Thursday, May 24, 2007

Okpreacher’s Response to “Where have we gone wrong?”

As a back drop to my article please read "Where have we gone wrong?” by Todd Stinnett. I appreciate anyone who tries to answer the hard questions facing us as Christians and as Baptists. Todd wrestles with the question of why are Southern Baptists baptizing less and less people each year. Despite great efforts by godly men in our convention, our campaigns and programs aren’t leading to greater success for God’s Kingdom or for our churches. So Todd asks, “Where have we gone wrong?”

He points to the fork in the road as being the Vineyard Movement and Baptist pastors trying to copy their, “low-pressure environments that foster a come-as-you-are attitude (which in turn) have routinely de-emphasized atmospheres or actions that could be considered dogmatic.” Many have attacked churches that are seeker sensitive or that provide a holistic worship experience as being worldly. I would challenge anyone who holds such a view to consider the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The incarnation of Jesus Christ proves that God is seeker sensitive. Jesus, who is God, became flesh, so that men and women could see and experience the living God. Matter of fact, I would say that in the Southern Baptist Convention most of our baptisms are coming from churches that are engaging their communities and their culture in a way that impacts the lost. Therefore, the Vineyard Movement isn’t to blame for our problems.

Todd mentions another problem in Baptist life. The problem is, “true biblical preaching has become a thing of the past in too many of our Southern Baptist churches.” Is it really? Sure there are some churches that have gone off course, but I believe that is a very small number. Every Southern Baptist preacher I know claims to preach the Bible. Matter of fact, I would bet that most of the churches that didn’t baptize one person last year, had a preacher who preached the Bible.

I don’t think preaching God’s Word is enough to reach people. Now before you call me a heretic, let me explain. The problem isn’t that God’s Word isn’t being preached, but that it is being preached without the authority and power of the Holy Spirit. I have preached flat sermons before and the reason wasn’t that I wasn’t preaching God’s Word, but because I wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit. The only way to transform people is to preach God’s Word in God’s Power. In Baptist life, preachers too often hold to God’s Word without holding to God’s power to deliver it. We must remember that the Holy Spirit is God and we need His power to obediently preach His Word.

Southern Baptists have gone wrong by trading in God’s power and glory for our own plans and programs. How do we fix the problem? Real repentance is the first step. From the pulpit to the pew, there must be a renewed sense of our complete dependence on God. There must be a letting go of trying to build our churches, homes, and lives in our own strength. Until we are ready to say that we need God, I don’t see much hope of change.

With real repentance comes a desire for prayer. The reason Southern Baptist are no longer an evangelistic denomination is because we are no longer a praying denomination. Churches are dying, not because a lack of people, but a lack of prayer. Where is God’s revival for America? It is tied up in the apathy of American believers towards prayer. According to the Bible, without prayer we arn't
truly worshiping God or fellowshiping with other believers.

You want to see the problem up close. Call a real prayer meeting in your church and see how many people come to pray. Until the members of our churches want to meet with God in prayer, we shouldn’t expect the lost world to want to meet with God either. Prayerlessness has cost us our desire for God. If Christians don’t desire God, why should the lost?

The last trend I see as a problem for Southern Baptists is our lack of devotion for Christ. We must return to Christ-centeredness. How do we expect to change the world for Christ, when we aren’t devoted to Christ? For too long, we have split our devotion. Many of us are devoted to our careers, our churches, our denominations, our families, our governments, and ourselves. These things aren’t bad in themselves, but our engagement in these things should be the overflow of being completely devoted to Christ. Let’s be honest, if we aren’t committed to going all the way with Christ, then we won’t get very far with Christ. If I’m not devoted to Christ, how can I be an effective witness for Christ?

The reason baptism numbers are down isn’t that the lost world doesn’t want accountability. The reason baptism numbers are down is people are looking for God and authentic fellowship and aren’t finding either in our churches. Think about it this way. How many of you would want to be buried alive with a dead person? No one would, so what makes you think a person without Christ would want to join your dead church? The problem isn’t a lack of accountability, but a lack of life because of a lack of repentance, prayer, and Christ-centerness.

In closing, I appreciate Todd’s thoughts and I hope my article may be a challenging read as well. My prayer is that you and I will be moved to action. Churches are made up of individuals and until you and I decided to take action, the Southern Baptist Convention will limp on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post DB! One of the best I've seen on your blog.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second the comment. I worship in a Vineyard Church and may I assure Todd Stinnett that we preach the Bible - not very well sometimes, but we are absolutely committed to the Word of God.

No, the SBC's problem is also cultural: its roots are firmly in the South but America has moved on. Maybe the Vineyard movement, for all its faults, has rethought the cultural aspect of ministry - because how you minister in somewhere like Alabama is NOT how you minister in somewhere like NYC or LA.


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