southern-baptist-convention

Dear Southern Baptists:

I could be writing to a broader audience. Perhaps I should be. And I know many outside our denomination will read this brief letter. I hope those readers will bear with me as I have a “family discussion.”

Please hear me clearly. I am not writing out of any sense of superiority. Indeed, many of you could put me to shame. But my heart is breaking with what I perceive to be a loss of passion for those who do not know Christ. Many of you have seen the numbers. We are reaching fewer people for the gospel today than we did decades ago when we were a much smaller group.

The First Love

Where is the passion in most of our churches to reach the lost? Where is the passion among our leaders, both in our churches and in our denomination? Jesus told those at the church at Ephesus that they had sound doctrine, that they hated evil (Revelation 2:1-7). But He also told them they had lost their first love. When we truly love Jesus with all of our hearts, we can’t help but tell others about Him. We can’t help but share the good news.

I thank God for our contending for the faith. I thank God for our affirmation of the total truthfulness of Scripture. I thank God for orthodoxy. But I pray that it is not becoming a dead orthodoxy—an orthodoxy that has lost its first love.

The Purpose of the Letter

The purpose of this letter is not to chastise. I am a messed up sinner who has no right to look at the splinter in the eyes of my brothers and sisters when I need to deal with the plank in my own eye. I need to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. I need to share His love as part of my very being. In His power I must do more and I must do better.

No, the purpose of this letter is simply to share a broken heart, and to express a heartfelt desire to change. I must love Jesus more deeply and tell others about Him more often. I must show Christ’s love not only with my words, but with every action and interaction I have. I must be more like Him every day.

I have no proposal. I have no new programs for now. I simply have a burden.

And as a commitment to God first, but then a commitment to you, I am asking God to lead me to love Him more deeply than I ever have. I am asking God to put people in my life where I can show His love, and tell them about my Savior.

It Must Begin with Me

My life’s desire is to glorify God by loving Him with all my heart. And I have no right to say that unless I am so much in love with Him that I “am unable to stop speaking about what (I) have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Evangelism must be as natural to me as breathing.

Pastors, will you join me in this plea? Will you be an evangelistic example for the churches God has called you to serve? Laypersons, will you pray for evangelistic hearts in your own lives? I must make that prayer a part of my life every day.

Have we lost our first love? Is that love reflected in in how we share the gospel of Christ every day?

May God break me until I am all His, telling others about His Son every day.

And may the sharing of the good news of Christ once again become the focus of all our lives in the churches of our denomination.


Image via Baptist Press

FREE Download: 7 Warning Signs Your Church Staff Is In Trouble

Sign up to receive posts like this one delivered to your inbox daily and get this FREE download from Vanderbloemen Search Group, experts in church leadership, team building, and church staffing.

Comments

  1. Linda says

    My husband is a pastor to a small congregation and I feel we just through the motions of worship and not reaching outside of our doors. Very heartbreaking!

      • says

        Hi Thom, I have been feeling that pain. After serving overseas in Tanzania, East Africa with the IMB we came home and have been raising our kids through the teenage years and into college. We are back home in North Carolina now. Why couldn’t there be a way to live out 2 Tim 2:2 and see many new churches planted?How can we do that? Being broken and confessing our faults and asking / seeking God is the beginning. I most definitely see the need for church planting here like Southern Baptists are doing on the mission field. Several people mentioned obstacles for that in the churches, and an open letter of brokenness for our condition and for sin in all our hearts, and the state of the lost without Christ, seems to be in order for all. This is a good question to start from here.

