People are tired of “clichéd, simplistic answers” and are less likely to attend conferences that present them, says frequent conference speaker Richard Blackaby.
Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International that sprung from the influential “Experiencing God” materials developed by his father, Henry Blackaby, addressed more than 250 who registered for the Baptist State Convention’s “Revive Us Again” prayer conference at Biltmore Baptist Church March 13-14.
What people truly seek, Blackaby said in an interview between speaking assignments, is an “encounter with almighty God.”
They have not been getting that, he said, because if they had, “God would have changed them.”
Attending conferences as a younger man, said Blackaby, 47, “the answers all seemed fairly straight forward. Conferences seemed the same. You were told the same thing over and over again. I find a certain disillusionment now. People are tired of clichéd, simplistic answers.”
Young leaders of “the most dynamic churches across the land” are “disillusioned” and “they don’t waste their time going to a lot of conferences that satisfied my generation,” he said.
The great temptation for conference speakers, Blackaby said, is to be “clever or entertaining, not prophetic.”
Blackaby, at age 31, became president of the Canadian Baptist Seminary. He also grew into a heavy travel and speaking schedule until after 13 years he was worn out. Three years ago he gave up the seminary presidency in favor of leading Blackaby Ministries International, with headquarters in Atlanta and staff in several other cities. He lives in Greenville, S.C. Henry Blackaby, 74, is still involved and they write together.
Answering questions on several topics of current concern, Blackaby said while Christians want to change the world, those in the world see Christians as “angry, judgmental and unloving people.”
He said Christians ought to be “broken hearted at the church” more than being upset with society or culture, because the “church has not been salty or light.”
“You never get upset at the darkness,” Blackaby said. “Dark does what dark is. The problem is always with the light not dispelling the darkness.”
He called “unBaptist” efforts to secure in the public forum privileges due the majority, such as the push for prayer in schools. He noted how Baptists “were in the vanguard” opposing the state church in Europe which insisted that school children must know the articles of Anglican faith.
“Historically Baptists have never pushed things like prayer in school until recent days when Baptists were in the majority,” Blackaby said. In the majority, Baptists assumed prayers in school would be led by Baptist teachers.
It is the family’s responsibility to teach a child to pray, and the school’s to teach math and science, he said.
He said the same Christians willing to take religious issues to the Supreme Court won’t walk across the street to witness to their neighbor. Christians interested in engaging culture must fight those battles “door to door, relationship to relationship, neighbor to neighbor where believers actually act like salt and light,” he said. If the only defense is the courts, “you’re going to lose the war.”
“We can’t convince our own children to follow our God but we want to legislate our views on our nation,” he said.
Being fairly knew to living in the States, Blackaby has observed that “Americans think you can really push your faith onto each other.”
With conservative Christian numbers in decline, he says logic shows that if you try to legislate beliefs onto others, “you’re going to discover at some point those same folks are going to start legislating against you and you’re going to lose.”
“We have to operate like the minority,” he said, and not assume the great majority of the population sees things like we do, even if they’re not Christian.
The “worship war” of recent years is a costly mistake, Blackaby said. When the worship service became the primary evangelistic tool of most churches, instead of developing Christians to be “dynamic witnesses to their neighbors,” they have been trained by neglect or intent to say “come to church” instead of come to Christ.
“So week after week you have services aimed at unbelievers,” he said, which will eventually starve believers who are not receiving instruction in the foundational truths for growth.
He also prefers a presentation of God more similar to that in Jeremiah—“will you not tremble in my presence?”—to that of modern services that present God as “our best friend” with whom we are “kind of chummy.”
“I love rock and roll,” he said, “but that’s not worship. People want to encounter God, and they come week after week encountering a rock band or a slick sermon instead.”
While “people of my generation” shake their heads at the music and tattoos of the young, he said we should apologize for the condition of the nation and of the Church which are in worse shape than what his generation inherited.
“What was handed to us was much better than what we’re handing to you,” he said.