The eighth chapter of Jeremiah contains a long lament of the weeping prophet over Israel's spiritual condition. He had been instructed by the Lord to stand in the gate of the Lord's house and proclaim God's Word. He powerfully warned God's people of judgment to come.
In the midst of this lament are these three gripping phrases (Jeremiah 8:20, NKJV):
The harvest is past,
The summer is ended,
And we are not saved!
The burden of Jeremiah is the burden of every true follower of Christ in our 21st-century world. As there was a deep spiritual concern then, so there is now.
With the world's population exploding while America is fast degenerating into godlessness, we are doing less to reach our world than ever before. I echoed this lament at this year's Southern Baptist Convention as I decried the lack of evangelistic fervor and emphasis in many of our churches and among many of our pastors and leaders.
Our Lord Jesus referenced this same concern when He said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4, NKJV).
Jesus points to an end, a point at which the opportunity will pass. There is a definite point at which our opportunity for reaching the world will cease -- the second coming of Christ.
Some people feel that our history will go on forever, that life will continue and the sun will come up every morning. They believe that history is cyclical. However, I believe Scripture teaches that history is linear. History is headed somewhere! Someday there will be a grand conclusion.
There are other ways in which the opportunity will pass. No one is promised another day of life. Every day on this earth thousands of people die and, unfortunately, as far as we know, thousands die without Christ. With all of our resources and technical abilities, there are still hundreds of people groups and millions of persons who have yet to hear the Gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless someone intervenes, they will die without ever having heard the life-saving, eternity-shaping Good News.
This urgency should compel all of us to a new passion for penetrating lostness and pushing back darkness. Our Lord Jesus promised us in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. The kingdom of the evil one is not able to withstand the onslaught of the church. In spite of that assurance, we continue to experience the consequences of inaction and a lack of passion. The night is coming!
We must heed our Lord's call to action, to be involved in the fight. For the past two years, we have talked about a Great Commission Advance. We need to see renewed emphasis in the following areas:
This call upon the church shows the seriousness of Christians helping new believers grow strong in the Lord. It is often said that Satan can do more damage with a weak Christian than with an unsaved person. We desperately need to commit to making disciples as our Lord commanded. In a world of short soundbites and 140-character messages, we must get back to personal, active, intentional disciple-making.
Missions & evangelism
Southern Baptists have long been called a people of missions. I challenge that statement. We talk a good game and we do some things well regarding missions and evangelism. But the truth is, we are doing less to reach our world than did our unschooled forefathers.
This vital area of discipleship is at the heart of what is happening in our nation today. People are giving less to churches than they did in the past. Philanthropic giving has increased in certain categories, but people often are bypassing the church. Churches must return to a teaching of biblical stewardship that helps people understand God's call. Not only does this bless the Kingdom, but it also helps set people free from financial bondage.
Jesus called His Father's house a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). This should be the hallmark of every church. We talk about prayer, but rarely do we see churches actively engaged in the ministry of prayer. Part of disciple-making is teaching all believers that earnest, serious prayer should be the No. 1 part of their day and life. We need men and women who exemplify to their children what it means to have a life filled with prayer.
As I stated during this year's annual meeting in St. Louis, a lack of a transformed membership leads to a lack of passion in soul-winning or evangelism. We must recapture an intentional emphasis in all of these areas if we are going to see transformed lives and a new passion for seeing this world come to Christ.
Since being elected to lead the SBC Executive Committee more than six years ago, I have repeatedly said that I am in this role to see every man, woman, boy and girl come to hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This goal remains my passion. It remains my driving force. I pray that we will get serious about God's command and His commission. Time is running out!
Frank S. Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. This column first appeared in the Executive Committee journal SBC LIFE and at TalkCP, an online forum focused on Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program channel for supporting national and international missions and ministries.