Watch the report here. Read the report below.
Thank you, Dr. Gaines.
As I was struggling to prepare this report, my wife Cindy said, “Honey, shouldn’t you warn them that you are a layperson and not a pastor?” I told her that she needn’t worry about that, because you folks would figure it out for yourselves in the first couple of minutes. So bear with me.
At the outset, let me say a quick word about all the things being discussed recently about us in the press and social media. I am aware of all of them but have decided not to address any of them specifically. I will only say this.
Any broad-brush characterizations saying that all of us approve and accept all the actions of some of us are always unjustified, untrue, and (quite frankly) ridiculous. But I can think of a description of all Southern Baptists that is absolutely true, without question. We acknowledge that every single one of us is a sinner, and because of that, we need Jesus.
As I mentioned this morning, in this portion of your Executive Committee’s report, I will first cover our ongoing work, and provide some vital Convention statistics, and then toward the end I will discuss some of the greater challenges the SBC presently faces.
Let me begin by talking with you about our current leadership and transition.
As I am sure most of you are aware, a little over two months ago we experienced the unexpected departure of our Executive Committee’s president. Our chairman,
from whom you heard this morning, responded in a timely fashion, and in accordance with our bylaws, to call a special meeting of our board on April 17. During that meeting, among other things, a search committee for our next president was selected.
That meeting was a testimony to me. I can safely say that
- the way it was conducted,
- and the way the members stepped up in such great numbers to attend,
- and the way they then voiced their various and differing opinions,
- and deliberated,
- and prayed along the way,
- and then reached consensus decisions,
all taken together, painted an excellent picture of how business should be conducted in a Christian context. I was very proud of them all, and give glory to God for the spirit of the meeting.
So know this. Your Executive Committee is committed and unified in its sense of duty to you and your churches. And its staff, which I have the honor of temporarily leading, is extremely proud to serve a board like ours. Thank you for electing those fine men and women to serve as your Executive Committee.
Our presidential search committee, shown in this photo, is composed of seven members. This slide lists who they are, and where they serve.
Beside the spirit of that special meeting, the composition of this committee is yet another blessing.
Its members were nominated from the floor and chosen by a vote of the entire Executive Committee, thus indicating that they all have individually distinguished themselves and earned the trust needed to perform the important task of presidential recommendation.
And it is diverse! It includes both genders, has a healthy ethnic component, and includes two nationalities—American . . . and Texan!
They have already begun their work, as our EC chairman will mention something about where they are in that work in a few mentioned this morning.
From an operational standpoint, I can report to you that our work is continuing in a normal manner. Our change in leadership is not going to result in a change of direction. Our goal is to continue serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention in a trustworthy and God-honoring way, and I see no reason we cannot achieve that goal by performing well all of the assignments you have given us.
Let’s now move on to the state of health of our Convention.
Over the years, when we have sought to measure or describe our condition, we have gotten into the habit of using a fairly small set of indicators. Those indicators have been:
- Cooperative Program contribution totals and percentages
- The number of Southern Baptists
- The number of Southern Baptist churches
- The number of missionaries we have on foreign fields
- The number of baptisms in the most recent year
- The combined graduate count of our seminaries
If you think the list is not stated in a proper priority, I would agree with you whole-heartedly. But I did not list them in the order of their importance. I listed them in the order of my perception about how frequently they are used in our printed materials, in our public statements, and in our everyday Baptist conversations.
I could be wrong. You might have heard these measurements in a different order of frequency, but I think we would all agree that whatever the ranking, these are the numbers we hear most often.
Let’s look at our current numbers in these categories and in the order I presented them.
First, in regard to the Cooperative Program. . . .
This last year, for the second time in two years, and for only the fourth time in the entire history of the Cooperative Program, our state conventions cumulatively forwarded more than 40 percent on to the SBC for its missions and ministry causes. Even better, altogether, the states set a new high of 41.49 percent for the SBC’s part of the CP division.
