“Half of SBC churches could die before 2030,” says former Southern Baptist Convention President Page Patterson.

Pretty dramatic. The largest protestant denomination just a few years ago, is the Baptist behemoth is in danger of fading into history? In a in a conference call with South Carolina pastors, Patterson says the Convention could drop from 44,000 to 20,000 in 22 years. Patterson blames himself and other pastors for the demise. “People rarely rise above the level of their pastor’s spiritual life, and it is critical that pastors maintain a vibrant walk with Christ.”

This is not a new revelation. Doing research in the 1970s, Dr Gary Farley discovered the natural life span of a church to be around 50 years, noting that if a church did not change it’s focus and remake itself for a new generation by the time it reached its 35th anniversary, it would quickly dwindle after that point and all the members would have died or moved on in little more than a decade afterward.

The Southern Baptists were strong in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. But societal changes in the mid- to late-70s were too much for many, and they stopped where they were, metaphorically. 1980, plus 50 years, gets us to 2030.

When Dean Kelly wrote Why Conservative Churches are Growing, he reported that “small churches often are because their leaders are unwilling to change.” The fire of missional passion has died down, and they like church just the way it is.

Of course, there will still be the other 20,000. Some of them are strong, will continue to be strong. Readers of this site, and my forthcoming book, will know how to keep themselves in that half that survives, even grows stronger. With God’s help, you and I can prove Dr Patterson’s fears groundless, stemming the tide of failing churches. Who’s in?

Reference: Associated Baptist Press, Published May 6, 2008