Southern Baptists work to increase membership

Resolutions passed to appeal to minorities

  • Follow Your Faith

Several headlines were borne out of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix last month.

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The Rev. Max Guzman sings during Spanish services in the sanctuary of Woodridge Baptist Church.  His ministry is supported by local Southern Baptists.   Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
The Rev. Max Guzman sings during Spanish services in the sanctuary of Woodridge Baptist Church. His ministry is supported by local Southern Baptists.

There was the news of a resolution advocating a "path to legal status" for undocumented immigrants living in the country.

There was also the plan, which Baptists adopted, to increase the ethnic diversity of church leadership.
The same week, Baptists voted Fred Luter Jr., to the post of first vice president, the highest position ever held by a black pastor.

Local pastors say any one of the decisions could prove to be historic for the nation's largest Protestant denomination, which was founded in Augusta.

"It's too soon to know what will change, but I am proud to see they've taken these steps," said the Rev. Max Guzman , the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive , a new Spanish-speaking church in North Augusta that's supported by local Baptists.

"Southern Baptists are realizing that this country is changing," Guzman said. "They've stood up in front of everybody and said, 'Let's address it.' That should be celebrated."

Cristo Vive, or "Christ Lives" in English, is the only Spanish-speaking Southern Baptist church in the area, Guzman said.

On Sundays, he regularly ministers to a crowd of 40. The services, conducted entirely in Spanish, draw immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

As a minister, Guzman said he's called to care for anyone, regardless of immigration status.

"How can we be believers, how can we fulfill the Great Commission, if we say we don't want to tend to this or that group?" Guzman asked.

His position mirrors that of the new resolution on immigration reform, which calls churches to share the Gospel "regardless of country of origin or immigration status."

The resolution, however, does not stop there. It calls on the government to secure borders and hold employers responsible while creating a just and compassionate path to legal status. The measure calls for appropriate measures of restitution, such as fines or probation, for undocumented immigrants already in America.

The resolution was the most heavily debated of the meeting in Phoenix, where more than 4,000 representatives of churches across the country gathered.

The "messengers," as they're called, took care to add an amendment that clarified the resolution shouldn't be construed as support for amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

"The Southern Baptist Convention is not for amnesty as we have some people suggesting," said the Rev. Bill Harrell of Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta.

The pastor is the former chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, the group charged with studying how "ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders" could be more active in the SBC.

The committee found that, over the years, South­ern Baptists have adopted several such resolutions to increase minority participation. There have been at least 11 since 1961, including the 1995 measure that apologized for past defenses of slavery.

In Phoenix, Baptist leaders declared previous efforts insufficient, as Baptist membership further declines and the country grows increasingly diverse.

In late June, new Census figures revealed that, for the first time, white babies were in the minority of those being born in the United States.

Preliminary 2010 Census data shows Georgia was one of 12 states with white populations below 50 percent among children under the age of 5. South Carolina is one of seven states expected to join states with minority white babies in the next decade.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, baptisms are at their lowest level in 60 years, according to LifeWay Christian Resources.

Membership has fallen for the fourth straight year, even as the number of Southern Baptist Churches has grown, according to the 2010 Annual Church Profile.

Recent efforts to welcome diversity into the convention might help long-term membership trends, but they shouldn't be interpreted as strategy to boost Baptist popularity with those groups, said the Rev. Collie Foster. The Army chaplain at Fort Gordon attended the annual meeting as a representative of his church, West Acres Baptist, and military office.

"I don't think that's why we're doing this," Foster said.

"In Phoenix, I saw a large number of Hispanic leaders, African-American leaders," he said. "The resolutions are there because they come out of the things we already value, the things we're already doing."

The immigration issue, he said, drew a lot of press to the convention, and not all of it was positive.
"The convention as a whole got some negative publicity out of this when it's meant to be a positive step forward," Foster said. "But it's not surprising, because it was an issue even on the floor of the convention. It's a sore spot for some people."

Though opinions will differ on issues as complicated as immigration, there was one takeaway Baptists seemed to agree on, Foster said.

"We'll be there for them," he said. "In jail, out of jail, illegal or legal, we'll minister to them."
And that's exactly what gives Guzman hope.

"The government is right to make and enforce their laws," he said. "But as a minister, the Biblical call is to take care of the immigrants, because they're among us. I don't care who is in front of me. I'm going to share the same exact message of hope."

