by Frank S. Page
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.
NASHVILLE (BP) — This is a strategic week in Southern Baptist life. One on hand, we look back over the past church year and reflect on what God has accomplished in our midst. On the other, we peer into the future and ask the Lord to do more than He has ever done.
The backward look
First, churches are beginning to calculate their year-end statistical profile (Oct. 1, 2013 – Sept. 30, 2014) and forward their 2014 ACP reports to their associations or state conventions. This is the backward look — what God did in our midst in the year just ended.
Many of us have been witnessing and praying that the number of reported baptisms on this ACP will be significantly greater than last year’s report.
We rejoice over each baptism. And there is joy in heaven over each baptism. More than 310,000 precious souls were won to faith in Christ in 2013! Yet our hearts are broken that the number was so small in comparison to the lostness that surrounds us.
What can account for the continual dip in our evangelistic impact on the broken lives in our nation? Surely we agree that people still need the Lord. Surely we agree that the Gospel is still powerful to save. Surely we agree that the promises of God to multiply His sown Word have no term limits and cannot outlive their effective date. Could it be that we just aren’t sowing the seed of the Word of God in people’s hearts the way we used to?
If so, the reasons are predictable — lack of training resources to equip church members; pastors feeling forced to meet unrealistic expectations from demanding church members; competing factions within the church and conflicting visions for the church; a rapidly changing culture.
Cannot we agree that these distractions come from the Adversary? His divisive devices haven’t changed. They have always been designed to divert our energies from the main task of evangelizing and discipling the peoples of this fallen world.
The forward look
Second, the SBC has set aside this Sunday, Oct. 5, as Soul-Winning Commitment Day. This is the forward look — churches challenging believers to make an eternal impact on their friends and family with the Gospel. I want to add my voice to the mix, issuing a prayerful challenge to each believer and each church in our convention for this year’s Soul-Winning Commitment Day.
What if … each discipled follower of Christ begins praying during his or her quiet time each day for at least one more precious soul during the next year. If you personally reached none last year, ask God for one precious soul this year. If you reached two, ask God for three. If you reached six, ask the Lord for seven.
What if … each church begins praying intentionally and specifically at every worship service for one more precious soul to be reached with the Gospel during the next year. If your church baptized none, pray for one precious soul to come to faith in Christ and be baptized during the year. If your church baptized two, pray for three. If you baptized 12, pray for 13. If you baptized 27, pray for 28. If you baptized 534, pray for 535.
What if … each church that baptized at least one this past year begins to pray intentionally and specifically at every worship service for a sister church in your association. God’s power is unleashed when His people pray!
What if … each church that baptized at least one reaches out to a church that baptized none and offers to help in any way that wouldn’t threaten that sister church. Ecclesiastes reminds us that “two are better than one” and “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12).
This thing can be turned around. Let us earnestly beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest.
God hasn’t changed — “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him ” (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV).
The Holy Spirit hasn’t changed — “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NKJV).
The Scriptures haven’t changed — “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV).
The power of the Gospel to transform people’s lives hasn’t changed — “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16, NKJV).
The books on 2013-14 are closed. But the new church year beckons us with fresh promise and hope. Let us pray, witness and work, asking the Lord for one more precious soul! And, when we reach that one, for another … and another … and another….
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.