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‘Get off the pew,’ Zinn urges

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–The great majority of Southern Baptist churches are disobeying the mission given them by Christ, and countless people are destined for hell because those churches refuse to make the changes needed to reach the lost in their communities, a California pastor told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention June 13 in San Antonio.

“Jesus gave a commission to His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations,” Rob Zinn, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., said in the convention’s annual sermon. “We are a denomination that talks a lot but does little when it comes to evangelism.

“We are being absolutely disobedient to the Word of God because the Word of God is very simple: G-O. Go,” Zinn said. “That means get off the pew, get out of the church, and wherever you go you can be a witness for Jesus Christ.”

When 17 percent of churches baptized no one in 2006 and 68 percent baptized 10 or fewer, Southern Baptists are not taking the Great Commission seriously, Zinn said.

“In his book, ‘The Unchurched Next Door,’ Thom Rainer said 83 percent of unchurched people would come to church if someone just asked them. Think about that. We’ve got to go!”

This generation is hungrier for the Gospel than any generation he can remember, Zinn said, but if Southern Baptists are going to reach people for Christ they must be willing to change their mindset, methodology and ministries.

“Folks, what you did in the ’40s and what you did in the ’50s isn’t going to win this culture to Jesus,” Zinn said. “One of the things we are losing right now is our kids.”

Citing statistics that indicate two-thirds of Southern Baptist churches baptized five or fewer teenagers in 2006, Zinn asked how many grandparents in the audience would be willing to die for their grandchildren. As hands were raised all over the auditorium, he asked, “How many of you love those grandkids enough that you’d be willing to change your music for them?”

Zinn quoted Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of “The Purpose Driven Church”: “A church must choose to grow or not to grow. Many churches have deliberately chosen not to grow. They make that choice in a variety of ways. They make it by the programs they offer. They make it by the amount of time and energy they invest in evangelism. They make the decision by the size of the buildings they choose to build. If we really love God, and if we really love people, then the desire for church growth cannot be optional.”

While Southern Baptists must never change “the man [Jesus], the message [the Gospel] or the mission,” they must be willing to change methods like the kind of music used in worship if they are going to reach a new generation in a changed culture, Zinn said.

His voice cracking with emotion, Zinn said: “My heart is bursting for a generation of people who are lost and dying and going to hell. It’s not about you. It’s about Him [Jesus], and He loves them all.”

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  • Mark Kelly