Pastor Rick Warren Tackles Southern Baptist Church’s Mass Decline in New Video Series

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For Warren, the first step to finding a pathway to revival and to revitalization is to “first humbly and honestly admit the crisis that we’re in.”

“We have to remember the height we have fallen from,” he added. He believes the Southern Baptist Church at large is not doing so. In last year’s annual SBC convention, none of the resolutions detailed any kind of information about the general decline of the Baptist population. 

“Last year, our denomination lost nearly one-half million members in one year. We can’t ignore that,” Warren said in the video. “It’s the largest single decline in the past 100 years of Southern Baptist history. … If this crisis, losing half a million people in one year, does not wake us up from our years of complacency, I really don’t have much hope for the SBC. If we continue to lose that many members each year, there will be no Southern Baptists left in just 27 years. … During our 17 years of decline, all we heard at the convention, all we heard was rhetoric and boasting about how great the SBC is.”

Warren believes that the effort to revitalize the Southern Baptist denomination is to revitalize the different churches within it and to stick to what it means to be a Baptist. This is the subject of the second video in the series, titled “What is a B.A.P.T.I.S.T.?”

“Every real revival starts from the bottom up — it is never imposed top down,” Warren said. “I believe that’s one of the obvious causes of our decline; we are now reaping the cost that Southern Baptists have become less Baptist. We’re becoming more Presbyterian in structure and more fundamentalist in our actions and attitudes. For years we’ve been creeping toward a centralization where the local churches are losing their independence and autonomy, and we are increasingly controlled by our institutions and bureaucracies.”

According to a news release by the SBC Stand, the latter parts of the series will be titled “New Testament Case for the Ministry of Women” and finally, “Acts 1-2 Twelve Step Recovery for Churches and the SBC.” The former will examine New Testament passages that support the Great Commission ministry for women, and the latter will lay out scriptural principles that “reveal a pathway for renewing churches to revive a declining denomination.”

This structure is very intentional for Warren. For him, changing the structure of the church is not the foundation of a revitalizing work but the cherry on top. Revival is something he thinks is intricate and nuanced, not reducible to a few bullet points on a list. 

“When a pastor goes into his church, his biggest temptation is to go change the structure. No, you need to work on personal, relational and missional renewal before you go to structural,” he said. “But when you get all four of those lined up, your church is healthy and growing, and then you start having the fifth renewal, which is cultural renewal. Isn’t that what we all want to see?”

After retiring from full-time preaching at Saddleback, Warren was recently installed as the first honorary chancellor at Spurgeon’s College in London, named after the famed and highly influential preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 





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