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Colo. increases 80% in reported baptisms

DENVER (BP) — Colorado Baptists are celebrating an 80 percent increase in reported baptisms for 2017 and the highest reported total for the Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC) since 2014.

CBGC executive director Nathan Lorick announced a 73 percent increase April 2 via Twitter and told Baptist Press today (April 4) additional baptism reports have improved the percentage. Possible factors contributing to the reported baptism surge are evangelism among churches, strong church planting and an emphasis on submitting reports for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Church Profile (ACP), Lorick said.

“This increase is all about churches being consistent and intentional in sharing the Gospel,” Lorick said, “and them being so kind to give us the information through ACP that allows us to measure where we’re being effective across the state in evangelism and what areas might need more emphasis.”

Following a peak of 1,742 baptisms in 2013, Colorado Baptists decreased to 1,663 in 2014, 1,193 in 2015 and 782 in 2016, according to ACP data.

The 2017 total of 1,407 represented an 80 percent increase from the previous year and an 18 percent increase from 2015. The 2017 total was comparable to the 1,425 baptisms Colorado Baptists have averaged annually over the past decade.

For the SBC, total baptisms have been in decline for several years.

Lorick, who became CBGC executive director in July 2017, celebrated Colorado’s rebound in baptisms which began under his predecessor, now-retired executive director Mark Edlund.

An increase in the number of churches to report their statistics may have contributed to the baptism jump, Lorick said.

The CBGC called churches that had not reported their 2017 statistics two weeks before the March 31 deadline for state conventions to report ACP data to LifeWay Christian Resources, which compiles the data for the SBC. Following those calls, the percentage of Colorado churches to report jumped from 42 to 60. Lorick said the convention would like see 80 percent of churches report next year.

Another factor in the reported baptism increase may have been church planting. In conjunction with the North American Mission Board’s Send Denver church planting emphasis, Colorado Baptists planted 50 percent more churches last year than in either 2015 or 2016, Lorick said.

CBGC President Calvin Wittman said, “We are excited about the leadership that Dr. Lorick is giving to our convention, and we’re excited about the renewed emphasis on evangelism. We’re very grateful to the North American Mission Board for their emphasis on Denver as a Send city and the church planting that is coming as a result of that effort.”

Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., also underscored the importance of ACP reports.

“The number of baptisms that we as a state convention and we as a national denomination have is not just something we report so we can brag about our numbers,” Wittman said. “It is really a diagnostic tool to help us evaluate our evangelistic methods” and “help us get a reading on the health of churches and how we might be able to better help the churches.”

Lorick told pastors ACP reporting “helps conventions be able to develop the very best tools in the very best places at the very best times.”

LifeWay is scheduled to release a full report of 2017 ACP data in June.