Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. encouraged N.C. Baptists to seek a fresh work of God in their individual lives and in the lives of their churches.
Hollifield’s remarks came during his address to messengers at the BSC’s 187th annual meeting Nov. 7 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
BR photo by Steve Cooke
“We are living in a culture today that knows less and less about Jesus, when they should be hearing more and more about Him,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr. in his Baptist State Convention of North Carolina executive director-treasurer report.
The theme of the meeting was “Return to Me” based on Zechariah 1:3 and featured a special emphasis on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening that culminated with a prayer gathering on Tuesday night.
Preaching from the theme verse of Zechariah 1:3, Hollifield emphasized the promise that God would return to His people if they return Him.
“God declares that if His people will return to Him, He will restore the fellowship that has been broken as a result of their rebellion and disobedience, and they can know refreshing blessings from God,” Hollifield said.
Citing the temptation and tendency to drift away from God and His will for our lives, Hollifield said he believes many Christians are in need of a “fresh encounter with God.”
Hollifield highlighted five losses that Christians suffer when they are not living in fellowship and obedience to God. They include a loss of joy in Christ, a loss of vision to reach people, a loss of unity within the body of Christ, a loss of a kingdom focus and a loss of evangelistic zeal.
Hollifield shared several national and statewide statistics that showed declining baptisms in churches that affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The statistics were derived from data reported from churches as part of the Annual Church Profile (ACP).
Nationally in 2016, SBC churches reported the lowest number of baptisms since 1946, Hollifield said.
In North Carolina, churches reported nearly 18,400 baptisms in 2016, which reflected a decrease of approximately 1,500 baptisms in one year’s time. Additionally, 33 percent of churches reported zero baptisms in 2016, Hollifield said.
In 1997, N.C. Baptist churches reported the highest number of baptisms since 1975, totaling 27,511. When compared with 2016 figures, baptisms reported by N.C. Baptist churches have declined by more than 9,000 in the last 19 years, Hollifield said.
Additionally, Hollifield cited a statistic from Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, in which Rainer estimated that only 5-7 percent of SBC churches meet the definition of an “evangelistic church.”
“We are living in a culture today that knows less and less about Jesus when they should be hearing more and more about Him,” Hollifield said. “If we’ll be honest, many of us never have a gospel conversation with people who need Christ.”
Despite the declining trends in baptisms and other spiritual indicators, Hollifield offered a word of hope.
“God wants to send revival to His church,” Hollifield said. “The question I ask is, ‘Do we long to see God send revival?’”
The first step to revival is examining our hearts, confessing our sin and responding to God’s invitation to return to Him as indicated in Zechariah 1:3 and other passages of scripture, Hollifield said. “The Bible gives accounts of how God has listened to the heart cries of His people who were outside of fellowship with Him and living under His hand of judgment,” Hollifield said.
Saying that it’s been nearly 100 years since America has experienced a move of God that resulted in a widespread revival, Hollifield challenged pastors, church leaders and laity to lead their churches to seek the Lord in desperate prayer for spiritual awakening.
Hollifield shared testimonies of how God has moved in the lives of other denominations and individuals when they sought Him in prayer that also included confession and repentance.
He concluded with a reminder of God’s promise to His people in Zechariah 1:3.
“‘Return to me’ was an invitation for His people to humble themselves and pray to Him and repent of sin and return to the plan that He had for them,” Hollifield said.
“If that happens, then we can see refreshing occur in our churches, in our denomination [and] in our communities.”