I hate to end the first week of this series on a negative note, but I am wrestling with a problem. The problem is some articles I’ve read lately on this week before the Southern Baptist Convention convenes in St Louis regarding the decrease in baptisms, attendance, and overall involvement in the convention. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and has made its mark as the leader in that category. But for the past eight years, according to the ACP (Annual Church Profile), our attendance has shrunk, our baptisms have markedly declined, and even though we are adding more churches we are losing churches at an alarming rate.
These numbers presented at a board meeting for any business would be a cause of alarm, if not grief. It would necessitate a wholesale re-evaluation of strategy and maybe an elimination of positions or branches. It would mean these numbers would not be lightly painted over.
They would be addressed seriously.
But for our beloved convention, none of those things will happen. We believe that doing the things as we’ve always done… only doing them harder… will bring us out of the death spiral we have entered.
The convention’s story is a warning sign for churches that enter into a period where
(1) attendance is declining; (2) baptisms are decreasing and (3) signs of life are difficult, if not impossible to find. Are we going to continue doing the same things… only harder… expecting the outcome to radically alter? Or are we going to say, “It’s time for a change of approach and strategy?” This is, in real time, a leadership crisis.
Ancient Jerusalem found itself in a similar state. The walls of Jerusalem had fallen. Though a brief attempt had been made to rebuild, it was unsuccessful under governor Zerubbabel and the priest Ezra. But they had to be built again. Better. Stronger. Soon. They needed a leader.
And so God sent Nehemiah to do what had not been done… to rebuild the walls. To restore the glory of Jerusalem. To lead from reproach to respect. To lead a disorganized group, outmanned, out-supplied… to victory. To do something so God received the glory. A man for the hour was needed… and so God raised up the unlikely; the unknown; even the unprepared… to do what needed to be done.
Nehemiah heard the call. And so he trusted God with it all… and he said yes.
FOR MEMORIZATION: And so it was, when I heard these word, that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of Heaven. Nehemiah 1:4
FOR REFLECTION: Before action is taken to change a situation, God has to break a heart. We will do more, pray more, give more and sacrifice more if our hearts are sensitized to a situation. If we can read about a circumstance and it doesn’t move our heart in some way, we will seldom move toward addressing it. Let me ask you to assess again: What breaks your heart? Your calling is likely there.