'Turn toward home,' Wright urges SBC

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)--The warning delivered to Israel by the prophet Joel is a timely message for the American Christian church, which reflects the values of worldly society more than the values of Jesus, SBC President Bryant Wright said in calling Southern Baptist churches to repentance and prayer for revival.

Preaching from Joel 1:2-15, Wright told the congregation at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., that Joel called Israel to repentance because they were experiencing a national crisis caused by their stubborn refusal to live like God's people ought to live. The prophet warned Israel, Wright said, to turn back to God or face a day of judgment far worse than the locust plague that had devastated their country.

Wright, in his Jan. 16 sermon, said his call for Southern Baptist congregations to gather for solemn assemblies in January is essential if revival is to spread through the churches and if spiritual awakening is to come to a decadent America in order to avoid serious judgment from God. A day of fasting, prayer and heartfelt repentance before God could be the spark that turns the country around.

Johnson Ferry Baptist Church will hold its solemn assembly Jan. 23.

"God is concerned about the decadence and paganism in America today," Wright told the congregation. "But He is far more concerned that his people live out their faith. So much of the American Christian church mirrors the cultural values of America, not the values of Jesus Christ. God's desire is for the American Christian church to be restored to right relationship with God, to live lives that are distinct and different and mirror the spirit and character of Christ, rather than the world."

Just as Joel instructed Israel's spiritual leaders to lead the way in confession and repentance, Wright called on Southern Baptist pastors to lead their congregations in a time of fasting and prayer for God to have mercy.

"I have asked Southern Baptist pastors to lead their churches in spiritual preparation for a specific time of worship and prayer to have our relationship with the Lord restored," Wright said. "We need to return to our first love of Jesus Christ."

The economic downturn America is experiencing mirrors Israel's struggle after a locust plague wiped out all their crops, Wright said.

"Israel experienced economic devastation but refused to repent. When America began its economic downturn, I prayed there would be a groundswell of revival in churches in a way that would awaken others who don't have a relationship with Christ," Wright said. "Did that happen? Not in any form or fashion. There has not been a bit of change in the American Christian church."

Although he doesn't know yet whether Southern Baptist churches will respond to the call for solemn assembly, Wright said the Marietta congregation could respond and would see God respond in mercy if they did.

"Not only do we have a God of justice, but we also have a God of incredible mercy," Wright said. "Our role is to be willing to turn to Him, confess our sins and cry out for mercy we do not deserve.

"It is time for us, like the Prodigal Son, to turn to God and begin our journey home," Wright said. "Then we will see the love and mercy of God like never before. Our calling is to turn toward home."


Mark Kelly is assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press. A video of Wright's full message is available at http://pray4sbc.com/. To access Baptist Press stories on the call for Southern Baptist churches to engage in a solemn assembly, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=179.

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