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