I will discuss some additional ramifications of those state convention decisions in a bit, but let’s look at what they added up to. Last year, we received and distributed to our entities more than 197 million dollars from our portion of the Cooperative Program—the national part of it.
If you study pages 5 and 6 in your Book of Reports, you will see that not only is that amount more than we received the previous year, but more than we have received in the most recent six years! (And that is as far back as this report feature always goes—six years.)
Two weeks ago, LifeWay released the numbers from our most recent Annual Church Profile report from the churches. The number of Southern Baptists is still very high and significant (just over fifteen million);
the number of cooperating churches seems large and healthy (more than 47,500);
and the number of baptisms, while still declining, was slightly more than a quarter of a million.
I was disappointed, as I know you are, that our baptism numbers continue to decline, although, for the first time since 2009, worship attendance grew slightly, from 5.2 to 5.32 million.
With regard to the number of missionaries, NAMB has reported 5,200 missionaries, and the IMB reports having more than 3,500 missionaries serving overseas.
And all six of our seminaries are ranked among the top ten in the nation.
These figures are not only among the very best among other evangelical groups, they are really outstanding.
But while all of those things are true, and while you have come to expect our reports to be positive and upbeat, I think it is important that we not overlook the whole picture.
Let me use an analogy to give you a more complete report—a report that includes some facts we may be overlooking. I do want my report to be encouraging to you, but I also want it to cast a true picture so we can be inspired to reach greater heights.
While I do see the need to encourage us about where we ARE, I think we need to understand our actual position. If we see the whole picture, I think it will do a better job of motivating us to be who we should BE, and steering us to where we should GO.
This morning, I referred to the SBC as a very large ship—one that is certainly seaworthy, and one that has all the amenities its passengers might wish for. One that is solid and well-constructed, but one that may, at times, turn more slowly than we might wish so that it can remain stable.
Let’s stick with that analogy.
Adrian Rogers once said that it is not good practice to convey any sense of a sinking ship, “because no one tries to stay on one—everybody jumps overboard.”
The first thing I want you to know is that the SBC is certainly not a sinking ship. It may be a ship that is showing signs of age and it may even need some repair; but the need for maintenance is a normal thing, and all in all, down through the years, our ship has been maintained fairly well.
It could, however, be accurately characterized as a ship that is adrift. It appears to lack the power needed to forge through larger waves, or proceed through the seasonal storms. And if it cannot do those things, it cannot reach its destination. It needs the power of God.
If we really look at all our vital statistics, they tell us that we may have been concentrating on what or where the ship IS rather than where it should be GOING.
Let me first justify my statement about our ship’s maintenance, and then I will discuss what I believe to be the cause of our loss of propulsion.
I think it could be said that our “ship” may be showing its age, but it is still in seaworthy shape.
- As for the total CP—state and national—we still receive from our churches about a billion dollars every twenty-six to twenty-eight months to support our state and national missions and ministries.
- We are still the largest evangelical body in America, numbering over fifteen million congregants.
- We still serve more than forty-seven thousand churches that meet every Sunday, and faithfully preach sound doctrine.
- We still are deploying the largest fully-funded evangelical mission force to tell the world about Jesus.
- The ship has an excellent compass and rudder—the Bible and our statement of faith—The Baptist Faith and Message.
- Its decks are sound—local churches, associations, state conventions, and national convention.
- Each deck has plenty of quarters in which may be found all sorts of fellowships and subgroups—ethnic, age-bracketed, interest oriented, you name it.
- The ship has a good array of services and programs to enlist, equip, and deploy people on mission.
- Its communications are in good operation—SBC.net, Baptist Press, SBC LIFE, state papers, and the vast array of blogs, podcasts, and other social media platforms devoted to things of interest to Southern Baptists.
- Its various crew members and bridge officers are all capable and all undertaking their appointed tasks.