      • Tom H says

        I serve a small church as pastor in upstate NY for a denomination that has lost its way. Its all about programs and new buzz words every year. I just preached this passage yesterday. My heart breaks when I see folks coming to church out of obligation rather than of love. The denomination I am in has been steadily losing people for years with seemingly no end in sight, but a lot of hand-wringing. Jesus’ words cut right to the heart of it: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

        Grace and Peace

    • Dana says

      Stop preaching milk to believers, unless your church is a new church, most Christians know the Gospel story! It’s time to move on to spiritual maturity, on to the good, acceptable, & perfect will of God. Church is for believers, not non-believers! We need to teach Christians how to disciple there fellow workers, their acquaintances, their bosses & their relatives. Evangelism is for outside of the church. If someone asks you a spiritual question & you don’t know the Biblical answer, then you need dig into the word every day & find the answers (I’m talking to the members of the congregation mostly). Christians need to learn their spiritual gift in love to complete the body of Christ. & pastors are suppose to lead them there. This is my observation, the Baptist Convention is full spiritual babies & they expect the pastors to do all of the evangelizing. Church members should know how to lead a lost person through the sinners prayer & have confidence that they did it right. And pastors need to preach meat regardless of who is in the pews, because more then likely they are all Christians. Because if the Spirit is moving in the believers, then the Spirit will be moving in the non-believers as well. By the foolishness of preaching men are saved, but God is the one that gives the increase & if they respond, it will be partly because the church member has been sowing & watering already. This is how you get the love back. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one for another. If ya love me Peter feed my sheep…

      • Billy Graham says

        Hebrews 5:12-14

        New King James Version (NKJV)

        Spiritual Immaturity

        12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

        • says

          I’d like to add that even solid food can be dangerous. If we remember that food in it’s raw form is better than processed food. So it is with the Word of God. We need to keep it in it’s rawest form, closest to the original translation, as much as possible, to save it’s authenticity. leave Milk and go to Meat, but go from processed to fresh, raw form! :)

      • Derek says

        “have confidence they did it right.” So is that how we determine one’s salvation? Last I checked, Jesus said we will know them by their fruits. Not if we believe someone prayed the prayer right… Which in and of itself is a debatable issue.

        • Dana says

          Did you just except Christ by yourself or did a pastor or a Christian lead you in the sinners pray? Did someone tell you that according to John 3:3 you had to be born again to be saved & to go to heaven ? Did they tell you that in Romans 3:23 that everyone has sinned & have fallen short of the glory of God? Did they tell you the way to be born again is in Romans 10:9-10? Then you were lead in the sinners pray, right? Derek I wasn’t trying to offend anyone I was merely pointing out that there are too many Christians out there that don’t know these basic Scriptures. When Jesus said we will know them by their fruits, he was talking about people who say they are Christians but their action tell you otherwise.

          • Vikki says

            I agree with Derek. One of the problems in the evangelical church in the last half century has been the so-called “sinners prayer.” The problem of apathetic churches today is partially because of so many folks said a “repeat after me” prayer or even worse, a raise your hand and let me count you if you want to be saved. Salvation brings about a new birth. All things are made new, and that doesn’t happen with magic words. It happens with a move of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. We can’t save anyone with “repeat after me” prayers. When individuals are made new, and the heart of stone is replaced by a heart of flesh, a love for the Word of God will follow, as will a love for the lost in our communities, our countries, and around the world. Perhaps we have pews full of folks who believe they are saved because they raised their hand a youth rally 25 or 30 or 40 years ago; when in fact, those folks are as lost as can be, and that’s why they don’t know the Word, or care about reaching the lost.

          • Chris says

            Dana, I agree one of the biggest pitfalls of Christian witnessing is the fact they are afraid to lead someone in the sinner’s prayer. It’s not that I dont don’t believe they know how, It’s the one leap of faith that for some reason we are not taking and the lost world is begging for it. I simply don’t get it.

        • Dan says

          Where is the sinners prayer in the Bible and ,what is the right way to pray it? Jesus said I’m the way and on one comes to the Father accept through me!