Southern Baptist Convention by the numbers

16,136,044: Southern Baptist membership in 2010, a decline of 0.15 percent from the previous year

332,321: Baptisms in 2010, a decline of nearly 5 percent from 2009

45,727: The number of Southern Baptist churches in 2010, an increase of 1.59 percent over 2009

29,672: The number of new baptisms in Georgia in 2010

1,401,278: Southern Baptists in Georgia in 2010

16,327: The number of new baptisms in South Carolina in 2010

719,958: Southern Baptists in South Carolina in 2010

Source: LifeWay Christian Resources Annual Church Profile

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soldout
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soldout 07/11/11 - 08:12 am
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As long as the Baptist church

As long as the Baptist church does as the church did in the book of acts it will be a good chruch. Our job is not to change the world as revelation tells us where it is heading. Our job is to rescue as many as possible from hell and teach those who turn to Christ how to live a spirit filled life, placing enough word in them that they spill out on others. Baptists need to boldly speak the truth about man's sins and God's grace and for people to expect miracles in their life. Most church goers have become so sub-normal that a normal Christian now seems extreme. Make Jesus the biggest thing in your life and the Word your reality and everything else will work out. Don't be PC; be JC.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/11/11 - 09:14 am
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Great article. Good news

Great article. Good news about the ministry to Hispanics, the resolution and the African-American pastor's election to vice-president! The SBC took 150 years to apologize for past defenses of slavery. I just hope it doesn't take that long for the bulk of the SBC churches to allow divorced ministers and deacons to serve in leadership positions in their churches and in denominational leadership postions. Churches in the South split from the national Triennial Baptist Convention headquartered in Philadelphia over their "right" to serve as ministers and missionaries as slaveholders in Augusta, 1845. (The Methodist churches in the South did the same a few weeks prior to the formation of the SBC in Louisville, KY, forming the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but they got back together in the early 20th century.) These two acts among many others in the South foreshadowed the formation of the Confederacy in early 1861.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/11/11 - 09:27 am
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Pastor Dan makes interesting

Pastor Dan makes interesting historical points. What was the role of First Baptist Church in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention over slavery? Wasn't the church formative in its origin?

Lastly, Pastor Dan, what percentage of your congregation is black?

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 07/11/11 - 12:01 pm
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Perhaps once the TEE Center
Unpublished

Perhaps once the TEE Center is built they can have their SOUTHERN BAPTIST convention here- instead of Arizona

Riverman1
82428
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Riverman1 07/11/11 - 12:19 pm
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Someone asked if maybe the

Someone asked if maybe the Southern Baptist Convention would come here once the TEE Center opened instead of Phoenix.

That's exactly the kind of thinking that allowed the cabal to push that thing down our throats. Phoenix is a major city with direct flights everywhere. They have a TIER ONE convention center. Ours will be a TIER THREE. You should have read the comments about the all the events we would attract and the millions of dollars we were losing.

copperhead
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copperhead 07/11/11 - 01:22 pm
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More people=more tithes ptl!

More people=more tithes ptl!

InChristLove
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InChristLove 07/11/11 - 02:08 pm
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You have to be joking

You have to be joking copperhead if you think more people mean more tithes. 80 percent of the people who attend church do not tithe or attend regularly. I can see you are uninformed...possibly because you are not involved in church somewhere. Reaching lost souls for Christ doesn't take money, it take dedication and a relationship with Christ themselves.

soldout
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soldout 07/11/11 - 03:04 pm
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Amen inChristlove. We need

Amen inChristlove. We need to be givers to help ourselves be blessed. My advice is to give 10%, save 10% and you will live a blessed life as God's riches come without sorrow.

tmaugusta
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tmaugusta 07/11/11 - 03:11 pm
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The SBC had better stop

The SBC had better stop looking at numbers and "immigrants" and pay more attention to where they are going with theology and doctrine. I read and see more and more that the SBC is going "Calvinism" to the extreme. It's sad when church denominations spend more time(and money) in getting baptisms and new memberships instead of making sure the bible is being preached correctly. Catch my drift here????

InChristLove
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InChristLove 07/11/11 - 03:34 pm
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tmaugusta, not sure what

tmaugusta, not sure what "Calvinism" is and don't believe I'm catching your drift. Care to further explain?

