church-isleThis week, I am interviewing Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. Check out part one of our conversation here.

Trevin Wax: When you look our over the horizon of the Southern Baptist Convention, what do you see as the biggest challenge we are facing?

Daniel Akin: Apathy.

I think that Southern Baptists have lost their first love, and therefore, we are apathetic in too many areas when it comes to the Great Commission and the glory of God in seeing the nations brought to Christ for his fame.

With the younger generation, I observe apathy in that they do not see why they should buy into the vision of the SBC. They are not too excited about the mechanics of the SBC. They resonate with the fact that the SBC says we exist to take the gospel to the nations, plant churches across North America, and provide good healthy theological education. My observation is that people in their twenties, thirties, and even forties resonate with this vision.

The problem is that they do not see the SBC pursuing those three agendas with laser-beam passion and the kind of focus that they themselves aspire to have. As a result, there are many guys your age that are asking the question, “Why should I be a part of this big behemoth that I feel is wasting way too much money and seems too top heavy and bureaucratic to be worth expending effort and energy. We can just simply take our money, and we can do church planting and missions on our own apart from the SBC.”

I understand that unhappiness, and I understand that dissatisfaction. That is why I, along with a number of others, and in particular the current president of the SBC – that is why we are working very hard to try to steer the SBC in a new fresh direction that would cause young men like yourself and like my own sons to say, “It’s not perfect (of course nothing perfect exists this side of heaven), but it’s the best thing going. I can see why I would be a wise and good steward to invest in what the SBC is trying to accomplish.”

Trevin Wax: What do you think are the major reasons for the declining number of baptisms and our shrinking membership?

Daniel Akin: First, we have become practical inclusivists. Even though, in theory, we will say that we believe that heaven and hell are real, and that Jesus makes all the difference, we have emotionally disengaged ourselves from that theological proposition, and we are convinced that if someone is a good person, somehow God is going to let them get into heaven. So we do not have the sense of urgency about the plight of the lost.

Secondly, Dr. Mohler has pointed out a fact that is kind of funny and sad at the same time. You can almost document the stagnation and decline of baptisms within the Southern Baptist Convention as the decline in the number of children that Baptist have.

The truth is, (and I said this in my Axioms sermon that’s either famous or infamous depending on your perspective) we have bought into the mindset of the modern world in that we think that less children is best or at least better. Because we have less children, we have less family members coming to faith in Christ.

Of course, I am not for baptizing children at a very young age. We have made a huge mistake there. So let’s just go ahead and recognize the elephant in the room: many of the baptisms we record every year are re-baptisms. People that are baptized as children come to be convinced that they had not understood the gospel, had not been converted, and therefore went through baptism again.

Every so often, when I am doing a forum here at Southeastern, I will raise this question. (I used to do this at Southern too and I always got the same result.) I ask the students, “How many of you went under the waters of baptism more than once?” It was never less than 40% and almost always about half.

About half of the adult baptisms we report each year are re-baptisms. The other majority of them are among children ages 5 to 12. That number has been shrinking because we have less children in our churches now.

You put all that together with the fact that we are less passionate about the plight of the lost and you see why there is a significant decline and stagnation in baptisms. We have not been keeping up with the population growth in America for thirty to forty year now. Even though we saw modest increases in the number of churches, and modest increases in terms of total membership, we were losing ground every step of the way.

We have been very deficient on the doctrine of regenerate church membership. We have baptized far too many at a young tender age when they were not capable of grasping the truth of the gospel.

On any given Sunday, we do not have 16 million Southern Baptists in worship. More likely, we have around 8 million present. And if you use as a criteria for “faithful church attender” someone who comes just once a month, we might have 10.5 to 11 million true Southern Baptists, not 16 million. You put all that in a pot and you can see that we have some serious issues.

Trevin Wax: Some have said that one of the best ways to evangelize the next generation is to give birth to it and to raise it up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. What should pastors do to encourage people to embrace that vision of having children or adopting children all for the glory of God?

Daniel Akin: They should teach the Scriptures and point out that Psalm 128 talks about the beautiful gift that children are from the Lord. God blesses the one who has a large number of them. The psalmist uses different analogies of the quiver full or the olive plants around the home.

Pastors should acknowledge that we do have a culture mandate to be fruitful and multiply and that the Scriptures consistently witness to the fact that children are a good gift from a great God. They are a prime avenue and a prime mission field. In fact, in my Axioms message, I said that our first line of doing missions is our own families. Of course, if you have one child as opposed to four, five or six, then you have a much smaller initial mission field.

You may have seen a YouTube video that’s being widely disseminated right now. I was watching a clip of it again this morning. The video is about the declining birth rate among white Europeans. According to some statisticians, Europe is now beyond recovery, and their particular culture is doomed and destined to die or at least to fade into insignificance. Many of the countries have a birth replacement of 1.1 or 1.3. Among Muslims, the rate is 8.1.

Europe is probably going to fall to Islam without a military conquest. Muslims will simply, by a natural process, outnumber the white Europeans (who are no longer truly Christian anyway).

We certainly do not want to say, “The way we need to evangelize the world is to have more children…period.” No, we do need to have more children and faithfully teach them the gospel and the Christian Scriptures.

But at the same time, there are 1.6 billion people on the planet who have never heard the name of Jesus, and 3.5 billion who have a nominal witness or no witness at all. It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and. We should have more children, and we should also give away more money and send more people.

I’m convinced that God is calling out a lot more than are going. I believe that is especially true among men. Men have an absolutely pathetic track record in terms of missionary service in comparison to our sisters in the Lord.

Tomorrow, we will discuss Dr. Akin and Johnny Hunt’s Great Commission Resurgence document, including some of the controversial aspects of the document.

