DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Since Sept. 11, 2001, our nation has been in a state of emergency and has put into place a strategy to protect us from being attacked by terrorists again. From that tragic moment on 9/11, it became apparent we were engaged in an unconventional war in which Muslim extremists were willing to pay the ultimate price by sacrificing their own lives in order to take the lives of many more.
In the same way, our denomination has been fighting another war — a spiritual war — for years. This spiritual war is much more subtle but just as real. Its impact is an all-out assault on the church, and its fallout is felt more by our pastors than anyone else.
When have we seen so many prestigious ministries fail and prominent preachers fall due to moral indiscretions? For various reasons, approximately 1,300 pastors are terminated each year. But the real fallout is seen in the anemic evangelistic efforts of our churches. With approximately 80 percent of our churches in decline, 10,000 of them baptized no one last year and another 11,000 baptized less than six.
Sixty percent of our 43,000 churches failed to baptize one teenager last year. In fact, if a church baptized 29, it was in the top 2 percent of the entire denomination.
Southern Baptists are considered the most aggressively evangelistic denomination in the world! Given these disturbing numbers, it is understandable why 3,500-4,000 churches in America close their doors every year.
Yet, if you were to ask most of our Southern Baptist evangelists, it would not be uncommon for them to see 29 professions of faith in a four-day revival meeting. If, indeed, a church can see more people saved in four days by utilizing a vocational evangelist than in an entire year, then why are local church revivals not being scheduled by the hundreds and why are evangelists not being utilized as in days past?
We hear excuses that people are busier than ever. So what? When proper leadership is given, adequate preparation is implemented, and an anointed evangelist is secured, people will and do attend. Souls will be saved and the church will be revived.
Like Navy Seals or the Green Berets, evangelists are special forces in the Lord’s army. They are professionals. Their call from God is as legitimate as any pastor’s.
When churches fail to utilize these men, they are neglecting one of the great gifts God has bestowed upon the Church. It’s as though a satanic conspiracy has prevented the gift of the evangelist from being maximized. Denominational leaders can try and re-define it. We can say the revival methodology is no longer viable. We can relegate evangelists to the back rooms of our evangelistic strategy. We can pretend that Ephesians 4:11 does not exist. But those men who leave their families week after week to reach souls for Christ see the difference that revivals make in the life of a church.
Yet, the perception is that “nobody” ever schedules a revival anymore. And to be sure, most do not. Consequently, the spiritual terrorist and all of his demonic cohorts are successfully eliminating God-called evangelists from the evangelical landscape.
When I entered the field of evangelism 30 years ago, there were 1,200 Southern Baptist evangelists. Today, there are less than 200, including musicians and preachers. Of that 200, I venture to say less than 50 are staying busy. Without sounding self-serving, in the last two months we have been blessed to see an average of 45 professions of faith each week (and I am actually a revivalist more than an evangelist).
Considering that 98 percent of churches will not see that many baptized in a year’s time, it is baffling to evangelists as to why our denomination does not give more attention to this “special forces” unit in fighting the war for souls, which is apparent to all that we are losing. We baptized as many in the 1950s as we do today.
Of course, evangelists were much more utilized then, but we dare not connect the dots. To be sure, the culture has changed but the gift of the evangelist has not been revoked by God.
When it appeared that we were losing the war on terrorism in Iraq, our military leaders and high ranking officials agreed that we should not back down or call a retreat. Rather they called for reinforcements, a successful strategy that has now has become known as the “the surge.” For the first time, terrorism has quieted and progress is being made.
Our denomination needs a similar surge. This is not the time for roundtable discussions. This is not the time for another program. It is not a time for playing political games within ecclesiastical circles. The battle facing us is bigger than ourselves. The nation is going to hell while many within the denomination are answering questions and addressing issues that nobody in the secular world is even asking and couldn’t care less about.
Our churches have never been in such dire need of a strong prophetic word from a fearless man of God who will address the issues of carnality and lukewarmness with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The need for the hour is for all of us who name the name of Jesus to be called to prayer with expressions of repentance.
While it appears that we are losing the cultural war for truth and the war for souls within the church, it is not a time to call a retreat. Since itinerate ministries have always been at the heart of God’s agenda in bringing spiritual awakening to a nation, if such a resurgence of souls is to be experienced by our denomination, it is unlikely that He will bypass His evangelists who have been gifted for this purpose.
Granted, evangelists are on the endangered species list. It grieves my heart to see us surrendering to the cultural norms that are at enmity with Christ. It breaks my heart to see credible men of God leaving the field of evangelism because they cannot support their families.
If evangelists become extinct it will not be because of God. It will be because pastors chose to ignore the legitimacy of the gift or simply neglected to exert the effort in searching out God’s man who has been equipped with the tools and the message for spiritual renewal.
For us preachers, the call that God has placed on our lives beckons us to be passionate standard-bearers who refuse to throw in the towel. Evangelists are reporting for duty and ready to be dispatched to our given assignments. Let’s join hands and be part of the greatest spiritual surge in America’s history.
Steve Hale is an evangelist based in Woodstock, Ga., and is online at www.SteveHaleMinistries.com.