Thoughts from Durham

I'm writing this post from my hotel room in Durham, North Carolina. I enjoyed the first day of the Advance '09 conference. Today I heard sermons from Mark Driscoll, Tyler Jones, Bryan Chapell, and Matt Chandler. Tomorrow I will hear sermons from Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Eric Mason, J.D. Greear, and John Piper.

Durham itself is a nice city. Downtown has a couple modern buildings, but it is largely made up of old, abandoned tobacco warehouses that have been rennovated into retail and lofts. It makes for a neat environment. Duke University is in Durham, and we drove through the campus this morning. It is beautiful.

Jordan and I estimated over 2000 attendees at the conference today, the great majority of which were under age 40. I was thinking to myself how vastly different this is than the Missouri Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention which are comprised almost totally of "white hairs." How ironic was it then, to check The Pathway website tonight, and see a column by editor Don Hinkle on this very topic.

Don seems like a good man. He has always been very nice to me. But his column suggests his head is firmly in the sand regarding the lack of young leader participation in the SBC. Rather than admit there is a growing disconnect between young leaders and the denomination, he bizarrely passes this off as the product of Generation X being smaller than the previous generation. This, however, doesn't explain people over 40 outnumbering people under 40 by a roughly 9 to 1 margin at the 2007 annual meeting. (This is down from a 2 to 1 margin in 1985.) And taking on a condescending tone toward younger leaders, as Don does in this column, doesn't help matters any. (Of course, if you don't think there's a problem I don't guess it matters.)

Don goes on to say that he does "not believe we are a denomination in decline." Really? 2008 marked the second straight year we lost membership (down nearly 40,000). Our baptism total was the lowest it's been in 22 years. In 2008, it took 47 Southern Baptists (on average) to baptize one person! (read that again if you need to) Is this not the portrait of a denomination in decline?

Folks, the SBC is not healthy. We have had a "Conservative Resurgence." Now we desperately need a "Great Commission Resurgence." And the sooner we admit that, the better off we'll be.