Southern Baptist president Johnny Hunt delivered an impassioned and fiery message to fellow Baptist leaders on Tuesday, imploring them to get out of the lukewarm state found in many of America's pulpits.
Referring to the recent national spelling bee word that had puzzled many, Hunt said, "America has not heard of the word 'laodicean' but I'm afraid that the Church has not perceived it."
His address during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., was a challenge to a denomination that has begun to see decline in membership.
"How do you feel you're doing?" Hunt posed. "How do you feel the Southern Baptist Convention is doing?"
According to statistics recently released by LifeWay Research – the research arm of the SBC – Southern Baptist membership will fall nearly 50 percent to around 8.7 million by the year 2050 if the current trend continues.
Membership dipped by 0.2 percent in 2008. While losses only began in 2007 after years of growth, Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay, said the rate of increase had been declining by 0.06 percent every year.
Titling his message "The State of the Southern Baptist Convention from Where I Sit," Hunt cited a passage from Revelation and indicated that many have become apathetic, indifferent and have lost enthusiasm.
"You can walk to the pulpit, you can lead the music, you can teach a Sunday School class and the attitude is 'I've been there and I've done that.' There's no tear in your eye, there's no fire in your soul, and there's no anticipation after delivery," he said.
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"You can get to the point [where] you're so strong you can get up, read through your devotion, have this brief prayer and go. We become professionals. We know how to do it," Hunt added, lamenting how many have lost their dependence on the grace and Holy Spirit of God.
One of the greatest needs of the pulpits of America, he pointed out, is "more emulation of the truth of almighty God to match the exhortation of the proclamation of almighty God's word."
Southern Baptists this week will consider adopting the Great Commission Resurgence declaration, which reaffirms core Christian doctrines and aims to renew a passion for evangelism and church planting in America.
But Hunt is not concerned with simply adopting a document. After all, talk is cheap, he said.
What he's concerned with is seeing true commitment among Southern Baptists to the Great Commission Resurgence.
"I really do believe we need revival in the Southern Baptist Convention," said Hunt.
Revival, he indicated, must first happen in the more than 43,000 Southern Baptist pulpits in America.
"If God were to break the hearts of us, the pastors, and we would ... realize out there in those pews there's gold in them there pews! It's amazing how God's people will rise up and take a challenge," he highlighted. "They're not looking for a program to follow. They're looking for a vision to embrace."
He stressed that they don't have a money problem, for God has been good to them. "We have a vision problem," he said.
"God help us to get a vision of the lostness of the world," said Hunt, who is still convinced that the Gospel will be "taken and penetrate the lostness and the darkness of all nations" in his lifetime.
Hunt was re-elected for a second, one-year term as president of the SBC – the largest Protestant denomination in the country.