FIRST-PERSON: Southern Baptist churches must reach, baptize & disciple young adults
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- I am burdened by the fact that 80 percent of our 46,125 Southern Baptist Churches reported reaching and baptizing only 0-1 young adults according to the recent Pastors' Task Force on SBC Evangelistic Impact and Declining Baptisms report released late spring. This means that 36,900 Southern Baptist Churches baptized zero to one young adult in an entire year.
When I write these words, I am overwhelmed with the burden of how much we need a mighty move of God upon our pastors, church leaders, lay people and churches that comprise the SBC. Yes, let a mighty move of God begin in me and with our church.
If this does not change, what does it mean for us?
On July 14, 2014, I released an article addressing another major problem, where 60 percent of our Southern Baptist churches did not baptize a single young person between the ages of 12-17 years old. When you combine the lack of effectiveness in reaching them with the lack of effectiveness in most of our SBC churches in reaching, baptizing and discipling young adults from ages 18-29, we must ask ourselves many serious questions. One of these questions we must ask ourselves is, "If this does not change, what does this mean for us?"
Obviously, this means that if we continue in this mode, many of our churches are facing an aging problem that will one day threaten their long-term viability. When we are ineffectively reaching young adults between ages 18-29, we are showing our disconnectedness in the world today, but additionally our disconnectedness in days to come.
I believe the church has to reach every generation to impact its community in a great way. I see no evidence anywhere in Scripture where churches specialize in whom they reach generationally. All people are in need of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; therefore, we must reach all people, including young adults 18-29 years of age. Are we willing to do what it takes to become all things to all people? Yes, it is hard, uncomfortable, and it takes sacrifice. But compare it to seeing a generation come alive for Christ and a world impacted. Then, the cost is small!
We cannot ignore other questions worthy of answers:
-- Why are we not reaching young adults effectively?
-- Is our church's culture friendly to all generations?
-- Is our message boldly biblical, delivered authentically, in the power of the Holy Spirit, saturated in the love of Christ?
-- Are we willing to die to self so His power may be experienced in the next generation?
These questions could be endless, but sometime soon, preferably urgently, thousands of churches must give honest answers to these questions and make the needed changes immediately. I believe that God is able to turn this situation around.
Four ways we can reach and baptize more young adults through our churches
-- 1. Proclaim boldly the Gospel of Jesus Christ to young adults, calling them to follow Jesus unashamedly, profess their faith, and be baptized.
Young adults today are not looking for a "seeker friendly" message; they are searching for a message that is built on truth, and delivered in the right tone. They are not afraid of a bold message, in fact, they are attracted to it. When the message is delivered by someone who has their best interest in mind, especially a message that is backed up with a life and ministry that lives it out, they will respond positively. Therefore, do not think you have to dumb down the message to be relevant, as this turns them off immediately. Hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ and call them to live their lives by it, professing outwardly their faith, and being baptized publicly.
-- 2. Target reaching young adults with a small group Bible study.
Young adults want to be part of something that is intimate, authentic, and has a genuine sense of community. Beginning small groups in your church that can reach young adults through teaching the Word of God in this kind of environment can prove to be a great way to see many reached for Christ.
Churches must determine they are going to reach young adults. We need to get young adults into the church as well as create places to connect outside of the church. Churches also need to have places to connect and avenues for ministry for the young adults who are coming in the doors of the church.
If they have children, take the greatest care of their children. Prioritize meeting this need. Young adults with children will be attracted to a church that can care for their children. When you couple that with an effective small group Bible Study, in time, you will reach, baptize, and disciple more young adults.
Let's not forget: Young adults reach young adults. They can energize a church and provide life in every way.
-- 3. Churches and state conventions that have the capacity to help other churches in reaching young adults must rise up and provide assistance.
I am convinced if we are going to see this turned around, we all need to own this problem. For example, what can our church do to help other churches in reaching young adults? While we do it well at times, other times we struggle; but together, we can help one another. This is not just about the growth of our own church, but about penetrating the lostness of young adults with the Gospel, and expanding the Kingdom of God.
-- 4. Begin praying NOW for the next Great Awakening. This will turn it around quicker than anything else.
Evan Roberts was 26 years old when God raised him up to be the catalyst for the great Welsh Revival. Under the direction of the Spirit of God, he went to his home church uninvited. He told them, "I have a message for you from God." As God opened the door for him to proclaim the message, he stated these things:
-- You must confess any known sin to God and put any wrong done to others right.
-- Second, you must put away any doubtful habit.
-- Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly.
-- Finally, you must embrace your faith in Christ publicly.
As J. Edwin Orr shared this great story through his message, "The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening", my heart was moved as he said that within five months of this significant moment, more than 100,000 people were converted through the country. This great move of God swept into various parts of the world.
Why? Because a young adult named Evan Roberts was saved as a coal miner, called to preach, trained in ministry, and led by the Spirit of God to proclaim the message of God.
God can do more in a moment than we can do in a lifetime.
May God raise up another movement of God like this, and if God so desires, even led by a young adult who will call all generations to God. This is why we must reach, baptize and disciple young adults like never before. We need a mighty spiritual awakening in the land. This will turn this tide around quicker than anything I know, while we at the same time, address our challenges strategically.
Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.