The Burge Report: A Deep Dive into the Decline of the Southern Baptist Convention

Episode #BR002
April 19, 2024
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The Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing a decline in the scope and scale that is unprecedented in American church history. As the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the declines in the SBC are noteworthy for many reasons. Ryan Burge joins Thom and Sam on this special episode to discuss what’s happening and what the future may hold for the SBC.

    • Membership peaked in 2006 at over 16 million, but today membership is around 13 million, where it stood in 1978.
    • The rate of membership decline has increased, especially in the last three years.
    • The decline in attendance is equally astounding at almost 40%, from a peak of 6.2 million in 2009 to around 3.8 million today.
    • The warning shot from 2005: “A Resurgence Not Yet Realized”
    • Baptisms peaked in 1972 (with fewer members) and have declined by 60% (445k in 1972 compared with 180k in 2022).
    • What got us here? Fights, factions, scandals, and an archaic system of funding.
    • Another big factor is demographics. The SBC became dependent upon its constituency increasing its population size. The opposite took place.
    • What does the future hold? Likely more of the same. The SBC is like a slowly deflating balloon. Every controversy acts as another pinhole, releasing more air. Due to its size, the SBC will not disappear overnight, but it’s unlikely the denomination will ever return to its former size.

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