There may be many causes
blamed when a failure occurs — promotion, lack of funds, the vision just wasn’t
Or, maybe it’s because
people tried to make something happen out of their own strength instead of
relying on power from God. “All of our blessings as a denomination and as a
state convention are prayer blessings, and all of our failures are prayer
failures,” said Ed Yount during the president’s address Nov. 9 at the Baptist
State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting.
Yount spoke from Acts
4:31-33 and called on North Carolina Baptists to return to a life devoted to
prayer. The scene in this text is one where God pours out His Holy Spirit and His
followers are able to boldly proclaim the gospel. The text notes that the whole
place where the disciples gathered was actually shaken. Great movements of God
such as this never happen “because they are planned by men and put on a
calendar. They cannot be worked up. They must be prayed down,” Yount said.
“The greatest need in our
nation, in our denomination, in our state convention and in our local churches
is for the people of God to put aside the sins that so easily beset us, to
repent and forgive one another, and to gather together before Holy God on our
knees in humility and prayer.”
In 1950 the population in
America was about 151 million and the Southern Baptist Convention included
27,788 churches. Just two years ago, 44,848 churches made up the SBC. Now, in
2010, the population is about 310 million. While the population has doubled and
more than 17,000 churches have been started, Southern Baptists baptized almost
34,000 less in 2008 than in 1950. In 1972, 140,000 young adults were baptized
and in 2008 that number decreased to 75,000.
“Who can look at a report
like that and deny that this is not a clarion call to prayer?” Yount said.
Yount gave three reasons
why, based on Acts 4, God’s people are not living lives of prayer and therefore
not fully living into the purpose He created them to fulfill.
First, God’s people do not
encounter God because they do not recognize His presence. As more and more
adopt the perspective of a secular humanist, they in essence dethrone God,
deify man and “the result is a spiritual vacuum in the hearts of millions of
people who are turning to idol worship and false religion,” Yount said.
When believers pray they
start to encounter the holy and living God. The Greek word for prayer used in
Acts 4 means to beg, or to long for. When prayer like that happens, when people
put aside personal agendas and long to experience God’s presence through
prayer, “something is going to happen,” Yount said.
Power comes through prayer.
In Acts 4 the disciples did not pray and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit,
but because they sought God’s presence He responded in a remarkable way and
gave them His Holy Spirit. This scene in Acts comes during a time of intense
persecution for Jesus’ followers. Yet, they prayed for power to be able to
endure and to be faithful witnesses of all they learned from Jesus.
When believers pray for
God’s power they are acknowledging they cannot do anything in their own
strength. This means believers surrender to God’s lordship and His sovereignty.
When God is in control, nothing can thwart His plan or purpose, not even the gates
of hell, as noted in Matthew 16. “Regardless of the circumstances, we belong to
a cause that will not and cannot fail,” Yount said.
Yount reminded messengers
that they are not in control of the ministry God has called them to or even the
church they serve. “The church does not belong to you or me. It does not belong
to the leaders or members. It belongs to Jesus,” Yount said. “You didn’t die
for the church — Jesus died for the church.”
Not only do believers
encounter God and embrace His power through prayer, but they also expand the
Kingdom by realizing His purposes. “That’s our marching order,” Yount said of
God’s command to expand His Kingdom.
Acts 4 describes the
disciples as “giving witness” to the resurrection. Considering Jesus died on a
cross to save sinners, “how can we do anything less than give witness to the
resurrection of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world?” Yount asked.
More than 3.5 billion of the
world’s population has never had adequate opportunity to hear the gospel of
Jesus Christ. According to the statistics, more than 150,000 people die every
day in the world. “The sad fact is that most of them perish in a Christ-less
grave, and the average Christian just doesn’t care,” Yount said.
Taking the gospel to the
nations seems an impossible task, and it is apart from God’s power. “The Bible
says all things are possible with God. It all begins with a return to the
priority of prayer,” Yount said. “Genuine prayer before Holy God leads to
passionate hearts and soul winning churches.”
“The fields are white unto
harvest. It is time for us as North Carolina Baptists to expand the Kingdom by
realizing His purpose and the purpose is to give witness to the resurrection of
Jesus Christ,” Yount said.
Yount concluded his message
by sharing an illustration used by evangelist Gypsy Smith. Smith said those
wanting to see spiritual awakening must draw a circle around themselves and
then cry out to God to bring revival to everything in that circle.
“That’s where it has to
start,” Yount said. “It has to start today with me. It has to start today with
you. It has to start with all of us.”