I love a good comeback story. We find one
such story in the midst of The Great Depression. As an entire nation struggled
to overcome a devastating economic nosedive, an unlikely hero stepped into the
role of a lifetime. James J. Braddock-the "Cinderella Man"-would become one of
the most inspirational figures in the history of sports. A one-time contender
for the light heavyweight title, Braddock hit a losing streak in 1929.
Braddock's claim to fame was that he'd never been knocked out, but when the
stock market crashed, Braddock seemed down for the count. He struggled to win
fights and put food on the table for his family. He eventually lost his house
and his entire savings. No longer fighting opponents in the ring, Braddock was
fighting poverty and the circumstances that threatened to pull apart his
Then one day his former manager offered him the chance of a lifetime-to stand
in for the opener to the 1934 heavyweight match at Madison Square Garden. It
meant fast cash and a chance to say goodbye to boxing forever. But things
didn't go quite as planned. In what can only be described as a miraculous show
of energy and strength, Braddock won the fight. Almost overnight, he became a
symbol of hope for an entire nation fighting to pull itself out of ruin and
back on its feet. And on June 13th, 1935, Braddock, as a 10 to 1 underdog, won
the heavyweight championship of the world. Braddock made one of the greatest
comebacks in the history of sports.
Today, Southern Baptist churches have the opportunity to make the kind of
comeback necessary to accomplish Christ's challenge to take the gospel to
Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth. According to recent studies, 70
percent of Southern Baptist churches are either plateaued or declining in
attendance. Many are on the verge of closing their doors-desperately in need of
revitalization. While the number of Southern Baptist churches in 2006 increased
by 524, total baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention fell for the second
consecutive year, according to the 2006 Annual Church Profile gathered by
"While it is certainly encouraging to see new Southern Baptist churches being
birthed, our baptism totals once again show that we are not doing an effective
job stepping up to the task of sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world,"
LifeWay President Thom Rainer says.
It's easy to get discouraged by the statistics, but there is hope. Many
churches once down for the count have experienced revival and a renewed sense
of purpose and mission. They are now growing and vibrant churches reaching
their communities with the gospel. In our cover story "Comeback Churches" on
page 26, Ed Stetzer reveals three faith factors exhibited by comeback churches.
"We can celebrate churches that make turnarounds because they inspire us to
believe that seemingly impossible things really are possible," says
The local church can be a symbol of hope for people who are trying to pull
their lives out of spiritual ruin. Missions, evangelism and church planting are
the perfect combination for knocking out lostness in North America. Our focus
must remain on Christ's mandate to share the gospel with the world. We must
renew our passion for reaching people in our cities and neighborhoods and
ultimately the entire world.
Carol Pipes, email@example.com
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