What if all 47,500 Southern Baptist churches were houses of prayer, continuously calling out to God for national spiritual awakening? Hold that thought.
Can you imagine a town without a McDonald’s? Is it easy to spot a Taco Bell while you’re driving across the state or across the country? How about a Subway or a Burger King—could you find one nearby if you were craving fast food? Those popular food chains seem ubiquitous—they are almost everywhere. What does the prevalence and easy accessibility of fast food restaurants have to do with the prayer lives of Southern Baptists? That’s a fair question. The reason I mention those four restaurants is this: The total number of all of those popular chains combined is only slightly greater than the total number of Southern Baptist churches in the United States. Put another way, there are more Southern Baptist churches in the United States than the total number of any combination of three of those fast food places. I can still sense you thinking, “So what?” Stay with me.
In 1956, the Eisenhower administration took advantage of peacetime prosperity and convinced Congress to pass the Federal Aid Highway Act. This bold, multi-billion dollar action created the massive interstate highway system we travel over today. More than 41,000 miles of highway construction did what had never been done before—it linked the entire nation together with high-quality, high-speed interstate travel. America would never be the same again. Why? For the first time, the 48 contiguous states were now linked together by a network of excellent roads.
Now back to the vision of praying churches. Southern Baptist churches are like fast food restaurants in this way: Our churches may not always be very noticeable, but we are pervasive in the United States. And we keep planting more. If we unified around a common theme, like praying persistently for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the coming of a great awakening, our presence—like a spiritual version of the interstate highway system—could quickly link a national movement together. Think about it this way: Imagine nearly 50,000 Southern Baptist churches all across the nation persistently praying for evangelistic harvest and revival. We could light up the country like the components on a motherboard!
What effect would revival and prayer, surging through our nearly 50,000 churches, have upon like-minded, Bible-believing churches in our towns and cities? Would it help stir the faith and passion for prayer and awakening in other churches if they witnessed our people lit up in the fires of revival? How would the fame of revival spread the flame of revival?
What if every state convention committed to hosting city-wide prayer gatherings at every annual meeting? We did it in Austin, and hundreds of people attended even though we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. What if the annual Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in those massive halls we rent every year, opened the space and allowed the time for a huge, free concert of worship and a passionate prayer meeting for the entire body of Christ in that city? What witness of unity would that send? What boldness might that engender in the churches across a region? How might it affect the potential for revival in that city?
You might say it can’t happen. But it can happen, and God would bless it. The only things standing in the way are desire and commitment. The only thing lacking is leadership. It can be done.
What if Southern Baptists led the way? What if we accepted our calling and worked to mobilize the entire body of Christ in the United States to pray for awakening and the fulfillment of the Great Commission? What if we had a national prayer strategy? We don’t have one yet, but it’s coming.
In this next year, as president of the SBTC, I’m committed to doing what I can in Texas. I’m motivated by one burning question: What if we prayed?