- And its amenities, my how they shine! Everything we need is on board and available. Everything.
Our problem in the SBC has never been a lack of worthy resources. We have so many that it may be difficult to quickly find the particular one we’re looking for, but a lack of tools and helps is not the problem!
And yet . . . our great ship, with all those good attributes . . . seems adrift. While the marvelous work of many on board is admirable, their efforts alone are not enough for the ship, as a whole, to pass muster.
Could it be that we are not underway because we are not under power?
Maybe we have thought everything was good because we have been looking at the wrong gauges on the bridge. Or maybe we have been misinterpreting their readings. Or maybe we have come to misunderstand something even bigger. Maybe we have forgotten who we are and what we should be doing. Maybe we have gotten used to the pleasures of being a passenger. Maybe we have come to think we are on THIS kind of ship . . .
. . . A ship with all those amenities I mention a bit ago. A ship that has everything WE need. A ship that serves US well. A ship that is comfortable, and safe, and work and worry free . . . when actually, we once understood that our ship was more like THIS . . .
A ship designed for hard work. A ship with no tourists, and only a well-trained crew. A ship equipped . . . not for pleasure—but for productivity. A ship that has everything OTHERS need . . . and desperately need.
And as for the gauges on the bridge, I think we actually have been misreading them, or perhaps not reading all of them. Let’s look again, and let’s start with the Cooperative Program gauge.
Our office—where your Executive Committee staff works in Nashville—is assigned the task of Cooperative Program promotion. In doing that work, we regularly report what we receive, and as I said earlier, our receipts have been improving. But what we receive does not tell the whole Cooperative Program story. We cannot forget that missions and ministries at the STATE level depend on the Cooperative Program too.
If you will excuse the analogy abuse, we cannot really assess the health of the whole ship without looking at state work, or we will “miss the boat.” So let’s look at the whole picture.
This first chart, in the bottom graph, indicates what our office—the national office—the SBC office—received through the Cooperative Program from 2000 to about 2008, just before the economic downturn.
Above that, it graphs the total amount received through the Cooperative Program—state and national combined—everything. As you can see, the graphs appear to be in a direct relationship, with both ascending.
Now let’s bring those graphs up to date to include the last ten years.
As you can see, in the bottom graph line, what we at the national level received took a dip at first, but then recovered pretty nicely. But what you can also see by looking at the top graph line is that our total CP giving has continued to decline.
Let’s look at another gauge to assess what is going on with Cooperative Program giving.
This chart includes the ACP figures that have just been released. It shows that the average CP percentage given by the local churches has declined at an alarming rate, from about 5.50 percent in 2013 to the 4.86 percent just reported. But it also shows the “gauge” we have had a habit of focusing on. The gauge that shows that the percentage the SBC receives from the states has been improving markedly.
How could that be?
The actual numbers show how. Look at this spreadsheet.
What it shows is that at the national level, our ministries were the beneficiaries of voluntary ministry sacrifices made by the states.
To their credit, last fall, Alabama became the sixth state convention to adopt at least a 50/50 split in CP gifts for state and national ministries, joining Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio at 50/50, Florida at 51/49, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its long-term 55/45 division for SBC causes. SBC Virginia is right up there with a 51/49 split less shared ministry costs.
We owe the state conventions a tremendous debt of gratitude for all they have done, while still carrying on their work in church planting, evangelism, education, benevolence ministries, church health and remediation, church revitalization, collegiate ministry, disaster relief, and a host of other missions initiatives in their respective states.
We should certainly applaud and otherwise greatly honor the voluntary sacrifice of the state conventions. But our more complete understanding of the CP gauge now brings us to the realization that in the last eighteen years, though our national ministry receipts have improved by just over $17 million, our state ministry support has shrunk by over $41 million. And the Cooperative Program—how has it fared? Our total Cooperative Program receipts have declined by 13.5 million dollars!
