Spirit-empowered personal walk equals transformation

The 2014 Southern Baptist Convention is history. Officers were elected. Motions were made. Resolutions were presented and approved. In the reports there was a glimmer of good news about the Cooperative Program. For two years in a row the percentage giving per church has tracked upward. This is the first time in over a decade. The bad news overshadowed everything else. Baptisms went down and overall membership declined for yet another year. 

Strangely, I see the bad news in another light. It is not the convention that is declining. It is churches that are declining. With our polity there is little the SBC leaders or state conventions can do. Denominational entities have no ability to make churches do anything. We are not a denomination in the truest sense because we don’t own the properties of congregations, nor do we place pastors in a parish. The problem is not with the convention. Someone has said the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. The heart of the convention is the churches. Each local church must come to grips with the reality that we have a spiritual problem.

Two things need to happen for the churches of the SBC to experience a turnaround. Individuals need to get clean before God then be involved in intentional evangelism. Churches are comprised of people. It is about the people of God returning to him. Personal holiness has fallen on hard times. Entertainment that includes crude language, nudity and extreme violence has captured the minds of many of God’s people. Apathy toward the lost comes from a lack of belief in the reality of hell or desire for social acceptance by not appearing too “religious.” We don’t have to get far from men of the cloth to see where we need to start. Those of us who are ministers of the gospel must set the standard. John Meador brought that strong word in the SBC convention sermon.

The buzz 10 years ago was church planting. Now the buzz is church revitalization. Until we get to minister-and-member revival, we are not at the root of our difficulty. Bring it on home to me. It’s not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.
Personal holiness has to be a reality. Some who like to flaunt their liberty in Christ say we must relate to the world. It is not legalism to abstain from certain activities. His lordship calls us to purity.

A common exhortation for the last few years has been about relational evangelism. I agree it is good to have a connection with people when you share the gospel. Yet, in almost every case of Jesus talking to a person in need, it was his first encounter with the individual. Paul would go into a city confronting people he had never seen with the gospel. Intentional evangelism is simply an act of obedience.

I have to keep it simple because I’m simple minded. If enough of us will practice a personal walk with God in the power of the Holy Spirit we will see a radical transformation of our churches. If enough of us determine to present the gospel at a designated time and place, we will see a transformation of our communities.

We are facing a spiritual crisis that only God can correct. However, you and I can have personal revitalization. We can do our part in our church, in our community. We don’t have to save the SBC. We do have to be faithful to the Lord Jesus who loved and gave himself for us. The problem of the Southern Baptist Convention will not be easily solved. Who knows? Maybe the SBC will experience revitalization too.

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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