By Jerry Grace
Evangelist and senior pastor, Friendship Baptist Church, Friendship
This article is written from two perspectives: one from the experience of having been a vocational evangelist for 38 years and the other from the experience of currently serving as a pastor for the past eight years.
The latest statistics from the Annual Church Profile (ACP) of the Southern Baptist Convention have just been released and were published in the June 12 issue of the B&R. Guess what? The time for rhetoric is over. We have had enough motivational sermons, church growth conferences and restructuring.
We seek to affirm, approve and applaud those who enter our worship centers without confronting them with the claims of Christ and calling for commitment to follow Him. The result is we have cast a shadow of decline in what was once a robust and vibrant force for the kingdom.
It appears we want so much to be cool, connected and contemporary, we are afraid to be conventional in our proclamation. Our continual decline in baptisms, membership, average worship attendance and number of churches, if applied to a secular organization, would cause a financial crisis on Wall Street.
However, money is not our problem, or maybe it is. The history of the church shows the church grows best in the soils of persecution and poverty. The church at Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 was poor, yet rich. We seem to be rich, yet poor. While we saw an increase of more than $82 million in overall giving in 2018 our congregations declined by 192,404 and our average weekly worship attendance dipped to 5.3 million worshipers.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said regarding the ACP report, “While this report contains news that concerns us greatly, we need to celebrate every life who was positively impacted by the gospel.” This is true. Every single individual who professes Christ as Lord and Savior is a cause for rejoicing.
Pastors, if we wish to celebrate more I urge you to return to the basics of evangelism and discipleship. Nothing substitutes for personal soul-winning which must be exhibited from the pulpit. Nothing takes the place of a genuine, (well prepared) revival. Nothing replaces the use of a God-called vocational evangelist to conduct the revival.
During the past eight years I have led our church in eight revivals using eight evangelists. God blessed with professions of faith in every revival. Nothing exchanges the need for the making of disciples. Nothing supplants the need for sound, doctrinal, expository preaching. We do not need a reformation in the SBC. We need a genuine, heaven-sent, God-honoring, Christ-centered, spirit-anointed revival.
May it not be said in the annals of Christian history that once there existed a denomination known as the Southern Baptist Convention which was indeed rich, yet poor. B&R — Drace is an evangelist and senior pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Friendship.