Before leaving his post as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), Ed Yount challenged Baptist leaders this month to pray for revival and reexamine the priorities and purpose of their churches.
Yount noted there is much for Baptists in the state to be thankful for “yet, God has given [them] a tremendous task.”
“We live in a world of 7 billion people, and it is estimated that 6 billion of them do not know the Lord Jesus,” said Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, to messengers Nov. 8 during the BSC annual meeting.
“Of that number, 1.7 billion have no access to the gospel.”
Among the state’s 9.4 million people and more than 230 languages, it is estimated that 79 percent have no active church affiliation. And 5.6 million of them have not put their trust in Jesus, Yount reported.
Right now there are approximately 4,300 Southern Baptist churches in the state with more than 1.3 million Baptists. Among its congregations last year, more than 23,359 people were baptized. In the past five years, 613 churches have been added to the convention.
Yount, however, noted a low percentage of new Christians are joining evangelical churches across the country. According to a report from the North American Mission Board, 99 percent of the growth among evangelical churches has been “transfer growth” – people moving from one congregation to another.
Ed Yount, before leaving his post as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, challenged leaders to pray for revival in a nation that is no longer Christian.
“Only 1 percent is conversion growth,” Yount said. “… the population in America is 313 million, and now 232 million are estimated to be lost.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we no longer live in a Christian nation.”
“The fire is going to fall”
Reading from 1 Kings 18, Yount shared the story of Elijah and how he called down fire from God. Yount contended that “the fire is going to fall” again.
“The fire of God is going to fall on this convention,” Yount told the crowd, “… on our churches and on our nation, and it will be the fire of revival or it will be the fire of God’s judgment, but the fire is going to fall.”
Southern Baptists have become a distracted people, he said. Churches are becoming increasingly “inward.” Many are plateauing and declining.
“If you listen carefully … you can hear the death rattle in the throat of many of our churches today,” he said.
Many of today’s churches are not answering the challenge because they’re too consumed with programs, planning and new promotional campaigns.
“Misplaced priorities will inevitably lead to professional shepherds, developing new ways to entertain worldly sheep,” Yount said.
Yount shared a story of a new Christian, Herman. A few days after Herman placed his trust in Jesus, he shared his testimony with a friend. When the friend laughed at him, Herman told the man he was going to “bust hell wide open” if he didn’t turn his life over to Jesus. Herman’s friend began to “cuss [him].” Herman responded by burning his friend’s hand with a cigarette lighter and telling him, “You think that’s hot, boy? Well, hell is a lot hotter.”
Herman’s pastor later lectured him for not sharing his faith “the proper” way. The pastor told Herman he needed to enroll in “soul winning class” so that he could learn how to do it right.
Herman responded, “Preacher … He got saved! He wants to be baptized with me today!”
“I like the way Herman did it better than the way some of us are not doing it,” Yount said. “Here’s a man with no training. He’s just burdened about his buddy, and he found a way.”
Today’s churches face more competition than ever before, Yount contended.
“There is a revival going on today, but the Devil is having it,” he said.
“There is a revival of atheism, there is a revival of humanism, a revival of demonism, a revival of sorcery, a revival of immorality,” he said. “The most dangerous thing today is the surge and the interest of religion that has a form of Godliness but it denies the power of [God].”
Yount said it’s time for Baptists to put aside the “infighting and the petty bickering “ over “personal preferences” and fall on their faces before God.
“With my final words of challenge as your president, I plead with you … go back to your homes and go back to your churches and gather your families and gather your people around the altar of God and pray ‘Oh God, start a revival in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches,’” he said.
“‘Oh God, send a revival, let the fire fall.’”