FLOYD: Southern Baptists & the Power of God
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
An honest evaluation of ourselves as Southern Baptists
The Scripture warns us against deceiving ourselves. Modern-day leadership warns against leaders who are not aware of their limitations. Both can happen personally, in a church, and even to a convention like Southern Baptists.
Almost 74 percent of our churches are plateaued or declining in attendance. The number of people we have reached and baptized has been declining for a number of years. In fact, this last year, we reached the same number of people as in 1948. Additionally, we are now witnessing our global missions personnel diminish by over 1,000 people, more than 900 of which are God-called missionaries.
Simultaneously, many churches are filled with schisms and divisions. Our Southern Baptist family comprised of churches, associations, state conventions and national entities has continual challenges both internally and externally as we strive to walk in unity.
What are the answers to these challenges and others not mentioned?
The power of God
I will never forget what Dr. Adrian Rogers and Bob Sorrell, senior associate pastor of Bellevue Church in Cordova, Tenn., told me years ago: You cannot spiritualize management problems.
I agree with their words 100 percent! Some challenges we face in our churches and within our convention are management issues that cannot be fixed by trying to spiritualize them. This only leads to further and deeper problems.
Yet, I am convinced that our greatest problem today is a lack of deep conviction of our need for the power of God. Far too many of us are living life, providing leadership, conducting and attending worship services, and doing ministry without the power of God. This has become so glaring within our churches and convention that we must not be deceived by where we are and what we do.
Activity is not spirituality. And spirituality by itself does not result in effective leadership. We need spiritual leadership! An effective spiritual leader maximizes their giftedness and is ignited by the power of the Holy Spirit at the same time.
When the power of God is released
I am convinced the power of God is released upon us when we walk in obedience to Jesus. Although this is not an exhaustive list, I humbly submit a few ways we can become recipients of His power together.
1. Preaching the Word of God
A practice I began years ago is standing upon 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 in prayer before I teach and preach the Word of God. It says, "My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men's wisdom but on God's power." Oh, how I want to preach God's Word faithfully, but I also want it to be with a demonstration of God through me.
Eloquence of speech or cleverness of mind is nice, but without God's power upon the preacher, they are empty. Charles Spurgeon knew deeply his need for the Holy Spirit in preaching. In fact, Spurgeon stated that he or any other preacher were "only skeletons without the Holy Ghost."
Too much preaching today is done by nothing more than skeletons absent from the power of God's Holy Spirit. Pastors, preach the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Crying out to God in prayer is a major part of your preparation in preaching. Do not minimize it. Laypersons, call upon God to anoint the preaching of your pastor with His Spirit.
2. Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
We read these words in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek." The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
When my evangelism professor, Roy Fish, taught personal evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he talked about how the power of God is always commensurate with our sharing the Gospel. As he taught us this from Acts 1:8, he said God's power will go to the level of our willingness to witness for Jesus Christ.
By the present state of affairs in our convention, the evidence is clear and convicting: We need an awakening in our commitment to personal and church evangelism. The power of God will go to the same level that we are willing to be witnesses practicing evangelism.
3. Crying Out to God in prayer
Acts 4:31 says, "When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's message with boldness." Prayer was dominant in the New Testament church. The power of God shook the place where they were meeting because of prayer!
The church has never needed to pray more than today. We need the power of God to shake us and shake the churches of America! This will lead to a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit and we will speak the message of God to this world with boldness.
We need to cease giving more time to promoting the church in our worship services than we give to calling out to God in prayer. No great move of God ever occurs that is not preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people.
4. Walking in unity
The power of God comes upon the church that walks in unity. Jesus said in John 17 the world will only know we are His by the oneness we have together. Walking in unity is imperative to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us.
Before the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, they were in one accord. The power of God is released upon a church when a church walks in unity. The power of God is released upon a family when they walk in unity.
The Southern Baptist Convention needs to recommit to walking in unity. When we are unified in our doctrine and mission, we will position ourselves for the release of the Holy Spirit's power upon us.
This is why
This is why we all need to come together in St. Louis, Mo., on June 14-15, 2016. We need to agree, unite and pray. We need the power of God more than ever before. Please adjust your schedule, find the funds, and make your way to St. Louis.
Let's refuse to do ministry apart from the power of God.