After reading this insightful article by Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I feel a tremendous pause in my spirit. Basically, the data from the “ACP” (annual church profile) tells a very bleak story. As Dr Kelly puts it, Southern Baptist are in decline. The statistics are at this link from the Baptist Press.
Some will say that not all the churches turn in an ACP. While that is true, think with me about this – in the 2016 church year, 280,773 were baptized by Southern Baptist churches. That is lowest number since 1946. What was the population in America in 1946? 141.4 million. In 2016 it was 324.1 million. Some quick math tells you the population has more than doubled. The fact is that we are not just baptizing less than we have in over 70 years, we have baptized over 50% less proportionately!!!
Statistics don’t tell the entire story but they are factual. We cannot ignore the facts! Doing so is not truthful or honest. So, what are we to do?
First, respond in a healthy manner. Bad news seems to bring out the “blame game.” Blaming others never solved a probem. A healthy response begins by “owning it.” This is not a denominational probem or a “convention” problem. We cannot blame “lost people” for hard hearts. People have always been lost! We must accept responsibility. It is only then that we can truly begin to hear from God.
Second, pray. We must get on our face before God and ask Him to forgive us. How many countless people are now in hell because of our lack of love for Christ and those He loves. We must repent of our sin of silence.
Third, listen. The normal response to a problem is to seek to fix it the same way we have sought to fix it in the past. We rush off full of zeal. We must pause and listen to the Holy Spirit. He will speak. He desires people to be saved more than we do. If we pause and listen, He will show us what we need to see.
Fourth, see. We must see the real issue. We can’t fix the problem until we know it. Too many things can appear to be the problem. Usually, things aren’t so simple. That is why we must pray and listen and then see with His eyes.
Fifth, change. The old cliche is still true, “If we do what we’ve done we’ll get what we’ve gotten.” We live in a different culture, a different America than 1946. We cannot live in the past. We must be willing to change for the sake of the lost.
Sixth, fight. I am not so sure that we have hit the bottom yet. Too many times people only have a real fight in them when they hit rock bottom. By “fight” I don’t mean an angry spirit. Not at all! I mean a willingness to roll up the sleeves and do the work God has called us to do.
Seventh, humble ourselves. God is at work around the globe. Listen to those who travel around the world sharing Christ and you will hear incredible news of God’s hand moving in wonderful ways. We must realize that God is at work. It is only when we humble ourselves that He will work in our lives. Be hopeful and thankful that you have an opportunity to be a part of a great revival that is coming to America.