My primary assigned role as president of the Executive Committee is administrative. While I am grateful for the privilege of serving our Lord and Southern Baptists in this manner, I have found it increasingly difficult to find complete fulfillment and rest in this role as it has been defined.
The reason, I have concluded, is that one of God's called servants cannot find rest and fulfillment in the minutia of facts and figures as critical as they are to our accountability. Every minister of the gospel has a higher calling than dealing with facts and figures. Our calling is grounded in faith "for we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is the ability to see with spiritual eyes in a world groping its way through the darkness. Through faith we are able to know the unknowable, see the invisible, think the unthinkable, hear the unheard, and plumb the depths of God's revelation.
A moral, ethical, and spiritual crisis is gripping this nation. The crisis of integrity has brought a crisis of confidence in leaders from the church house to the White House. If Americans continue to neglect the inner man, this country is on a road to irreparable ruin. D. L Moody said, "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives." Today, there are two things I am asking you to join me in doing.
Send the Fire
I am asking you to join me in praying that God will send the fire upon Southern Baptists. My heart is burdened with the knowledge that no real revival has ever occurred in history that wasn't preceded by prayer. Charles Finney, the great evangelist of the 19th century, said that revival is ... "nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God. Just as in the case of the converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility, and a forsaking of sin."
The mid-19th century ushered in spiritual decline, but Christians began to pray for revival and stirrings were visible in 1856 and 1857. In New York City in 1857, a layman began praying for revival in a small room off Fulton Street. He posted a card on the door outside, reading, "If anyone is interested in praying for revival, come in and join me." The first day he prayed alone but after that others joined him and began to fill the room. The spirit of fervent intercession spread, and soon hundreds joined in the growing prayer group, now meeting daily in a public hall.
Revival spread to other communities throughout the United States. J. Edwin Orr wrote "Churches were filled at noon for prayer and the overflow filled churches of all denominations at night in a truly remarkable turning of a whole nation toward God."
People were converted by the hundreds in towns and by the thousands in cities. In 1859, more than a million were added to church rolls (that would be the equivalent of 8 million today).
Today, I'm posting the invitation card on the door, "If anyone is interested in praying for revival, I say, 'Come in and join me.'" You say, "No room is large enough for all the prayer warriors among Southern Baptists to meet for prayer." You are right. So I have developed an Upper Room on the Internet. The address is www.sbcpray.net. You can go directly to it, or you can find it by going to www.sbc.net.
The Executive Committee has developed this web site where you may sign up to pray for the same thirty-minute period each week for one year. You may sign up for any thirty-minute period in the twenty-four hours of a day. If you have friends who want to pray, but they do not have a computer, or do not surf the Internet, would you offer to sign up for them? If a group in your church wants to pray together for thirty minutes each week, you may sign up the entire group. You may sign up anytime, even today and tomorrow at the Executive Committee booth in the exhibit hall. You can sign up in the coming days from home. Please do not take the invitation lightly. If you sign up, you will be pledging to God that you will pray for thirty minutes each week at the same time for a year. I am asking you to join me in praying for revival. You already know many of things for which you need to pray. We will provide suggestions for categorical praying on the web site.
Dear Southern Baptists, we preach well about praying, we believe in praying, but we must practice praying with importunity and with urgency, and with persistency. And we must stay on our knees until God sends a revival on this nation. I say, "Oh, God, send the fire."
There is always a cost in passionate praying, but that kind of prayer turns ordinary men into men of power. Samuel Chadwick said that such prayer "brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God." Those who prayed for revival had a personal longing for revival. You see, the believer has need for repentance. Just when you are empty and are wondering, "Is that all there is," just when you have finally reached the place where you thought you could be comfortable, but have found things of the world bring no lasting comfort; just when you find yourself crushed by the weight of living in this world, and you are ready to give up, make this your prayer:
To make my heart strong and brave,
Send the fire.
To live a dying world to save,
Send the fire.
Oh, see me on Thy altar lay
My life, my all, this very day;
To crown the offering now, I pray
Send the fire.1
Will you pray with me, "God, send the fire, and the fresh blowing wind of your Spirit within our hearts?"