What should we take away from all this? I believe we can take away that Southern Baptists are a sacrificial people, and that we are willing to try to do more with less, but I also think we need to understand that while national ministries are being well funded, state ministries are not, and our total CP giving is not doing well at all.
As I have been discussing with you how to read and better understand what I have called the “CP gauge,” I have said a whole lot about the state conventions and their plight. Why would I report anything about the trials of other, smaller conventions? Because, ladies and gentlemen, they are us. Their ministries are OUR ministries.
The Cooperative Program is big deal NOT because it only supports big, national entities, like our mission boards and our seminaries and the others I referred to this morning. It is a big deal because it plays such a large part in ALL Southern Baptist ministry across the board, both state and national.
Our domestic base must be supported, and much of that work is done most effectively at the state level.
Dr. Ezell cannot lead NAMB to do all church planting by itself. College campuses must have a strong evangelical presence. The vital works of children’s homes and elder residences must be sustained. Church revitalization must occur, and the most important work—evangelism—must—it MUST—be abundantly provided for. And we all know that evangelism begins at the local level and is best resourced through statewide assistance and strategies.
While you absorb all that, I want to voice how it came to be that we use CP as a primary metric. There is a really good reason we fell into that habit. It is because we Southern Baptists have never thought of it as “money.” We always thought of it as “conversions.”
Actually, I love that about us. That is why I am a Southern Baptist. We believe the Bible, and that means that we believe in a real heaven, a real hell, and a real Savior. We are always willing to spend our money on missions and ministry as long as those missions and ministries contain a backbone of evangelism and soul-winning. For us, dollars spent must result, and will result, in evangelism and baptisms.
That is why we cite CP and the other simple metrics that we do. It is because we presume that those metrics indicate how well we are doing at leading people to Christ.
So let’s look at those simple metrics again. What about the number of Southern Baptists? Are we reaching new highs? What about the number of churches? What about the number of missionaries at home and abroad? What about our baptism count? What about our seminary output? I think you know the answer to all of these questions. With precious few exceptions—such as our number of churches and seminary students—these metrics have either plateaued or declined.
Our good ship—our very large, structurally stable, and well-equipped, and, yes, “comfortable” ship, seems to be adrift. And why is that?
It is because we have no power.
And why is that? Well, it is NOT because we have not rolled out, year after year, a new program, or produced another task force. Those things have their place, but they are accessories, not essentials.
It is not because our doctrine, our talent, our leadership, or any other aspect of the “maintenance” of our ship is grossly deficient. Maintenance is important, and there are errors and failures to be repaired along the way, but maintenance is not an end in itself.
And it is not because we have no engine. The Holy Spirit is within us. He is alive and ready to work in us and through us, but we are somehow quenching His power. And we are commanded in Scripture not to do that.
We have quenched the fire of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We need ignition to obtain power.
And we can turn that ignition switch on through repentance and obedience. Mine and yours. Through obedience we can release the power of God in and through us. We desperately need His power. We really have none of our own.
Examine this passage with me.
Look at verse 30. Do you see what it says there? Look at the subject matter that the middle comment is nested within. Isn’t this passage pointing directly at one way we are presently grieving—quenching—the spirit?!
If you think so, like I do, you will agree with me that we need to repent from doing these things. We . . . each one . . . need to do our part.
I have always been one of those Southern Baptists who had faith in God, faith in the organization, faith in the leadership, and faith in the Cooperative Program. I have loved “our being the best.” But I must admit to myself that often what I was admiring was what others were doing, while I just looked on, as a tourist on a cruise enjoying the scenery.
So fellow lay people, I want to say something on behalf of your pastor and your church staff. They cannot be the church all by themselves. They cannot do all the witnessing, all the discipling, and all the ministry. I do not see anywhere in Scripture the idea that the New Testament church had to “hire more ministers so they could tell more people about Jesus.” Lay people, WE are the church every bit as much as the staff.