      • chazgoat says

        horrible advice…the gospel is the meat and THAT is more the issue with the lack of power in gospel preaching than anything else. Presuming that those in the church need to “move on” is why they are dying on the vine. Read John 9…if we say we now see then we are still in our sin, we are only powered and fueled by the gospel itself, we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The covenant making God has given us the benefits and methods of the preached word and the Lord’s supper to republicize his promise to us every Lord’s day. If you don’t show up ready to worship as a broken needy sinner in need of a Savior ready to receive the only remedy for your weak poor soul then you cannot be effective to share Jesus as a felt need. blessings in Christ

          • Dana says

            I’m really sorry I even attempted to help motivate the average pew warmer to grow in Christ. That’s OK I’m not a writer of elegant words or anything like that. But I would encourage ya’ll to read 1 Corinthians 3. I love ya brothers & sisters & I pray that ya’ll will grow in Christ so we all will be equipped for His work till he comes.

        • Paulette says

          Do you deny the new birth? We area new creation. We do not have to be justified over and over. Justification is finished. Sanctification is progressive not justification.

      • Steven says

        Dana,

        This is exactly what the purpose of the article was demonstrating. Your traditional approach church, preaching, and the Gospel is not exactly in line with what the Word seems to say, but very in line with the tradition of Southern Baptists. I grew up Baptist, and have since attended churches that are just a body of BOTH believers and non-believers. Jesus said he did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick. Although we are all sick, some have never had the chance at real health (Christ) and if we don’t reach out, then we aren’t truly doing Jesus’s last challenge that he charged his disciples with: to share His name and purpose.

        I for one am disgusted with how many denominations there are in the church, and how little differences of opinion have skewed what God established the church to be. There were no Baptists, Methodists, or Catholics back in Jesus’ time, there were only small groups of believers, and those that were not believers, but had a curiosity to learn more. This is church.

        Churches today have become buildings, stage shows, productions, businesses, and sadly, even scams. I am not slamming all churches, but I am saying there are so many things wrong with todays church, I’m not sure it can be fixed. Of course there are good, believing people in these churches, and there are indeed many good and solid churches that follow the bible, rather than southern tradition; but where there are people, there is corruption. Whether we choose to accept it or not, todays view of church is corrupt, and those of us that are “set in our ways” especially those “back row baptists” are too blind to see it. Hopefully this article, and these discussions will shed more light on a neglected topic.

        • Jack Maddox says

          Steven

          Can you please explain the your position that the local church is a ‘body of both believers and unbelievers” Can your position be substantiated from the Bible?

          • Steven says

            Jack,

            I am simply implying that the church needs to not be only believers. We need to have those that are curious, wondering, and wanting to learn more about Christ to be welcome into the church. If the church (when I say this I am referring to a literal building we call a “church” not the biblical body of Christ) is only full of believers, what have we accomplished? It would be a stagnant group of individuals not actively seeking to bring and welcome others in. This is my position, and the point I was seeking to make. To further back it, it’s plain in scripture that both Jesus, and the disciples, spent more time telling people about His story and legacy, rather than hanging out with each other, singing the same hymns, talking about potlucks, etc.

            I do not think that any of those things are wrong necessarily, but I am saying tradition was not a part of the gospel. Tradition is too much a problem with the average day church. Jesus lived on the edge, went where non-believers were, reclined with them, dined with them, and overall made it known his mission was to spread the wealth of His gift. Today, churches are stagnant, do not share enough, and are too often governed by denomination and tradition.

            In summary, the church is more than a building, more than a group of believers, it is a living mission to carry the message no matter the cost. Refer to any of the gospels for clarity. Hopefully that helps to clear the air.

          • Cole says

            Amen, Jack!

            The church is the body of Christ, the same Christ that is a friend of sinners. So if we are in Christ our ministry is defined by his mission. Our efforts of making disciples are founded and sustained by the work of Christ and it goes forward just the same, in love that is from Christ which is a love for sinners. A love that strengthens us to embrace those who are unlike us and even hate us. However, we will never move one inch until we see that Christ embraced us first, those who hated him but now he calls us his own. This is why we preach the gospel to ourselves daily. So that from that overflow comes us telling it to others.