Save the Family
Will you pray with me for God to send the fire, and then will you join me in trying to save the families of our convention and our of nation? While we are praying for revival, we must do something about the family. At one time, we agonized over the fact that we were baptizing only our children. Now we are in danger of not reaching our own children for Christ. According to Jay Strack, whose ministry is devoted to reaching young people, 88 percent of teens attending evangelical churches will forsake their church, if not their faith, by the time they reach age 18.
They may be the most lied to generation in history. They have been told they can have freedom without responsibility, success without work, and sin without consequences.
I have asked Dr. Tom Elliff, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Oklahoma, and former president of our Convention, to be chairman of Save the Family Council, financed by the Executive Committee. Dr. Elliff is one of the godliest men I know. As a husband and father, he has set the example in his own family. He has a burden for the families in America. I am grateful he is willing to expend his time and energies to help us to save our families. I have talked with Dr. Jimmy Draper at LifeWay Christian Resources, and he stands ready for LifeWay to support this effort with materials and other resources. Dr. Paige Patterson encouraged me when I talked with him about calling our people to pray earnestly for God to send revival, and launch a new effort to save our families.
In November, 1999, Joan Beth Elshtain, professor at the University of Chicago quoted a report of the national Commission on Civic Renewal. She said:
"During the past generation, our families have come under intense pressure, and many have crumbled. Neighborhood and community ties have frayed. Many of our streets and public spaces have become unsafe. Our public schools are mediocre for most students, and catastrophic failures for many. Our character-forming institutions are enfeebled. Much of our popular culture is vulgar, violent, and mindless. Much of our public square is coarse and uncivil. Political participation is at depressed levels last seen in the 1920s. Public trust in our leaders and institutions has plunged."
She concludes, "Our civil society is in trouble."
There is an awesome crisis confronting the American family - and our Southern Baptist families. The divorce rate among evangelical Christians has risen exponentially with the divorce rate in this nation. Families are being ripped to shreds at an alarming rate. My father and mother were married for twenty-one years. They were divorced the summer after I graduated from high school. My brother had finished the sixth grade. Don't ever let anyone tell you divorce is not disillusioning and damaging to every member of the family. Jesus heals the wounds, but the scars remain for the rest of your life regardless of how tranquil the divorce may have seemed to those outside the family. It is time Southern Baptists collectively and individually ask the question, "Is it well with my soul?"
In 2 Kings, chapter 2, Elisha asked the Shunammite woman whose son had died three questions:
Is it well with you?
Is it well with your husband?
Is it well with the child?
Let me pose these same questions to you:
1. Is it well with you? Have you prayed as Elisha prayed in 2 Kings 2:9, God, "let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." Is it well with you?
2. Is it well with your husband, your wife? Wall Street looks for soft economic landings. Politicians look for soft money. The lazy look for soft jobs. The world is looking for soft answers. And, tragically, many are finding them, even in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. But in reality, it costs something to put your husband or wife before self.
Many of you have the privilege of knowing my wife, Jodi. She's red-haired, strong-willed, and has a lightening-quick wit. In addition to that - I know you would never believe it, but - I can be quite stubborn. I know it has never been this way in any other pastor's home, but when we were younger we had a few spirited exchanges. I'm glad that I sense God has delivered all other pastor's families from such exchanges. Sometimes it was tough to get our view to the other. But I want to tell you that today, as I sit with my grandchildren on my knees, I'm glad we never looked for a way out. Instead, with the Lord's nudging, we found our way through.
If God is willing, we will grow old together. She always has been, and is today, my best friend and the love of my life.
Over the years, I have heard many men, including a large number of pastors, say, "I don't spend quantity time with my children, but I spend quality time with them."
There are two things wrong with that statement:
• There is no such thing as quality without quantity. To think otherwise is a lie of the devil.
• If you are not spending time with your children, then you are not spending time with your wife.
We are to put God first, we are to put family second, and the church, or whatever work may be, is to be third.
