This is the opening paragraph to a LifeWay research article by Rob Phillips. This post is not for or against Rob Phillips, but I would like to consider the thought “there’s no escaping the disappointing fact that Southern Baptists are not reaching as many people for Christ as they once did.” In fact, we could further narrow down the point of this post to “not reaching” in the scope of the context of the paragraph. What exactly is meant by “not reaching” in the context of this article?
If the meaning of “not reaching” is that the SBC is not presenting or making available the gospel of Jesus Christ to “as many people for Christ as they once did” I find this hard to believe. Even this same initial paragraph points out that “the SBC added 473 new churches and gave more than $1.3 billion to support mission activities around the world.” This is more churches, giving more access to persons in different locations, and also more money, making available more opportunities for the gospel to be presented and given to persons.
If the meaning of “not reaching” is that the SBC is not seeing as many accept Christ (i.e. “The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denomination’s lowest level since 1987.”) as Lord and Savior, attend or stay in church, etc. then is the SBC really responsible for such numbers? Maybe if the Truth is not being preached.
Acts 2 states: “46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
I Corinthians 3 declares: “5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.”
By obeying God, we are to use all godly means to reach persons with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, but the Spirit must move the souls to come. For should they come but for a time, having never been moved by the Spirit of Truth, what more do we have but a number, a baptism, yet merely a tare among the wheat. Is not the Book of Life valued above SBC membership rolls?
Souls do not come because they have either “left their first love” or have never loved Him at all. Pray that all men everywhere would repent, starting first with ourselves, that we ourselves would desire Him and enjoy His fellowship above all. Through Him shall we reach, through Him shall they come.