InChristLove
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InChristLove 07/11/11 - 03:51 pm
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soldout, I think I understand

soldout, I think I understand what you are saying but we should give because we love God and that is what is required of us (it's all His anyway) and through obedience comes blessings. Giving of our tithes and offerings is just another way to help the Word of God to be spread and that should be our goal. I've received all the blessing I could possibly need when He saved my soul and if He chooses to bless me more, then all the praise goes to Him.

tmaugusta
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tmaugusta 07/11/11 - 04:04 pm
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InChristLove, read about

InChristLove, read about church history particularly the Synod of Dort. I think they summed it up in a nutshell. It's interesting but more interesting than that is the number of "Christians" that attend one denomination or the other yet don't know what and/or why they believe what they believe. And we wonder why there can be such seperation b/n denominations on things like Predestination, Rapture, Original Sin, Baptism, Security etc... The list goes on and on. It's funny that many christians (myself included here) are members of a certain denomination yet either don't know the denomination's mission statement or don't agreee with some/many of the statements of faith. We shouldn't accept something b/c mom and dad, etc. believed this or that is what I guess I'm saying here. As far as my first post, Calvinism is too broad to tackle here.....

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/11/11 - 05:16 pm
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InChrist'sLove: Calvinism is

InChrist'sLove: Calvinism is known by the acronymn TULIP.
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

It is much more of a complex theological doctine than TULIP, but that is a start for you. There's plenty of info on the web pro and con if you want to research this further.

The opposite of Calvinism is Arminianism. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church was mostly Arminian in his theological position. Most Baptists have been and are Calvinistic expecially the Primitive (Hardshell) Baptists which in my opinion takes Calvinism to the extreme. The SBC has usually taken what I might consider as a moderate Calvinistic view but there are some in the SBC today who seem to be taking it to an extreme. It's a big controversary today.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/11/11 - 05:54 pm
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Riverman - what they are

Riverman - what they are hoping to get at the TEE is the North GA Conference annual meeting that met every other year at the Civic Center. Years ago, they had a disastrous meeting at the Civic Center and were refunded some of their money. They used to rotate between Athens and Augusta but after that, it's always been in Athens. The TEE will be large enough to accomadate the North GA Methodists. No way could it accommodate a national meeting like the SBC annual meeting.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/11/11 - 06:01 pm
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Riverman - we don't have any

Riverman - we don't have any African-American attendees or members yet, but it is not because I haven't tried. Up here in Appling, all the African-Americans who I run into and talk to and have invited to my church are members of Mt. Carmel Baptist, and the last thing I would want to do is to take members from any church. My little congregation welcomes all people. We ourselves consider us as kind of misfits in that we don't fit into traditional churches. I really enjoy this openness and love exhibited to all people by them. If they accepted me, they'll accept anybody!

InChristLove
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InChristLove 07/11/11 - 07:30 pm
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"that many Christians (myself

"that many Christians (myself included here) are members of a certain denomination yet either don't know the denomination's mission statement or don't agree with some/many of the statements of faith"

That is why I am glad that our church sponsors a new members class, not only for those who are new in Christ but also available for others, so they can learn what our church believes, why we believe it, and able to back it up with The Word of God.

dougk
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dougk 07/11/11 - 09:31 pm
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Yep now the southern baptists
Unpublished

Yep now the southern baptists want some black money...even though it took them 150 years to admit they were wrong about the enslavement of black folk....but now that there's some loot to take and they need it, they'll take it.

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 07/11/11 - 10:06 pm
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I thought money was green,

I thought money was green, not black? Anyway, just like people, God can take money of any color and do something wonderful with it.

Sentinel
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Sentinel 07/11/11 - 10:34 pm
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Well.... as long as they're

Well.... as long as they're not gay minorities, they'll be welcome with open arms.

(insert sarcasm font, plzkthx)

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 07/11/11 - 10:39 pm
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Many things are done in the

Many things are done in the name of God that are not OF God. Man gets hung up on monuments, power, status and counting when the focus needs to be on building stronger families in relationship to each other and growing in love, knowledge and service through Christ.

