An outdoor baptizing
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--As I said recently, Southern Baptists constantly need to be reminded that we are a people who are evangelistic at heart. We need to be reminded to take that heart for evangelism into the streets of America and the world by sharing the Good News with precious individuals.
I encourage evangelism to be at the heart of who we are and what we do. I have been attempting to encourage my church to be ever vigilant for opportunities to share the Gospel.
As many of you know, the church I pastor has a long history. Founded in 1864, First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., like many experienced the ebb and flow of economic upturns and downturns, growth and stagnation. When I came here in 2001, the church had been in a slow and steady decline. The area immediately surrounding the church house is a dying mill village (the mill closed down in 1965). Despite this fact, there are areas of growth all around our vicinity. The church is also not easy to find.
In spite of that, I have asked our people to use their location for the glory of God. I have encouraged them to develop relationships with all the people in their "traffic pattern of life" so as to have opportunities to share the Gospel.
Since becoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I have had to travel a great deal. I have been amazed, however, at how God's blessing has poured out upon our church even with my attendance being less than perfect. True, I have attempted to miss very few Sunday mornings. In fact, the hand of God's blessing can be seen in many ways. For example, last year our baptisms rose to the highest in history.
This year, our baptisms have risen dramatically again. Compared to many churches, they are still very low. Compared to what God wants for us, our numbers are abysmally low. However, I want our people to be encouraged that we are making progress. On Sunday, Sept. 30 we baptized 76 people during an outdoor baptizing. For us, that was a great day. It brought our baptisms to yet another historical high. For that, we praise the Lord!
Is God through with churches that are declining and/or plateaued? Is the hand of God removed from those churches? The answer to that is an unequivocal no. God can breathe life back into churches once again. God can show victory that eclipses anything in the past. Let us reclaim a spirit of optimism for our churches once again. Let us be soul winners and witnesses with the Good News of Christ.
Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.