EDITORS’ NOTE: The following two stories are part of a monthly Baptist Press series to explore and describe how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom.
MANSFIELD, Texas (BP)–When vast multitudes hunger to hear the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ –- in an era of ever-expanding innovations for reaching people worldwide — Christians have a moral responsibility to throw themselves completely into God’s redemptive mission, a leading Southern Baptist evangelist says.
“I’ve been in five countries of Africa. I’ve been all over Asia and Eastern Europe. Every place I go, there’s a spiritual hunger,” said Bill Britt, president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. “In Africa and India, people come by the thousands to hear the Gospel.”
In early October, Britt finished a four-day mass outreach at a stadium in Kitale, Kenya, in which attendance soared past 160,000 — and 20,000 public decisions for Christ were registered.
“On Sunday evening after we closed out the meetings, I met with pastors for a celebration time. All of them told me they were having to find bigger buildings to worship in because of all the new believers coming to their services,” Britt recounted.
“People came by the thousands and stood for hours to hear what we had to say. The only time they have had larger crowds in that stadium was when the president spoke there.”
Some Christians like to talk about the questions they will ask Bible heroes when they get to heaven, but the Bible’s great characters will be the ones eagerly asking the questions, Britt predicted.
“When we get to heaven, the saints we read about in the Bible are going to ask us what we did with all the great tools God has given us to proclaim the Gospel -– airplanes and faxes and printing presses and the Internet,” he said. “They’re going to ask us, ‘Where did you take the Gospel? What did you do to share the Gospel around the world?’”
Many Christians won’t have a satisfactory answer, Britt lamented.
“These days, we’ve geared our churches to people coming to check us out and be entertained, instead of us going and sharing the Gospel,” he said. “We have lost our edge, our passion, our determination to win our world to Jesus.
“I believe the Bible teaches that every believer has a moral responsibility to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” he said. “We’ve got to get out of this latte-sipping, country club mentality. It’s immoral for us to have what we have and not use it to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth -– whether that means across the street or across the globe.”
HIGHWAYS AND HEDGES
A 21-year veteran of fulltime evangelism, Britt is president of Compel Outreach International based in Mansfield, Texas (on the Web at www.compeloutreach.org), a ministry centered on the command recorded in Luke 14:23 -– “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled’” (NASB).
“It is amazing to me that you can go out in a big field in Kenya and have 60,000 people show up, then come home to an air-conditioned building with padded pews and have to work hard to get folks to come in,” Britt said. “The harvest that’s coming right now is in the highways and hedges of the world, among unreached people groups that have a hunger to hear the Gospel.”
But today is the day to obey Christ’s commission to make disciples of all peoples, Britt said. He cited Africa as an example.
“Islam is growing rapidly in Africa. Mosques are going up everywhere,” he said. “Kenya is about to vote on a new constitution that would give preferential treatment to Islam. Moammar Gaddafi wants to make Africa an Islamic ‘United States of Africa.’
“We’ve got to go to these places while people are hungry, while there is a liberty to go -– before the doors are shut,” he said. “Our churches have got to send people -– as many and as often as we can -– to share the Gospel.
“We tell people, ‘Y’all come,” but Jesus said, “Go” -– and He didn’t say anything about coming back.”
‘WE ALL NEED TO GO’
The spiritual hunger of people in places untouched by the Gospel was driven home for him at a restaurant in Central Asia.
“We met a fellow at the restaurant and offered him a packet of material that had in it a New Testament in his language,” Britt said. “He took the envelope, went off in the back, and looked inside. We got up and left.
“As we walked out the door, he came running after us. He was weeping and he kept saying over and over, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for. This is what I’ve been wanting.’”
When so many people in so many places are so hungry for the Gospel, Britt doesn’t think the “great cloud of witnesses” is going to think much of the excuses today’s Christians offer for not going to share it.
“I’ve taken groups of teenagers with me to Mexico and the Philippines. I had a 70-year-old doctor with me in Africa. In the Philippines this year, I had a 68-year-old evangelist who rode into the mountains on the back of a motorcycle,” he said.
“We all need to go.”