Southern Baptist
Messengers pray during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at the BJCC, June 12, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (RNS photo by Butch Dill)

Southern Baptist Decline: Denomination Reports Loss of 2 Million Members Since 2006

By Bob Smietana

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination continues to get smaller.

There were 14 million Southern Baptists in 2020, according to a new report released Thursday  by Lifeway Christian Resources, which compiles official denominational statistics. That number is down 435,632 members since 2019 and 2.3 million from 2006, when the Southern Baptist Convention reached 16.3 million members.

Worship attendance was also down about 15%, with 4.4 million people attending in-person services on a weekly basis. That figure was likely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, where churches around the country shut down in-person services to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 clearly impacted in-person attendance,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said in a statement announcing the report. “Throughout much of the year, churches tried to find the right balance of both in-person and online events.”

Southern Baptists, long known for denominational infighting, have seen several high-profile departures of leaders in the past year, including Bible teacher Beth Moore, ethicist Russell Moore, and a number of Black pastors. The SBC has also faced controversy over revelations of abuse, disputes over support for Donald Trump and a debate over critical race theory.

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Southern Baptist Convention
“2020 Southern Baptist Convention Statistical Summary” (Graphic courtesy of Lifeway)

The biggest decline in the report was seen in baptisms, a key measure for the evangelical denomination. In 2020, baptisms were down by about half, to 123,160, the lowest number since 1919.

“The last year Southern Baptists saw this few people follow Christ for the first time was 1918 and 1919, when the influenza pandemic was sweeping the world,” said McConnell.

Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, said the report showed a need for a renewed focus on evangelism, missions and church planting. 

“It may take years for us to know the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our churches,” Floyd told Baptist Press. “There are lessons to be learned from 2020 as we put it behind us — such as the vital need for corporate worship, the value of being creative in developing ways to share the Gospel, and how much local communities need our churches to minister in difficult circumstances.”

Total giving to Southern Baptist churches, according to the report, was $11.5 billion dollars, with a reported $1 billion being given to missions. 

The report was based on data from 69% of Southern Baptist churches, down from reports in previous years, which drew on data from three-quarters of churches.

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

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4 thoughts on “Southern Baptist Decline: Denomination Reports Loss of 2 Million Members Since 2006”

  1. Apostate churches today could care less for the decline of people leaving them, they are losing some of their mammon that they so love, that is what is hurting them! Since when did Jesus teach people to become a member of an organized church anyway? I believe the Holy Spirit is bringing a fall-out of all these apostate Zionist mammon loving churches. They idolize preachers not Jesus. They love mammon more than Jesus. They would rather support and give their money to those murderous jews in so-called Israel that Jesus said in John chapter 8 their father was and is the devil, and not do one thing to save the murdering of the unborn right here in our own country!
    Judgement is coming to America, and I hope soon! These churches praise and worship the sodomites also.
    How sick is that!!! The so-called Christian’s in America refuse to obey Mark chapter 16. It is time for a Sodom & Gommoriah meltdown! All the world is watching how sick Americs has become. We will not win any kind of wars with a Sodomite army. The king of kings has taken His hands off of filthy America. Now we WILL FALL!!!

    1. Mr. Ralph Jesperson

      “murderous jews” Thinly veiled anti-Semitism in the name of Jesus? But wait a minute. Jesus is Jewish, he is not white. And how about pretty much all those old heroes of the faith? Jewish. The writers of our Bible? Jewish. The first generation apostles martyred for our faith? Jewish The original chosen people of God? Jews Where would we Christians be without Jews? Well, we would have no savior, no Bible, no New or Old Testament. No Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. No King David, Solomon. But I could keep going on. There is no Christianity without the Jews. Not that I defending everything done by all of them. Some are good and some are just the opposite.

      To whom did God give the Land of the Canaanites to? Where will Armageddon happen? Where will Jesus set up His seat of power on earth when He returns? Anti-Semitism is the most anti-Christ activity out there. I once had Messianic roommates. They are just as much Christians as you or I or have you never read Paul’s warning to us Gentiles? See Rom. 11:11-22 which includes the following:

      “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

      Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”

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