Isn’t it great that God made us all a part of the crew in this ship of ours? We are told in Philippians 2:13 that He lives in us and works through us. Passages in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 teach us that it is all of us, working together, each one of us doing our individual part. Only by being obedient to our individual calling can we get started, which will then allow God’s power to work in and through all of us, as a unit. Trained, ready, each one at his or her assigned task onboard the ship.
If we are willing to do that, to each be obedient, or even to just to take the next step of obedience, only then will the ship’s rudder of sound doctrine steer us correctly to the destination God desires. Only then will the Holy Spirit, unquenched, provide us with maximum propulsion. And only then will we see what God’s power will produce.
Now if any of this analogy seems a worthy way of looking at our Convention, I can think of two things in the area of obedience we need to start with to bring our ship back under full power. Two very important things. Two very simple things.
We can witness, and we can tithe. Our theme for this meeting is all about that first thing.
If each Southern Baptist won just ONE person to the Lord this year, next year our baptism count would certainly set a record, but more importantly, over fifteen million people would not suffer hell. I will talk more about witnessing in a minute, because I want to end on that most important thing—telling others about Jesus at every opportunity.
As for tithing, yes, I said it was simple. I did not mean it might not put some of us under an economic strain. What I meant was merely that it is simple to know what to do, and to determine if we are doing it. All it takes is for each of us to move the decimal point in our salary figure one place to the left.
We are in Texas. Texans talk plainly. Let’s talk Texan.
Tithing means tenth. If we are not bringing a tenth of our income to the church storehouse in obedience to God, we are not tithing. Period.
And the way I read Scripture, tithing appears to be only a starting point, not a compliance maximum. In Luke 21 Jesus commended a woman who gave 100 percent, and three chapters earlier He refused to commend a man who claimed to always give 10 percent, so the right figure must be somewhere in the middle.
Maybe, because I am a layman, I don’t understand all I should about Scripture, but I have confidence that God will honor my tithing if I am doing it in an honest attempt to better obey Him.
Some might think that Malachi 3:8–12 and Matthew 23:23 don’t apply anymore. If they do, then the Lord can decide between us.
I do not mean to be self-righteous. My tithing may be a habit, but habits don’t make people righteous. Being washed in the Blood of the Lamb does. A real relationship with Jesus does.
I have not forgotten that I am supposed to be bringing a report to you about the SBC’s condition and about its production. What does tithing have to do with that?
Well, it applies this way. Multiple studies reveal that if those of us who earn a wage simply tithed and did nothing more, our CP receipts would quintuple.
Can you imagine? If we just tithed and DID NOTHING MORE we could afford five times the number of the missionaries at home. We could support five times the number of missionaries abroad. Maybe have five times the number of college ministries to reach and strengthen students, perhaps a similar increase in the number of the seminary graduates. By any estimate, we could certainly expect a gigantic increase in ALL OF OUR PRESENT FRUIT. And if it resulted in five times the number of converts, I could live with that, couldn’t you? I know THEY could “live” with it . . . eternally.
And all of that improvement would come from just that one simple act of obedience—TITHING. It would not even involve improving the average percentage our churches give through the Cooperative Program, although if that happened too, it would carry us to even greater heights of effectiveness in ministry.
Now, in the last few minutes of our report I want to make the connection between that other act of obedience I mentioned—witnessing—and our Leverage stewardship program.
You have already heard Dave Ramsey talk about the Leverage program that the Executive Committee is sponsoring. And I hope you heard that Dave is sponsoring it with us, matching our subsidy dollar for dollar, which we very much appreciate.
That program has three components. You have heard about the first two—Dave talked about Disrupting the Norm. Dr. Gaines has talked about Advancing the Gospel. I now want to tell you about the third component of Leverage—Seizing the Moment.
