NASHVILLE, Tenn., 4/23/08 — The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denominationâ€™s lowest level since 1987. Although the SBC added 473 new churches and gave more than $1.3 billion to support mission activities around the world, thereâ€™s no escaping the disappointing fact that Southern Baptists are not reaching as many people for Christ as they once did, according to Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, which gathered the information on the denominationâ€™s behalf.
According to LifeWayâ€™s Annual Church Profile (ACP), baptisms in 2007 dropped nearly 5.5 percent to 345,941, compared to 364,826 in 2006. Baptism is a public act administered by the local church in which new followers of Christ are immersed in water. Baptism symbolizes believersâ€™ identification with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection; signifies their new life in Christ; and anticipates the day in which Christ will raise them from the dead, demonstrating His victory over sin and death. Therefore, the number of baptisms is a key measurement of the SBCâ€™s effectiveness in evangelism.