FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--I am in the process of reading one of the most exciting books I have read in a long time. The author does a fine job of describing the incredible impact that movements of God have had on our country. She shows her readers how the entire culture of a nation can be changed through a great spiritual awakening. And then she takes a look at what is happening in America right now –- particularly among young people who are beginning to reject the hopelessness of relativism and secularism. She boldly predicts that we are now on the edge of the next Great Awakening that will radically change every part of the life and culture of our country.
Now that is all wonderful and hopeful, but isn't that just wishful thinking? Well it might shock you to know that the author, Lauren Sandler, is a committed atheist. In her book, “Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement,” Sandler describes the coming awakening with great passion but her goal is to stop it. She believes that this is the most critical challenge that atheists and secularists face today -- to defeat the growing movement among young people before it is too late.
Does it not strike you as incredible that atheists seem to be more interested in revival that Southern Baptists? And while many of us seem to have little hope that God might move in power again, atheists have faith! They believe it is coming and are organizing to stop it. All this is pretty weird but it is encouraging –- I think.
What are you willing to do to help prepare the way for a great movement of God in your community and country? Does it really matter to you what kind of place your children and grandchildren will grow up in? Do you still believe that God loves us desperately and wants to send revival? I believe that He does, but I do not believe He will send it to a people who simply will internalize it, take it into their comfortable sanctuaries, stroke it and embrace it like it belongs to them, and leave church happy that God moved so that they all feel better. That is not revival.
Revival causes us to follow Jesus, and Jesus is on a rescue mission to seek and save the lost. If you want to help prepare the way for the next great revival, simply begin to share your faith. If every Southern Baptist made one friend this year and led that friend to Christ and saw the person baptized, we would see the greatest evangelistic harvest in our history -– and that would happen even though we had a 97.5 percent failure rate. If 2.5 percent of Southern Baptists reach one person this year, we will change the state of this land –- for us and for our children and grandchildren. What about it? Do you believe God as much as an atheist?
God is on the move in the lives of His people, and I am starting to see real hope. He is raising up men like Woody Johnson, a great friend of mine, and Ted Sprague, another of God's best. Ted played golf recently with a man and shared the Gospel with him. The man didn't accept Christ, but Ted left him a tract. Then Woody and Ted played together shortly after that with a couple and shared Christ with them. As they finished they ran into the first man that Ted had witnessed to and he excitedly told them that he had read the tract and accepted Jesus. That got the other couple pretty intrigued, and Woody and Ted left them reading a tract with great interest.
Don't you want to get in on a life like that? These stories are happening all the time, all over the place. They can happen to you, too. It is your heritage as a child of God. It is who you are meant to be as a follower of Christ. And when you choose to live this life, waking up every day on a mission trip, you will have more fulfillment, passion and just plain fun than you have ever imagined having.
Thanks, Woody and Ted. You are great examples of how a golf game or any other activity of life can become an eternally significant event (no matter what you score).
Let's follow that example Southern Baptists, and make evangelism good news again. We might just help an atheist's prophecy come to pass.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North
American Mission Board.