- (Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)
BALTIMORE, Md. – Southern Baptists must go outside of the four walls of the church and preach the gospel if they truly want to reach the next generation, outgoing SBC President Fred Luter Jr. urged attendees of the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting Tuesday night during the revival service.
The Louisiana pastor whose election paved the way for greater diversity within the Southern Baptist Convention turned his focus to the future of the denomination, stating that the days of open-door evangelism are over.
Luter recalled "There was a time when you just open the church door and people would come from the neighborhood. There was a time you just open the church door and people would come from different families. There was a time you could just open the church door and people were expected to go to church."
The new reality, he explained, is that fewer parents and grandparents are going to church. Eventually their children and grandchildren will be a new generation who have never heard the gospel and see no place for it in their lives. This generation is not going to walk through the church doors, he explained.
The church's response must be to go and preach the gospel to this new unchurched generation.
"If they are not coming to us, we must, we must, we must go to them. That's what Jesus meant when He gave us the Great Commission. Jesus said go, don't stay. Go, don't think about it. Go, don't debate it. Go, don't study it. Go, don't blog about it. Go, go, go and make disciple," Luter exhorted the crowd.
It is more critical than ever that Southern Baptists evangelize their communities. Church statistics show a downturn in baptisms – a practice that is a show of dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He read off the statistics, "Twenty-five percent of our churches reported no baptisms. Sixty percent of our churches reported no baptisms of young people between the ages of 12 and 17. Eighty percent, I repeat, 80 percent of our churches in the Southern Baptist Convention baptized only one person between the ages of 18 and 29."
The drop in dedicated Christ followers, Luter said, has contributed to the nation's moral decline.
He said "It is a difficult time in the life of America" and the reason it is a painful time is because "like Israel in Psalm 80, America has sinned against God."
"America is rapidly turning into a pagan nation," Luter warned, but the church can reverse the trend with spiritual revival.
Several SBC 2014 speakers, including newly elected SBC president Ronnie Floyd, have explained how prayer spawns revival. However Luter said Tuesday that Southern Baptists must also repent for not taking the Great Commission seriously. He noted "If we were working a secular job with these kind of reports, many of us would have been fired a long time ago." He concluded, "We must repent, we must ask God for forgiveness."
Once Southern Baptists repent, they must to commit to preaching the unadulterated gospel, the SBC's first African-American pastor proclaimed.