NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In his latest book, “The State of the Church 2002,” researcher George Barna reports three small but statistically significant increases in religious activities among adults in the past seven years.
Church attendance, Sunday School attendance and Bible reading have increased slightly, but these increases generally represent returns to the figures of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The 10 religious beliefs and attitudes tracked annually by the Barna organization have remained stable.
While we can be glad for any gains, however small, the reality is that if we are content to hold our own in religious activities and convictions, we will not impact this world for Jesus Christ.
I am grateful for a new vision cast by Southern Baptist Convention leaders called Empowering Kingdom Growth. While it has been initiated by Southern Baptists, the five commitments it calls on us to make can be adopted by other individuals and groups as well.
These commitments are: 1) to make the kingdom of God the priority of our own personal lives; 2) to dedicate the energies and resources of the ministries we lead to seeking first the King and his kingdom; 3) to cooperate with each other and the family of Southern Baptists as we pursue kingdom principles and practices; 4) to give ourselves to servant leadership that will assist and enable local churches in their ministry; and 5) to pray that a new passion for Jesus breaks out among our people, our families and our churches from which God can forge a spiritual movement marked by holy living, sacrificial service and global witness.
In nations around the world, more Christians today are being persecuted for their faith than ever before. These Christians are driven by their faith in Jesus Christ to tell others, despite the cost. Church-planting movements are breaking out in some of the poorest countries in the world among believers whose commitment to tell others about Jesus makes up for what they lack in tangible resources.
Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, recently preached on the kingdom that will not fail, the kingdom of God. He said: “We have an invitation to what people need and want most in life. They want love. They want forgiveness. They want peace. They want joy. They want security. They want contentment. They want hope. You don’t find those things in the kingdoms of man. You find those in the kingdom of God.”
We have what the world needs. We have a mandate from the Christ we serve to take it to every corner of our nation and the world. Will you make the kingdom of God the priority of your life? Will you pray for a passion that will not be quenched by threats and even persecution? Will you lead in serving others in Christ’s name? Will you cooperate with others to pursue kingdom principles and practices? Will you go next door, to the next community, to another state or a far corner of the world?
Draper is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.