My denomination is about to have a ten year emphasis on evangelism.
I’ve been a Southern Baptist since birth. As far as I know, my denomination has never had any other emphasis than evangelism.
My denomination is more interested in evangelism than any other denomination in existence or Christian history. Its entire apparatus of denominational machinery is devoted to the promotion of evangelism. Its denominational publications and web sites are basically all evangelism, all the time.
Oh there’s the occasional break for the culture war and to promote the new Kirk Cameron movie, but no one is missing the SBC’s concern with evangelism.
I’ve lived through more evangelism training programs than I can name.
I’ve been part of more evangelism emphases than I can list.
I’ve seen every kind of evangelism gimmick that the mind can conceive of brought out with a straight face.
I’ve seen the ethics and manners of normal human interaction go out the window in favor of confrontational tactics on beaches, on sidewalks and in public.
I grew up believing the entire Christian life was about soul winning and that if you couldn’t turn any conversation into an evangelistic conversation with closure, then you were a backslider.
I’ve been through evangelistic invitations at church, at youth group, at revivals, at youth revivals, at stadium events, at concerts, at ball games, at Bible studies, at Vacation Bible school, at movies, at meals and everywhere else.
My denomination is always starting a prayer emphasis in the cause of evangelism. We actually have an office of spiritual awakening, if you can believe it. I’m sure there’s a five year plan to move the hand of God somewhere.
I’ve heard thousands and thousands of evangelistic sermons. I’ve heard invitations that made me want to dig a tunnel to China.
I’m been exposed to guilt, manipulation, entertainment, scare tactics, lies, exaggeration, bribery and threats in the name of evangelism.
I’m part of a denomination that regularly baptizes five, six and seven year olds, then has the nerve to point at infant baptizing Christians and criticize them.
I’m part of a denomination that has rebaptized and rebaptized and rebaptized, again and again. And counted each one somewhere.
A few years ago, the baptism numbers started dropping for Southern Baptists. This year was the lowest in recent history.
The problem we’re told, of course, is that we’re not evangelistic enough.
I want to put forward another theory. Just call it a hunch.
I think our baptism numbers are dropping because ALL WE ARE IS EVANGELISTIC.
We don’t want to talk about anything else because if we do, we’re going have to admit we’re in very, very bad shape.
We need to have healthy churches. (With all 9 Marks.)
We need to have a clear Gospel message. (What’s being preached in SBC pulpits in many places can hardly be categorized using normal English.)
We need meaningful church membership.
We need pastors who can grow disciples.
We need Christians on mission in the world where God’s placed them.
We need to love people.
We need to live authentically human lives.
We need a missional mindset for going into the world.
We need to see our prevailing sins, like materialism, classism, racism and involvement in the prosperity Gospel.
We need to repent of our pragmatism, because it’s not true that if just one walks forward, everything we did was right.
We’re proud and sometimes we’re almost unteachable.
When a younger leader does something right in our denomination, chances are he’s in trouble.
Thousands of our churches are two generations from closing the doors.
Thousands of our churches need to either stop abusing pastors and their families or shut the doors.
We need to realize God isn’t adding many to us because we’ve got problems.
Every time Southern Baptists see some evidence that the ship is lurching, they go and attempt to get more people to join the cruise.
We’re like a hospital with real problems. Doctor problems. Staff problems. Quality problems. Effectiveness problems. People aren’t getting well. Some are getting a lot worse. Some aren’t making it. And we are concerned……about getting more patients.
Millions of Southern Baptists apparently don’t even exist.
Millions of other Southern Baptists would leave their churches for $5 and couldn’t write a three sentence paragraph on why anyone should join their church.
I love what the SBC does right. I really do. My denomination can be awesome at some things, especially in the area of cooperative missions.
I’m not dogging evangelists. I spend a significant amount of my time in evangelistic ministry. It’s one reason I will remain an evangelical.
Our denomination has some wonderful churches and some great people.
But let’s just say it: We’re Johnny One Notes on evangelism because we don’t want to admit how flawed, hurting, confused and increasingly dysfunctional we are.
We need evangelism in its place, and that won’t happen till we stop and look at the whole, not just the parts we want to blame.
And 100,000 more baptisms won’t solve those problems.