INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Southern Baptist evangelist Roy J. Fish charged Southern Baptists to turn a convention primarily designed for business matters into a spark that will breathe new life into the convention, penetrating the churches like a laser beam.
Fish delivered a “Kingdom Challenge” theme interpretation to messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
“Never have we faced such challenges, and we must obey God’s call of ‘forward march.’ We cannot afford to fail Him now. Let us once again, for His glory, fill this country with astonishment at what a committed people can do,” Fish urged.
Relating the story of the young French soldier who was ordered by a fleeing officer to sound retreat, Fish said the young man had replied: “‘Sir, I cannot blow a retreat, I do not know how. But I can blow a forward march that would make the dead fall in line.'”
Fish occupies the Scarborough Chair of Evangelism, the “Chair of Fire,” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he has taught for nearly 40 years. He told listeners that though the conservative resurgence was much needed in the SBC, “we must guard against allowing this resurgence movement to degenerate into a lifeless orthodoxy, our heads full, but our hearts so empty — believing so much, while experiencing so little.”
Telling a story about the second president of Southwestern Seminary, Fish said it was reported that L.R. Scarborough became so concerned for the lost during a meeting when they sang “Rescue the Perishing” that he got out of his seat and literally dragged lost men in the rows behind him to the altar.
A man in the back was reported to have shouted, “‘Don’t be too concerned, Lee. It’s just a song!'” recounted Fish.
“To the four people who brought the paralytic to see Jesus, ‘rescue the perishing’ was more than a song,” Fish said, paraphrasing Luke 5:17-26. “When they found every entrance blocked by people, they took the disabled man up the outside stairs and began to peel the roof tiles back so that they could let the man down through the roof.
“We must help the Kingdom advance through a renewal of desperate passion,” he said. “These men were desperate in their hearts to get this man to Jesus, but today this kind of desperation is rare.”
Fish said when he was a young preacher he talked often about having a burden for lost souls.
“But today,” he lamented, “We rarely hear the faithful talking about a burden for the lost.”
An example Fish cited was the Crusade of the Americas that almost didn’t happen because, he said, church leaders in Brazil had not been willing to pay the price in money and effort demanded by such a crusade.
The leaders finally were inspired by a well-known missionary family, the Olivers, who pledged to sell their furniture to raise the necessary finances. It wasn’t the first time that family had made the offer, Fish said.
“That sacrificial spirit launched the Crusade of the Americas, and there were over 100,000 souls who came to Jesus in Brazil alone,” Fish said. “But today I don’t hear much about roofs being torn open to get people to Jesus. Too many people are busy asking, ‘Is it worth it?'”
Recalling a time in Scripture when it was recorded that “Jesus was in the house,” Fish asked messengers, “When was the last time it was noised about that Jesus was in your church?”
About the power of the Gospel, Fish asked, “Do you realize that divine power is released when you say to a person, ‘Through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, your sins can be forgiven?’ Sharing the message of God releases divine power.”
Reminding messengers that Jesus commissioned the apostle Paul to seek out the Gentiles in order to open their eyes and “turn them from darkness to light, and from the powers of Satan to God.”
“Paul was dually commissioned, as we are, to release divine power to turn people from the power of Satan unto God and to resist demonic power.
“As much as we might not like to face it, there is a demonic aspect in the fact that people are lost,” he said. “It is the devil who blinds; it is he who traps and holds captive those who are lost.”
Sharing memories from recent visits to two mission fields, Fish said he would make “no apology” for reminding listeners that “idolatry is demonic” and in America there are “subtle shades of idolatry: materialism, sex, [and] sinful pleasures.
“I don’t care whether it is secularism, materialism, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism,” Fish said. “Resistance of demonic powers ought to be a vital part of the advance of the Kingdom, and in this spiritual warfare, don’t think for a moment that Jesus is just another player on the field of world religions. Jesus is not only superior to all others; He excludes all others.
“Jesus is the only way to God. We must not only be wise enough to believe it, but fearless enough to preach it. You will preach no truth that will be more unpopular than this; but omit this and you have cut the heart from the body of revealed truth,” he warned the audience.
“The essentials for successful Kingdom advance are the development of a desperate passion and the use of divine power,” Fish concluded. “Without this we will never recover our decisive purpose.”