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SBC president exhorts seminaries to lead in reaching 1 million baptisms

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Evangelizing the lost in America’s mega-cities is possible if Christians will take their cue to share the Son of God from the sun in the sky, said Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson.
Witnessing to New Yorkers, who often live fast-paced, time-crunched days, is simply a matter of bringing up the Son after the sun has gone down, Patterson said Jan. 21 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Relating his own witnessing experiences in the Big Apple, Patterson told a chapel audience, “If you’ll just hit the streets at sundown, as soon as the sun goes down, anybody in Manhattan will talk about Jesus.
“Everyone is willing to hear what you’ve got to say,” added Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
. New Yorkers are not the only mega-city dwellers who are open to hearing the gospel, Patterson said.
“There are millions of people in the large cities of our country right this moment, who are desperately waiting to hear our witness if we will only take it seriously,” he said.
Ever since his election as SBC president in June 1998, Patterson has set a goal before Southern Baptists to baptize 1 million new converts from October 1999 to October 2000 — 500,000 in the United States and 500,000 through their international missions efforts. In 1997, Southern Baptists and their co-workers overseas recorded about 700,000 baptisms.
The SBC’s six seminaries will have to take the lead in helping the convention attain the goal, Patterson said.
He pointed out that 1 million is not a magic number nor should it be accomplished in order to boast. He also said he realized that some of those baptized might not genuinely be regenerated. The reason he has set the goal, he said, is to help Baptists focus on their most significant task.
“I am asking that the attention of us all be turned again to that which actually matters for all time and eternity. And that is leading people to Christ,” Patterson said.
A resurgence in evangelism among Southern Baptists, Patterson believes, will bring God’s blessing to individual Southern Baptists, their families, their churches and the denomination as a whole.
“When we become lovers of men’s souls and share our faith as we ought, it is inevitable that we will have the blessings of God on our denomination,” he said.
Using Exodus 1 as his text, Patterson told the story of two midwives who disobeyed an Egyptian ruler’s order to kill male Jewish babies, choosing instead to obey God. As a result, God blessed the midwives.
Patterson challenged the seminarians to be spiritual midwives who hold life and death in their hands, have the fear of God in their hearts and have the blessings of God in their homes.
Admitting he has struggled with witnessing in the past, Patterson related a simple prayer that helped him overcome his reticence to sharing the gospel.
“I prayed, ‘Lord, give me the opportunity to share my faith today, the ability to recognize it when it occurs and the courage to go through with it when I recognize it,'” he said, adding that he still prays that prayer daily.
Patterson ended his message by asking the audience to commit to praying that prayer for the next 30 days.
“Lord, for reasons that I can’t fully understand, you have vouchsafed the message of the cross to me and to these my sweet brothers and sisters,” Patterson said in his closing prayer. “Lord, would you help us to fear God more than man.”

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  • Matt Sanders