      • says

        I recall the words of a youth missionary that has stuck with me over the years….no matter your faith, are you a bottom feeder or a life breather? Complacency in Christianity leads to many things, but all bad. Strive to become a life breather!

      • Rene says

        Come on and preach it. Finally someone else who gets it. The problem is the church not realizing and seeing Ephesians 4 to it’s full potential. “He gave some to be pastors, evangelists, preachers and teachers, for the EQUIPPING of the SAINTS, for the edification of the BODY OF CHRIST, UNTIL we all come to a UNITY of the FAITH, no longer tossed to and fro, CARRIED about with EVERY WIND of DOCTRINE!”

    • Mark Cavinee says

      I pastored small churches all my ministry life and I found for the most part, for small churches to grow, you need a pastor is is not afraid to challenge the diehards (church bosses) and preach from the heart. Abortion is murder, gay lifestyle is a sin, but their is forgiveness at the foot of the Cross….Do I have a witness?????

      • says

        Yes you do Mark. I too have pastored small churches and found that there is usually one family that is in control and they become your enemy if that control is threatened. And it simply sucks the life out of the church. Only when you involve enough other people can you peacefully break that grip…if at all.

      • Tom says

        Mark, you have another witness. I have spent my life ministry pastoring small churches, and as Mark said earlier, about the one-family ruling the small church to be quite true in all churches I served. We lose sight of the church being a “museum for saints when it should be a “hospital” for sinners. There is a lot of wisdom in the comments from most people who have added their take of our “problems”. All of us, including me, need to repent and return to our first love–Jesus. When we have Jesus in our churches, we have all toe “program” we need. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVETH; to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16) (Capitals are mine for emphasis)

    • Don says

      God placed this same burden on me this weekend. He reached into my heart and reminded me that before He created the world, He knew we would mess things up. His desire was to live in fellowship with man for all eternity, but man desired to be God rather than being like God. The result was the loss of continuous fellowship on a personal level. Before He created all things, God devised a plan to bridge that divide. That plan required a sacrifice of His only Son in the most horrible way possible. The choice was made BEFORE creation, so that we can live with Him for all eternity. If that doesn’t make you shout, what will make you shout?

    • Bryan says

      Greetings to All,
      I have given my entire life to the church and I am deliriously happy as the weeks go by and I hear from other’s (family, friends, congregation members, strangers) how God is transforming their lives. I’ve pastored churches, I’ve served on committees, I’ve attended 0ver 100 Spiritual weekends; Walk to Emmaus, Presbyterian Pilgrimage, Lay Witness Missions, Discipleship Weekends and more and I believe that sometimes we are more interested in the number (is our church growing) than we are the seeds that are planted when other’s see Jesus Christ in us. I’ve just returned from a weekend retreat with 50 other brother’s and sister’s in Christ trying to discern their call to ministry…what a blessing! I am sure, Linda, that the churches your husband has pastored have been successful in the eyes of Him, who we serve. To Thom, I say, bless you for causing us to pause and think about how we are delivering the Good News. Have we lost something in our zeal to serve God? I pray that the answer is no. If it is yes then, I believe that, one of the things we need to do, is instead of proclaiming that God is at the very heart of our lives, SHOW the world that God is indeed at the center, that Jesus comes first with every decision and that the Holy Spirit will always be there to sustain us.

  2. Larry McKeon says

    It’s a blessing when you open an email, and the message is something your heart has been yearning for only you didn’t realize it till you started reading. With all the external distractions within society today, a reminder of our first love is heart warming, and gives us all an opportunity to focus on what is real and true, our Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer is that all Christians, both inside our denomination and outside, receive this same message. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    Thom
    I could not agree more. We are using I am a Church Member church wide and preaching through those themes.
    We are convinced that as we love God and each other the way we should, He will use it as a testimony to those we live around and add to us daily (Acts 2). We are called to love (I Cor 13). I thank God for you!!

