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Avant sees great movement of God coming to North America

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Having just returned from the disaster-stricken Gulf Coast, John Avant believes Southern Baptists are poised to be at the forefront of the next great spiritual awakening in North America.

“I have never been more excited about being Southern Baptist than I am now,” said Avant, vice president of evangelization at the North American Mission Board, speaking at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 20. “I believe we might be on the verge of the next great movement of God in this country.”

There is some evidence to back up Avant’s claim. Hurricane Katrina has devastated the lives of millions of Americans, and many Christians see opportunities in the wake of tragedy to share the eternal good news of Christ while also sharing food, clothing and shelter. Southern Baptists have been at the vanguard of that movement.

The convention is in the midst of a yearlong campaign to baptize one million new believers before next year’s national convention in Greensboro, N.C., a challenge laid down by SBC President Bobby Welch, himself a passionate evangelist.

Even as he sees possibilities, Avant also sees that the window of opportunity might not be open for long. He challenged Southeastern students — the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders, pastors and missionaries — to take this opportunity to heart.

“We may have three to five, maybe 10 years, in which to see a sweeping move of God in North America, or else we may lose our base for missions in the rest of the world,” Avant said. “[But] you are His plan. You’re it. There are so many ways God can use you in the days ahead.”

Being used by God entails doing “the obvious,” Avant said; that is, those opportunities for ministry that God has placed directly in front of a believer. An example of this can be seen in the many Southern Baptist volunteers, like Avant, who traveled to the Gulf Coast region to minister to residents affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“The history of revival says that revival begins with ordinary people doing the obvious things that other people aren’t willing to do,” Avant said.

Avant reminded students that obedience to God’s plan for reaching the lost may not always land them in positions of prominence and prestige after their graduation from seminary. In fact, serving God may result in a lifetime of relative obscurity in which few people apart from God are aware of a minister’s devotion and sacrifice for the Gospel.

“Would you be willing to be that person?” Avant asked students. “Are you willing not to have your name known so that God can make His name known?”

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  • Kyle Smith