To wrap my mind around something, I always need to think of it in my own shorthand terms. I think of Dave’s part as helping us to get free. If one is going to run a race or do any sort of endeavor, he has to be untethered, unshackled, unhandcuffed. He cannot be restrained. He must be free.
If we are going to serve the Lord and be available to Him, we have to be freed up to do that. And if all we can think about and worry over is how we are going to pay the bills and feed and shelter our family, our schedules—our waking time—we will not be at God’s disposal. Neither will our financial resources, because we won’t have any.
For those reasons, I think of Dave Ramsey’s part, the first part, as the “Get Free” part.
The part Dr. Gaines spoke about, the part called “Advance the Gospel” is the centerpiece of the Leverage Program. It is the REASON we need to be good stewards. If we forget that reason, we run the risk of only becoming good money managers who never “Testify” to others about Jesus.
I will call that middle part the “Get Focused” part. Our object in Getting Free is not to feather our own nests or heap up worldly wealth. Our goal is to win the world to Christ. We must Get Focused on God’s purpose for our being good stewards.
Now the third part, the part I want to close with, has to do with Seizing the Moment. One must do all three things to serve well. He must Get Free to serve, he must Get Focused (or as one of our pastors has famously said, he must be “Purpose Driven”), and finally he must be ready to instantly respond to opportunities, because they evaporate quickly. I think of this third part as the “Get Going” part.
What holds us back from telling others about Jesus? Is it fear that we won’t have an answer to all their questions? Is it not knowing when or how to start? Is it the lack of preparation or of having a plan?
If we are really honest with ourselves, it may just boil down to a lack of trust.
Whatever it is, God has everything handled. He has all the answers we need. He knows when just the right time is to Testify. He will give you the words to start. He has the plan. It is not as hard as the devil wants you to think it is.
I once attended a meeting where the California state convention’s executive director, Fermín Whitaker, promised that when he spoke during the last session, he would share with everyone what he had discovered to be the very most effective witnessing strategy ever. Everyone stayed until the end to learn about it. And when he revealed it, he explained what it was using only three words. He said, “Open your mouth.”
He directed the attendees to Ephesians 6:19. He explained that God just asks us to trust Him and be obedient. He just asks us to be at His disposal—to be READY. He will take care of everything else. As the verse says, God will tell us what to say.
Is it really as simple as that? Does the devil have us all buffaloed about something that is really so simple? Yes, he does, or at least it seems so. And yes, it is really that simple.
Let me give you some examples.
I can remember a time when a lot of Southern Baptists commonly used a witnessing plan that sounded something like this—“Hey neighbor, it is ‘Fill a Pew Sunday’ at my church. Would you help fill mine? Afterwards we can go out and eat lunch together. I will buy.” Simple—right?
(Of course, you will have to “Get Free” to do be able to pay for the lunch. You will have to Get Focused to stay on track and remember that your neighbor’s eternal destiny is on the line. But this is certainly one way Baptists used to “Get Going.”)
To Get Going—to be ready to Testify—takes nothing more than valuing and listening to the Lord’s leading. Praying and then listening to God. Valuing His direction.
I once heard a story about a rural farmer who was taken on his first trip to New York. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the big city, his host and guide noticed a huge smile on the farmer’s face, and asked him what pleased him. The farmer said, “I heard a friendly sound—a cricket chirping.”
His host snorted and said, “How in the world did you hear THAT above all the noise?” The farmer said, “It is all about what you are listening for. People listen for what they value.” To make his point, he threw a few coins on the ground, and despite all the traffic noise, everyone around stopped walking, stopped talking, and began looking down to the pavement.
We need to value the still small voice of God. He will tell us when to Testify, and what to say.
Here is another example. Once, around 1900, a man noticed a small boy at the back of a building. The boy was sad because he could not get in to hear a speaker, which was a popular form of entertainment at the time. The man sensed an opportunity, and merely said, “I will get you in! Hold on to my coattail.” That is all he said, and the two went in the back door together.