  4. Robert Wooten says

    Thom, thank you for your open, honest and trustworthy letter. May my church plant now for six months never have losing its first love as it’s testimony. Jude 1:2

  5. says

    I admire you for having the courage to post this letter. I applaud the tone of your public voice and the leadership you are providing at LifeWay. I am a former employee of LIfeWay and left in frustration in 2005 because the emphasis was on growing the business instead of advancing the kingdom. We were focusing on the Walmart type churches and neglecting the mom and pop churches. Anecdotally speaking, I have talked with many who do not go to church and the SBC is known more about what we are against instead of our core message. Churches are leaving out “Baptist” in their names because the name has negative baggage they do not want. We need to repent and turn back to sharing love of Jesus. As a retiree, I am using new media to share His love. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzGRk6rgkNJtMO3VHk81kUQ

  6. says

    I believe your heart reflects the heart of God at this time. Matthew 9:36 challenges me every day about how I see people. You are where you are for such a time as this.

  7. says

    I admire you for having the courage to post this letter. I applaud the tone of your public voice and the leadership you are providing at LifeWay. I am a former employee of LIfeWay and left in frustration in 2005 before you came, because the emphasis was on growing the business instead of advancing the kingdom. We were focusing on the Walmart type churches and neglecting the mom and pop churches. Anecdotally speaking, I have talked with many who do not go to church and the SBC is known more about what we are against instead of our core message. Churches are leaving out “Baptist” in their names because the name has negative baggage. (I know we are in the post-denominational age) We need to repent and turn back to sharing love of Jesus. As a retiree, who does not need a salary, I am using new media to share His love. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzGRk6rgkNJtMO3VHk81kUQ

  8. Eric Lockhart says

    Good article. Seems you’re first sentence in the paragraph above the title “It Must Begin With Me” is indeed the proposal/solution – repentance and seeking God. I’ll definitely join ya in that.

  9. Michael McVey says

    Thom,
    Thanks for approaching a difficult subject with authenticity and openness. It is a real problem in the church today. Perhaps we have reached our “comfort zone” and don’t go. Perhaps we have become to “proud” of our SBC heritage and have become an exclusive club. Perhaps we are “content” to be gleaners of knowledge without application. Whatever the cause I will begin “remembering,” “repenting,” and “returning” to my first love as directed by my Lord in His letter to the church of Ephesus. This is my prayer today.

  10. says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Yours is a message that needs to be heard. It is not an easy one to read, but you strike at the heart of what I too perceive to be a lack of passion not only among many church members but also among pastors and staff members as well. I want to thank you for NOT rolling out yet another ‘program.’ Our problem is not a lack of programming and resources. In fact, there are more resources at our disposal than ever before. But the core issue is, as you aptly put it, a lack of passion for Christ, compassion for people, and boldness to share His love and message with others outside our church circles. May the Lord grant continued favor and blessings on your life, your family, and your ministry. And may He find us faithful to our first love.

      • Rubye says

        Dr. Rainer: I appreciate your sincere approach to this problem that is compounding the local assemblies today. My heart goes out to you and those who are hearing the “trumpet” sound of the Holy Spirit speaking into our hearts. We must go back to our first love, if we do not, we will suffer the consequences at the very Bema Seat of Christ. I thank you so much for this open letter and truly it is an inspiration to me because the Holy Spirit has given me this message to give to others inside and outside the local assemblies. We must go back to our first love and repent and seek God for our direction and his plan. It may be hard for some to hear but we must speak truth.

    • Rubye says

      Garrick: You have said a “mouthful,” the exact words that I have been asking also. I am in the process of writing a book called “Where is the love of Christ?” Thank you for sharing>

  11. Milton Kornegay says

    Dr. Rainer: My respect for you as a man of God just leaped another notch as you posted this sincere letter. I agree with your premise. But permit me to say that a part of this problem is our failure in our churches to nurture young believers on “solid food.” Too many of our churches have become “junk food” havens. When a person truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, that heart is ripe for being taught the truth of God’s word. Too many times, rather than teaching these young believers the word of God – they are nurtured on “Bible lite” and “psychological babble” that hinders growth (love for Jesus and the true things of God). Oh, we’ve added to our church roll, and it appears too many times that this is the focus. But those new believers don’t grow in their love the the Lord Jesus – rather they grow in love with their “church.” Consequently, the love for Jesus that leads one to share Jesus Christ is stifled. I’m not saying that some of these folks are not saved .. but poor diet physically has led to many physical health issues. And a porr diet spiritually has the same results. Thank you, brother for speaking the truth in love.

