With many people on their knees – some face down on a concrete floor – in prayer, North Carolina Baptists kicked off their 182nd annual meeting Nov. 12 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex Special Events Center in a spirit of prayer and worship. Much of the routine business was merely a side note to an evening focused on spiritual renewal.
The opening night crowd – a modest gathering of more than 1,000 messengers and others – heard how N.C. Baptists had provided 280,000 meals in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. They heard how lives were being impacted through ministry partnerships in places like India, Haiti, Armenia and Moldova. These reports helped highlight an evening centered around the annual meeting theme “Awaken.” Prayer and worship – the praise band leading in more than 20 worship songs – dominated the evening.
“For the last several months we’ve been praying that hearts would be awakened,” Mark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and pastor of First Baptist Church, Charlotte, told the crowd.
“Our time together in Greensboro … has been the object of much prayer,” he said, noting that coordinators sought to make this year’s annual meeting “unlike any annual meeting.”
“They sense the Holy Spirit calling North Carolina Baptists to action. They sense that God has something very special he wanted to accomplish during our annual meeting.”
For the last 30 days, in response to the request of the convention, some N.C. Baptists set aside time to pray daily for God to awaken his people, draw them closer to Him and stir their hearts to tell others about Jesus.
“No one in this room knows how much longer we have on this earth, nor do we know which day on earth will be the last for our family, our friends, our neighbors and coworkers who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior,” Harris said.
With more than 70 percent of North Carolina Baptist churches either declining or failing, God’s people must recognize the urgency of their calling, added Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the BSC.
“Here in our beloved state of North Carolina we know from research that has been done [that] there’s 5.6 million people who live in this state who do not profess to know Jesus Christ as their Savior,” he said.
“Seventy nine percent – that’s almost 80 percent of the residents of this state – have no active church participation.”
The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention reports that there are more than 6 billion people in our world who are spiritually lost, Hollifield said. According to the North American Mission Board, there are 260 million people in the United States and Canada who do not know Christ as Savior.
Hollifield added he’s also concerned about the lack of “spiritual growth within the fellowship of believers.”
“It is both grand and magnificent to establish goals and plans to reach the lost of our state in this world with the gospel,” he said. “But … Southern Baptists have no hope to see our goals become a reality unless we experience a return to holiness so that God can empower us to accomplish his will.
“Spiritual awakening revival is a work that only God can do, but we also know that he chooses to work through his people when they are obedient and responsive to his invitation.”
Prayer – among other factors such as brokenness and repentance – are key to a true spiritual awakening, Hollifield said.
“There is power in prayer. When we pray, we get hold of God. But God also get’s a hold of us, and we become different both in attitude and in action,” he said.
“Those people who prevail in the prayer room of Pentecost will experience God’s power unleashed in their lives.”