Was that a good witnessing plan? Was that the right thing to say? Maybe. The man was D. L. Moody, who was to speak that day, and the boy was Paul Rader, who much later became one of America’s greatest preachers. That day changed the boy’s life. That simple act of “Testifying” by Moody. That is the power of God. I’m glad Moody “Got Going” that day.
My next example of how easy it can be to Testify involves a lawyer! (Imagine that.)
In September of 1879, Thomas McPheeters, an attorney, decided he needed to go to the office of a friend of his who was also a lawyer and quite prominent in politics. His friend had been a war hero, an elected legislator, and had also been appointed by President Grant to be the US attorney for Kansas. Unfortunately, this friend was also becoming an alcoholic.
Concerned about his friend, McPheeters entered his office and said, “For a long time I have been wanting to ask you a question that I have been afraid to ask, but that I am going to ask now. Why are you not a Christian?” He then simply handed his friend a pocket New Testament.
That question spawned a discussion, and not only did his friend accept Jesus as his Savior, he said that his passion for alcohol was immediately taken away.
That friend was C. I. Scofield, who later produced the Scofield Reference Bible.
My final example comes from the life of the author of a book I found some of these others in—a book entitled 50 People Every Christian Should Know. The author of that book is Warren Wiersbe.
I hope you have heard of him. He has worked for Youth for Christ, served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, and been the general director of Back to the Bible Radio Broadcast Ministries. His biblical commentaries have sold over four million copies. He recognizes as principal, among the factors in his conversion, two things: VBS and an invitation to attend a Billy Graham rally.
I took this photo last Sunday as I was leaving church. These ladies have no idea they are Testifying, but as they teach all those little kids in VBS John 3:16, that is EXACTLY what they will be doing. And among those kids may be another Warren Wiersbe, but whether there is or not, many will be saved.
You see? One can “Seize the Moment”—he can “Get Going” –without needing to be very knowledgeable, without having a memorized outline, and without having all the answers. Those things are helpful, of course, but it is most helpful to remember that God does all the leading, and provides the words. Some of the words He has already provided are in John 3:16. Those are great words, all by themselves.
On the day my wife and I landed at Love Field to attend this meeting, my wife had asked the Lord to show her someone who needed Him in their life. As we tried to find the shuttle stop, an airport employee saw us wandering around cluelessly and asked if he could help us. We told him what we were looking for, and he said “Follow me.”
On the way, Cindy merely said, “Has anyone ever told you about Jesus?” He said “No” but that he knew he needed to be better and go to church more.
Then she said “Can I tell you what the Bible says about how you can be sure you will go to heaven?” He had stopped in his tracks, and said, “Yes, yes I would.”
It took Cindy just a few moments to explain how he could receive eternal life.
He wanted to pray right then, in that parking building, and do all of that. He was so anxious to do it that he had no self-consciousness about doing it in public under the scrutiny of others walking nearby.
His prayer was so sweet and so well-worded. His apology to God was heartfelt, and so was his appreciation. When he lifted his head, the first thing he said was “I am so happy! I feel so much better.” He thanked us several times, and then shouted as he departed “I love you people!”
So, to sum up:
We just have to Disrupt the Norm and be available. We have to be able to act. We have to Get Free.
We have to Advance the Gospel. We have to Get Focused on our mission of evangelism.
And we have to have an active relationship with the Lord—one that that lets Him set the timing, one that listens for His instruction, and one that depends on Him to choose the words. But then we have to do OUR part. We have to obey Him by seizing the moment or the opportunity will disappear.
We have to Get Going.
We have to TESTIFY.
Lord, as it says in the Psalms, may we cultivate faithfulness in our land. Help us as Southern Baptists to open our mouths and boldly share the Gospel.
Mr. President, that concludes the Executive Committee report about where we are, who we are, and where we must go.
D. August Boto is interim president and executive vice president for Convention policy for the SBC Executive Committee.