NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“I want ’em to hear us in hell,” Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch said in the concluding session of the SBC’s June 21-22 annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
The crowd was much larger than most recent Wednesday nights at SBC annual meetings, some observers said, and was much more animated, as they stood, applauded and cheered during Welch’s “‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge” launch.
“It’s gotta happen now. No more waiting!” Welch exclaimed in his charge to Southern Baptists to witness to, win to Christ and baptize 1 million souls in the upcoming church year, Oct. 1, 2005-Sept. 30, 2006.
Southern Baptists got plenty of training toward meeting that goal in Crossover Nashville, the evangelistic thrust occurring the weekend before every SBC annual meeting.
According to sources at the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources, the most current records for Crossover Nashville show that, in the Nashville-area door-to-door evangelism efforts alone, 7,374 Southern Baptists knocked on 46,391 doors, completed 18,128 visits, shared the Gospel 4,985 times and led 584 non-Christians to pray to commit their lives to Christ. Adding block parties, cultural festivals and other Crossover efforts, more than 2,500 professions of faith were recorded.
Highlighting the Everyone Can launch were songs from the Christian music group Casting Crowns; a sermon by James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay; and country music artist Ricky Skaggs, who blew a ram’s horn, or shofar, sounding the command to charge.
Draper, preaching from 1 Samuel 10, read about the anointing of Saul as king over God’s children and Samuel’s desire to present Saul at a large gathering of the Hebrews, but Saul had hidden himself among the baggage, “or the stuff,” Draper said.
“Is it possible for Southern Baptists, with all of the blessings of God and all of the things that God has done for us — and in us and through us — that we could still, with all of that, be hiding among the stuff?” Draper asked.
“Saul hides from his own destiny. There’s hardly a more pathetic picture in all of the Old Testament,” said Draper, urging Southern Baptists to no longer “hide among the stuff” of church life and to get busy about the task of winning people to faith in Jesus Christ.
Saying he’d checked SBC baptismal records for the last 55 years, Draper said what he found was “scary.”
“The trend line shows an annual increase of only 45 people per year, barely one person per 1,000 churches per year, he said. Yet the SBC claims growth in the same time period from 7 million to 16.2 million.
“Could it be that we are hiding among the stuff?” he asked again.
“In spite of the struggle for 25 years to recover biblical faithfulness, we are still witnessing stagnation in evangelism,” Draper said. “Our passion for souls has cooled. It’s slipped away from us.”
Draper concluded, citing Southern Baptists’ blessings from God and encouraged the audience to follow Jesus Christ and His story to its glorious conclusion.
“Take the gloves off, we’re headed out, it’s now,” Welch said, immediately on the heels of Draper’s sermon.
“We’re going to sound the charge in this room,” he continued. “You don’t win unless you go to war.
“We’re going to attack the gates of hell for the sake of souls.
“We’re going to sound in this room right now the charge to go on the assault,” Welch said. “And we’re also going to sound the celebration of the sure victory that’s in Jesus Christ.”
With the three-foot-long horn, Skaggs sounded the charge. Applause and cheers filled the room.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve got a feeling that in hell right now they’re huntin’ cover,” Welch said.
Skaggs blew the horn again, and Welch said, “I want ’em to hear you in hell. And I want ’em to hear you in heaven. I want those who are on their way to hell to know we’re coming. I want those in heaven to tune up, because there’s gonna be some rejoicing in the next year because some folks will be off the road to hell and on their way to heaven,” Welch said, the crowd’s standing ovation continuing.
“Southern Baptists, honest, now, before God, who do you think could witness to and win and then, bless God, get ’em down to the church and baptize them? Who do you think could do that?”
“Everyone can — and I’m it,” the crowd yelled.
Fireworks exploding, balloons falling, shofar sounding, Southern Baptists geared up to leave the building to meet the challenge.
For more information on the Everyone Can effort, Welch reminded the crowd to log on to www.everyonecan.net.