NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The good news is the Baptist Sunday School Board has an “open window” to unprecedented opportunities for impacting the world for Christ.
The bad news is it could close in less than three years.
“God has set before us an open window; we have the opportunity of a lifetime,” Draper told trustees of the Southern Baptist agency during their Feb. 10-12 meeting in Nashville, Tenn. “But I believe that opportunity is short-lived. I believe we have an 18- to 36-month window.
If we don’t do something in that time frame, if we don’t get aggressive in ministry, I believe we may miss this opportunity.”
In the last two years, the board has enjoyed positive financial results, expanded its reach into non-SBC markets, signed well-known authors and improved the overall health of its trade and retail groups. Successes like these have positioned the agency to play an even greater role in evangelizing the lost, discipling believers and growing
churches, Draper said.
He challenged trustees to help the board take advantage of its opportunities before it’s too late.
“My dad used to say that you have to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime within the lifetime of the opportunity,” he said.
Sharing dreams for the future — his own and those of the board’s executive management group — Draper said he envisions a time when the best description of relationships between SBC agencies will be “synergy.”
“This has already started to happen with our partnership with the Foreign Mission Board. We have 25 projects under way with them right now and we’ll work the same way with the North American Mission Board when its leadership is in place.”
In another area, he said he wants to make even greater progress “in leveraging our buying power, not only for our SBC agencies and state conventions, but also for the churches. Imagine the savings that can be rerouted from expenses such as long distance calling, travel, office
supplies and duplicating.”
Reiterating the board’s primary commitment will continue to be Southern Baptists, he said he also wants the agency to have more influence among other evangelical bodies.
“I dream of a day when this organization will be seen as the strongest and most positive force in the evangelical world. Again, we are already making tremendous progress. … We now have more than 100,000 non-Southern Baptist accounts and we are adding about 650 per month through the church growth and retail groups.
“We have not removed Southern Baptist identity from anything, in any piece of literature or compromised theology in any way,” Draper emphasized. “But churches and individuals are seeing what we have available and they are choosing it over other options.”
Describing the SBC as a “financially strapped” denomination in which church debt has increased dramatically in recent years, Draper told trustees he dreams of recapturing two lost generations of stewards. He cited a Texas study completed several years ago that revealed 86 percent of the funds given in Southern Baptist churches in that state in one year came from people over 50.
“That’s probably true all over the country and that doesn’t bode well for our future. … But we have been given the opportunity and the assignment of teaching stewardship (for the SBC). Where it has been a separate emphasis with limited distribution, now we will be able to
teach the biblical basis and foundation in millions of pieces of our literature and products.”
While the board already distributes literature in more than 120 countries, Draper said he dreams of a day “when we will be offering more of the diverse ministries of this board on a worldwide basis.”
He said he has discussed with FMB President Jerry Rankin the possibility of placing church growth specialists provided and trained by the BSSB and appointed by the FMB to serve in key points around the world.
Before Draper’s report, SBC President Tom Elliff spoke to trustees. Preaching from the Song of Solomon, he compared the believer’s relationship with God to the marriage relationship between a man and a woman.
“You can tell where you are with God many times by where you are with your marriage partner,” Elliff said.
Elliff said God desires a deepening and a growing intimacy in his relationship with believers. He also said:
— A person’s relationship with the Lord stops growing when it becomes anything other than first priority. “What I fear for us as a convention is that we’ll get caught up in the machinery rather than in his majesty,” he said.
— When a believer rejects Christ’s advances, he or she will experience a deep sense of painful conviction.
— Deep conviction is usually followed by a desperate pursuit of restoration.
— The proper course is to focus on the character of Christ.
— When our focus returns to Christ, the convention will begin to enjoy the fellowship of his company once again.