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April 2014
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All Denominations Should Care Baptisms are Down Among Southern Baptists

A Travel Free Learning Article

By George Bullard

The first response of many people may be “I don’t care”. That’s fine. You have that right. But you ought Baptism in the riverto care. More about that later. Keep reading.

Why Are Baptisms Down Among Southern Baptist Churches?

First, take note of the report that came out recently discussed in the article Pastors’ Task Force Releases Report on Declining Baptisms. The annual number of baptisms is down 25 percent in the last 15 years. They are the lowest they have been in over 30 years. This is devastating news for a denomination that prides itself on evangelism that leads to conversion and baptism. Or is it? Keep reading.

Second, membership in Southern Baptist churches is also down. In the seven reporting years beginning with 2005 total membership has declined from 16.6 million to 15.8 million. Where are these 800,000 people? An article on The Atlantic magazine’s web site points out that the decline in baptisms preceded the decline in membership by five years. See Baptists, Just Without the Baptisms. Do you think the baptisms drop caused the membership drop? Keep reading.

Third, most embarrassing for Southern Baptists is that this decline in baptisms and membership has happened during the early years of the denominational wide emphasis called the Great Commission Resurgence [GCR] that was guaranteed to transform and grow the denomination.

Some prognosticators—myself included—felt the GCR was also intended to keep young adult Southern Baptist pastors in the denominational fold by repositioning the denomination to do something dramatic that would reach the “Next Generation”. The baptism report implies that reaching the next generation is not working and remains one of the biggest challenges. Does this represent a failure? Keep reading.

Before proceeding let me indicate this post is not about bashing Southern Baptists. If you think that you are mistaken. It is about sounding an alarm about denominational reality in the second decade of the 21st century.

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SCOTUS Got This One Wrong

Prayer and AmericaTravel Free Learning Article

By George Bullard

With all due respect to my blogging colleague, Jonathan Waits and his blog post, the US Supreme Court got the decision wrong about the town of Greece, NY and their ceremonial prayers.

How prayers are handled in government sponsored settings is a forever issue. While I was not truly aware of the controversy until the 1960s Supreme Court cases that excluded required opening religious exercises, Bible reading, and prayer from each morning in public schools, that was now a half century ago.

I wrote a blog on this subject 18 months ago—50 Years of Confusion About School Prayer. This post talks about my personal presence in or near two of the three Supreme Court cases that were deliberated and decided on in 1962 and 1963.

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The Glass Ceiling for Women in Ministry Only Slightly Cracked

Glass Ceiling Cracked

A Travel Free Learning Article

By George Bullard

I recently returned from the Exponential church planting conference in Orlando where I spent time thinking about women in ministry; especially women in church planting. I sat in on all three workshop sessions led or co-led by a woman in ministry who is a church planter strategist and a friend.

This strategist is the co-author of a recent book published by TCP Books entitled The Wholehearted Church Planter: Leadership from the Inside Out, and I serve as Senior Editor of these books. One session about women in church planting was co-led by Felicity Dale whose blog is Simply Church: A House Church Perspective. Felicity is also the lead author and editor of the new book The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church.

This workshop brought a diverse collection of people together to talk about the role of women in church planting. At least a dozen women present are currently planting congregations. The majority indicated they left their denomination of heritage to plant a new congregation. People with backgrounds in the Church of God [General Conference], Presbyterian Church—USA, Southern Baptist, the non-denominational world, and other groups talked about their journey to a safe place where they could be seen as the pastor of a new congregation.

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Missed Church Last Sunday? What Do You Need to Do?

Children by LakeTravel Free Learning Article

By George Bullard

An increasing number of people miss church on Sundays, or other times during the week when primary worship services or small groups gather. The average number of weeks active Christians attend church is decreasing. The benchmark of at least 48 Sundays per year that marked true church commitment when I was growing up has sunk below 39 weeks per year. No one knows where it will bottom out.

Much of the conversation I hear about this centers on churches having to work harder to maintain their attendance–much less grow. Churches struggle to have enough volunteers in place on Sundays to cover all the areas of responsibility. So called “committed Christians” are not making up their financial gifts to the church when they are not present. Thankfully there are still enough committed tithers and people who feel an obligation to fulfill their annual financial pledges.

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FutureBaptists: A Collaborative Missional Movement

A Travel Free Learning Article DSC_0039[1]

By George Bullard

March 6thand 7th a diverse group of Baptists from North America gathered in Philadelphia for the 50th anniversary of the North American Baptist Fellowship [NABF] of the Baptist World Alliance.

Using the title—FutureBaptists: A Collaborative Missional Movement—this gathering was more a conversation about the next 50 years than a memorial to the past 50. This was good. NABF strived to clarify its focus during its first 50 years. The next 50 years has an emerging focus expressed during this gathering.

NABF: The First 50 Years

NABF, which has almost 30 Baptists organizations as members representing almost two dozen of the three dozen organized Baptist denominations in North America, has always been in the shadow of the Baptist World Alliance. This was good until about ten years ago.

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