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Jun 12, 2009


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Chris Roberts

Some have asserted that you can't deny the "facts" that the SBC is losing young leaders and even causing them to stay away.

At 31 I am the youngest pastor in my association, by a pretty good margin. Even including associate pastors and music ministers the number of young ministers is quite low. I don't really need stats or polls to tell me that at least in my association the SBC has very few young leaders. I don't draw any particular conclusions from that but throw it out as further anecdotal evidence that seems to support what "the experts" are saying. (And for the record, I dislike most of what the experts have to say and would tend to disagree with their conclusions.)

Kevin Jackson

Keith Drury has an interesting post on this topic called Emerging Adults. Basically his point is that it takes young leaders longer to settle down than it used to, and this impacts how they serve the church. He specifically writes about Wesleyans, but most of what he says would apply to the SBC as well.

John Fariss


You and I have disagreed more than a few times, so you may expect me to give some argument against the BP article. The fact is, however, I do not know whether the so-called decline is real, if it is significant, or if it is just some sort of statistical anomaly. And actually, that is not my primary concern in writing you.

I have come to realize over the past day or so that we--meaning those of us who take an active part in the debates touching issues in the SBC--have become polarized to the point that we can only see arguments and opponents, if not enemies. On my part, when I see a comment by any of several individuals commonly identified as "fundamentalists" or "the BI people," I automatically expect to disagree with them, and begin thinking of arguments to counter what they say, whatever it may be. By the same token, when I see comments by people I identify as more "moderate," or as "cooperative conservatives," I find it difficult to disagree with them. Have you experienced this? It is not right, and for my part in it I apologize.

Church consultants (those who deal with troubled churches--and my experience with them has included those who identify themselves as very conservative, and those who are in my eyes are quite moderate--and they seem to agree) note that there comes a point when people on different sides of a disagreement become polarized, and this is exactly what I think is happening. The danger is that the next "step" is fall-out, when many of those involved feel "defeated" and withdraw, or simply decide that they are tired of what they regard as dysfunction, and leave. Something again that consultants say is that the ones who leave first are often the most spiritually and emotionally healthy. As with any human system, these "steps" are not clear-cut; some will begin them before others, many will go "in the middle," and others will be late in making their decisions, generating a bell-curve.

While the BP article could be correct, it is also possible that the anecdotal evidence and minor changes noted are the beginning of the fall-out phase. And IF that is correct, by the time the truth of it becomes obvious, it will be a flood that cannot be stopped. So my question--to you and to anyone else who is listening--is, "Are you willing to step back from the brink? Are you willing to ratchet back the anxiety and stress levels? Just in case the BP article is wrong, what are you willing to do, who are you willing to reach out to, to preserve and strengthen the Southern Baptist Convention?

Because Christ lives,

John Fariss


John, I don't know you but you seem like a really nice guy. Just wanted to tell you. I know it's not "be nice on Friday" or anything, but sometimes I say stuff just because. selahV



These are very interesting stats. Very eye opening, and they confirm somethings that I've been wondering for a long time about the so called decline of the SBC and of losing young leaders. I wonder how these stats and analysis will play out with the "losing young leaders and declining" crowd.


Jim Champion

Interesting articles - not being an expert or statistician I am forced to be armed with only my presuppositions, but then arent we all... I did appreciate a comment that CB had over at Volfie's place which essentially boiled down to if they are leaders then why are they leaving. Great point.

I think that both the BP guy and people like Ed Stetzer make great arguments, my solution - why not both.

I dont think it is deniable that young POTENTIAL leaders are leaving the convention. Where would we be if Patterson had left and gone to Falwellville (better off in my opinion - but thats me) For better or worse, Patterson was nurtured by Pressler to be Pressler's point man (or attack dog as I always saw it) and the convention is essentially where they wanted it to be.

We have a new group of pastors coming up who knew not Dilday or the pre 1980 convention - don't care about the battles, and just want to make a difference. They are going to do church differently than you or I (they might have church in a bar with a cold one, or on a ranch with a pinch between their cheek and gum).

They can recognize that there is a place for them in the SBC - but they need to be nurtured and given a place at the table. My pastor neither wants a place at the table or cares who sits there, he is well educated, young and too busy to go to a convention. We give a significant amount to the SBC, but also do a wide variety of state and mission trips to mexico.

On the other side. The writer is correct that the SBC is doing better, and still has much to do with ethnic congregations - in fact, Nashville had better start showing some color on the EC and in the group of "experts" they employ.

So, my answer - lets do both.

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