In 1953, the Southern Baptist Convention set a goal of enrolling one million new people in Sunday School the following year. They called it the “Million More in ’54” campaign.
It was a crazy big goal, and even though they didn’t reach one million, they were able to get six hundred thousand people involved—way more than were previously going. Many of those people trusted Christ for the first time.
That’s what happens when you paint a vision of the possible: People take ownership for it, and the Spirit starts to move in fresh ways.
Recently, at The Summit Church, we tried something similar. We asked each member of our congregation to identify one person they could pray for and seek to bring to Christ over the year. The phrase we kept repeating was, “Who’s your one?”
It’s not an elaborate or complicated idea, but this simple idea led to our most evangelistically effective year to date. Because of this intentional push toward evangelism, we ended up baptizing seven hundred people last year. What an incredible joy it was to have people come up to me at church and say, “Pastor, this is my one.” Or to see them stand in the baptistery with them and tell me later, “That was her! She was my one!”
Intentional evangelism has always been a defining characteristic of Southern Baptist mission. And rightly so, because evangelism is the primary tool by which we fulfill the Great Commission.
Everything else Southern Baptists do is ultimately in support of evangelistic disciple-making. The criteria upon which our churches should measure their success is by how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes. Apart from that, all the money we raise, buildings we build, ministries we organize, sermons we preach, and songs we write don’t move the mission forward. Without this one thing, we fail. So, how can Southern Baptists make disciples again?
1. We need a spiritual awakening that leads to action. Historically, revivals have not begun with lost people getting saved, but with the church getting “re-converted” to the Gospel, which then leads to massive evangelism.
2. This has to start with us pastors. If we’re going to move the evangelism needle in our churches, we’ve got to be modeling what we’re preaching. That’s how I learned to share the Gospel—not by reading about it, but by going out with other leaders in the church and doing it with them.
3. We have to celebrate the right things. The proverbial wisdom is true: You replicate what you celebrate. That means if what we mainly celebrate are buildings and budgets, then that’s what everyone will aspire to as the marks of success.
4. We have to create a yearning for evangelism in the hearts of our people. Our problem is not that we haven’t found the right program that enables us to reach the world. Our problem is that we don’t yearn to see lost people saved for God’s glory to spread over the earth badly enough.
5. We have to do whatever it takes to reach the lost. Jesus summarized his ministry as seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). We should summarize and prioritize our ministries the same way.
On any given weekend, more than five million Southern Baptists gather to worship around the country. Can you imagine the impact if every one of them asked God each day to let him or her lead one person to Christ next year?
Join me in 2019 as I ask every church and every member to pray for “their one.” The North American Mission Board, as well as many state conventions and associations, will provide resources to equip churches and individuals.
Let’s kick off on January 1 praying for who God has laid on your heart and win souls through this revival of personal evangelism. Actually, don’t wait until January. Start praying today for who your one might be!
Call to Prayer for SBC Entities
Southern Baptist Convention President J. D. Greear issued a call to prayer and fasting for the presidential search committees at five SBC entities via Twitter on October 2. He also sent letters to state convention executive directors and associational mission strategists, asking them to circulate the call to prayer among their constituent groups.
The five entities currently seeking presidents are the SBC Executive Committee, the International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“From the moment our 2018 Convention convened, I have sensed that God is doing something unprecedented in our midst,” Greear wrote in his letters. “With many of the changes we have seen in SBC leadership recently, that sense has only increased. . . .
“I believe God is up to something that—if we are humble and faithful—can prepare us for greater days of effectiveness for the Great Commission,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, wrote.
Greear requested prayer specifically for:
- Wisdom “in assessing what is needed most for effective ministry” in the current century;
- Boldness in asking difficult questions;
- Loving-kindness as search committee members “interact with one another”; and
- That God’s face would “shine upon us” so that “Jesus’s name would be known to the ends of the earth.”
D. August Boto, interim president of the Executive Committee, responded, “President Greear’s call to prayer and fasting is entirely fitting, and I support it, for we can do nothing challenging, and certainly nothing worthy, without God’s blessing and direction.”
J. D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and is president of the Southern Baptist Convention.