Coming from a Southern Baptist background, I still keep up with what is going on among my brothers and sisters in that association. I think Christians today need to learn from one another’s mistakes and work together as much as possible to address the challenges we face. I think people need to wake up and realize that there are cultural shifts taking place that are far beyond the simple “liberal/conservative” calculus that has dominated the interactions we’ve had with one another (and with the unchurched) since, I don’t know, the fundamentalist/modernist split. The evidence that those categories are breaking down and are no longer especially helpful (if they ever truly were) can be seen in the fact that Christians of every stripe are struggling to find ways to share the Good News to a society that has been inoculated by the dead faith of a post-Christendom world.
For the Southern Baptist Convention, 2008 was filled with bad news.
Baptisms reached a 20-year low. Church membership dropped, prompting fears the Nashville-based Baptist body was on a downward slide. And its outgoing president warned that within 20 years, more than half of Southern Baptist churches could die off.
In response, the Baptists announced a new national evangelism strategy called “God’s Plan for Sharing.” Nicknamed “GPS,” the new strategy would spread the Gospel throughout the U.S. and Canada by 2020, said Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board.
“Just imagine if every believer in North America started sharing the Gospel and every person heard that Gospel by the year 2020,” Hammond said at the convention’s annual meeting.
But critics within the denomination say the new initiative is in danger of failing. Some blame a lack of funding. Others wonder if the mission board leadership is up to the task.
The agency’s 2009 budget seems to support the first group’s concerns.
Among $130 million in planned expenses are $367,000 in travel for board trustees, $975,000 for technology upgrades and $250,000 for mission board headquarters near Atlanta.
And the national evangelism initiative? That line is blank.