Seattle, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, the New England coast, New Hampshire, and Vermont have all experienced a growth of Southern Baptist churches, according to the U.S. Religious Census figures compiled by author and church statistician Ryan Burge.
Richard Land, president emeritus of Southern Evangelical Seminary, tells AFN what is showing up in religious statistics in those areas is no accident.
“That's a strategy of the North American Mission Board and has been for some time,” he says, “to expand into non-traditional Southern Baptist areas.”
Land says evangelism can happen in many different ways – workplace Bible studies, campus ministries, door knocking, revivals – but by far the most effective way is the old-fashioned way.
“The best way to evangelize an area is to plant local churches,” he tells AFN.
One ongoing problem inside SBC churches is the absence of young adults, who attend church as teens but then leave when they reach adulthood. Many of those teens lacked good discipleship while growing up, Land says, but the growth of new churches means many young adults are being welcomed.
One more promising detail from those new churches, Land shares, is that they are moving into areas that are spiritually dark. He compares that missionary work to the Bible Belt, where people can play church or flirt with religion to fit in at work and school.
“Frankly,” he says, “there are very few reasons to be an evangelical, born-again Christian in Oregon or Washington, or in New England, unless you are a believer.”