Resurgence hasn't brought revival, evangelist says
June 14 2002 by Marv Knox and Mark A. Wyatt , Baptist Editors Network

Resurgence hasn't brought revival, evangelist says | Friday, June 14, 2002

Friday, June 14, 2002

Resurgence hasn't brought revival, evangelist says

By Marv Knox and Mark A. Wyatt Baptist Editors Network

ST. LOUIS - The "conservative resurgence" has not produced revival in the Southern Baptist Convention, evangelist Freddie Gage said at the conclusion of the first session of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) annual meeting June 11. In his final address as SBC president, James Merritt exhorted Southern Baptists to be faithful to "the fight, the faith, the finish."

"I can remember in 1979 in Houston, Texas, and we had an all-night prayer meeting," said Gage, a prominent Southern Baptist evangelist who prayed the benediction after Merritt delivered his presidential address.

"I felt we were going to experience a revival, a revival of souls," Gage said. "It has not happened." He urged messengers to the St. Louis meeting to "ask the Holy Ghost of God to come down on us and for God to send a revival."

In his prayer, Gage asked God to "give us a passion and set us afire and give us a zeal for souls that the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have."

The SBC's 145th annual meeting registered just more than 9,000 messengers.

In his final SBC presidential sermon, outgoing president Merritt warned the "danger of a lukewarm spirit" has replaced liberalism as the greatest threat to the convention. Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., used his address to call the nation's largest non-Catholic denomination to faithfulness and a renewed emphasis on evangelism.

"We face a secular culture that is becoming increasingly strident and militant in its anti-Christian, anti-truth, anti-God mentality, and I fear the danger of facing this spirit with a lackadaisical heart," Merritt said. "We face a world whose heart is becoming increasingly cold that needs to feel the hot fire of evangelism, and I fear the danger of seeing this need with a lackluster passion."

He cited 2 Tim. 4:7-8 as a "blueprint" for Southern Baptists to be faithful until the biblical promise of Christ's return is fulfilled. The audience responded with sustained applause as Merritt first urged Baptists to be "faithful to the fight."

"Christianity is not for the faint of heart. There is no place for conscientious objectors in the kingdom of God," Merritt said. "When you come to Jesus, He does not invite you to a picnic. He calls you to a fight."

Merritt cited a newspaper account of a speech by a Dartmouth professor who noted Christian songs and prayer in schools now are "under proscriptions" while abortion, pornography and homosexuality have become commonplace.

"The very moment a parent suggests that some books are not suitable for elementary school children because of sexual explicitness or obscene language, the entire academic establishment explodes in indignation and cries 'censorship!' In contrast, whenever a school library discovers some long-forgotten volume which political correctness now decrees might offend one group or another, that book is instantly yanked," Merritt said.

"When the school inflicts books on youngsters which deliberately undermine the moral and religious convictions of parents, it is termed 'education.' But when parents complain, they are portrayed as 'narrow-minded' or 'intolerant.'

"More and more, we are being told to sit down, shut up, go along and get along, be inclusive, be tolerant, be nice and be quiet," he said. "We are told we ought to keep politics out of the pulpit, but I believe whenever the political impacts the spiritual and the moral, we have the biblical responsibility to address the political."

Referring to various protest groups who frequent SBC meetings, Merritt said, "They have let me know in their correspondence, 'We are not going away.' Well, I've got news for the pornographer, the adulterer, the homosexual, the pedophile and the abortionist: We are not going away either.

"We may be a denominational David standing against a world full of Goliaths, but we have the slingshot of truth in one hand and the 'rock of ages' in the other, and we are guaranteed to have victory in Jesus. And so, Southern Baptists, until he comes, be faithful to the fight," he told the messengers.

Second, Merritt called on Baptists to be faithful to the faith. "I want to say to every preacher here, regardless of your style of worship, whether you are sinner-sensitive, seeker-sensitive - I don't care if you don't have enough sense to be sensitive - keep the faith," he said.

Responding to popular church growth methods, Merritt said Baptists should be faithful to preach the faith. "We are being told today by some church-growth gurus, baby-boomer experts and church-marketing agents, 'Don't preach on hell, don't talk about money, don't mention politics, don't be controversial.'

"We ought to be real in the way we practice the faith, and we ought to be relevant in the way we preach the faith. But we should never shy away from preaching the whole counsel of God," Merritt said. "Drama is wonderful, praise and worship music is refreshing; but what God has promised to honor above everything else is the preaching of His word."

Citing a study by the SBC's North American Mission Board, Merritt said 84 percent of Southern Baptists "are not regularly involved in personal witnessing of any type." Baptists must get back to evangelism and realize "just like Jesus Christ, we have come to seek and to save that which was lost," he said. "If we ever lose that distinctive, we will fall by the wayside and join the ranks of other denominations whose corpses litter the religious highway today."

In addition to being faithful to the fight and the faith, Merritt said Baptists also must be faithful to the finish.

"God is not concerned with how fast you run in your race, but how far you run," he said. "It is not how you start the race; it's how you finish the race that counts with God. All that matters is that you hit the finish line with His approval.

"It doesn't matter what the politically correct, the intellectually elite or the financially powerful think about your ministry ... as long as when you hit that finish line the Lord Jesus is standing and the Lord Jesus is clapping when you get there," Merritt said.

In the prayer that followed Merritt's sermon, Gage said, "I pray most of all today for Southern Baptists. Ninety-six percent of Southern Baptists never led a soul to Jesus Christ.

"God, send the fire, the power upon us in Jesus' name. Set us free from our personal agendas. Set us free in Jesus' name from dead orthodoxy, and once again fill us with your Spirit to go out and tell a lost and dying world that Jesus saves."

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6/14/2002 12:00:00 AM by Marv Knox and Mark A. Wyatt , Baptist Editors Network | with 0 comments
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