I grieve at the news that our reported baptism numbers fell again this year, continuing our 50-year decline. Many Southern Baptists labor faithfully but unseen, in difficult places, and their success is not shown in numbers they can report. We salute and commend them. But many of us are disturbed at our increasing spiritual infertility in the midst of communities wandering further and further away from the gospel.
In the time I have remaining as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I want to work closely with SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Ronnie Floyd, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, our state convention executive directors, and our associational missions strategists to examine our reporting structures and process. We want to put every option on the table to revise the way we collect and report out annual church profile data. The better our processes, the more we can know and understand our landscape.
I join many in the call for awakening in our churches and in our land, but I am honestly afraid that often our call for awakening can become a smoke screen for inaction. The Son of Man came to do one thing: Seek and save the lost.
Too many of us care more about whether our side is winning in the news cycle than we do the souls of our neighbors, sow division on secondary issues more than we point people to Jesus, and focus more on preserving our traditions than reaching our grandchildren.
Regardless of our systems and structures, we know the Lord is the One who saves. God alone gives the increase. We also know that the more the gospel is proclaimed, the more our hearts yearn with implacable grief for the lost around us. The more we pray according to God’s promises, the more God will fulfill His promise to us to give us abundant fruit that remains, and the more we will look like the early church where “God added to their number daily those that were being saved.“
“Who’s your one?” is not just a slogan, but something that needs to be the very heartbeat of every Christian, every pastor and every church.
I call on Southern Baptists to lament this trend with me and ask God what He would have each of us do about it. I pledge myself to lead in that.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.)