If you asked around, I think a lot of people would probably say that life
would be much easier to live if Gods Word were, somehow, "softer" on issues
Why did the Bible have to say that if I find myself in the middle of a
worship serviceand I suddenly remember a strained relationship with a friendmy
first responsibility is to go immediately and reconcile that relationship
If it is a natural human reaction to get angry, then why did Jesus say that
we must love our enemies and pray for people who continually wish to harm us
What about all the different religions that have so many members all over
the worldhow could Jesus say that He is the only way (John 14:6)?
In much the same way that the skeletal bones give form and structure to the
physical body, Christs absolute pronouncements give form and structure to the
gospel message. Without absolutes the gospel would be no more than a simple
string of subjective sayings without any power whatsoever to change lives. I
was confronted with the true power of the simple gospel message when I visited
a maximum-security prison and spoke to 24 inmates serving time on death
As I considered what it was the Lord would have me say to these men, I
struggled with one possible scripture passage over another. Finally the lights
came on: the key to addressing this group of inmates would be to return to the
core and essence of the gospel without compromising any part of it. The men I
was going to speak to were dealing with nothing but the core issues of living
day after day. The realization of the power of the simple gospel message
compelled me to review a study of the essence of the gospel message in
preparation for my visit to the prison.
This exercise occurred at the same time I learned the good news and bad news
about baptisms reported by Southern Baptist churches in 1999: 1) For the third
consecutive year baptisms were more than 400,000 with baptism among adults 30
and older setting all-time records; 2) But baptism of students fell.
These mixed statistics make me ask:
Have we focused more on being a buddy to our teens rather than being
Have we overreacted to some methods of child evangelism and in the
overreaction significantly hindered any means of reaching our children?
Are we effectively training parents how to share the gospel of Christ with
their own children?
Do we still have a strong evangelism emphasis in our vacation Bible schools,
or has it become more focused on crafts and activities?
Have choir tours become focused on simply going and performing and replaced
mission tours where the object is to go evangelizing?
Are we telling our kids to be on mission without modeling the on mission
The gospel is not about being comfortable or convenient but about being
biblical and practical. The stakes are high; they are about eternal life and
death. Even prisoners agree that we cant go soft on Gods truth. As I left the
penitentiary, one of the death-row inmates threw his big arms around me, leaned
back and looked straight into my eyes and said, "Man, keep preaching and dont
ever go soft on the message!"
Bob Reccord is president of the North American Mission Board, SBC and
author of the new book, Forged by Fire: How God Shapes Those He Loves
(Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).
Reports from Southern Baptist churches for 1999 reflect that for the
third year in a row Baptists recorded more than 400,000 baptisms.
The great news:
1999 baptisms totaled 419,342
Baptisms for adults age 30-59 set an all-time record (24.7% of all
Baptisms for adults age 60 and above set an all-time record (3.3% of
The bad news:
Baptisms of students age 12-17 fell to 22.4% of all 1999 baptisms
from a high of 30.9% in 1972
Baptisms of students age 9-11 fell to 18.2% from a high of 26.3% in
Baptisms in Southern Baptist churches have been plateaued since
1950. If Southern Baptist churches had baptized at the same rate in 1999 that
they did in 1950, they would have reported 800,000 baptisms in
Sources: "Annual Church Profile and Uniform Church Letter,"
LifeWay Christian Resource Center, April 2000 and "Strategic Planning
Indicators," NAMB, Summer 2000.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC