MONTGOMERY (Maggie Walsh) — During the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference, Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, gave participants a “satellite look” at what’s happening in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:19 mandates believers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
What God is offering in this verse “isn’t a suggestion … or a possibility to work on,” Kelley said. “God is saying, ‘This is what I’m expecting you to do: make disciples.’ This is His expectation.”
Kelley then shared a “stunning” chart that showed that although the number of SBC-affiliated churches has grown, baptisms have lessened. What does this mean for the SBC?
It means “the world is doing a better job of pulling our people out of churches than we are doing of pulling lost people out of sin,” which has led to Southern Baptists fast becoming a “shrinking presence with a diminishing voice in our nation.”
“Southern Baptists are closer to losing the South than we are to reaching North America,” he said.
The convention-wide issue, Kelley said, is Southern Baptists not making disciples of their local communities. And how the SBC improves the Great Commission-health of its churches is a life or death issue for the convention, he said.
So what’s the way forward?
By owning the problem, living distinctly within the culture, seeking gospel conversations outside the walls of the church and seeking spiritual awakening, Kelley said.
“We have to teach our people to live distinctly within the culture. If there’s not a noticeable difference … there will be no punch to our gospel; our words will have no power.
“I need you to know how high the stakes are if we will not seek God’s stirring. … I am a man of immense hope because … I know what God can do and I have no doubt in that and I know of His ability to work even in these circumstances,” Kelley encouraged participants.