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FIRST-PERSON: Presence, but no witness

EULESS, Texas (BP) — Here is an impossible dream: to think we can change our nation and our world simply by being present without being passionate and evangelistic in our faith and actions.

The mere presence of Christian institutions has never been a deterrent to the downfall of nations. In fact, the opposite is true. Consider:

— Muhammad, the father of Islam, grew up in the sixth century, untouched by the Christian churches that surrounded him. Abdiyal Akbar Abdul-Haqq, author of “Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim,” wrote, “The evangelistic fervor and missionary fire of the church of the earliest centuries began to cool off gradually as she started on a course of increasing secularization.”

When the church was confronted with the growing influence of Islam, it believed its presence was enough to make a difference. As Samuel Moffett, professor at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Seoul, Korea, noted: “Faced with a choice between survival and witness, the church chose survival. It turned in upon itself. It ceased to evangelize. It survived, but what survived was no longer a whole church. It was a sick, ingrown community” (quoted at findthepower.net).

— Communism arose at a time when the institutional church in Russia was preoccupied with the color of vestments for priests to wear when conducting worship and discussing how many fingers should be extended in giving the benediction.

— Hitler appeared on the scene when Germany was thoroughly represented by Christian churches and leaders.

— Ghandi was trained in the United States in the midst of Christian churches. His own testimony is that the apathy of professing Christians is the reason he did not embrace Christianity.

— Many modern-day churches are like social gatherings with little sense of urgency in reaching our nation with the Gospel of redemption. They are preoccupied with personal preferences, church leadership conflicts and other issues that rarely have eternal implications. We languish in a climate of conflict or complacency while our world rapidly unravels.

— America has more churches, more Christian books and literature, more Christian preachers, more Christian radio and TV stations, more Christian seminaries and Christian colleges, and more ready access to the Gospel than any nation in the world. Yet our culture is virtually pagan and decidedly corrupt. Each generation is seeing fewer and fewer believers. Many churches are dying. Few are growing.

We retreat into our sanctuaries and live in our own little worlds, while the world we have been commissioned to reach does not even know we are here. A slumbering church will never meet the challenge of an aggressive secular agenda.

In all these cases, there was a Christian presence, but no witness.

Are Southern Baptists becoming a sick and ingrown community? Have we become so used to the Gospel that it no longer thrills us, that it no longer has a grip upon our hearts to share it everywhere? Have we opted for survival instead of passionate witness?

One thing is for sure — the world needs more than our presence. It needs our witness.

The only hope of our nation and world is the change that comes through the redeemed lives of those who have been transformed by the power of the Gospel message.

How do we move forward? What is our next step toward becoming the powerful, culture-changing force we were born again to be?

It begins with passion in the hearts of our leaders. Our churches will never be Great Commission churches until our pastors are Great Commission pastors, and church leaders, whether church staff or deacons or other lay leaders, are consumed with the command given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And He promised to go before us and with us on that journey.

Every facet of Southern Baptist life, beginning with the local church, must be saturated with a hunger to see our nation and world revived by the power that can only come from God.

One thing is for sure: it truly is an impossible dream to think that we can turn the tide of godlessness and heresy that is looming on the horizon just by being here! Our world needs our presence . . . but it desperately needs our consistent witness!

    About the Author

  • Jimmy Draper