The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest U. S. Protestant denomination. That makes it an important one to watch. It’s also the most entertaining.
Let’s look at its “Start a Church Sunday” effort. This 1991 initiative said local churches are to help start and fund new churches in their areas.
Now, 21 years later, membership is in a steady decline and the home office is laying off employees. Only one in twenty churches is active in starting a new church.
In the South, there is one SBC church for every 1,375 people. In New York State, it is one for every 76,000 people and in Canada, it is 121,000 people. If the U. S. South is a place where the market is church saturated, the U. S. North and Canada are market opportunities. But, neither the Protestant nor Catholic branches of the faith are growing, except for a small growth among Catholics because of immigration.
A Southern Baptist Convention spokesman explained why new churches are needed. He said churches are formed around ethnic, demographic and economic social circles. Each church is unique in its social makeup and as society becomes more diverse, more diverse churches are needed.
This cultural variable the SBC agrees is present causes groups to interpret a denomination’s theology and the Bible itself differently. As fast as a denomination starts new churches, current ones split off or close.
If churches were able to agree on a unified dogma, every church would be full. Evidence of what the faith is and where it came from is too vague for that to happen.