NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A tremendous explosion. Smoke billows on the horizon. A crowd gathers before a television in a store window. “What now?”
Since the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, many hearts are filled with fear. Daily newscasts about home invasions, terrorist attacks, stock market collapses and other catastrophes do nothing to lessen the uncertainty.
America’s security has been shattered, and people are searching for meaning and purpose in life as never before. With so many lost souls asking “What now?” five Southern Baptist leaders say God’s people should be asking themselves the same question.
“Just as world events have created an unprecedented interest in spiritual matters in lost hearts, they also have created a yearning in the hearts of God’s people — a desire for a great spiritual awakening that would draw multitudes to Christ,” said Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board.
“The greatest crisis we face is spiritual. God has given the nation a hunger for Him, and He has prepared Southern Baptists to help fill that hunger.”
Toward that end, “What Now?” — a three-year campaign for personal revival and national spiritual awakening — calls on Southern Baptists to engage the nation with the message that there is hope in times of difficulty.
Beginning with prayer for renewal and revival, What Now? sets a God-sized goal of mobilizing 1 million Southern Baptists to share the Gospel, start 100,000 new Bible study units and baptize 1 million new believers.
The outreach will culminate with the largest national media campaign ever undertaken by Southern Baptists, a million-dollar program of television, radio, periodicals and Internet advertising designed to get the attention of millions who do not attend church or are not immediately receptive to the Gospel message.
“North America is hungry for the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Reccord said. “Millions of our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors are empty and seeking the satisfaction that only comes from a personal relationship with Him. They are simply waiting for Christians to share ‘the hope that is within us.’
“The What Now? campaign gives Southern Baptists a wonderful opportunity to join God in helping our nation find the Answer to all their questions, the One who calms every fear.”
America needs to hear a clear word from God, said the leader of another key partner in the What Now? campaign.
“Jesus is the solution to the problems that plague us,” said James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “The Gospel is the only hope and we must share it. Christianity is being caricatured and distorted. The church needs to declare a clear and positive word from the Lord.
“We must tackle the tremendous challenges we face. What Now? will help us maximize our energies for a common — and very biblical — goal: reaching people and planting churches.”
The God-sized goals of What Now? are the kind that can capture the heart and passion of Southern Baptists — and teach them to rely on a God who can do far more than we can ask or even imagine, said Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union.
“With enthusiasm and passion for reaching North America for Christ, WMU is pleased to partner in this call to Southern Baptists,” Lee said. “As long as there are people and places without a Gospel witness, WMU will challenge Christian believers to a radical commitment of time and resources to God’s mission.”
The vision of baptizing 1 million new believers recalls stories of sweeping prayer movements and great awakenings in previous generations –- something this generation of Southern Baptists has never seen, said Gerry Taillon, national ministry leader of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists.
“Life invariably moves in the direction of the selfish and unfocused,” Taillon said. “Believers, churches and denominational organizations must focus on the priorities of the Great Commission to avoid becoming sidetracked by embracing self-centered undertakings.
“What Now? refocuses our energy and resources on our fundamental mission and anticipates the powerful activity of God.”
When millions of God’s people humbly offer themselves for His will to be done, entire communities, even a whole nation, could turn to God in repentance, said J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
“When you think in terms of keeping the main thing the main thing, What Now? points us in the right direction,” he said. “If we stretch ourselves to empower Kingdom growth as never before in our history, we will see the beginning of a new era in Southern Baptist life.”
White chaired the national task force that planned the What Now? campaign, which is the evangelism strategy for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis. Representatives from NAMB, LifeWay, WMU and other state conventions also participated on the task force.
English-language What Now? overview guides have been mailed to most churches and are available for download at http://whatnowamerica.com and http://whatnowcanada.com. Guide translations in 10 languages will be available this summer.
While various state conventions will customize the emphasis to fit their strategies and schedules, the goal is to give Southern Baptists an opportunity to see the kind of harvest that is possible when God exercises His wonder-working power, Reccord said.
“What Now? is not another program pushed by the denomination to get churches to do something,” he said. “It’s a handle to help Southern Baptist partners prepare for a mighty movement of God’s Spirit by focusing on the things that really matter: prayer, evangelism, Bible study and new churches.
“NAMB, LifeWay and WMU are joining hearts and hands with all our state conventions and associations as never before,” Reccord said. “We intend to model for our churches what it means to truly cooperate in order to reach North America with the Gospel.
“What Now? can facilitate a great movement of God –- if we will seek His face. Our prayer is that local churches will use these tools to bring North America to our Lord. The time has come for Southern Baptists to seek His face and experience the blessing He desires for His people.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RIPE FOR REVIVAL.