Morris H. Chapman's Address to the SBC Executive Committee September 21, 2009
During my final year in office as president of the Executive Committee of the SBC, I would like to announce a prayer initiative to support the Great Commission Resurgence. Many of us have longed for a Spiritual Awakening — a true Holy Spirit empowered, culture-changing anointing of God upon His people and our land. This prayer initiative is simple in application, yet its potential impact is profound. I am asking you as members of the Executive Committee, executive staff, entity heads, and guests to join me in praying daily for "Just One More Soul."
Seventy years ago, B. B. McKinney wrote these powerful lyrics:
Lord lay some soul upon my heart and love that soul through me;
and may I bravely do my part to win that soul for Thee.
You will notice that these lyrics properly relegate the winning of each soul to the Lord, for only the Holy Spirit can generate life in the heart of a wayward sinner. And yet, we must bravely do our part. What is our part? It is threefold — it is to pray for the lost, go to the lost, and speak with the lost about the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
British Baptist William Carey sparked intense theological debate and methodological opposition in 1792 when he penned a short booklet entitled An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. What was controversial about this small volume? The insistence that we must use means — that we must bravely do our part — to convert the lost. God's part is to win; our part is to witness.
British Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller, who preached Carey's ordination service, provided an intellectual framework for Carey's evangelistic passion and theological assertion that we have an obligation to use means for the conversion for the lost.
Soon, young pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon was making waves of his own. He challenged the hyper-Calvinists of his day by preaching passionately for the souls of men and women, establishing an inquiry room for those who came under conviction, and repudiated the grammatical hijinks of those who sought to limit the love of God and hinder the free offer of God's gracious invitation to repent, believe, and be eternally saved. Among his notable written legacy is his powerful volume called The Soul-Winner.
In this volume, Spurgeon chided one of his students who lacked an expectant spirit that the Lord would save someone every time he preached the Gospel.
"You may have heard the story of one of our first students, who came to me and said, 'I have been preaching now for some months, and I do not think I have a single conversion.' I said to him, 'And do you expect that the Lord is going to bless you and save souls every time you open your mouth?' 'No, sir,' he replied. 'Well, then,' I said, 'that is why you do not get souls saved. If you had believed, the Lord would have given the blessing.' I had caught him very nicely; but many others would have answered me in just the same way he did. They tremblingly believe it is possible, by some strange mysterious method that once in a hundred sermons God might win a quarter of a soul."
In essence, Spurgeon urged his preacher boys to "bravely do their part" to win some soul for the Lord.
It seems as if we as Southern Baptists have lost our passion for personal evangelism. In 1954, J. N. Barnette wrote an intriguing Study Course volume entitled One to Eight. It was a manual taught in our Southern Baptist churches encouraging personal evangelism through small groups, with a goal of an evangelistic ratio of one-to-eight.
Our historical baptism records show that those who were poised to win the world in the 1950s and 1960s readily engaged the culture in which they lived. They had a passion to win the lost at any cost.
It is time we quit debating evangelism, decrying the lack of baptisms, and disrespecting the generations for whom personal evangelism was front and center. Last year, our baptism records reflected a disappointing ratio, not of 1:8, but 1:48!
Have we become too technologically sophisticated to actually go out where the people are and engage them in personal conversation with an intention of persuading them of the Gospel?
When was the last time you sought to engage a lost person in a conversation about the Gospel in an intentional effort to win that soul to faith in Jesus Christ? Scripture is clear, both in precept and by example, that we are to use "means" — verbal means — to win the lost to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Note the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 — you shall be My witnesses — witnesses to the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Note the examples of evangelism woven throughout the rest of the book: words like explaining, reasoning, testifying, preaching, persuading, demonstrating, teaching, proclaiming, heralding, and warning!
What is the one thing each of these words has in common? In each instance, these were spoken words — spoken to individuals who were lost and in need of a Savior. Spoken with urgency. Spoken with passion. Spoken with confidence in the Lord's willingness to save all who would come to Him. Some believed. Some did not. The Apostles made no distinction in sharing the Gospel. They sought to win the lost at any cost.
I think of Jesus telling the woman at Jacob's well that He is the Messiah and the water of life (John 4).
I relate with the cry of the father of the child with mute spirit, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9).
I am challenged when I read of Andrew first finding his own brother Simon Peter and bringing him to Jesus (John 1).
I smile as I hear Philip explaining the "Gospel according to Isaiah" to the Ethiopian eunuch in the Judean wilderness (Acts 8).
I see Peter still wrestling to understand God's vision when a knock on the door leads him to tell the Good News to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10).
I feel the passion of Paul as he shares his personal testimony of conversion and urges Agrippa to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord (Acts 26).
I weep as I see Stephen heralding forth the Gospel even while the stones are striking his body (Acts 7).
How often have we quoted and cited Acts 1:8 for a variety of reasons and with multiple applications? But, how often may we have glossed over the opening phrase: You shall receive power ...
