The Awakening of the Baptist Church
On June 14-15 2016, more than 7,000 people came to St. Louis from across the country to attend the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
Dr. Steve Gaines - SBC President
At this meeting, Dr. Steve Gaines was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Gaines is the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. Gaines has been leading this church of approximately 30,000 members since 2005.
Prior to these meetings, Gaines outlined the vision for where he would like to lead the churches and associations in the convention. The vision was clearly stated and had a three-point emphasis.
THE VALUE OF VISION
The tenants of Gaines vision for the Southern Baptist church are important for a number of reasons. They list the problems currently being faced by the church and give an outline for how the church should address those problems.
The Southern Baptist Church is the largest protestant denomination in the U.S. – accounting for approximately one third of all American Protestants.
With that many Christians being influenced by Baptist churches and leadership, the results of following, or not following, the vision given by the convention President can have a far-reaching impact on our nation.
By focusing on three-points, Gaines is allowing the Baptist church the opportunity to turn away from issues or beliefs that may be stifling its growth and development. Gaines hopes that the leaders of the church take his vision and impact the world.
THE SPIRITUAL AWAKENED BAPTIST CHURCH
“My number one emphasis will be spiritual awakening.” – Steve Gaines
Gaines has clearly stated his desire for the future of the Baptist church and goes on to express what his desire is for the nation as well.
“America needs revival,” Gaines said. Revival, as defined by the SBC President, “is when the glory of God fills the house of God.”
Gaines wants to see the Baptist church involved in another massive spiritual awakening just like the first and second great awakenings, the Billy Graham Crusades, and the Jesus Movement led by Assemblies of God Pastor Chuck Smith.
One of the methods Gaines calls for is prayer. “Passionate fervent prayer, faithful prayer is what we need to get back to in the Southern Baptist Convention.” He encourages the convention to know that another spiritual awakening and revival can be birthed with a call to prayer, just like the early church and previous revivals were.
Gaines recognizes the burden on the Southern Baptist church to do God’s will. He says, “I believe God wants us to be a catalyst for Spiritual Awakening in America and beyond.”
There is no doubt Gaines is calling out to the large number of Christians that identify as Baptists to hear his call for changing their focus from religious activities to spiritual ones.
Will the church stand and answer the call, faithfully pray, and believe for a spiritual awakening of the church and the revival of the nation?
THE SOUL-WINNING BAPTIST CHURCH
“Soul-winning is a beautiful term that talks about personal, intentional, proactive evangelism.” – Steve Gaines
Gaines doesn’t want the members of the Baptist church to just engage in conversations about the gospel, but conversations that have the intent to persuade and lead the lost to repentance of sins, believe and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
There is much evidence to support that the Southern Baptist Convention is not doing that very well right now.
Since 1999, the SBC has gone down around 100,000 every year in the number of Baptisms, which Gaines correlates to being an indicator for the number of souls won for Christ. Meanwhile, the number of churches planted each year rises.
Gaines poses the thought that if churches, new and old, aren’t evangelistic and don’t change to become focused on soul-winning that the downward spiral will continue.
The call to action for the Baptist church is for their members to become active and verbal in their conversations with the lost. Gaines calls for them to be consistent in, “sharing verbally with lost people what the Bible says about Jesus so that they will get saved.”
An additional emphasis on soul-winning is pointed at Baptist preachers.
“We are not doing that in many of our churches. Some people think they’ve preached the gospel and they don’t give an invitation.” – Steve Gaines
Gaines is calling on Baptist ministers to win souls for the kingdom. Highlighting the absolute need to not only let people know how they can be saved, but also offering an invitation to for them do so.
This is a strong outcry to the Baptist church. The church is being asked to put down its plans and focus on the main objectives of the church – which are to share the gospel and lead the lost to Christ. Saying, “We’ve got to get back to strong evangelism, both personal soul-winning and in our preaching”
The Baptist church has fallen away from these objectives, but now has a leader who notices the downward trend and is offering a vision to follow as well as a plan to execute it.
Will the local Baptist churches and their members hear the call by the denomination to become intentional in sharing the gospel with the lost? Will the preachers start offering an invitation for the lost to receive it?
THE FINANCIAL BLESSED BAPTIST CHURCH
“Stewardship is simply understanding that we don’t own anything, God owns everything.” – Steve Gaines
The final point of the vision Gaines has for the SBC is linked to finances. He wants the church to not only use their resources wisely, but get in a place where their faith is directed at God to pour out from the storehouse in Heaven. Gaines said, “I believe that where the will of God is, the provision of God is.”
