Draper urges attention to America's war of faith

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--While everyone realizes America is at war against terrorism, few realize the nation also is embroiled in a war of faith, James T. Draper Jr. told state convention leaders meeting at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In a Nov. 29 presentation to state executive directors and an earlier Nov. 27 message to other state leaders, the LifeWay president warned that many of today's adult Christians have failed to pass on to their children the ways they have seen God at work.

"We've raised a generation of children who are ignorant about the Bible and indifferent to their rich spiritual heritage," Draper said.

At the same time, he noted, many forces are at work in America to proselyte Christians into cults and non-Christian religions. Christians without a solid spiritual foundation are especially vulnerable.

"We stand today as a denomination that is proud of the fact that we believe the Bible is the word of God. It does not contain error; it faithfully reveals the heart and mind of God to us. We all believe that," he said.

"So how have we come to this place today in our denomination, our nation and our world?" Draper asked. "How can we turn this around? How can we come to a time of genuine renewal and revival?"

Draper said the Bible includes numerous Scriptures emphasizing the importance of one generation passing their faith on to their children and grandchildren.

Citing Psalm 78:8, he said, "God intended us to be so thorough in passing our heritage to our children that they would be more godly and spiritual than we are.

"If we don't pass on to those coming behind us the things God has done, then our children will fail in the battle," Draper said. "The world will shape them."

He outlined five foundational truths he said must be recognized "to turn this thing around." He emphasized that the truths represent his perspective on prioritizing key elements of the Christian life.

The first truth, he said, is that "people are more important than institutions."

"The most important thing is that we reflect the heart of God," Draper said. "We have to be willing to forego the tendency to turfism. This is not about us; it is about the kingdom and the churches. We must be selfless.

"The most important thing is not our bureaucracy," he continued. "We haven't even begun to maximize our resources. If we spend our time trying to protect what we have, we'll lose it."

Second, he said, "churches are more important than the denomination and its entities."

"Churches don't exist for the denomination. Baptist headquarters is the local church," Draper said.

"If what this denomination does doesn't help churches, we need to go out of business. We need to be willing to give away our denomination. If it's important, God will give it back to us," he said.

Third, Draper said, "families are more important than churches."

"We must give ourselves to strengthening the family. Often, our church activities divide the family. A child can be born, grow up and graduate from high school without ever sitting with his parents in church. Churches are important, but families are more important."

Fourth, he said, "the kingdom of God is more important than everything else."

With God's kingdom, there are no geographical, political or social boundaries, he said. "We need to be more concerned about God's kingdom than about Baptists. Southern Baptists at their best can never win the world to Christ by themselves," Draper said.

Noting that he is a third-generation Southern Baptist preacher, he said, "We need to strengthen the denomination but always realize the kingdom is bigger."

Finally, Draper said obedience is more important than global events.

In less than three months since the Sept. 11 disasters in New York City and Washington, D.C., Draper said "I already sense we're going about business as usual."

He called on individuals and churches to pray for revival on an ongoing basis and to go out into their communities to pray and share their faith.

"There has never been a revival, as far as I can determine, that came out of disaster or out of the Southern Baptist Convention," Draper said.

"Why not? Why not now?

"We're not living in a godless society. We're living in a spiritually hungry society. What are we focusing on?" he asked.

In response, Robert White, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Georgia and president of the Association of State Executive Directors, said Draper's comments clarified "a proper ordering of our priorities.

"I think there are times when all of us need to refocus and examine our priorities to see if they are in proper order," White said. "There is a tremendous tendency in our day for people to demonstrate the attitude that it is all about them. We need to be reminded that it is not about us at all. It is all about God. The Father's will is supreme."


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