While movies, television shows and the Internet continue to be among the most influential factors in our culture today, Christians are falling short in using them to spread the gospel, contends Alex Kendrick, actor, filmmaker and associate pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Ga.
“We’ve got to wake up to the fact that the same old, same old doesn’t necessarily reach an ever-changing culture,” said Kendrick, who has helped Sherwood Films make “Flywheel,” “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous.”
Kendrick was among a variety of speakers that included father-son duo Rusty Martin Sr. and Jr. of Garner – both in the movie “Courageous” – at Culture Reach, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s evangelism conference held Feb. 27 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The one-day event drew a crowd of more than 800 pastors, church leaders and others from around the state.
Christians must unify and strive toward reaching their culture for Christ, Kendrick said.
As North Carolina faces an opportunity to define marriage between a man and a woman on May 8, Kendrick warned of liberal agendas that continue to work against biblical views of marriage, the family, schools and nearly every facet of society.
“We need to be involved in our government, the courts, country, entertainment, education,” he said.
“What are we doing to unify the body of Christ? We have to come together … We have the gospel, we need unity.”
A nation in trouble
“Folks we are losing the battle for our culture,” said Alex McFarland, who speaks nationally on apologetics and is a guest contributor on Fox News.
“I’m not doom and gloom,” he said. “I’m not a pessimist … but the kids and the grandkids are going to be living in a dark world if we don’t get on our knees and pray for heaven to come down.
BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Alex Kendrick leads a prayer during Culture Reach Feb. 27 in Winston-Salem. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina hosted the one-day state evangelism conference. Kendrick is a writer, actor and producer for Sherwood Pictures.
“Aside from the fact we’re losing the culture, our neighbors are dying and going to hell.”
McFarland, who has debated numerous personalities on the popular news channel, challenged the crowd to prepare to defend their faith – but to do it in a loving, Christ-like way.
“Apologetics is not a license to be abrasive,” he said. “We use good arguments, but we are never to be argumentative.”
The world has changed. In 1900, more than 80 percent of the Christian population in the world was in Europe and North America, said Alvin Reid, an associate dean and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Today, it’s less than half of that number.
“[The United States] is the fourth-largest lost nation in the world,” Reid said. “We are an international mission field.”
Reid linked part of the problem with a failure to reach younger generations for Christ.
“We have the largest group of teenagers in the history of America right now,” he said. “And yet Southern Baptists reach about half as many teenagers today as we did in the early 70s.”
For those who have a desire to reach younger generations for Christ, Reid summed up the solution in one word.
Young people need to be seen as the church of “now,” instead of tomorrow. Too many of them are being marginalized and underestimated, he said. During his message, Reid interviewed a group of teenagers from Calvary Baptist Church who have started a ministry to help stop human trafficking. Their ministry is at saveoursisterstoday.com.
“This is just a ninth grade Sunday School class in a Baptist church,” said Reid, noting that students are hungry to learn and make an impact for Christ. “If [teenagers] can learn trigonometry in the high school, they can learn theology in the church.”
Too many churches, however, are too focused on their youth having fun, eating pizza and keeping them safe, said Merrie Johnson, senior consultant for youth ministry with the Baptist State Convention. Not enough churches are focusing on teaching them about Jesus.
According to a Gallup study, 88 percent of students drop out of church by the time they graduate from college. Half of them will leave church and never come back.
Only one out of 10 has a living vibrant relationship with God, Johnson reported.
“Nine don’t,” she said. “We’ve got to be passionately persistent and follow after them. Students need someone to commit to them long enough to outlast all of their push away protective techniques.”
“They will do what we expect,” she said. “If we expect them to graduate and go off to college and party for a while, guess what? They will. If we expect them to catch on to the fact that they are missionaries to a lost culture, [they will].”
Meeting the ‘deep’ need
Problems in many of today’s churches also can be traced to watered-down preaching said, Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg.
“I believe that every message preached ought to be an evangelistic message,” he said.
“Any preaching that is void of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is not Christian preaching.”
“I submit to you that many a sermon delivered in many of our Southern Baptist churches today could be preached in a Jewish synagogue and wouldn’t offend a rabbi.”
Chuck Register, executive leader of missions development for the Baptist State Convention, challenged pastors to preach an evangelistic message and baptize new believers on Easter, which is part of the 2012 Find It Here: Expanding the Kingdom emphasis.
Evangelism should be a part of everything the church does, Register said.
“There are millions of people, billions of people on planet earth that are screaming for North Carolina Baptists to [share the gospel with them],” he said. “They do not want us simply to build a shelter. They do not want us simply to serve a hot plate when we arrive.
“When we arrive they really want us to meet the deepest, darkest need of their life. It is the need for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
For more information about Find It Here, go to finditherenc.org or call (800) 395-5102.