The focus on this point came because Gaines recently became concerned and broken hearted by the “tragedy” that International Missions Board recently called back 1100 foreign missionaries back home because they didn’t have enough money to keep them on field.
Without placing the blame, or saying it was the wrong decision, Gaines clearly has let his dissatisfaction in the situation be apparent. He wants the church to have the faith to believe God for more, and not just be tied down to what they have in the bank and think nothing new can come in.
Gaines posed the question, “What can we do to get those missionaries back on the field?”
The solution being offered by Gaines His is to “get people to experience financial freedom and to understand what the Bible says about finances.”
The methods Gaines wants the SBC to focus on are tithing, budgeting, saving for future expenses, paying down debts and giving offerings above their tithes, as the Holy Spirit leads.
He wants people to get set free from financial bondage by talking about and handling their finances by following the Word of God, and adding “It’s okay to preach about finances.”
Gaines wants leaders to preach and teach about what the Bible says about finances. “The Bible says that when we tithe to the church God opens the windows of Heaven.”
When the church participates in the outlined methods they are enacting God’s promises over their finances and will be blessed to have every need met and have more than enough to give to those who need.
Will the Baptist church on every level begin to use their money to serve the gospel every time without fear or save for a rainy day that may never come? Will the Baptist preachers begin to teach on financial blessings and believe for a stewardship awakening to take place?
THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS YEAR’S SBC CONFERENCE
“I believe with all of my heart that we can do more in just a little while with the fresh anointing from God than we can without it.” – Steve Gaines
The Holy Spirit needs to be present in the Baptist Church.
This is the biggest takeaway the church should understand from the vision of the newly elected President of the Southern Baptist Conference.
The fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit is not only Biblical, but needed for the purpose of seeing a spiritual awakening take place.
“The anointing of God brings unity. It starts at the top and flows down. When the leaders are unified in the Lord Jesus Christ it brings unity to the body.” – Steve Gaines
Gaines describes that unity is what is needed in baptist churches. It seems that he understands that for this vision to come to pass there doesn’t need to be consensus in every member of the church. Knowing that change starts at the top, Gaines called for Baptist pastors and leaders to take hold of this vision and implement in their churches, “We don’t have to unify everybody if we can just unify the leaders.”
WILL THE BAPTIST CHURCH ANSWER THE CALL?
Based on the recent decline of the Baptist Church, the leadership of the denomination had to reach a point where they started asking the hard questions to themselves.
The overall question became what is the vision for the future of the Baptist church – one that will encourage the nation to follow Christ, resurrect our dying churches, and spark faith in the stagnant ones.
The question of, “What is the vision for the future of the Baptist Church?” was answered at this conference when the leadership of the SBC clearly stated where they are putting their faith and gave instructions for how the local church can emphasize those points in their own congregations.
The focus now moves towards the local churches themselves and the question becomes, “Will the Baptist churches follow the vision?”
Are the pastors and leadership from the SBC churches that were present during the conference going to implement the vision of their own SBC president into their churches – in the same way they would want their own congregation to follow the pastors vision for their home church?
There are also most certainly Baptist churches that don’t know a new president was elected and a new vision was presented. Who will contact them? Who will encourage them to follow this clearly stated vision of hope for their churches?
The Baptist church has a chance to be part of a mighty move of God. Will they take it or will the denomination continue a downward trend of ignoring, disregarding and/or not focusing on the glaring need for spiritual awakening and soul-winning in the church?
This vision of spiritual awakening is meant to fan a flame in the hearts of the local Baptist churches. To ignite a flame in their dead churches, to build a booming fire in their churches that have a small spark and to engulf Holy Spirit forest fires in the churches that are already doing these things.
If you lead a Baptist church, you should be stirred and excited to see the Holy Spirit moving in your denomination. Please act, and share that excitement with your congregation.
If you are a member of church that needs an outpour of the Holy Spirit, please don’t sit idly by, speak up to your church leadership and encourage them to get involved in seeking a spiritual awakening. Pray for the courage and expectation to see your church win souls for the kingdom.
Make no mistake, the local church is going to be responsible for seeing this vision come to pass or never manifesting. The local church cannot rely on the Associations and leadership of the conference to come and do this work for them.
However, when the local church invites the Holy Spirit to dwell in the House of God, lives will be transformed and the kingdom will be added to.