FIRST-PERSON: Lord, please transform our churches
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--In recent columns, I have made clear my desire that our Southern Baptist Convention pray for God to “send your reviving Holy Spirit”. I believe that our future depends upon God’s Holy Spirit and His reviving power.
One of the areas in which we desperately need God’s Holy Spirit help is in the area of church transformation. While the statistics vary across our convention from state to state, most states report that 70 percent or more of their churches are plateaued or declining. Scholars use varying criteria to judge the status of churches in those categories, but most of us know the reality is a sad one. Some churches struggle in very difficult areas. There are situations where a church must work diligently and fervently just to stay in a plateaued situation due to the loss of people in a geographic area.
However, many of our churches are in areas where there are many unreached and unchurched people, yet they struggle to maintain even a status quo position. LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Ranier, in his books on church growth, has pointed out that many churches are unaware of their status. While they may see people joining the church on a somewhat regular basis, they have no idea -- or perhaps choose to ignore -- the reality that they are plateaued or declining.
Is there any hope for our churches? Can a church move from a plateaued, declining status to one of transformation and growth? The answer is an unequivocal yes! I have seen it happen on more than one occasion.
While this article is not meant to be a teaching tool that would discuss all the factors that must be involved in church transformation, let me state clearly that the first and foremost factor is the factor of prayer. God’s people need to be honest about where their church is. They need to be willing to confess before the Lord any practices, mindsets and attitudes that have led to their church’s malaise. They must pray II Chronicles 7:14 in all seriousness. The Scripture says, “If ... My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land."
God has blessed our church, First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., in some very powerful ways over the last few years. I thank God that we have ended this church year with our greatest year of growth, including our highest baptism level in history. For this, we praise God. God’s people here are praying like never before. Part of our situation is clearly due to a ministry in our church called “God’s 3000”, where we are attempting to involve 3,000 people in some kind of intercessory prayer ministry.
We must focus on prayer.
Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. Visit his website at www.sbc.net/PresidentsPage.