FRESNO—California Southern Baptists led the Southern Baptist Convention in the number of new church plants in 2019 while also recording increased baptisms for the second consecutive year, according to figures released by SBC entities.
California Southern Baptist Convention recorded 59, or 11.3 percent, of the 520 church plants reported by the North American Mission Board in 2019. The report also documented two replants. CSBC has been a SBC church planting leader for many years.
CSBC also reported 12,470 baptisms, an increase of 258, or 2.1 percent, compared to 12,212 reported in 2018, according to Annual Church Profile results compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources.
Both figures were released in June by the respective SBC agencies.
CSBC Executive Director Bill Agee said he was “excited about the results announced by the two agencies, but more excited about the ministry of CSBC churches which made the results possible. I’ve encouraged our churches to ‘step up’ in the areas of evangelism, church planting, mission giving and mission going. They are meeting that challenge.”
Agee said church planting is “an important part of the CSBC strategy in reaching California for Christ. While CSBC appreciates the church planting efforts of NAMB, our Convention needs to do more to plant churches. So, CSBC started a California-funded church planting initiative. So far in 2020 we’ve logged 14 new church plants.
“Faithful and continued giving to the Cooperative Program and California Mission Offering have made this possible,” Agee said. “CSBC is excited about this new effort moving forward to impact the lostness of our state “
In 2018, CSBC led the SBC for the largest numerical increase in the number of baptisms. In 2019, CSBC churches continued their uptick by recording another gain, according to the ACP data.
While CSBC recorded two years of increased baptisms, the SBC recorded its eighth year of decline in baptisms from 333,341 in 2011 to 235,748 in 2019. The 2019 decrease was 4 percent, or 10,694, dropping from 246,442 in 2018 to 235,748 in 2019.
Nationwide, SBC statistics took hits in most categories including total membership which fell almost 2 percent to 14,525,579. The decline of 287,655 members is the largest single year drop in more than 100 years.
CSBC saw minimal declines in total membership. CSBC average worship attendance dropped 792 from 408,673 in 2018 to 407,881 in 2019.
With two years of baptism gains “on our scorecard,” Agee said, “we can’t let up or back off. We must move forward in reaching the 35 million unsaved souls in our state. That is what God has called us here to do.”
Even though CSBC baptism figures have increased in the past two years, Agee believes the number “is larger” due to the fact that a fewer than 40 percent of the more than 2,300 churches affiliated with CSBC report their statistics.
“The low number of churches reporting must be turned around if we are to get an accurate picture of what our CSBC family does collectively to reach California for Christ,” Agee said.
That sentiment was echoed by Ronnie Floyd, SBC Executive Committee’s president and CEO, who expressed concern over the 75 percent response nationwide in addition to the length of time and effort needed to collect information which lacks uniformity among state conventions.
“In our high-tech world, our processes cannot have this much lag time,” Floyd said. “It simply cannot take this long and be this complicated. It is past time for us to rethink and re-innovate the SBC Annual Church Profile process.”
Agee and Floyd agree that state and national Conventions cannot know how to best to meet the needs of churches when the response rate is low.