NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The “lazy, lifeless, lukewarm church” needs to start ministering to a world that depends on the message the church alone carries, said James Merritt during the annual campus revival emphasis Feb. 9-11 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, charged students to be revived in order to help America.
Kicking off the week, seminary President Chuck Kelley said, “If we are ever going to have revival in our churches, we must have revival in the lives of our ministers. That is why an annual emphasis on revival is so important for a seminary campus.”
America is sick, Merritt said, sharing some of the more alarming statistics. Last year, for the first time in history, the majority of babies born in America were born out of wedlock, he said. America is the home of 80 percent of the world’s divorces and consistently leads the industrialized world in murder, rape and other violent crimes. America is headed to its grave if it is not rescued, he said.
“America will die by suicide, not murder,” Merritt said. “America’s biggest enemy is herself. America’s biggest threat is God. America’s only hope is revival.”
Churches, however, have been too busy waiting for America to recover by itself, rather than bringing the cure for its sickness, Merritt said. “The church had better quit depending on America to get right because America is depending on the church.”
In order to get the healing process started, 75 NOBTS students and faculty members blitzed the seminary-area Gentilly Boulevard Feb. 11, sharing the gospel with everyone they came in contact with.
When the dust had settled, a total of 28 people had come to know Christ as Savior and Lord in just two hours.
“I don’t know the history of this event. I just know that the response was great!” said Ken Weathersby, on faculty at NOBTS for less than a month. The seminary’s new professor of church planting directed the witnessing blitz and is coordinating follow-up. The witnessing blitz has been the finale of the weeklong campus revival emphasis for the past two years.
“I heard one student say he had come under conviction (during a revival service) about witnessing and wanted to respond to that. However the Lord works, I’m grateful,” Weathersby said.
A discipleship strategy has been implemented to follow up on those who professed belief in Christ, Weathersby said, and he hopes to start a new church or at least make sure each person is discipled and led to an existing church. As director of NOBTS’ new church-planting degree program and the Nehemiah Project (a new seminary partnership with the SBC’s North American Mission Board), Weathersby said activities such as the witnessing blitz will be vital to starting new churches in the area.
“I think this will be an ongoing project,” he said. “If we’re going to be church planters, we’ve got to be effective witnesses.”
Merritt, in leading the week-long campus revival emphasis, spoke on the theme, “Divine Truths for Difficult Times,” challenging students and faculty to be faithful in witnessing, not only to bring others to Christ, but also to carry out Jesus’ commands.
There are only two kinds of Christians in this world, he said: those who witness and those who don’t.
“Jesus said, ‘If you follow me, I will make you fishers of men,'” Merritt said. “So, if you’re not fishing, you’re not following. The only person who is a failure at witnessing is someone who fails to witness.”
Merritt challenged hearers to be disciplined in godly fear, humility, prayer and, most of all, obedience, without which revival is impossible.
“The only obstacle to revival is sin,” he said. “Let go of your sin and have revival. Hold on to sin and let go of revival.”
Joan Wetzel contributed to this article. Color photos by Joe David Smith available upon request from NOBTS’ office of public relations by sending e-mail to [email protected] or by calling 1-800-NOBTS-01, ext. 3290.