  12. Mark says

    I understand what you are saying, that the first love has been lost. Did the church lose its desire to reach the lost? Perhaps. Perhaps it was because when new people come into a church, they wind up changing things. People are now there that not everyone knows. Sometimes there is an unwarranted fear of new people. Perhaps the new people don’t have the same ideas as the long time members. Perhaps they are politically moderate. Churches can very similar to country clubs. Perhaps the old guard was content with the way things had been and did not want the apple cart upset.

    The other reason may be that people have read about your politics and don’t like it. When any church picks sides in a political fight and dismisses those on the other side in the fight as heretics, it runs a high risk of turning people off. Politics is so dividing that it pits friends against each other to the point that friendships have been terminated over election results. It is one thing to have a family watch the Alabama v Auburn game in separate places one afternoon a year. It is another when they become like the Hatfields and McCoys and even can’t sit together at Christmas lunch. Politics can destroy a church and then nothing you say to someone can get them to want to attend your church. Religion should be above politics.

    Jesus is an example of a true liberal, much to the dislike of conservative Christians. In fact, he would probably fit in more at Berkley than in a conservative Christian church. I say that to remind people that Christianity was never supposed to be the modern version of the Judaism of the Pharisees.

    • Jack Maddox says

      What?????????? Your comments have really little if anything to do with the OP and say more about your own “politics” in all actuality

    • Penny says

      “Jesus is an example of a true liberal, much to the dislike of conservative Christians. In fact, he would probably fit in more at Berkley than in a conservative Christian church” Mark, what you just said is a cause of what you consider dissension” Not that I don’t “love” you as a Christian, but I take a strong reaction when people use Jesus to rationalize their political belief. How on earth can we reduce the Godhood of Jesus by labeling Him as a member of human- institued identity, whether a “liberal” or a “conservative”! He is God. We do not ever identify him at our level. Instead, we believers identify with Him.
      What is a liberal? Because liberals claim to champion public welfare and helping the poor, then it is love and Jesus wants people to love and therefore Jesus is a liberal?
      What about the moral standards and teaching on living as believers should as new creatures, discerning what are pleasing to Him or what He taught against ( what seculars call the “social issues” ) ?
      Why do liberals champion pro-abortion and gay-rights without any misgivings? Can you pull Jesus down to be identified among them?

  13. Kyle Bridgman says

    Thom, I am more convinced than ever that the path to reaching the lost leads directly through our own relationship with Jesus. The closer we walk with Him, the more easily the Lord can guide us to the people, situations and the words of witness. I hope to encourage our congregation to make this a year of developing the closest walk ever with Jesus and allowing Him to live and reach out through us.
    Kyle

  14. says

    Dr. Rainer,

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I’m a pastor of a small congregation (250 attendance). I’ve been concerned over the church leaving her first love for years and have a theory that it relates to what you have discovered about Millennials and their exodus from the church. I don’t know if you would be willing to correspond with me via email, but I’d love the opportunity to chat briefly with you to see if you think I’m on the right track with the direction I’m leading my congregation. My address is dmills@parkviewnow.com.

    • Thom Rainer says

      David –
      I wish I could keep up with all the requests that come to me. That is why I have to respond briefly on this blog. You can send your correspondence to Jonathan.Howe@LifeWay and he will do his best to get back to you.

