Recently I heard Dr. Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, speak to leaders in evangelism from across the United States. He took us on a journey back in Southern Baptist time. We went back to 1955 when Southern Baptists baptized close to 450,000 people, almost double the number baptized 10 years earlier. Then he took us forward to today, sadly noting a number of disturbing trends. Creeping universalism is settling into the pews. More and more Baptists believe or at least behave as if they believe that a personal relationship with Christ is not necessary for one to be right with God. Our behavior, the way we live our lives, is blending more and more with the culture. According to Dr. Kelly, we are moving from growth to plateau to decline in our memberships. Then he asked, “What is happening?” Don’t we all want to know!
Dr. Kelly contends Baptists held to a biblical worldview that lead to an unconscious methodology of doing church like a farm — sowing, cultivating, and reaping. We have dropped that baton. Dr. Kelly is talking about a time in Baptist life when we approached evangelistic discipleship making much like the integrated process of farming. He is talking about the Sunday School (small group, cell group, doesn’t matter what you call it), which was the seed bed where the powerful gospel was taught and lived out with the lost invited and involved. At the risk of spelling this wrong, Dr. Kelly calls this Bible-ation, the intertwining of Bible study and relationships. How archaic can you get? A small group of people, lost and saved, studying the Bible together. What good could ever come from that? The Millenials call it “Doing life together.”
What if we picked up the baton that was dropped years ago and went back to farming for the lost? The gospel is just as powerful today as it has ever been! Jesus said, “A sower went out to sow his seed….” (Luke 8:5). Resources are available. Just the other day a church leader who attended an ENGAGE conference said to me, “I got so much out of Phil Miller’s breakout session on making the small group/Sunday School evangelistic.” Sunday School is still a great evangelistic discipleship tool. Rico Tice, a Brit, has written an excellent resource entitled “Christianity Explored” CE is small group study designed for believers and the lost to do life together through the gospel of Mark. CE is a great evangelistic discipleship tool.
Jesus said, “A sower went out to sow his seed….” (Luke 8:5). Been farmin’ lately?
P.S. You can listen to Dr. Kelly’s preaching of this sermon to NOBTS by clicking here. The message starts after about ten minutes of music.`