ATLANTA (BP)–Twenty-five leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ and the Southern Baptist Convention met Jan. 17 in Atlanta to discuss working together in potential evangelistic projects focusing on America’s young people.
The historic all-day meeting, called at the invitation of William R. “Bill” Bright, Campus Crusade president, concluded with plans for creating a task force to study and recommend a process to reach the MTV- generation of America, defined as those in the first semester of middle school through college.
Members of the task force will be named from various Southern Baptist and Campus Crusade leaders and workers suggested during the meeting.
The group will report its progress to Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee; James T. Draper Jr., president of the Baptist Sunday School Board; and Bright.
Bright had sought a meeting with SBC leaders in a Jan. 6 letter, in which he told of experiencing for several years a “growing awareness of the moral and spiritual decline of our country, and a growing burden to fast and pray for a mighty revival from heaven for the believers of our country.”
Bright said the only agenda for the meeting was to discuss the possibility of “joining hands to complete the task of helping to fulfill the Great Commission, especially in this country. I believe this meeting will be used of God to lay the groundwork for a united evangelistic effort involving Southern Baptists and Campus Crusade which can help change our country.”
Campus Crusade for Christ, based in Orlando, Fla., is a para- church organization best known for its evangelistic ministries on college and high school campuses.
Jay Strack, a Southern Baptist evangelist based in Orlando, moderated the meeting held at the corporate offices of Chick-fil-A, a chicken fast-food restaurant chain based in an Atlanta suburb and founded by Truett Cathy, longtime Bible teacher at First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Ga., who welcomed the group.
A veritable “who’s who” in Southern Baptist leadership attended the meeting, including Chapman; Draper; Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.; O.S. Hawkins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas; Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee; James G. Merritt Sr., pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., and Executive Committee vice chairman; Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas; Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas; Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
SBC President Tom Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., was out of the country, Strack said, but was very enthusiastic about the gathering. Also invited but unable to attend were H. Edwin Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Houston; Bob Reccord, pastor of First Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va., and chairman of the SBC Implementation Task Force assisting in the creation of the new North American Mission Board; and Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Valley Community Church.
Strack said the gathering was in response to a “real urgency” among the leaders about what’s happening in the country today.
There was a sense of “are we doing all we know to do,” Strack said. It was a time of prayer, a time to explore, to bring common concerns and burdens, as well as strengths, to the table, he explained.
“By no means did we speak for all Southern Baptists,” Strack said. “The focus was on what we can do, and not concern ourselves with what we can’t do.”
Rogers, Strack added, asked if the group could explore operating in one or two areas possibly as a beginning. Graham suggested an army of young people being raised up to serve the Lord, Strack said.
Seven Southern Baptist churches out of 40,000, Strack said, baptized 100 or more teenagers in a recent year, while 50 churches baptized 50 or more. However, there are 30 million middle- and high- school students in the United States and 14 million college/university students.
Said Draper, “We all felt that the exodus of our young people from churches upon graduation from high school had to be a priority matter for us. How can we reach this generation?” Draper cited several cooperative initiatives already being done, such as True Love Waits, See You At The Pole and Right From Wrong.
The “key is the pastors and the churches,” Draper said. “How can we strategize to confront youth with demands of the gospel and the opportunity for salvation.”
Chapman said, “For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we cannot afford to lose this generation of teens and 20-somethings. Bill Bright shares with Southern Baptists a common burden for the soul of America.
“We have every reason to pursue the possibility of working together to fulfill the Great Commission,” Chapman added. “We emerged from the meeting with a sense of hope, urgency and expectancy.”
Included in the task force, Strack said, will be several youth ministers from churches noted for their outreach to young people, such as First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., with its “Big House” and 900 teenagers on Wednesday nights; First Baptist, Springdale, Ark., with its “Can Do Center,” a state-of-the-art facility built to reach teens; and Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn. There is a possibility of including a youth minister from a rural church which has an effective ministry to teens, Strack said.
The task force, Strack said, “must act quickly, exploring the possibilities.” He said the group will hold at least two meetings prior to the naming of a president of the North American Mission Board in June. The NAMB is expected to be an integral part of any cooperative effort.
Citing the restructuring process in the SBC, which officially forms the new North American Mission Board at the June convention in Dallas, Floyd said the SBC “is now positioned to give great leadership to other evangelical Christian groups to reach North America for Christ.”
“Also, it is apparent that the task is too great for one group. This meeting was synergistic and will result in the days ahead in bringing more people to Christ,” Floyd said.
James Merritt said the group needs “wisdom to know how we can work together, maximizing our potential. I am excited; this represents a new day in SBC life when we explore new vistas of cooperation with others dedicated to spreading the gospel around the world.”
The goal of the group, Draper added, is to find “a way to use the channels of both the SBC and Campus Crusade to work through the churches and the ministries in place to reach this generation for Christ.”
“The tone of the meeting,” Rogers said, “was not one of merger, but one of cooperation at common points. It seemed that all who were present felt that in this day and age we need to move radically, dramatically and swiftly to tell the good news.”
Campus Crusade officials at the meeting in addition to Bright included Steve Douglass, Charles Klein, Dennis Rainey, Ron Proctor, Stan Oakes, Wendel Deyo, Charles Price, Lloyd Olson, Mike Tilley, Steve Sellers and Bob Tiede.
Other Southern Baptists attending the meeting included Ted Warren, BSSB chief operating officer; Bill Henry, director of the BSSB’s national student ministry; Richard Harris, Home Mission Board director of mass evangelism; Dean Doster, new executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention; Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Spartanburg, S.C.; and Dwight “Ike” Reighard, a Georgia pastor who Strack said “speaks to more teens than any Southern Baptist pastor.”