Two keynote speakers encouraged Southern Baptists to take baptism and evangelism to heart, during the denomination’s Executive Committee meeting, Sept 21-21. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s president Bobby Welch focused his message around the need for 1 million evangelisms while the SBC’s spiritual strategist Ken Hemphill reminded the attendants of the Kingdom’s need for workers.
"Why are we redeemed? So many Baptists, when I ask them the question, respond with one of two answers: To get out of hell or to go to heaven," said Hemphill, national strategist for the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis. "And what we've got is an unfilled gap in the middle. Somehow they know they're out of hell and they've got a destiny for heaven, but 80 percent of our people are unengaged in the present time. About 80 percent of the people in the local church give or do little to advance the Kingdom cause through that church.
"When we begin to change that single statistic, everything we're dealing with will change radically and rapidly," Hemphill said at the Nashville, Tenn., meeting.
Hemphill also listed other statistics such as one that indicated that “51 percent of Southern Baptist churches reported five baptisms or less a year.”
"I've found that perhaps the biggest deterrent that we face to church growth and to revitalization of our churches is this mindset that church is about us," Hemphill said. "... Somehow we've come to this idea that church is about us, it's designed to make us comfortable. Well, as you begin to study the Word of God, you'll discover that church is about advancing the Kingdom of God and it may well not be very comfortable in this process."
To change such a pattern, Hemphill said Christians must consider every day – not just Sunday – a Kingdom day.
"What I'm suggesting is that [we] get this concept in every one of our laypeople, that they're a Kingdom agent wherever they are -- Monday through Saturday as well as Sunday -- that we come together to celebrate Kingdom activity but we depart to do Kingdom activity," he said.
"You may be in a waiting room at a dentist, thinking your appointment is there, but God may have a divine intentionality there," Hemphill continued. "We're not simply going to win the world just by knocking on doors on Monday night, and I believe in that. But we're going to have to have people that are salt and light in the marketplace, looking [at] every day and every opportunity as a Kingdom opportunity and a Kingdom moment."
Ultimately, Hemphill said the key purpose of each believer should be to advance the Kingdom of God for His power and His glory.
"I believe Southern Baptists' best days are before us, and you could not believe how much we could get done working together if we don't care who gets the credit," said Hemphill.
Meanwhile, the SBC president Bobby Welch shared his experience with his recent 50-state bus tour to promote evangelism.
Welch spoke of a recurring theme of his bus tour: 1 million baptisms in 1 year. In order to achieve this, Welch said, the church must open its doors to all people, not just the rich and powerful.
“We’ve got to see the church not as a fort but as a forward operational base,” said Welch. “We can no longer allow this thinking that people have to come to our church in order to get the Gospel or their life to be changed.
“That facility-based evangelism approach is going to drain the blood out of us and kill us off,” he said.
Welch also encouraged the denomination to “achieve unity of purpose for evangelism.”
”We cannot wait any longer. We have got to get serious about it and put our shoulder and heart to this wheel,” said Welch.
If Southern Baptists do not achieve this unity in evangelism, “Our own inactivity will prove the press to be prophets. That is unthinkable to me. I do not have any part in that. I am not buying into that,” Welch said, “And you are not either.”