FIRST-PERSON: Southern Baptists and the Future of America
EDITOR'S NOTE: As Americans approach the celebration of their country's independence on July 4, Ronnie Floyd, newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Anne Graham Lotz are among those who have recently called for urgent prayer for a Third Great Awakening in the United States. In his column, Floyd gives four ways Southern Baptists can influence the future of the United States.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- Years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention was looked upon as having a significant influence on American life. When I was a very young pastor attending our annual meetings, I remember how our leaders would talk about the influence our Convention had upon American life, even in determining our nation's future.
If this is true, what happened? I remain very concerned for the present state of America and for our nation's future. At the same time, my confidence in the Lord, His Word, His Gospel, His Church, and His Kingdom gives me overwhelming hope.
Can the 50,000 churches and missions that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention influence the future of America? The answer is a resounding YES!
Here are four ways I believe we can influence our nation and its future:
1. We will always be faithful to lift up the authority, truthfulness and infallibility of the Word of God.
While some denominations may be drifting away from the truth that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God on all matters, Southern Baptists will continue to stand on the Scriptures. As stated in our Baptist Faith and Message 2000, we believe:
"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."
Read again what we agreed upon as our commitment to the Scriptures. Yes, we will be there as a convention of churches, reminding ourselves personally, our churches, and our nation what God says about everything. He is our authority. When He speaks, He speaks the final Word.
2. We will always be faithful to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to know God and to go to Heaven when we die.
While religions and cultures state there are many paths to God, we believe there is only one path to God. This authoritative Word proclaims clearly in John 14:6, Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Knowing this, when we believe in the Gospel as defined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it changes everything:
"For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Unquestionably, we will proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that He is the only way to God and eternal life in Heaven. The greatest thing we can do to influence our nation is to present the Gospel to every person and make disciples of all the nations. Gospel churches must be faithful to present the Gospel and live out the Gospel in every way possible."
3. We will always be faithful to stand for the religious liberty of every person and every church.
This is our heritage and our conviction as Southern Baptists. While the government is challenging this conviction upon which our nation was founded, we will unashamedly live out what we confess through our Baptist
Faith and Message 2000:
"…The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others…The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind…"
As we know, this is being tested now as much as in any time since our nation's founding. Yet, I know where Southern Baptists will be: always standing for religious liberty -- not just for ourselves, but for all.
4. We will always be faithful to pray for the next spiritual awakening in America.
In my first article to Southern Baptists as your president, "The Call to Columbus: Envisioning a Great Awakening," I wrote:
"We've had a great conservative resurgence in the SBC. We are in the midst of a Great Commission resurgence in the SBC. In order for the Great Commission resurgence to be elevated to the proper priority, we need a great spiritual movement and a mighty spiritual awakening, which this nation has not seen in a long time. Yes, we need to pray now in an extraordinary manner for the next Great Awakening."
While we go through various highs and lows in our convention and in America, I am convinced and convicted that we are in a unique season when our desperation is rising in an unprecedented way. How should we respond?
In God's time, in accordance with His will and purpose, I believe we should cry out to Him in extraordinary prayer, asking Him for the next Great Awakening. Join me in asking for the next Great Awakening.
Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.