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9 thoughts on “Turning around the SBC: An Interview with Dr. Danny Akin (2)”

  1. Chris E says:

    There is a certain insularity implied by notion that evangelization is best done via breeding.

    I’m pretty sure “Among Muslims, the rate is 8.1 to 1.” is a typo.

  2. While I think the falling birth rate is certainly a contributing factor, the real issue is that the Gospel is simply not preached and lived any more in most Southern Baptist churches except perhaps by a very small minority. For whatever reason, we have taught people that the way to come to Christ is to make a decision and say a short prayer. That is not what it means to become a Christian. As a result, millions have gone in the front door and out the back in just a few short weeks assured that they are saved because they prayed the prayer and really on the fast track to hell because of it (Matthew 23:15).

    The solution is not to have more children in and of itself. In reality, having more children just means being faithful to God’s commandments–be fruitful and multiply. The real situation will be corrected when the Gospel is really proclaimed from the pulpit once again by men who actually OBEY God and demonstrate that in their leadership and fidelity to the Scriptures. Once that is done and people are encouraged not only to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord with all that they are and then instructed in how to obey–it will merely be a matter of continuing to proclaim the Gospel and obeying the commandments.

    We show everyday in the SBC that we truly do not love our Lord because we do not preach His Gospel and we do not LIVE it. ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’. That’s not happening because not even our leaders are doing that in large part. Yeah. I know some will disagree but the truth hurts and nothing will set us free from the ridiculousness that is SBC church life other than that–the truth, Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

  3. Todd says:

    We are well equipped when it comes to the evangelization of children and youth; not so much with adults. There may well be declining birth rates. But, we have too often relied on wisdom that says we must help people make decisions before they reach 18 because statistics tell us they will not come to faith later in the same number/percentage. Likely these statistics flowed from structures/systems/methodologies commensurate with VBS, Youth Camps, and other Children’s Ministries not a programmatic element of the church before the rise of youth culture in the 1960’s. Our dollars and energy tend to be given to these areas because we are pragmatists. So, when we see a decline in the birthrate as even a tangential reason for the decline in baptisms and membership is sound desperate. A more introspective look may reveal we are far too reticent to connect with adults because the dominant view of contextualization turns on the beloved, “be in the world but not of the world” and so we look forward to getting out of the world. Such a longing supersedes the kind of passion Akin sees missing. In other words, we would rather “get out” than do what it takes to “get into.” It is missing the “sentness” of the Church into the world as Jesus was sent into the world.

  4. Trevin Wax says:


    I am not sure we are well-equipped in evangelizing young people. Statistics show that we lose a great number of young people from our churches by the time they reach college. Some will never return.

    Add “declining birth rate” to “inability to retain our own kids” to our apathy in being a witness of the gospel to our world, and we do indeed have a problem. I think Akin is right to say that we need to rethink our view of large families. He is also right though to show that this isn’t the solution to the problem.

  5. Neil says:

    Until the 1920’s I think it was, whenever Margret Sanger came on the scene, no Christian church believed birth control was acceptable. The Anglican Church voted to allow birth control and most everyone else fell in line. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church continue to teach that birth control of any kind is a sin, because marriage is required to be open to life. It was commanded by God. It’s one of the fruits of marriage. Children are a blessing. Marriage provides an opportunity for all married people to participate in creation. It’s a blessing.
    Another aspect that should cause SBC to consider this move to stop using birth control is that the contraception pill has the potential to cause a chemical abortion. If it fails to stop fertilization, it keeps the fertalized egg from implanting, which is the killing of human life. The pill is wrong, because it can cause a chemical abortion.

  6. Joyfully receiving the blessing of children is more than a tool for spreading the Gospel, it *is* the Gospel. In other words, it is one important way in which we live live the Gospel and express it in our actions. By bringing children into the world and educating them, we directly participate in God’s divine plan for conversion of the entire world.

    Neil refers to the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which is where Christianity first relaxed its position against contraception. The favorable position towards contraception is less than 100 years old.

    The first reason this is sad is because many contraceptives (including “the pill”) actually cause early abortions. They are so-called “abortifacients”. Before I was Catholic, I never once heard a pastor preach against this thing and the silence is deadly.

    The second reason this is sad is because the psychology of contraception is inherently anti-Christian. It does not foster charity (love of neighbor) nor does it foster piety (love of God). It fosters only self-centeredness. It seriously darkens and distorts the soul.

    The third reason why this is sad is because contraception is completely unnecessary. For about $150 you can take a class in NFP (Natural Family Planning) and regulate births without killing your unborn children, without damaging your body with chemicals, and without all the negative psychology of contraception.

  7. Nicolas Krebs says:

    “You may have seen a YouTube video that’s being widely disseminated right now.” (Daniel Akin)

    See a debunk of this faked video (although funny, especially the 8.1 children/woman fertility rate of Muslims in France) in Tiny Frog, Muslim Demographics, 2009-05-03, Duncan Macleod, Muslim Demographics on YouTube Abuse of Statistics, 2009-05-11, Steve Letendre, Muslim Demographics Debunked, 2009-05-26.

  8. ann says:

    Christ disdains the word fame I am not meaning to cause undo alarm and in no way trying to include you in the place where wrong doers go since you are not meaning to use a wrong word to encourage others to adore GOD yet I am asking you in all earnest to no longer use the word fame in conjunction with the name of the ever present sanctified most HOLY .

  9. Trevin Wax says:

    I don’t think anyone is arguing for evangelism merely through breeding. But we need to consider how falling birth rates do affect the future of Christianity in Europe and North America. The rate of 8.1 is from the Muslim Demographics YouTube that Akin was referring to.

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​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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