Conversion and baptism are two outward signs of God's grace working in the lives of His people.
Every year, local Nazarene churches report annual statistics to their districts and to the Global Ministry Center. Along with discipleship activity, membership changes, and financial information, each church reports on two of the major symbols of resurrection: number of conversions and number of baptisms.
During the 2017 assembly year, Nazarene churches reported 221,730 conversions. This is equal to 15 percent of our average weekly attendance of 1.5 million people. Naturally, this percentage varies by church location. In the South America region, the conversions were equal to 21 percent of worship, while in the United States/Canada region the ratio was 10 percent.
Church size also seems to affect the ratio of conversions. Churches averaging less than 50 in worship had a conversion ratio of 22 percent, while churches averaging between 250 and 999 had a nine percent ratio.
But conversion is just the beginning of the resurrection life. Discipleship includes encouraging believers to witness to their new life by being baptized. In 2017, Nazarenes reported 91,175 baptisms across the globe.
The ratio of baptisms to worshippers is usually smaller than that of conversions, being only six percent globally in the Church of the Nazarene. Churches averaging less than 50 attendees tend to have a higher ratio of baptisms than the norm, nine percent last year. There are distinctly different church size patterns across the denomination’s six regions.
Ratios such as these can help us develop strategies to guide more intentional discipleship. What can be done to help mid-size churches see more people converted through their ministries? What can be done to help larger churches in most regions increase their baptism rates?
We can rejoice in the sheer numbers of people starting their resurrected lives through the ministries of the Church of the Nazarene. For five straight years, more than 200,000 conversions have been reported annually, and for six consecutive years, the number of baptisms has exceeded 80,000.
Six countries each reported at least ten thousand conversions last year, and five reported at least five thousand baptisms.
The Church of the Nazarene remains dedicated to inviting people into the hope of resurrection and guiding them toward committed kingdom living through baptism and discipleship.
Dale Jones is director of research services in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2018.