FENTON, MI – It's fun to look at photos and remember the special moments captured by them. I was recently scrolling through my photo stream and rejoiced at the images I captured from baptismal services in Michigan Baptist churches. One photo was taken on the deck of a church planter's home on a cold winter night. There was snow piled on the edges of the deck to make room for the baptistery and steam rising from the water as several people publicly proclaimed their faith in Jesus. Another picture recorded the moment when a church planter baptized the woman who (unknown to either of them at the time) would become his wife. A smile broke out on my face as I looked at the photos from a pastor baptizing his daughters at a lake in Holly.
Every baptism tells a story of someone who has been transformed by Jesus. Baptisms are times of celebration as believers profess their faith. Baptisms are exciting times for churches, families, and especially for those being baptized. They are also one of the ways we measure the advancement of the Gospel. Sadly, baptisms across the SBC are trending downward. In 2014, The Pastors’ Task Force on SBC Evangelistic Impact & Declining Baptisms reported, "SBC baptisms reached a plateau in the 1950s, peaked in the 1970s, and have stayed fairly constant since that time. However, the last 6 years show a downward trend in both SBC church membership and baptisms."
What is happening nationally is also happening in Michigan. Baptisms have declined from 1367 in 2011 to 838 in 2015 - a reduction of 529. This trend concerns all of us. While there are many factors involved, let me suggest 4 possible actions your church could consider as you proclaim and live the Gospel:
1. Schedule evangelism training. Take a moment to look at your church calendar and you may discover that it's been a long time since your church had an evangelism training to equip your people. There are many evangelism approaches and training helps available. Go to BSCM.org and click on the Sending header. Take a look at The 3 Circles, Life on Mission resources or the One Verse Evangelism helps. These are highly relational and easily learned approaches to share Christ.
2. Take another look at your community. Communities are changing at a rapid pace opening new opportunities to share the Gospel. One helpful way to look at your community with fresh eyes is to request a free report from The Mapping Center available at the BSCM website. It can help you understand your community and develop strategies to engage the people around your church with the Gospel.
3. Lead your church to pray for family and friends. Pray 4 Every Home is a movement of people and churches praying for their neighbors. By signing up as a Praying Neighbor on our BSCM website, you will receive a daily email list of five people in your neighborhood to pray for by name.
4. Request an Evangelism Grant to reach out to your community. Churches can apply for two evangelism grants a year for up to $5,000 each depending on the strategy and church investment. Consider using a full-time evangelist to hold a revival or other harvest event. The never changing message of Jesus transforms lives! As believers profess their faith in Christ and are baptized, God is glorified, the church is encouraged, and the Gospel is proclaimed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.