Whatever the overall totals, what’s striking is the continuing size of the U.S. proportion. The largest 40 or so Baptist groups when combined account for around 55 million people, 40 million of whom adhere to bodies in the United States. That compares with 7 million members in Africa, 5 million in Asia, and 2 million in Latin America. Non-U.S. numbers rise if smaller denominations are included, but they count their numbers not in the millions but in the tens of thousands, and applying the same standard also raises U.S. figures comparably.
Jenkins’ explanation of these laggard results doesn’t satisfy. I would first observe that the “900 pound gorilla” (or 400 kilo gorilla, for those of you really mission minded) in the Baptist world is the Southern Baptist Convention. That being said, their target home mission field is the Scots-Irish South. I think that the cultural state of these people is so specific that being successful with them forces a church to adopt a life and method that hinders the communication of the Gospel to just about anyone else.
That hasn’t stopped people like Billy Graham, probably the best known Southern Baptist on the planet, from using his background as a springboard for world evangelisation. The SBC gave him roots and wings, and he flew; the basic problem with Southern Baptists (and many others in this culture) is that they are stuck in the roots and lack the wings to fly.
In the South, the teetotalling Baptists did more than anyone else to make that Southern eating institution, the cafeteria, great. Since the Baptists became punctual at ending their services, if the rest of us got there first for whatever reason, we told each other that we “beat the Baptists to the cafeteria.” Today the very Baptistic place I live in has no cafeteria to beat the Baptists to, but there’s still a mission field out there, and it seems that we’ve beat the Baptists there too.