PLYMOUTH, MI – Simple black letters on white paper captivate our imaginations as great authors use them to carefully craft words that draw us into their stories. They put the ABC’s together in such a way that the images formed in our minds move our souls. Words are powerful!
Black numbers on white paper pale in comparison to the ABC’s in their effect. The 123’s of a spreadsheet quickly cause our eyes to gloss over - unless those numbers tell a story that matters to us. A story is emerging from the 2019 Annual Church Profile (ACP) data that is of interest to our cooperative mission efforts. It is a numerical story of churches partnering to advance God’s Kingdom. It is about lives transformed by Christ and churches on mission. Every baptism points to Jesus as a person professes his or her faith in Him. Every dollar given tells about someone’s generosity and investment in Kingdom advance. Small group numbers remind us that people seek to know God, long for community, and opportunities to serve together. Every number matters!
What do the black numbers on the white pages of the Annual Church Profile (ACP) from 2019 tell us about our partnership as Michigan Baptists? There’s a wealth of Information, but here are some thoughts I have after looking at some of the data:
1. The downward trend of baptisms in Michigan has stopped.
Michigan reached a low of 709 baptisms in 2017. From there, the number grew in both 2018 and 2019 to a high of 1055 baptisms - a 49% increase. The reversal happened as Michigan Baptists engaged in church planting, awarded evangelism grants for local church outreach efforts, provided numerous evangelism resources, and trainings. The “Who’s Your One” prayer initiative mobilized believers all over the state to pray.
2. Church planting increases total number of churches in Michigan by 24 in 2 years.
The total number of churches in the BSCM has grown from 268 churches in 2017 to 292 churches in 2019. The growth is clearly the result of the BSCM’s church planting efforts and our partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Without church planting, the total number of churches would have declined due to churches that died or left the Convention. More people are worshipping God, living in Biblical community, and serving Christ on mission because Michigan Baptists are committed to planting churches.
3. New strategies are needed to engage churches in our cooperative mission.
The data, or more accurately lack of data, also reveals that 94 churches entered no ACP information. That’s roughly 1/3 of Michigan Baptist churches. To lower this number, the Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM) has dramatically increased efforts to reach out to these churches. A discussion is constantly taking place amongst BSCM staff about engaging with Michigan Baptist churches. New strategies will emerge to keep churches informed and connected to our cooperative mission as Michigan Baptists.
4. ACP data reveals Michigan’s growing, stable and declining church percentages.
I looked at the ACP average worship attendance numbers from 2015-2019 to see the trends in our churches. The study only used data from churches that submitted the ACP for 3 or more years. Although the study was not subjected to rigorous scientific methods, the results are informative for our purposes.
28.7% experienced 10% or more growth (Growing)
42.6% experienced 10% or more decline (Declining)
28.7% experienced neither 10% growth nor 10% decline (Stable)
The ACP numbers are revealing. There are many stories in the numbers and questions needing to be asked. In the coming days, the data will generate conversations to help us start, strengthen and send Michigan Baptist churches.
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.