Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Frogs, Kettles, and Decline in the SBC

I have been fascinated with “the frog in the kettle” illustration ever since I read about it in George Barna’s book with the same title. You remember it: If you put a frog in a kettle with boiling water, he’ll quickly jump out, but if you put him in lukewarm water and slowly (almost imperceptively) raise the temperature to the boiling point, he’ll stay in the water and die. If we look at the LifeWay stats for SBC membership since 1950, we can see a slow (almost imperceptible) decline in growth rate until we see the recent plateau and decline (1). Our growth has not kept up with population increase, and 70% of our SBC churches are not growing. Other indicators tell us that American churches have experienced declining growth rates for decades (2). Thus, the decline (which we now can see clearly) has been building up over many decades. So far, most fingers of blame have been pointed at today’s Christians, particularly today’s Christian leaders. This blame is illogical, however, because declining growth rates started five decades ago. Could the problem be the kettle (culture) rather than the frog (Christian leaders)? Think about the changes that have occurred in our culture during the past five decades. Effective evangelism is much more difficult now than it used to be. If our economy continues to decline and many people begin to suffer, perhaps the time will be ripe for revival in our country. I believe that we should be encouraging Christians and Christian leaders rather than blaming them. We should encourage them to be faithful to their task and avoid compromise. Faithfulness to the task is appreciated by the Lord (Matthew 25:21, 23).

(1) http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/mainpage/0,1701,M%3D200905,00.html
(2) http://www.heritage.org/Research/religion/hl1049.cfm


Blogger Grosey's Messages said...

Excellent thoughts brother...
I am writing a paper on the secularisation of our society and the decline of church membership and attendance in our country.
The secularisation process is almost irresistable due to
a. the immigration rate from non christian countries causing multiculturalism.
b. the window on the world provided by the tv set, immersing people into pluralism and sometimes unthoughtful relativism .
c. the education system favouring empiricism, scientism, over the humanities and moving the culture irresistably towards an atheistic world view.

Evangelism is more difficult because the world view of the unsaved is now critical of christianity perceiving it to be "irrelevant and uneducated".

There have been processes of insulation against this pervasive alteration of world views;
the christian school model utilised by both catholicism and protestants,
the homogenous unit model where we build walls between the unsaved culture and our own through noncommunication,
the accomomodation model,utilised by liberal churches which downplay essential beliefs that bring disharmony to the outsiders who would resist having their basic secular preconceptions challenged.

Clearly none of these things work.
Maybe we nee dto pray more and preach better.

Thank you for your thoughts I really appreciated them tonight.


Tue Jul 01, 02:37:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...


It's good to hear from you. I think this process has happened in many countries. I served as a missionary to South Korea for ten years. My impression is that all of the denominations there have stopped growing. Many of the South Korean Christians are working as hard at evangelism as they always have, but their culture has changed and is no longer as receptive to the gospel as it once was. Postmodernism and materialism have taken their toll. To compound the situation, many Christians in both countries have been somewhat infected with the bad traits of their cultures, and they have consumer attitudes rather than servant attitudes. Cultural forces are very powerful and can help or hinder the spread of Christianity.

Tue Jul 01, 09:26:00 AM 2008  

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