Hard Words From Frank Page

I ran across this article linked and quoted on another blog tonight. SBC President Dr. Frank Page offered some straight talk about the future of many of our Southern Baptist churches. I thought it would interest our readers, many of whom will pastor dying churches if the stay in the SBC over the next 20 years. Here are some highlights:

  • The Southern Baptist Convention is rapidly dying
  • SBC churches could number only 20,000 — down from the current total of more than 44,000 — in fewer than 22 years
  • The problem “resided in the churches” that refuse to change to stop their inevitable demise. People rarely rise above the level of their pastor’s spiritual life, and it is critical that pastors maintain a vibrant walk with Christ.”

Here are a few notable quotes:

“Many Southern Baptist churches are small groups of white people who are holding on [until] the end,” he said. “Not only have we not reached out to younger generations, but we have failed to reach out to other ethnic minorities who are all around us.”

Rather than embracing a “whatever it takes” mentality to change and restore a local church to health, Page said, many pastors and churches have “chosen to die rather than change, and they are doing it.”

It sounds like much of this material is from Dr. Page’s new book. You can read Scott Lamb’s review it it here: The Incredible Shrinking Church by Frank Page

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13 Responses to Hard Words From Frank Page

  1. Terry Lange says:

    I am an “outsider” so to speak ( I am not Southern Baptist) but the question begs to be asked, “If the SBC is dying, then what will be the next move?”

    Terry Lange’s last blog post..A lot of traffic recently

  2. Tony Kummer says:

    Terry,
    That is exactly the question everyone is asking and there is much disagreement so far. That’s one reason everyone is so interested in who the next SBC president will be. Whoever he is will set the tone and cast a vision for a turnaround.

    What I saw in this article was Dr. Page calling out some of traditional churches who are too comfortable with the way things used to be and refuse to make any concessions to a changing culture.

  3. I sympathize with the comments from Dr. Page because I know they are true; but it scares me that many will hear those comments and believe the answer is to turn to a market-driven or emergent approach which will marginalize SBC churches even further.

    Joshua Hutchens’s last blog post..God Resigns?

  4. Tony Kummer says:

    Joshua,
    I think that’s what a lot of the fracturing of the SBC – different groups are proposing different solutions to the problem. David Dockery’s pamphlet on building bridges goes in-depth to identify the factions.

    It seems like the marketing approach is what has really been driving many of the mega churches and some of the church planting efforts.

    I think Page is right about the first step, churches have to admit there is a problem and be ready to make some changes to reach our culture. The extent and nature of those changes is the hot button issue.

  5. According to Paige Patterson, Dr. Page is simply being an alarmist, putting fear in Southern Baptists. Patterson would rather that Southern Baptist not hear the “ghost and goblin” stories from President Page (or Ed Stetzer). See:

    http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=27996

    This year could very well show just how different the competing visions for the SBC play out–all with the Conservative Resurgence faithful. While the CR fracture will likely be seen in the vote for SBC Prez, the reality is that it is more systemic than that. Of course, we could all make ourselves feel better by blaming the boogeyman hyper-Calvinists for it all. :)

  6. But if we blamed the boogeyman, would it really have been our choice to blame him?

  7. Ed Ethridge says:

    I have believed for years an still do that our problem lies at the foot of the pulpits of SBC churches.The majority of our pastors have not equipped the saints for the work of the ministry,doctrine has not and is not being taught. Therefore ,the people die for a lack of knowledge.

    Gross immaturity in the pew is a result of not having a hot heart in the pulpit and a Holy Spirit passion to preach the word in power without compromise.The culture is not the issue for we are the culture!

    Pogo said”We have met the enemy and it us.” The church must return to the centrality of the preaching of the Word ,living out the Truth in Holiness and the fear of the Lord God almighty in order to revival and renewal.

  8. Tony Kummer says:

    Timmy,
    Thanks for the link to Patterson’s editorial. I’d seen the title come across my feed reader last night, but had no idea what it was or who wrote it.

    I don’t mind his 4 proposed causes for the decline, but the rest of the article seems like he’s getting after them LifeWay boys.

  9. Tony,

    Well, I think the CR is being split over influence and personalities.
    >> Among the revivalist network, you have Hunt/Vines/Traylor.
    >> Among the CP stalwarts, you have Chapman/Page/Cox.
    >> Among the Anabaptists, you have Patterson/Yarnell/Caner Bro’s.
    >> Among the Calvinists, you have Dever/Ascol/Mohler.
    >> Among the new moderates, you have Burleson/Cole.
    >> Among the centrists, you have Dockery/Akin/George/Rainer.
    >> Among the young missional guys, you have Stetzer/Patrick/Montgomery/Greear.

    I know that it is not that clear-cut, but what you are hearing from Patterson is consistent with what Yarnell and others have said in the past. What I am curious to see is what this new “Baptist Identity Movement” will turn into. A new landmarkist movement? All the anti-ecumenical talk sure sounds like it.

    Timmy Brister’s last blog post..Addendum: Three Case Studies

  10. Here’s my favorite line from Patterson:

    The allegation that the “young leaders” are leaving Southern Baptists, and we will never reach our world if we do not change and adopt methods that appeal to the culture is to me the strangest of all. Who are these young leaders? How many left? How are they doing now? Did they leave “because they were never really a part of us” (1 John 2:19)?

    I can’t help but think this statement just drips with condescension and gives more fuel to the assertion from many “younger leaders” that the old guard is out of touch. Case in point, he says:

    But has somebody missed the obvious here? The more attune to culture Southern Baptists have become and the more we have incorporated the world into our worship, the more our baptisms have dropped! Although I am not certain that there is a connection, as will become evident in what follows, I admit that I am suspicious.

    At least he admits there may be no connection, but if he really thinks putting “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” to Nirvana-inspired riffs kills evangelism, I may weep.

    But once you get to what follows after that, you can do nothing but say “Amen.”

    Stephen Newell’s last blog post..Intro to Deaf Ministry: Methodology, Part 1

  11. bryant owens says:

    This reality in the SBC has been screaming for quite some time. Orthodoxy should never be the root of stubborness. New ideas must begin to build new churches. The agencies holding the $$ for church plants must also realize this need for the new and start funding some fresh works or the SBC will definitely die in my generation.

  12. Frank Pacheco says:

    The reality and sad situation is that we’ve engaged in too much politics and personal agendas, I believe very strongly that we must go back to humble beginings and preach the true gospel that lots of souls urgently need, we must go back to the basics beloved and remember that its all about Chist and the worlds salvation, I’ve seen the results with a new congregation less then a year old and still groing. I strongly admire and respect the baptist doctrine and believe in my heart that if we let the Holy spirit be our gide, we can acomplish what we as baptists supposed to do: Win souls for Christ!

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