by Rod D. Martin
April 21, 2016
America desperately needs a Great Awakening, as SBC President Ronnie Floyd has faithfully and incessantly preached. But the whole world needs America to experience that Great Awakening, perhaps even more than we need to have it.
From Tegucigalpa to Tamil Nadu, pastors tell me they are praying for revival in America. They weep for the growing loss of America’s Christian heritage. They feel America’s outsized influence on absolutely everything. They know that influence isn’t going away: it will either make their lives easier or far, far worse, in proportion to the reach of the Gospel right here in our home.
Losing America for Christendom would usher in a new, high tech dark age, one for which we as American Christians would be responsible. The entire world would pay a terrible price. In many ways it already is.
So while I strongly support our denominational commitment to international missions, I mourn for my fellowman here. Some of our leaders now disdain any sort of patriotism, but Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and we should shed tears over Miami and New York. Those cities are filled with souls who need grace and mercy, and who lacking it will lead far more than their own families, or even cities, astray.
Others understand this well. The atheistic left has worked tirelessly for more than a century to capture American higher education, public schools, media, even Christian seminaries and entire denominations. Jehovah’s Witnesses give at least four hours a week to door-to-door evangelism. Mormons send their young adults two by two across the nation and the world, fielding 75,000 missionaries at any given time. The far larger SBC manages barely more than a tenth of that, with obviously truncated results.
And anyway, in Miami, depending on who’s counting, between 93% and 98% of the population is unchurched. And in my own Bible Belt county, 25% of the population attends no church at all.
How will they hear without a preacher?
IMB gets 51% of the SBC’s Cooperative Program funds for a reason: it serves a frontier with little or no local resources. We don’t fund NAMB similarly because most of our resources are here at home, in our local churches, where the lion’s share of nearly $12 billion in yearly tithes and offerings stay.
All of those churches have office space, classrooms and auditoria. They have desks, secretaries, and phones. Most of them have a pastor for everything: a senior pastor, a music pastor, a youth pastor, a fill-in-the-blank pastor.
How many of them have an Evangelism Pastor? And isn’t that at least as important as a lot of what they have now?
My point is not ecclesiological. I once asked this question to a Reformed friend and was immediately handed a copy of The Trellis and the Vine (good book, by the way). My point is neither to compartmentalize effort nor to suggest a form of church government. Implement any way you wish.
But pastors are busy people, with more demands upon them than a homeschooling mother with twenty kids. The senior pastor should always be the chief evangelist. But he must not be the only one. And it would be transformative to have someone, in your church and 50,000 others, whose only duty was this.
This person would have two principle jobs: enthusiasm and implementation. The first one is essential: all Christians (and certainly all Baptists) know they’re supposed to witness, everyone thinks churches ought to be planted, but if someone isn’t constantly and infectiously excited about it, little actually gets done.
The second is similarly straightforward. Someone should always be recruiting and training church members and taking them out into neighborhoods. Yes, door-to-door works – ask those Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses – no matter how many lazy liars tell you otherwise. But whatever system you use, someone should be spearheading it, not intermittently but constantly.
These new staff members – perhaps we can call them resident missionaries – can coordinate with NAMB, and multiply its effectiveness tenfold or more. But they will actually be employed by, paid for and housed in local churches, the institutions with the money, the infrastructure, and the most direct call to reach their local communities.
Now let’s be clear: if your church’s idea is to hire someone, dump “evangelism” in their lap, and otherwise forget about it, that is not at all what I’m suggesting (although to be fair, that would result in a lot more evangelism than a lot of churches are doing right now). I’m just suggesting what unions have always understood: there has to be an organizer, someone who motivates and spearheads the constant daily work of church members sewing and reaping.
America must be evangelized: it is the mission field for which we are most responsible. Hit-or-miss is not working. Our missions agencies are overtaxed. We must better harness the resources God has given us.
Let’s put 50,000 new North American missionaries on the field this year. And let’s not ask for that to come out of NAMB’s budget. Let’s just do it, in Christ’s name and for His glory, and for those dying all around us.
This article was originally published as part of my Beyond the Church Door series in the Florida Baptist Witness.