A downward spiral?
New research came out today that highlighted a recent SBC trend away from baptisms. [click here] Oh, we still say that they are important, and we still communicate that we're an evangelistic denomination, but the truth is that we are not. No, today we are more known for which side of the methodological fences we stand on than we are known for our passion for connecting disconnected people with the Gospel. Ed Stetzer has written a great article detailing what these statistics mean for our convention. I would highly encourage you to read his thoughts. You can do so by clicking here. In his article, Stetzer makes a tremendous statement, but one which I predict will not be kindly received by everyone. He says,
The Conservative Resurgence failed to produce a Great Commission Resurgence. It restored our denomination’s value of Scripture but application is often absent, at least in the area of evangelism.
Stetzer is absolutely right. Our battle for the priority of scripture was absolutely necessary. If we are not a people who believe in the supremacy and innerancy of God's word, we are nothing in my opinion. Having said that, right belief means nothing if it is not accompanied by right action. In other words, orthodoxy must be partnered with orthopraxy for it to be beneficial. Our convention, and the churches that make up her number, claim a great commitment to God's word. We are proud of our positions. We are so strongly tied to them that the word "innerancy" has almost become our club's secret password without which one cannot serve. Now, I do not want to diminish innerancy at all, but if our behavior doesn't link hands with our belief, what good is our belief?
It's time that we heed well the other words of Stetzer and rally around the gospel. Frank Page's words from his initial election as SBC president should be embraced. It's beyond time that people know us for what we are for, rather than simply know us for what we are against. We are for the gospel. We are for the sufficiency of Christ on behalf of those who are separated from the Gospel due to sin. We are for people experiencing grace, hope and forgiveness through the cross of Christ.
In my own town, here in St. Joseph, MO, we have a population of 105,000 in the metro area. Of that number approximately 80,000 are in a group that I refer to as "disconnected". In other words, they are either unchurched, dechurched or are not involved in the church that they claim to belong to. My passion in life is to help connect those 80,000 disconnected people with the gospel. Our church specifically must do whatever it takes to accomplish that task. Up to this point, we are not fulfilling that task as we should.
Each person reading this post lives in a city or area where the majority of the population does not appear to have an active relationship with Jesus Christ. Our charge must be to somehow connect them with the Gospel. Beyond that, it is time we think creatively about ways to effectively do so. So many of our churches are convinced that if they can just hold another revival meeting, and beat on a few more doors, that will do the trick. Statistics are also bearing out that those methods are simply not seeing success. When we become desperate to fulfill the task that God has given us, we will throw off any unsuccessful efforts and continue to work until we find more effective ways to engage people with the Gospel.
Someone asked me the other day how our church, Frederick Boulevard, was doing. I told them honestly that attendance and finances are at an all time high but that I was disappointed right now. When asked why I shared that our baptisms are plateaued at the same place they were last year. We may have seen a few more, but not many. I've shared the gospel with a number of people lately, but I haven't shared with enough. I'm afraid that too often it's easy for us to become satisfied in our churches. We want to reach other people as long as we can continue to be happy. The truth is, maybe it's time that we become uncomfortable for the gospel. Maybe it is time that we step outside of our usual pattern so that our neighbors who don't know Christ can respond to His grace. Maybe it's time that we get desperate to complete the task God has given us.
I'm afraid that if we don't the downward spiral that we are seeing today, will only be the tip of the iceberg.