02/09/2012 11:49 am ET | Updated Apr 10, 2012

Church Growth in the Southern Baptist Convention

Some of my most fondest memories of formation is going to work with my father, Dr. William E. Flippin, Sr., who served for 15 years as the Associate Director for Black Church Relations for the Georgia Baptist Convention (Southern Baptist Convention). I witnessed first hand, the commitment of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination through its investment of money, training of leaders and strategy to make this body although formed because of divisions in slavery in 1845 a viable place of growth and vitality.

As reported in 2011, baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention have dipped to their lowest point in 60 years. In response to this reality, the body has focused on four areas in order to grow: converting more people, planting more churches, developing young leaders and promoting diversity. I wonder how this can be obtained if two of the six reasons that young people leave church is because of feelings of being excluded and not having the freedom to doubt. Churches like the Southern Baptist Convention that subscribe to specific doctrines of faith primarily from a literal interpretation of the word of God is not a safe place to express doubts about the faith. Of course, it is no secret that the the nation's largest Protestant denomination has excluded women from becoming ordained Pastors and those who have alternate lifestyles. (Adapted from a list by David Kinnaman in "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church ... and Rethinking Faith)

I am hopeful that based on the efforts of church planting in the major cities of New York even in predominately alternative life-style communities as Chelsea is a sign that the Southern Baptist Convention is reassessing its policies of exclusion. I believe that developing more church plants especially in urban areas is a meaningful strategy to stimulate other churches or even the whole denomination to embrace more missional perspectives and encourage faith that growth is possible. The present emphasis by the denomination of church planting may seem counterintuitive in a declining denomination, but investing personal and resources in such initiatives may do more to halt decline and stimulate growth than efforts to turn around existing churches or rationalization and reorganization processes. I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention will be a place of growth, making it easier to build relationships and form partnerships; within its individual and collective partnerships where gifts can be released and skills sharpened, inspiring all people to serve the church even in ordained ministry with passion and commitment.