SBC's detour from evangelism had 'devastating' impact

SBC's detour from evangelism had 'devastating' impact

SBC's detour from evangelism had 'devastating' impact

A former Southern Baptist seminary president says the denomination has abandoned one of its core missions and, as a result, is facing a crisis.

Many things are important to Southern Baptists – such as sound, biblical preaching and disaster recovery. But for all of its 168 years, nothing has been more important than evangelism – foreign missions, home missions, knocking on doors, etc.

But Dr. Chuck Kelley, president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told American Family Radio on Friday that the denomination took a turn several years ago.

Kelley, Dr. Chuck Kelley

"Southern Baptists, about ten years ago, decided they would try some new things – and those new things did not prove to be effective," Kelley told show host Pastor Jeff Schreve. "They decided that they would stop talking about evangelism and instead talk about just church planting. And that's had a devastating impact."

In those ten years, he noted, the Southern Baptist Convention has lost around 2 million members. It averaged 7.2 baptisms per church in 2010; by 2021, that number had dropped to 3.2. "We just happen to be in a time of, I think you could use the word 'crisis' to describe it. It's never been like this before with Southern Baptists," he added.

But Kelley said the good news is that the Good News of Jesus Christ can still reach people – and they're hungry for it, he added.

"God is at work in the lives of people in that community. Now, we just have to figure out: How do you find the one that God is working in? That's what evangelism is. It's searching for the people God is already dealing with," he stated.

Kelley, who retired from NOBTS in July 2019, is director and founder of Innovative Evangelism.

"The SBC's greatest evangelistic problem is not that more of us don't witness to our neighbors. Our greatest problem is that more of us don't look and live like Jesus." (Dr. Chuck Kelley)

Editor's note: This article is the second in a series leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, being held this year in New Orleans, June 11-14.