NASHVILLE, Tenn. — America’s financial crisis has created an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to live out their trust in God before a nation consumed with fear, Morris H. Chapman told members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 16.
“Our nation has been brought to its knees financially. Now the question is, ‘How shall we respond?'” said Chapman, the Executive Committee’s president and chief executive officer. “So many in our generation have tried and tested many gods only to discover none of them has the answer to the emptiness in their hearts. If the financial collapse in the United States has reverberated to every nation on earth, could not the fresh wind of God’s Spirit also reach every continent in the world?”
Financial crisis can give birth to spiritual awakening but only if Christians are willing “to abandon all of self for all of Christ,” Chapman said.
“God’s fresh wind can and will happen only when the church is ready to provide real spiritual leadership, to teach kingdom values to the new-born in Christ, to do ministry, and to fulfill the Acts 1:8 imperative,” Chapman said.
Times of crisis call for courageous leaders who will challenge their communities to replace fear with faith, Chapman said.
“Difficult circumstances are the platform on which God reveals His supernatural activity,” Chapman said. “When we hold nothing back in the face of difficult circumstances, our response will allow God to demonstrate His supernatural power through us. We must take our eyes off the crisis and fasten them on Jesus. Christ alone can bring calm to the fear of the human heart.”
The financial crisis also gives Christians an opportunity to immerse themselves in God’s Word, pray that God would raise up prophetic leaders and tune in on the ministries God wants them to undertake, Chapman said.
He cited the example of College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn., which posted a message on their marquee saying people could text prayer requests to a cell phone number. The result was a flood of responses.
Chapman read one of the text messages the church received, from a woman whose son had attempted suicide and the family was forced to make the decision to take him off life support.
“Now I feel like I have murdered my son,” the message said. “My mother passed away nine weeks later. My father lives in my home now and is on hospice, suffering from congestive heart failure. My husband is looking at the possibility of closing his business due to the economy and health reasons. We have bills piling up. We have a home in a nearby town that we are trying to sell to pay off our debt. PLEASE PRAY!!”
“That’s the desperation of the world,” Chapman said. “This open door for ministry we are experiencing in our country may not occur again in our lifetime. … Start a prayer hot line, restock your clothes and food closet, offer financial counseling and share the gospel with boldness and abandon.”
Chapman also called on families and congregations alike to focus on the Acts 1:8 command of Christ to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Giving in to fear and drastically reducing missions giving would have severe repercussions around the world — both now and in eternity.
“The financial cost of having to bring missionaries home from the field would only be exceeded by the loss of opportunity to see the Great Commission completed in our generation,” Chapman declared.
Chapman offered several suggestions for staying on mission in a time of financial crisis:
- Replace fear with faith. Allow God to demonstrate His power to provide.
- Base your budget on your mission. Make every line item in your budget essential to the purpose and vision of your church.
- Have a spending plan to follow in the event that there will be a lengthy recession. The integrity and wisdom with which the church handles its resources will be a testimony to our people and to the world.
- Call on everyone to give. “If data is accurate, the church doesn’t have a spending problem; it has a giving problem,” Chapman said. “Twenty-five percent of the church attendees give 85 percent of its resources.”
- Challenge people to exercise “grace giving” during the “financial famine.” “For many of our people, it would be a whole new concept to be generous with what they don’t have, so to speak, as compared to being generous when there is an overflow of material things,” Chapman said.
- Exercise boldness when it comes to critical components of our cooperative work. “We could undo in a few years what it has taken years to put in place when it comes to the deployment of missionaries here and around the world,” Chapman said. “If we believe we need more missionaries and not less, we must remain the missionary-minded people our forefathers led us to become.”
Southern Baptists must not allow themselves to focus inward when it is time to look out onto fields “white unto harvest,” Chapman added.
“We have, over a period of nearly 30 years, discussed just about every nuance of Southern Baptist doctrine, and we must always be vigilant, standing upon the Word of God,” Chapman said. “But it is time for Southern Baptists to stop doctrinal nitpicking among ourselves. It is time for every leader in the Southern Baptist Convention to talk of Christ and Christ alone.
“Southern Baptists in the pew and on the streets need to hear a word of God that will reverberate throughout this nation and around the world,” Chapman declared. “We need men who will stand and point the way to those who are in lostness and darkness and have no light in their souls.”
Southern Baptists as a whole have not given as sacrificially as they could have during years of plenty and now face the challenge of lean years, Chapman noted.
“I’m afraid we have squandered the bountiful resources God gave us during the last two decades of prosperity. We spent more on ourselves than we did on missions. We consumed God’s blessing rather than conveying it to others,” Chapman said. “The crisis of a lifetime is here. One final question we need to ask ourselves: Are we willing to miss the opportunity to model what it means to be a child of the King and a citizen of the Kingdom?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.)