ATLANTA (BP)–Five theme interpretation speakers stressed the need for Christians to reach America’s cities for Christ during the June 15-16 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
All gave interpretations of the convention’s theme, “His Tears — Our Task!” based on Luke 19:41, “… He beheld the city and wept …” Each speaker urged Southern Baptists to reach out to those churches often fail to reach.
Duane and Iris Blue, Mission Service Corps volunteers for the North American Mission Board, shared their personal testimonies during the opening session, stressing the importance of reaching out to the “desperate and hurt and lonely.”
The Blues have experienced their share of desperation and loneliness, having come from backgrounds of drug abuse and crime. “All my life, I just wanted somebody to think I was valuable,” Iris Blue said.
Her husband warned that “if we don’t get back to sharing the one thing that matters — the truth of Jesus — [the lost] are going to die alone and enter eternity separated from the one that loves them.”
Charles Lyons, pastor of Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago, reminded, “There are children hurting and wandering. People all over the earth move from all places to cities all over the world.”
Calling for planting churches in large cities to impact the lost, Lyons urged. “Meet the challenge of this millennial moment. Jesus weeps, the clock ticks, the smoke thickens, the flames close in — rescue the perishing, care for the dying.”
Jay Strack, president of Jay Strack Evangelistic Association in Orlando, Fla., spoke of the need for Christians to reach young people.
Strack described today’s youth as “a tribe apart,” a culture that must be reached. He said that 88 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 19 attend no religious service of any kind.
“It appears we don’t care,” Strack said. “The church is not on the radar screen of this generation. … If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep having what we’re having. And what we’re having is not working.”
The final theme interpretation presented Wednesday night by Dennis Rainey, executive director of FamilyLife in Little Rock, Ark.
“America is in trouble,” he said. “We have a national crisis around the family.”
Rainey thanked the convention for having the courage to adopt a family amendment to the Baptist Faith and Message at the 1998 convention in Salt Lake City. He encouraged messengers to continue that stand, stressing the need for Christians to “declare war on divorce.”
He called for Southern Baptists to “courageously call Christians to keep their marriage covenants. Keeping your vows means that you must care for each other, you must cherish each other.”
Rainey challenged couples getting married to sign a written marriage covenant containing their marriage vows. He also suggested that churches establish a “marriage covenant Sunday.”
Norman Miller, Joni Hannigan & Charles Willis contributed to this article.