TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)–There are several areas in which the Southern Baptist Convention needs God’s Holy Spirit to visit, confront, strengthen and encourage us. One of those crucial areas is the area of evangelism.
Dr. Bobby Welch, our previous Southern Baptist Convention president, literally has crisscrossed this nation encouraging people to win the lost and baptize ever-increasing numbers of persons. We praise God for his heart for evangelism. Southern Baptist evangelists have been calling for God’s people to be more seriously involved in the work of soul winning and baptisms. We thank God for their diligence.
Their efforts are directed at correcting years of lackluster numbers of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches. Is there any hope that we can turn our baptism rates around? The answer is an unqualified yes! I believe that passion can be renewed and effectiveness in evangelism can be restored. We have seen a dramatic increase in baptisms in my church, First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. While it is still much too low, we have seen some changes in how people perceive their role as believers.
Some time back I preached a sermon entitled, “Fishers of Men or Keepers of the Aquarium?” I challenged our people to understand that God wants us to do both. Acts 2:42 tells the story of a church that has devoted itself to discipling one other, as well as to fellowship for building up a sense of oneness and friendship within the congregation. Obviously, this is of extreme importance. A church must take care of those whom God has given them. However, many churches stop at this point. Many churches have become very inwardly focused and have become a hospital for the saints rather than an outreach to the lost.
God’s mandate is also that we be fishers of men. This particular phrase is found in Mark 1:17. There Jesus called Simon and Andrew from their chosen profession to a new ministry. We must do the same. But let me caution you that we must make sure that our evangelism is an evangelism with integrity. There are persons who attempt to raise baptism numbers through gimmicks, emotional manipulation and unworthy methods. We should be very serious and clear in our presentation of the Gospel message. We should be complete in telling the whole truth and allowing people the ability to consider honestly this call for a life-changing transformation. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that many will say no. However, we must share this passionate, loving message through methods which are clearly methods of integrity.
Let us pray that God, through His Holy Spirit, will energize our evangelistic efforts.
Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. Visit his website at www.sbc.net/PresidentsPage.