Are We Ready? By Richard Harris
To that end, NAMB has taken steps to help Southern Baptist churches reduce the incredible amount of lostness throughout the United States and Canada. NAMB estimates that 258 million people in North America have no personal relationship with Jesus. That’s three out of four individuals who are lost—and many of them have no one to show them the way to Christ.
Research completed last year by NAMB’s Center for Missional Research shows that, based on 2003-2008 records, 71 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining. Why is this happening? For some it is a shift in population. For others it is a change in community demographics or economics. For others it is the secularization of our society. But I believe for the majority of our churches, it is a loss of passion to reach lost people with the Gospel and a drifting away from a sincere commitment to fulfill the Great Commission.
The Great Commission has become, for many, merely a great suggestion. Since 2001, an increasing number of our churches are baptizing no one (25 percent in 2008), fewer of our churches are baptizing 10 or more people annually, and an
increasing number of our churches are baptizing no teenagers.
If we continue on this current path in North American missions, are we really going to impact lostness to the degree it needs to be impacted?
Even in these dark, dire times—socially, spiritually, economically, politically— I believe God is telling us, “I am still on My throne, I am still calling My people out, I am still doing the work. You work with Me and we are going to bless the people of the world.”
In 2 Chronicles 20 (vs. 6 and 12) Jehoshaphat cried out to God in an urgent prayer: “Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You. We do not know what to do, but we look to You.” The success of the Southern Baptist Convention depends on how well we fix our eyes, not on the problems of the world, but on the God of the universe and His sufficiency.
What if spiritual awakening came and we reached but 10 percent of lost people in North America? That would be 25.8 million people. Based on the ratio of SBC churches to membership, our current number of churches would not be nearly adequate to gather these new believers and grow them to maturity. We’d need thousands upon thousands of new churches. Even if we reached a mere 5 percent, we would need 62,500 new churches! Right now Southern Baptists average 1,558 new churches a year—more than any other denomination. And how many more missionaries will we need for the task? Currently we have 5,304 North American missionaries. That’s one for every 3,054 members. If we were to reach 25.8 million, we would need 8,448 additional missionaries. What a challenge is before us! In the next 10 years, are we prepared and committed to sending out 8,448 more missionaries in North America alone—not to mention what we need overseas?
Are we really saying we are going to fulfill the Great Commission? Obviously, this challenge is huge. It’s bigger than all of us. Christians need to get serious about fulfilling the Great Commission if we are going to begin seeing a transformation occur to the glory of God.
The time is urgent for us to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not have a relationship with Him. We cannot be about business as usual. We must keep our eyes on God as we work together to turn the tide.
What if God sent a spiritual awakening to North America? Are we prepared? If we truly believe God can bless our efforts to reduce lostness in North America, and the battle is His and not ours, then our passion for the lost must show. We must pray. We must give. We must go. We must send.
Join me in praying for a mighty movement of God. Pray that we will not be caught off guard by what He wants to do, what He can do, and what He will do as a result of our fervent prayers.
Richard Harris is interim president of the North American Mission Board.
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