'Desperate times' call for prayer, GCC says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A Nov. 12 open letter calling Southern Baptists to observe a "solemn assembly" day of prayer in January declared that Americans "live in desperate times" and need "a heal-the-land kind of blessing" from God.

"A Call to Solemn Assembly," issued by the Southern Baptist Convention's Great Commission Council -- which is composed of the heads of the convention's entity organizations -- echoed a call by Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, for churches to observe a day in January as a day of seeking God in prayer and repentance.

"We live in desperate times. Our lives, our families, our churches, our communities, and our nation reflect the ruinous effects of our sinful ways. To some degree we all have pursued the things of the world and stand guilty of worshipping the created, not the Creator," the letter said. "... We must repent and come before the Father with a contrite heart. We need a heal-the-land kind of blessing."

Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and GCC chairman, said the need for repentance is clear.

"It is undeniable that God's people need to return in repentance and humility to Him in service to a renewed commitment to Christ and the Great Commission," Land told Baptist Press. "We are tragically content in our sinful state, blissfully unaware of our position before a holy God. We must begin with each of us examining our own hearts and getting right with God. We must fall before God, broken in the recognition that our sinfulness is an affront to Him."

Land added: "There is simply no substitute for repentance. We can't legislate the America we want; we can't program our way to the America we want. We can't campaign our way to the America we want and we can't elect our way to the America that we so desperately desire. We need to importune God for a heaven-sent awakening that will ripen into the reformation America must have at every level of our society."

The challenge to hold a nationwide solemn assembly was an element of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report adopted during the June 2010 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando. The report asked that the newly elected SBC president lead the network of more than 42,000 churches to concerted prayer "for the purpose of calling Christ's people to return to God, to repentance, and to humility in service to a renewed commitment to Christ and the Great Commission."

The open letter said repentance must be accompanied by renewed dedication to Christ.

"We must, as people of God, enter into sacred assembly, prostrate ourselves before Him, confess our sins, repent of our transgressions, and thank God for His merciful blessings upon us," the letter said. "It is critical that the people called Southern Baptist individually and corporately renew their covenant commitment to the King of kings and Lord of lords."

Land suggested that pastors preparing for the solemn assembly explore the booklet "Consecrate the People," written by Claude King and available from LifeWay Christian Resources. Other resources for conducting a solemn assembly are available on the North American Mission Board website at www.namb.net/SBCDayofPrayer.


Mark Kelly is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.

The full text of the Great Commission Council letter follows:

A CALL TO SOLEMN ASSEMBLY

We live in desperate times. Our lives, our families, our churches, our communities, and our nation reflect the ruinous effects of our sinful ways. To some degree we all have pursued the things of the world and stand guilty of worshipping the created, not the Creator (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15).

However far we may have wandered from the calling God has placed on our lives, God has not moved. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Where do we place our trust? Have we abandoned our faith in the Lord? In many of our lives, our passion for Him has grown cold. We are guilty of bearing false witness before the God of the universe.

Apart from the cover provided by Christ's work of atonement, there is no hope for a stiff-necked people (Isaiah 13:11; Revelation 2:4). God's judgment is swift and sure; His wrath is without compare–only the blood of His Son holds back His sword of justice (Galatians 2:20). For those who call upon the name of His Son, His mercies are without end (Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21).

We must repent and come before the Father with a contrite heart. We need a heal-the-land kind of blessing (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

We must, as people of God, enter into sacred assembly, prostrate ourselves before Him, confess our sins, repent of our transgressions, and thank God for His merciful blessings upon us (Joel 1:13-14, 2:12; Romans 12:1).

It is critical that the people called Southern Baptist individually and corporately renew their covenant commitment to the King of kings and Lord of lords (Mark 12:30).

Pastors, as shepherds of His flock, we urge you to call the Christ-followers in your care to consecrate themselves, to throw off that which distracts, tempts, or otherwise disables them from obediently following God (Genesis 35:2-5; Exodus 19:10-11; Joel 2:16). We need to make way for the Lord (Hebrews 8:10).

We join Dr. Bryant Wright, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, in calling Southern Baptists to a Solemn Assembly ... that in the sight of God and His witnesses we might renew our commitment to Christ and the Great Commission (Zechariah 1:3).

May God alone be glorified.

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