THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn
A task force appointed to study declining baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention released its report May 12, detailing five problems they believe have contributed to the recent downward trend. The task force, appointed last year by the North American Mission Board and comprised mostly of pastors, also suggested five solutions focused on prayer, evangelism and discipleship.
When it was published in June 2013, the Annual Church Profile (ACP) report showing the previous year’s facts and figures sounded several alarm bells: 25% of Southern Baptist churches reported zero baptisms. And 60% of churches baptized no one in the 12-17 age bracket.
“We have a spiritual problem,” the task force acknowledged in its report. “Many of our SBC pastors and churches are not effectively engaged in sharing the gospel and yet continue business as usual. We need a sense of brokenness and repentance over the spiritual climate of our churches and our nation.”
Churches also need to get back to celebrating baptisms, the group said. “Many of our churches have chosen to celebrate other things as a measure of their success rather than new believers following Christ in baptism. We have drifted into a loss of expectation.”
To address the decline, the task force suggested five focus areas for pastors that correlate to five problem areas (spiritual, leadership, discipleship, next generation, and celebration):
1. Pray for spiritual awakening.
2. Model personal evangelism and provide pathways. (NAMB has introduced a new evangelism tool called “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide.)
3. Create a disciple-making culture.
4. Serve the next generation.
5. Celebrate evangelism and baptism.
“…We encourage our fellow SBC pastors to join us in owning this problem,” the task force said. “Together, we can seize this opportunity to lead our churches and be part of the solution.”
For more on the task force’s report, evangelism tools, and a new video challenge, go to www.namb.net/baptismtaskforce.
Boko Haram offer to release kidnapped girls may be ploy, Nigerian Southern Baptist says
Terrorist group Boko Haram released a video Monday offering to release about 100 of the Christian girls they’ve kidnapped, in exchange for the release of Boko Haram prisoners in Nigeria. But the offer could be a tactic to buy time to strategize, Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press. Ojutiku is a Southern Baptist and co-founder of Lift Up Now, a Christian-based grassroots organization addressing political, economic and social challenges in his homeland Nigeria.
“They have wiped out families. They have killed generations of people, even infants,” Ojutiku said of Boko Haram. “They have maimed people for life. They have killed hundreds and thousands of people. And then to conceive that you would negotiate with such very, very despicable … people who commit such heinous crimes, it is unthinkable to me.
“These people must be prosecuted,” he said. “There cannot be sustainable peace without justice.” Read the full story at BPNews.net.
Arkansas becomes first southern state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples
County clerks in Arkansas were thrown into a state of confusion by Judge Chris Piazza’s decision to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, May 8. By Monday, clerks in some counties were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while others had decided not to. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed paperwork to temporarily extend the ban Monday, the Associated Press reported, but clerks can continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the state’s Supreme Court processes documents from both sides on Tuesday.
Translators work to get Bible into dangerous territory
Ten million landmines may still be buried in Angola, left over from a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. But Wycliffe Associates, known for their efforts to translate the Bible into every language, is working to take God’s Word to the southern African nation, The Christian Post reports. “These people have been ravaged by brutality and poverty,” said Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “They live in daily danger of stumbling onto hidden land mines. But worst of all, many have never even heard a word of scripture in their own language.” Read more about Wycliffe’s Angola project at ChristianPost.com.
HGTV stops production on show starring Christian brothers
A reality show in the works about two house-flipping brothers was shelved after the group Right Wing Watch posted about David and Jason Benham’s beliefs about marriage, homosexuality and abortion. “Flip it Forward” would have followed the Benham brothers as they helped six families renovate homes, reports ChristianityToday.com. “We promised we would give Jesus glory whether in victory or defeat,” David Benham said after the show’s cancelation. “Sure seems like we’ve been defeated lately. But you know what? God is bigger than all of this.”