Editor’s Word: Challenges for the Church

Some evangelical senior statesmen are offering dire predictions for the future of the church if drastic and powerful changes are not soon made. The evangelical church at large, and the Southern Baptist Convention in particular, are losing ground. Culture wars have taken their toll on the faithful, and an increasing post-truth mindset makes sharing the gospel of God’s grace more difficult now than in previous generations.

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and the leader of Family Talk, recently stated that the Christian church ranks near the bottom in terms of impact or influence, with 48 other entities outranking it in significance. He said, “The number one priority for Americans is money. Marriage is held in low regard. Infidelity is frequently seen as no big deal. Monogamy is considered old fashioned. Divorce is commonplace.” He added that most Americans no longer believe in absolute truth, which would include the Bible and its teachings.

At this pivotal moment in American history, the Southern Baptist Convention faces critical decisions that can influence the effectiveness of the denomination for years to come. Some of our key institutions are seeking presidents: LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the International Mission Board, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. However, Southern Baptists are primarily identified not by our institutions but by our churches — and far too few of our churches are healthy or growing.

In South Carolina, our own convention faces tremendous challenges, with 88 percent of our churches either plateaued or declining. We need stronger churches, revitalized churches, more churches and, most of all, a dependence on the God of Scripture. Our faith may be tested more than we could have ever imagined. We face difficulties and opposition greater than our forefathers did. We need (particularly in our own denomination) a God-sent revival that produces lasting change and bold witnesses.

Americans are ripe for exploitation in the age of false, fake and imaginary news. Communicators in every strata of our society are needed — those who will believe the truth, speak the truth, and stand in the truth even if it hurts. Barna Research has reported that only 4 percent of millennials (those born around 1982-84 to 2002-2006) have a biblical worldview. Dobson sounds an alarm: “We may have lost this generation known as millennials, but they are the parents of the next generation. We cannot afford to lose yet another generation.”

But what can we do? We need something that rises above rhetoric, feelings, comfort, selfishness or individualism. We need Christ Jesus. Our churches may shrink, and our denomination may fail, but the Son of God will always be the same perfect Redeemer. He alone is worthy of our unwavering worship, adoration and obedience.

The call today is the same as it has always been for the child of God: faithfulness. There are so many things we cannot do or change, but there are important things we must do: Believe His Word, pray, stay faithful to His truth, and obey His call not only to share the gospel but to be salt and light in the world in which we live. We need strong, healthy families more now than ever. Most of all, we can be the church — alive, militant and strong. May God give us the grace to be His people in all our relationships, and may He be glorified through our commitments.

The confession of the early church was simply, “Jesus is Lord.” That should also be our declaration of life and faith today, tomorrow, and until we meet our Savior. Today is not the time to step back, but to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).