Here is a portion of an article published by the Biblical Recorder of the NC Convention regarding my message at the State Evangelism Conference. As always I was greatly honored to speak to leaders at this event.
Sound doctrine: Shrewd Actions
GREENSBORO – Attending any evangelism conference in the Southern Baptist Convention can be an exercise in rehearsing what is no longer working in local churches – at least that is the opinion of Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Our world has changed and the great need of the Southern Baptist Convention is for churches who are committed to a Great Commission resurgence,” Reid said
Reid said one of the greatest challenges for the Southern Baptist Convention is its relationship to those who are training to serve churches in the SBC. “When I ask my students how many of them came from Southern Baptist churches, the majority of them raise their hands,” Reid said. “When I ask them how many of them want to go back to churches like they came from, no one wants to go back to the SBC of their youth.”
Taking Matthew16:13-17 as his text, Reid emphasized that this was turning point in holy Scripture. It was here with his disciples Jesus established his church on key truths which, when truly believed, are capable of transforming the world. “When you read the book of Acts and see how the Holy Spirit moved through the life of churches, we should be embarrassed at the true level of spiritual life in our churches.”
The history of the Southern Baptist Convention is one where baptisms have “flat-lined for50 years,” Reid said, “and we are on life support and in denial.” Denominational leadership must address some of these issues because “if Cooperative Program receipts had declined at the same level as baptisms, we would have become very serious about reversing the trend,” Reid said.
Reid emphasized that evangelism has come to be seen in the SBC as a program capable of being executed with little personal effort and no personal involvement with those who are desperately in need of the Gospel. “The great question brought forth by this text,” Reid stated, “was the central question of the Gospel – who is Jesus?” Reciting research that the United States is now the fourth largest un-churched nation in the world, the American church stands in the midst of “an international mission field.”
Reid challenged pastors to check the content of their sermons to make sure they were actually preaching the Gospel of Christ “because if you can’t preach it in China, you shouldn’t be able to preach it here (in the United States).” He said “Southern Baptists seem to be more interested in building a denominational institution than advancing the movement of Christianity. If every church building burned up tomorrow, the church would still gather and move on.”
The great revelation which the Father teaches the disciples about Jesus is the “same word which we must understand in our day. God’s Word does not change, but we are in great need of learning more about Christ in ways which speak of a living relationship with him,” Reid said.
“If the 1950s ever make a comeback, we are ready, but the 1950s aren’t coming back to the Southern Baptist Convention.” He stated that the key doctrines of holy Scripture were always applied to the culture in ways which maximized the truth in the understanding of people. “The Incarnation wasn’t only theology, it is strategy, and we must understand that contextualization is not a dirty word,” Reid said.
“The youth in your community do not care about how techno your youth room is, and the man who just lost his job doesn’t really care about the church building. What they do care about is Jesus,” Reid said. Calling North Carolina Baptists to rediscover the great idea of the Gospel, he recited the accomplishments of the lives of Jim Elliot, John Wesley, William Carey,and Lottie Moon. “These are people who hold forth as models, but so few of us imitate their lives. My hope and prayer is that we might experience a Great Commission resurgence in our churches that will bring genuine revival to our land.”