Physicists tell us there are two kinds of power or energy: kinetic (energy in use) and potential (energy stored). The Lord did not create us in Christ Jesus to become batteries, storing and holding power within ourselves. He created us to be conduits, electrical lines, charged particles, delivering evangelistic light and heat to our dark and cold world. The power only flows when the switch is on, and for us, the switch is our lips when we tell the Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost and lonely man or woman, boy or girl.
This is the consistent testimony of the Book of Acts. The power of the Gospel flowed when the lips of the evangelists moved. Let me say that again — the power of the Gospel flowed when the lips of the evangelists moved.
The human tongue is the switch that releases the power of the Gospel. When the tongue is silent, we are no more useful to the Kingdom than a stump in the forest. When the tongue is silent, we are like the sheer cliff face rising above the forest below — beautiful to behold, but aloof, inaccessible, revealing the glory of God's new creation in us, but ineffective in proclaiming the Law of the LORD that alone is able to convert the soul. It is only when we open our mouths that we become His witnesses — and only then does the power flow!
What is God's part in the salvation of the lost? Of course, He prepares the soil of the human heart to receive the Word of God. He sends the sunshine and rain.
What is our part in salvation of the lost? To tell the Good News — intentionally, willingly, joyfully, courageously, faithfully, obediently ... and most of all, prayerfully. It seems apparent to me that soul-winning is the ultimate spiritual discipline.
We can pray ... and never tell.
We can read the Bible ... and never tell.
We can fast ... and never tell.
We can give ... and never tell.
We can attend ... and never tell.
We can meditate ... and never tell.
But the moment you open your mouth in witness, you are driven to pray, you are driven to know the Word more fully, you are driven to fast, you are driven to give, you are driven to attend, you are driven to meditate.
As I've already mentioned, I would like for this to be my challenge to you and to our larger Southern Baptist family during my final year as president of the Executive Committee. When I was elected president of the Convention in 1990, we were in year eleven of the Battle for the Bible — the Conservative Resurgence. As I prepare to pass the baton of leadership of the Executive Committee in 2010, I hope we will be in year two of a Great Commission Resurgence.
Two months after I was elected president of the Convention in 1990, I had the privilege of participating in a phenomenal evangelistic crusade in the nation of Kenya. The Lord allowed me to see and experience a mighty work of God. For these past nineteen years, I have longed for and prayed for a Spiritual Awakening to take place in my lifetime. This was the motivation behind calling for Crossover Atlanta in 1991, Kingdom Families in 2000, forming the EKG Task Force, and launching the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative in 2002.
Next September, I will conclude twenty years of visible leadership in Southern Baptist life. I can think of no more fitting farewell than to see us come together as Southern Baptists under the banner of evangelism, in obedience to Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Peter 3:15, and Romans 1:16.
I announce my retirement with mixed emotions. The past seventeen years have been some of the most rewarding years a minister of the Gospel will ever experience. The relationships, the vision, the opportunities for service have been both challenging and fulfilling. I have been privileged to see the best of what makes the Southern Baptist Convention great — its people, pastors, denominational servants, and fellow entity heads. At the same time, trying to give guidance to an organization as complex and decentralized as the SBC may be one of life's most challenging responsibilities.
I shall be in constant prayer as our chairman appoints a transition team to secure the services of my successor. I do so in quiet confidence that our gracious Father will guide their steps to the person He already has prepared for this role for such a time as this.
I also pledge to pray this prayer each day during this next year as well: "Just one more soul, dear Lord. Just one more soul."
Imagine if ...
Every church in the Convention adopted this prayer. We would see an increase of 45,000 baptisms next year, moving us from 341,000 to almost 400,000.
Imagine if ...
Every Sunday School class adopted this prayer. I have no way of knowing how many Sunday School classes, small groups, or cell groups meet weekly in our churches. Let's say there is an average of only five per church. This could result in five classes per church times 45,000 churches resulting in 225,000 new souls added to the Kingdom, plus the 341,000 we baptized this year. A record year in baptisms would be reached with little additional effort — just one more soul per class, per church, per pastor, per Executive Committee member, per entity head.
I pray that 2009-2010 will be a year of a Great Commission Resurgence — a recapturing of the passion for lost souls. Will you join with me in praying during this year: "Just one more soul, dear Lord; just one more soul." And, when He gives you one, pray it all over again. And when He gives you another, pray it all over again. And again, and again, and again.
I ask all pastors and heads of Southern Baptist organizational life to call your people together. In a spirit of worship, ask all who will to pray for one person every day until that person is saved or one of you dies. Ask them to make their pledge by coming to the altar. While they are standing and/or kneeling, ask them if they will trust God to help them witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ and Him crucified until they are saved, reject the Gospel outright, or one of you dies. If and when the person is saved, encourage them to obey the Lord Jesus Christ by following Him in believer's baptism. If you will do this several times during the coming months, those who actively witness as members of your church or organization will multiply significantly. As a result, you may see hundreds, even thousands come to Christ. It's worth a try. This would be a Great Commission Resurgence.
My prayer is that we shall give our Lord Jesus Christ all the glory. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21, KJV).