I have a need to consistently ask myself what is my TRUE motivation behind my beliefs and my actions and how does that glorify God, or build His kingdom? I will warn you, it's a question that requires God's help to process an honest answer.

allhans
23546
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allhans 07/11/11 - 10:47 pm
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We can find fault with any

We can find fault with any religion (or anything else for that matter) if we look for it. I haven't yet found a church that I agree with completely but I go to church to worship God so I find the one that suits me best and I overlook what I consider mistakes made by man.

galaxygrl
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galaxygrl 07/12/11 - 01:52 am
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Not only is Calvinism (the

Not only is Calvinism (the chosen ones) making a strong move in the SBC, they refuse to recognize women doing ministry work other than call them secretaries, administrators or directors. Women are under men and they must be obedient to them. I don't have a fundamental problem with this, but it leaves women with less power or say than women in any other denomination. What about all the women in the old and new testament that were prophets, advisors, followers of Christ and early church founders? They sell a good package to the men, all they have to do is dress it up to make the women believe it, which they willingly do as servants of Christ. Women are the leaders of the spiritual movement today in America. It isn't Fathers in most cases getting kids up on Sunday to go to church, it's Mom. When men truly lead the church it will be sound again.

copperhead
1035
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copperhead 07/12/11 - 08:15 am
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InChristLove, i was involved

InChristLove, i was involved in a baptist church until a deacon called me aside and said it had come to his attention that i wasn't giving my 10%. When i asked how he knew what i earned,he said tax records are public. Needless to say,i never went back to any church. It is all about MONEY.

copperhead
1035
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copperhead 07/12/11 - 08:20 am
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Question; are black people

Question; are black people that live in france referred to as african-french? Or black people in spain referred to as african-spaniards?

tmaugusta
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tmaugusta 07/12/11 - 08:31 am
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InChristLove, it's always

InChristLove, it's always good to have a new believer's class but in all honesty, I find it insulting at best. To consider me(a christian of a different denomination) to be "in error" or "disobedient" because of my entering theological faith is downright insulting in any format. People say, "Well find another church". This isn't the issue I'm addressing. The issue is that denominations argue over INTERPRETATION. Many can differ on nonessential interpretations and still be what most will say are "Christians". Not really so in the SBC despite what's said. Concerning Calvinism, IMO, John Wesley(who was Arminian in theology) was one if not the most influential and biblically sound teacher of recent time. Besides, who can trust the belief system of a murderer and tyrant.

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 07/12/11 - 09:51 am
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Copperhead, don't you think

Copperhead, don't you think rejecting the church as an institution because of the actions of one sorry deacon is a bit extreme? I've been in churches all my life, and served on many "boards". I can tell you that it is not all about money. Yes, money is important for paying bills and supporting ministries, but many churches do not focus on money at all.

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 07/12/11 - 09:55 am
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Jesus Christ established "the

Jesus Christ established "the church". It was originally called "The Way" and people were called "Christians", nothing more. It was man that made denominational divisions. If we followed that NT model from the Book of Acts, we'd simply call ourselves Christians, and not Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. Such disunity has plagued the Church of Jesus Christ for centuries now.

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 07/12/11 - 11:44 am
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tmaugusta, why in the world

tmaugusta, why in the world would you find a new believer’s class insulting. If you are new to the faith, isn’t it wise to understand why you believe what you believe and how it is backed up biblically? Isn’t this what you were complaining about earlier in your post, people not knowing what their faith believes in? Also where did I say your were “in error” or “disobedient”????

Truthfully I don’t care about Calvinism or Arminian…my belief is based on the true Word of God, not based on some man’s interpretation of it. You have many denominations throughout the Christian faith but first and foremost I am a Christian, a child of God. Being a Southern Baptist or being a Methodist isn’t going to get you to heaven, it’s only a basic tenant of like believers. I really don’t care what you call yourself, if Christ isn’t your Lord and Savior, you will go to hell, doesn’t matter if you are So Bapt, Methodist, Catholic, Presby. Etc….

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 07/12/11 - 11:51 am
0
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copperhead, I agree. It is

copperhead, I agree. It is none of the deacons, pastor, or any leader in the church's business what you give or don't give. This deacon was wrong! But using it as an excuse not to attend church is just that....an excuse. I will totally disagree with you that "It is all about MONEY".

Not every church is concerned with money.....some are concerned about your soul and where you will spend eternity. Instead of using the excuse, why not search around and find a church where you can feel like you belong. It's not going to come to you, you have to visit places and pray about it. Just a thought.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 07/12/11 - 12:46 pm
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I don't want to step on any

I don't want to step on any toes, but I find a good question to ask one's self regarding the issues of allowing others to run you away from attending any church, is this: How many other group gatherings do I consistently attend and how many people do I have a close relationship to? Honest answers to these two questions will provide some needed understanding of one’s self.

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