LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–America is in moral decline, but Christians still have many reasons to be optimistic about the future, D. James Kennedy said April 11.
“In 1980, I couldn’t have been more pessimistic about the future of this country than I was,” Kennedy said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “There were no bright signs that I could see. But since 1980, in the last 20 years we have been in the greatest spiritual awakening in the history of the world — if you describe that as a new interest in religion [and] conversions to Christ.”
Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., spoke in a chapel service as part of the seminary’s “Great Commission Week,” which highlighted the need for missionaries and church planters throughout the United States and the world. Also on the Louisville, Ky., campus were representatives from the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board who spoke to students about specific needs and prayer requests.
David Jackson, a church planter in Boston, spoke in the same chapel service about the need for more church planters in his city of 4.5 million people, only 15 percent of whom attend church.
“Perhaps for the very first time, when you think about Boston, I want you to think about lost people,” Jackson said. “People without hope and without eternal life. A mass of humanity separated by sin from God. Multitudes ignorant and unconcerned about the destinies of their own souls.”
The need in Boston is great, Jackson said, and he needs more help.
“I want to challenge you to prayerfully consider Boston, a city birthed to be a Christian witness in the world, to be a city upon a hill, but so lost today that many will live their entire lives without even hearing the good news that Jesus died for them too,” Jackson said.
Kennedy said Charles Dickens’ famous line in “A Tale of Two Cities” — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” — could aptly describe America.
“We obviously know it is the worst of times,” Kennedy said. “We have seen the morality of our country sink lower and lower and lower with each passing year and decade, until there seems to be nothing that is too shameful to be put on television, to be put on our films, to be written about. And we see scandalous sin everywhere.”
Such immorality, he said, can be seen by groups that “come out of the closet,” like homosexuals, prostitutes and fornicators. But one group remains hidden.
“Today the closet is virtually empty — unless you push aside some of the big heavy winter coats and maybe move some of the large empty suitcases, and cringing in the corner you’ll find the Christian,” Kennedy said. “In fact, you’ll find a lot of them that are still in the closet. They don’t come out and proclaim what they are. No, they are too fearful. They’re afraid that somebody might do something absolutely horrible to them — like lifting an eyebrow.”
But there is plenty of encouraging news. Kennedy quoted a study by the Center for World Missions in California reporting that the yearly rate of Christian converts is at an all-time high.
In 100 AD, the study said there were a mere 100 converts to Christ per year.
By 1900, that number was up to 943. It increased to 4,500 in 1950; 20,000 in 1980; 100,000 in 1995; and an estimated 200,000 this year.
“That is totally invisible,” Kennedy said. “You’ll never read about it in the newspaper. You won’t see it on the 6 o’clock or 11 o’clock news. But it is happening, and it is growing.”
Kennedy said the spiritual awakening has even reached Washington.
“In 1989, they could find six born-again Christians in Congress,” he said. “Today, there are a hundred born-again Christians in the House. What’s going to happen when that’s 200 or 250?”
Kennedy said there other statistics that point to a spiritual awakening. He cited a yearly survey that asks Americans specific questions about their Christian beliefs.
The survey tries to find the percentage of committed Christians in America by asking detailed questions, such as “Are you born again and have you had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?”
“I have seen those statistics go up over the last quarter century from the 20s to now 43 percent,” he said. “What’s going to happen when that figure goes over 50 percent? It’s going to [have to top] 50 percent, because unfortunately many Christians don’t do much of anything. But I think when that figure reaches something like 55 percent, you’re going to see some dramatic changes in this country. I am extraordinarily optimistic about what the future holds.”
Kennedy attributes such large numbers to the “multiplication factor.”
“The disciples multiplied, and they multiplied exceedingly,” he said. “You can never catch up with the multiplication of the world by addition. We have to multiply, and that can only come when you not only equip your laypeople how to witness, but use them to train others as well. And then multiplication takes place.”
But Kennedy said that more witnesses are needed.
“We need people who have courage — courage to go out and talk to people about Jesus Christ,” he said. “And I say that as one who could not have lacked it more until somebody took me by the hand and took me out, and I watched him lead person after person to Christ. My life was totally transformed.”