Southern Baptists must act, akin to Queen Esther on behalf of her people, because “the stakes are high” in the church and in the world today, Ronnie Floyd said June 14 in his presidential address to messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in St. Louis.
“More Christians around the world are being persecuted and killed for their faith than any other time in modern history,” said Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “And with the continual and growing threats of Boko Haram, ISIS and other persecution, we are seeing one of the most severe refugee crises in our generation.
“Simultaneously, with over 6,000 unreached people groups globally, we as Southern Baptists are reducing our mission force by 1,000 missionaries. Southern Baptists, the stakes are high,” Floyd said.
Photo by Adam Covington
During his final presidential address, Ronnie Floyd, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), encouraged attendees to pray for America and for the SBC. Floyd gave his address during the opening session of the SBC annual meeting Tuesday, June 14 in St. Louis. Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
Laws protecting traditional marriage have been overturned, government overreach has extended to the restroom and the dignity of human life is being demeaned, Floyd said, yet “these things are not some new morality. They are signs that our nation is on the ragged edge of moral insanity.”
“As spiritual leaders, there is not one of us who can sit out in this critical hour,” Floyd told more than 6,000 messengers. “Now is not the time for churches in America to call time-out and retreat to their land of comfort and sit around dissecting their theology and the theology of others.”
Floyd called on laypeople to “be more engaged on Sundays than ever before,” but also to “intentionally integrate your faith on the front lines of our culture in everything you do regardless of where you are.”
Referring to Esther 4:13-17, Floyd said God sees what people do not see, and God’s faithfulness and providence are present everywhere.
“Providence placed Esther at the right place at the right time to accomplish the purpose of God,” Floyd said. “To every pastor here today and those of you watching online and to every church leader, God has you where you are at the right time to accomplish the purpose of God.
“… America is in a crisis today. We are on the precipice of either experiencing awakening or falling into an abyss. We cannot be adrift in denial any longer. We must face our future honestly,” Floyd said.
America is facing a leadership crisis, as evident in the race for president of the United States, Floyd said, and America is facing a racial crisis.
“Any form of racism defies the dignity of human life,” Floyd said to applause. “Regardless of the color of one’s skin, God has put His divine imprint on each one of us.”
Floyd identified five ways Southern Baptists need to respond in the current high-stakes climate.
1. Now is the time for Southern Baptists to come together.
“In this social media world, we need to cease writing or saying things that can be easily misunderstood,” Floyd said. “We need to understand that one day we will answer to God for every blog, article and tweet we write, and every conversation we have with one another.”
2. Now is the time for Southern Baptists to lead.
“We need to lead more than just in number of churches and members as the largest Protestant denomination in America. We must lead with influence,” Floyd said.
3. Now is the time for Southern Baptists to evangelize.
“Pastors and church leaders must adjust their thinking and prioritize evangelism in their church, both personal evangelism and church evangelism. We talk about the gospel more than we actually advance the gospel,” Floyd said. “Pastors, whatever you do, present the gospel through your preaching and call people to respond to Jesus Christ weekly.
“… While theological debate is ascending and is applauded loudly in our convention, evangelistic fervor and fire is being extinguished and the masses are silent about it,” Floyd said.
4. Now is the time for Southern Baptists to give.
Floyd thanked Southern Baptists that giving through the Cooperative Program this year is up 2.65 percent, reflecting an increase of 6.13 percent over the projected budget for 2015-16. He also cited increases in giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, and he urged Southern Baptists to prioritize stewardship.
5. Now is the time for Southern Baptists to pray.
“You may have given up on America, but God hasn’t. You may have given up on your church, but God hasn’t. You may have given up on ministry, but God hasn’t. You may have given up on yourself, but God hasn’t. Our God can do anything, anytime, anywhere with anyone. God can do more in a moment than you could ever do in a lifetime,” Floyd said.
“… The church cannot call America to repent until the church repents. We need to repent of our prayerlessness. We need to repent of our unbelief. We need to pray for ourselves to get right with God and right with one another in this critical hour.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)