Faced with continuing declines in membership and baptisms, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines implored delegates to the denomination’s yearly meeting to turn to God and put their emphasis on evangelism.
“I want to encourage you to be a soul-winner. I want to encourage you to be evangelistic,” said Gaines, who plans to appoint a task force for more effective personal evangelism.
Gaines, a Memphis, Tenn., pastor who easily won re-election Tuesday (June 13) as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he would emphasize spreading the gospel in his second one-year term.
The SBC, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with 15.2 million members, has lost members for 10 years in a row and has baptized fewer people nine out of the last 10 years.
About 4,892 delegates, called messengers, are attending the meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. All but one of the last 10 annual gatherings have had fewer than 10,000 messengers. That’s compared with attendance that peaked at 45,000 in the 1980s, when the denomination was immersed in deep theological battles that ended in what many call a “conservative resurgence.”
The regular meeting is usually preceded by an evangelistic “Crossover” event and this year it included a Harvest America Crusade at a University of Phoenix stadium featuring Greg Laurie, an evangelist who announced Monday that his church has joined the Southern Baptist Convention but will continue its association with the Calvary Chapel church network.