In 2018 the Southern Baptist Convention recorded the fewest baptisms in a year since World War II, according to statistics released last week by LifeWay Christian Resources.
Southern Baptist churches reported 246,442 baptisms last year, the smallest number since 218,223 in 1944.
“Records reveal that evangelism has its hardest time during a war period,” according to the SBC annual in 1945. “This is probably due to the fact that evangelism is the highest expression of spiritual idealism, while war is the deepest expression of materialistic humanism.”
Believer’s baptism – a fundamental doctrine of evangelical Christianity – has declined in Southern Baptist churches for seven consecutive years. The 2018 number is about 55 percent of the record year for baptisms, 445,725, set in 1972.
There were 24,165 Southern Baptist churches in 1944, the SBC annual reported in 1945. That is less than half of the 51,541 churches and church-type missions numbered in the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention annual church profile statistical summary.