And so I ask Elisha's questions, "How is it with you? And how is it with your husband or wife?" And finally:
3. Is it well with your child? The Shunammite woman had fallen at the feet of Elisha, refusing to turn loose until he agreed to pray for her child. This grief-stricken mother wanted to save her child.
We live in a nation where people want to save the whales. They want to save the wolves. They want to save the spotted owl. But save the unborn child? "Who are you," they ask, "some kind of radical?" Children are being aborted and we are doing so very little. The answer is not political. The answer is not societal. The answer is not philosophical. The answer is spiritual. We must pray until God rains His power down upon the earth. We must pray until God changes the hearts of men.
Why is there a debate in the country today over the right to a partial-birth abortion that murders a child after it is partially delivered? God help us!
Is it well with your child? Southern Baptists cannot sit by and let our families disintegrate and do nothing. Young fathers, don't let the devil have your children. The devil has to come through you to get to your family because you are the head of the house. You are the gatekeeper charged with the responsibility to guard your family spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically. Young mothers, when your children are tender, small plants, cultivate your children in the Lord. Before they fully understand read them the old, old story of Jesus.
The devil will make every effort to compromise your witness to your family and to your friends. He will try to distort the truth. He will try to confuse our thinking. He will attack where you are the weakest. He will try to envelop you with depression and deeper despair. Young parents, stay in the Word of God. Hide His Word in your heart. Put on the whole armor of God. Honor the Lord every day of the week. Saturate yourself with the claims of Jesus upon your life.
Southern Baptists, we cannot and will not turn over our husbands, our wives, and our children to the world and to the devil. We shall stand with the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation. We shall rest in God's love, grace, and mercy. Let the world search frantically for alternatives, but we shall stand for the absolutes of God's Word. We shall stand if no others stand with us. If someday, our children or our children's children shall be persecuted, let them be persecuted, as the early Christians, for the glory of God.
We must wait no longer to answer the question, "Is it well with our Southern Baptist soul?" Are we serious about the Lord's business? Does Jesus mean everything to me? Do we live the Spirit-filled life? Do our spouses and our children and grandchildren see Jesus in us? Before it is too late, will we be willing to ask ourselves the question, "Is it well with my soul?"
May all over the world Southern Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention be known as a body of believers upon whom the fire fell. Oh, God, send the fire.
Will we be a body of believers whose families place other members of the family above self and Christ above all? For the fresh blowing wind of God's Spirit through our hearts and homes we pray.
1 F. de L. Booth-Tucker, Why Revival Tarries, p. 113.
A Historic Day in Southern Baptist History
by Bryan Cribbs
The overwhelming acceptance of the revised Baptist Faith and Message will be "highly significant" culturally and historically, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told almost 500 alumni, friends, faculty, and students.
"June 14 in the year 2000 was a day when the Southern Baptists made history by standing upon God's truth, standing in defense of God's Word, and being authentically Baptist," Mohler said at the seminary's June 14 luncheon in conjunction with the June 13-14 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
"For most of us in this room, this will be the defining revision of the Baptist Faith and Message for our lifetimes," Mohler said. "What took place today was a generation of Southern Baptists ... saying these are the definite doctrines that we believe."
Southern Baptists can see the significance of the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message by understanding the historical and cultural context, Mohler explained.
"Virtually every American denomination has been moving progressively to the left," Mohler said of the period between the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and today.
"Most denominations in America that have touched their confessions or articles of faith have reduced biblical content, accommodated to the culture, diluted the gospel, and abandoned the total truthfulness of God's Word," he said.
Culturally, Southern Baptists today encounter greater and more diverse challenges than ever before, Mohler said. These threats require a renewed resolve to ground Baptist faith in the Scriptures.
"At the end of the 20th century, we understand challenges our forefathers and foremothers could not even have imagined," Mohler said. "In light of those challenges, we are not going to accommodate to the culture.
"We are not going to surrender the high ground of biblical authority. We are going to seize it by God's grace. And we are going to say before the world, 'This is what we believe. This is where we stand. And we shall not be moved.'"
Morris H. Chapman is president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee.