An Arkansas megachurch pastor is one of three men to be nominated as the next Southern Baptist Convention president during the denomination’s annual meeting in Baltimore this week.
The Rev. Ronnie Floyd, 58, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, will be nominated for the spot by the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Other expected nominees are the Rev. Jared Moore, 33, pastor at New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., and the Rev. Dennis Kim, 64, senior pastor at Global Mission Church of Greater Washington in Silver Springs, Md.
The next president will succeed the largest Protestant denomination’s first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter, pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Luter is finishing his second term this year and isn’t eligible for re-election.
Delegates, also known as messengers, will take part in the election during the annual convention, set for Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore. The meeting will follow the annual Pastors’ Conference, where Floyd is to speak tonight.
The election comes at a time when the denomination has recorded its seventh-straight year of membership declines and a consecutive drop in baptisms.
A recent report by LifeWay Christian Resources, an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, showed that membership fell 0.86 percent to 15.7 million from 2012 to 2013, even though the number of Southern Baptist churches grew in that same period. The drop coincides with a more than 2 percent drop in weekly church attendance to about 5.8 million churchgoers in 2013, according to the report.
The number of baptisms also dropped by nearly 1.5 percent to about 310,368 in 2013, the report states. It’s the second-consecutive drop since the number of baptisms hit the lowest point since 1948 in 2012.
According to the denomination’s Annual Church Profile, 60 percent of the more than 46,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention reported no baptisms in children ages 12 to 17 in 2012. That same year, 80 percent recorded one or zero baptisms for young adults, between ages 18 and 29. A quarter of the denomination’s churches reported zero baptisms overall in 2012.
The declines have prompted some pastors to challenge the churches to do more.
For Floyd, Southern Baptist churches need a great awakening.
“We need the hand of God to step in,” he said in an interview. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know of a church that doesn’t need a personal revival and a church revival.”
Revival begins with the people, he said, then moves to the church. Then, churches can start “a season of extraordinary prayer” for a great awakening and accelerate the pace of the Great Commission to spread the word of God. The Great Commission refers to Jesus’ command to his followers in Matthew 28 to go and teach all the nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Floyd led the denomination’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force from 2009 to 2010. In 2010, messengers approved the task force’s recommendations that, in part, restructured how the denomination carries out and funds missions.
In past elections, messengers have supported presidential contenders whose churches have strongly supported the denomination’s Cooperative Program, which funds missions. Last year, Cross Church gave more than $700,000 through the Cooperative Program, Floyd told the Baptist Press. The church is also investing in 27 church startups this year, adding to the 101 already started by the congregation since 2000.
“We know our path,” Floyd said. “Every person needs to hear the word of Jesus Christ. We have a pace problem. We need to report to duty. That’s where we need to get humbled.”
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SOURCE: Arkansas Online