanity that must be punished equally under the law” the previous summer. Former Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore said three years ago that ministers should persuade church members to accept vaccination and wear face masks.

Here’s what the churches that leave the SBC are saying:

“You can take our church off your mailing list,” one pastor replied. “We do not support the socialist movement that has infiltrated the convention and are no longer a member.”

“Our congregation is no longer in the SBC because of their liberal stances on this and their support in fighting an abolition bill in Louisiana,” another minister said. “I pray along with you that the SBC leadership would be convicted by your efforts and the many churches like us who are stepping away,” added a third pastor.

“We truly appreciate your efforts to uphold the Bible. I’m just letting you know that our church voted to leave the SBC this past summer,” commented a fourth. “We felt that this issue was just one that should have been addressed in 2022. There were other issues, so we chose to become non-denominational and break from the SBC.”

I attended an SBC church recently for about 7 months. The pastor told me how conservative he was. How much he loved to read systematic theology. Then three things happened. First, he blocked my efforts to start an apologetics small group. Second, he invited a member of the far-left ERLC to push for open borders. Third, the pastor made the claim that “Jesus was a refugee” in a Bible study he was leading. There was no plan to counter secularism, feminism or socialism in this church. Instead, it was just the Democrat party line. I quit going, There just isn’t any interest in fighting any of the battles that are causing people to leave the church. The leaders are not excited to recommended Christianity to non-Christians as a set of correct answers to life’s biggest questions, along with meaningful work to do for the Boss. A new uniform every morning, no matter how badly you dirtied up the previous one the day before.

I think that’s a pretty good offer, and we should focus on making that offer to non-Christians, and learning how to answer their questions. Jesus didn’t try to entertain people into the Kingdom. He made claims, and authenticated those claims with evidence. I don’t know why Christian leaders think that their approach is better.

3 thoughts on “Southern Baptist Convention suffers largest decline in church membership”

  1. I think the main reason for decline in church attendance in the West is the fact that the current Western establishment is anti – Christian. Unfortunately, most people are selfish and short – termist, and don’t care about truth, nor think about salvation. But they see the system punishes people for being Christian, and rewards people for being non – Christian. Therefore, they stop being Christian. That said, churches may grow, even in times of persecution, if the Spirit is within. “I am the vine; you are the branches”, said the Lord. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. But how many churches remain in Christ these days?


  2. What strikes me as…. interesting? Ironic? Is that I’ve heard more vigorous defense of Christianity from avowed atheists like Sargon, James Lindsay, Tom Holland, and Tim Pool (well, he admits he’s more agnostic – believes in God but no opinions on His identity) than some preachers. Even they’re going, “these Christian practices seem to have a lot of societal benefit…”

    Though I found Doug Wilson of Canon Press yesterday and so far he seems solid. (Seamus on Tim Pool’s show is good too.)

    I think a lot of congregations haven’t realized yet just where the World is. I hear some folks talk and it’s like…. “are you aliens from another planet?”


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