The recent news by Baptist Press that the SBC has experienced a decline in baptisms has caused many people to worry or become concerned about the future of the SBC. According to the BP article, the total baptisms is the lowest since 1987. Thom Rainer said, “Total membership showed a slight decline. Baptisms have now declined for three consecutive years and for seven of the last eight years, and are at their lowest level since 1987. Indeed, the total baptisms are among the lowest reported since 1970. We are a denomination that, for the most part, has lost its evangelistic passion.” Although Rainer called the report “disheartening” and other people are reporting this as a reason to worry, should we really worry about the SBC and our mission efforts? Below are several points regarding this decline.1. Reason to Worry #1 = If we as a Convention have become more comfortable supporting the Cooperative Program as opposed to doing evangelism ourselves, that is a reason to worry. The CP should never serve as a means of fulfilling the Great Commission personally. Yes, we should support it in order to further our mission efforts, but putting money in the offering plate should never take the place of personal goals of sharing the gospel in our communities. There are churches in our nation that support the CP but never baptize one single person all year. If that becomes the trend of our SBC churches, we have a real reason to worry.2. Reason to Worry #2 = If our 1.3 billion that was given in mission offerings is being used up at the State and National level for administrative reasons and not put to good use in the field, that is a reason to worry. When people put money in the offering plate, they expect it to be put to use printing Bibles, tracts, and paying the salaries of missionaries. Unfortunately, each State Convention often uses a percentage of that money for administrative tasks such as salaries of those who work in our State Convention offices. If more money is being spent on administrative costs as opposed to doing mission work, that would be a reason to worry.3. Reason to Worry #3 = If the SBC saw an increase of 473 churches and 1 new local association but total SBC membership decreased by a total of .24% – shouldn’t we see this as a concern? In 2007 we saw a deduction of 39,326 members of the SBC, but we actually increased in total number of churches. If this indicates that these new churches are not growing or that older plateauing churches are decreasing at a faster rate than new churches are growing, that should be a reason to worry. Often times we in the SBC hear much about church planting, but it seems that we hear precious little about church revitalization efforts. Many churches out in rural America need money and people to reach their communities for Christ. What would happen if we partnered to increase these smaller churches and saw them take a step toward complete revitalization?4. Reason to Celebrate? = In recent days many SBC churches have put new member policies in place that prevent people from walking down the aisle and joining the church at that very moment on a mere statement of their faith. These policies often require the people to counsel with the pastor of the church or complete a new member’s class prior to becoming a member. These classes usually go through basic doctrinal issues including an overview of the gospel prior to the people joining the local assembly. If this trend has caused a lower baptism rate among SBC churches, that should be a reason to celebrate. Why? Because the classes have prevented unbelievers from becoming members through baptism. In many instances when people walk down the aisle during the invitation and say that they want to be saved, they are told what to pray and then presented before the church as a candidate for membership until they can be baptized. In most cases the person is baptized within a week, and they are added to the church roles. If these new measures of purity have prevented people from entering the baptismal pool who did not accept the true gospel of Christ, that is a reason to celebrate rather than worry!May God cause us as a Convention to use our money, time, and other resources for the glory of God as we seek to see lives changed with the gospel of Jesus Christ in years to come.Rev. Josh Buice