Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines has revealed plans for the creation of a task force that would study the decline in membership and baptisms during the denomination's yearly meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday.
Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee, stated at the meeting that he is planning to create "a soul-winning task force that will look into ways that as Southern Baptists we can be more effective in personal evangelism and soul-winning and also in evangelistic preaching."
The Memphis pastor, who easily won re-election on Tuesday, said that he will put an emphasis on spreading the Gospel in his second one-year term, according to Religion News Service.
The SBC, which is currently the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. with 15.2 million members, has seen its membership decline for the 10th straight year.
The statistics released in advance of the 2017 SBC annual meeting has indicated that there are one million fewer Southern Baptists than a decade ago.
Gaines said that there were "many wonderful things" happening within the denomination, including the planting of about 100 new churches every month.
"I'm grateful to God that now we are starting to send more and more missionaries back on the field, not pulling them off the field, but our [International Mission Board] is putting more and more missionaries back on the field," Gaines said, as reported by The Christian Post.
"God has given us wonderful state conventions. I've gone to most all of our seminaries, I've been able to preach there. God is raising up many godly people to preach and to share the Gospel of Jesus," he continued.
Gaines contended that every Christian is a "minister," and he called on those attending the event to be a "soul-winner" to help reverse the trend of decline.
SBC's Annual Church Profile showed that the number of baptisms, which has long been considered as a benchmark for denominational health, has dropped to its lowest level in 70 years. It fell for the fifth straight year to 280,773, the fewest since 1946 when there was a total of 253,361 baptisms.
Southern Baptist baptisms increased beyond 300,000 in 1948 and stayed above that level each year until 2015. The denomination saw its high water mark in 1972 with 445,725 baptisms.
The number of baptisms dropped by more than a third since 1980, when the denomination fell into a 10-year controversy over biblical inerrancy, which led into believers splintering into new groups like the Alliance of Baptists and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.