Tuesday, March 25

Baptisms matter

In the most recent statistics available from the Southern Baptist Annual Church Profile (ACP), Baptist Press reports, "...baptisms last year dropped from 371,850 to 364,826, or 1.89 percent, eclipsing 2005 as the lowest annual total since 1993."

Along this same theme, Thom Rainer in an article for the Florida Baptist Witness "The Dying American Church." states the following:
It takes 86 church members in America one year to reach a person for Christ...if the research is even close to accurate, the reality is that the church is not reproducing herself. In just one or two generations, Christianity could be so marginalized that it will be deemed irrelevant by most observers...
Compare this to the 3:1 baptism ratio as shared in one of my recent posts of the folks in the Guayaquil house churches. It takes three of them one year to baptize one new believer. While that is a far cry from our goal of every believer winning/discipling four per year, it sure beats an 86:1 ratio for churches in the States, or even the current 44:1 ratio in Southern Baptist churches.

Baptisms are a key indicator to overall church health.

Why has the American church become evangelistically anemic? Thom of course gives several reasons in his article, but I would like to capitalize on just one of them, "Christians in churches often get caught up in the minor issues and fail to become passionate about the major issue of evangelism..."

I honestly believe most Stateside churches have more to learn from their Guayaquil brethren than the other way around.

What differences are there between our Ecuadorian national brethren and their Stateside counterparts? Why are the folks here so much more effective with their evangelism than Stateside Christians?

I can identify at least seven overlapping things I see house church believers consistently doing that are not usually seen in most Stateside churches:

1) Praying daily for the lost. Talk to the believers in a Guayaquil house church and they will show you their list of people they pray for daily of unsaved family, friends, and neighbors.

2) Active regular sharing of the Gospel. It is a very natural part of their Christian walk to share the Gospel with people they encounter in their daily lives. Christ has made such a difference in their lives, and they cannot help but share with those they come in contact with.

3) Planning regular evangelistic events. The house churches plan regular evangelistic events inviting those they are praying for to attend (concerts, outdoor street meetings, special programs, family conferences, DVD/Videos, invited guest speakers, neighborhood evangelistic door-to-door blitzes, etc.)

4) Visiting the sick and personally ministering to lost friends, neighbors and family in times of crisis. They are very good about visiting sick people outside of their church family, praying for healing and ministering to lost family and friends during difficult times.

5) Not distracted by a lot of outside issues like Thom Rainer mentions above. We too have our sticky issues, but they are more along the lines of things like can unmarried couples who get saved be baptized? How to counsel people with difficult problems? How to discern if someone is demon possessed or just emotionally unstable? How to handle questions that Roman Catholics always ask? Why doesn't God always heal someone when they are prayed for? If I were to share with them (and I don't) the issues that are causing all the uproar in the States these days, they would shake their heads in disbelief!

6) Intentionally focus on evangelism as a life priority. Talk to them and they will tell you that their ministry is to win/disciple at least four people to Christ this year. They expect God to give them these souls and are consciously praying and working to achieve this goal.

7) They maintain friendships/relationships with lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They play ball on the street with them, visit them in their homes, minister to them in times of need. How are we ever supposed to win people to the Lord if we have little/no relationship with the lost? How is a Christian supposed to win lost people if they do not even know any? Folks here know plenty of lost people whom they are burdened for their salvation.

Stateside churches may be doing a lot of neat things, have wonderful church programs, great worship services and solid Biblical preaching, but if they are not winning people to Christ, baptizing, making disciples, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded, are they really a healthy N.T. church?

4 comments:

Mark M said...

Guy, good post. I've forwarded it to the rest of the leaders of my church. We are focusing very intentionally on becoming effective evangelists. These seven observations seem especially relevant.
-mark

GuyMuse said...

Mark,

Glad you stopped by. I know in my own life I am challenged by those we work with in their passion for souls. It is one thing to know the theory, and another to get out there and "make disciples." Let us know what kinds of things you guys are learning in your own evangelistic efforts.

Darrell said...

You are right on Guy! I look at my Brothers and Sisters in places like Guayaquil as my heroes. I wish getting there was easier. I would love to sit at their feet and learn.

GuyMuse said...

Darrell,

I think a lot of it has to do with how they themselves are discipled from the beginning when they come to Christ. When this "DNA" is instilled from the start, it will carry over into their daily lives.