  15. says

    Thank you for writing and posting this letter. I look forward to sharing it with many others, including my church family and those in my Missional Evangelism class I teach at a local seminary. As a Southern Baptist, I agree wholeheartedly with the Great Commission Resurgence Taskforce’s Final Report calling for churches to embrace a missional vision, which begins with loving God. I have included it in my doctoral research project at SEBTS, continue to consult with a few churches (iMissional.com), and, as a pastor of a rural church (hbcprinceton.org), seek to live and lead my own church to embrace it. You are right, it begins with loving Jesus and His Church! We are currently reading your I Am a Church Member together along with a corresponding sermon series. God is using it greatly to challenge, convict, and encourage us to do just what you have written here. May He continue to do so for His glory!

  16. Gary says

    It is not as simple as an efficient dedicated evangelistic demeanor. It is, as you state Thom, a consensus, an all or nothing attitude that Jesus is enough. We have, and not only S.B.C.ers, lost in evangelicalism, a Jesus first and a Jesus only relationship. What would be the outcome if a pastor could, without repercussions, take his church out of the building, out of the norm, just to challenge the pew sitters, the coffee drinkers, and the back row side line watchers – and ask them to make much of Jesus (Ed Stetzer) w/out the props we are comfortable with. I or our church are not mindful that we are any better than any other small, large church but I often tell the church – if you can’t be happy with Jesus and a cardboard box, there’s something wrong between you and Him.

  17. says

    Thank you for the encouragement Thom. I pray with you as you are praying for me and other pastors & members in the SBC. People who think they know me laugh when I say I am naturally shy and quiet and that I could cross the country and never say a word to anyone, but it is true. It is not an excuse but a challenge I must consciously overcome to begin a conversation with a stranger. My prayer echoes yours that I will be so overwhelmed with the love of Christ that I “am unable to stop speaking about what (I) have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

  18. David Mills says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thank you so much for the boldness to post this article. As the pastor of a small congregation of about 250 attenders, I have been concerned abou the SBC leaving her first love for years. I am desperately trying to get my congregation to reverse this trend in our area, and would love to chat with you if you should ever find the time to see if you think I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve been concerened that leaving our first love has caused much of the exodus of the Millennials which you have written so much about. Thanks again for the letter, and if you do ever have the time to chat briefly via email, I’d greatly appreciate it. My address is dmills@parkviewnow.com.

  19. Allen Baker says

    Dr. Rainer,
    I’m all in. I am having the same burden for my weak attempt of sharing the Good News with people all around me this last year. My focus is to change me and my everyday activity to tell others about Gods love for them. Not just when I get convicted of my slothful attempts but every day.
    Thanks for your letter.

  20. Allen Calkins says

    Thom, I am right with you! I remember being a student at SWBTS in the mid 80s and learning of study done of Tarrant Baptist Association churches which showed the growth in their total membership over the previous 5 years or so did not even keep up with the enrollment growth at SWBTS. The churches were satisfied celebrating young seminary families coming into their church and assumed that meant their church were growing and doing OK. Even in that Baptist saturated place and time, evangelism was not much. Most baptisms were the children of seminarians. Sadly, in our churches for a long while now, if the bills are paid and the pastor is interesting and the music is OK then the members are satisfied.

    I preached from the baptistery after a long dry spell at a previous church. All I asked them to do was to pray for a harvest. NOBODY, told me they would. This was a very tradition bound church with much money in the bank. They were good people. But they had long ago lost their first love.

    It must start with prayer, which must lead to repentance and a broken heart over the spiritual condition of our nation. We are not seeing people saved because of a lack of resources, opportunity or ability. We are not seeing people saved because our eyes are too dry, mine included. I get too excited over the opportunity to cheer for a sports team or eat a good meal or drive a new car. God help me and God help the SBC. It does not break our heart to see the lost remain lost. And until it does, not much will change.

  21. says

    Dr. Rainer,
    John also warned the church about Diothrepes and how his love to be first eventually drove disciples away (3 John 9-10). How does the church address the many Diothrepes who exist today? This can be the most frustrating and difficult thing for church leaders and those who truly want to see the gospel go forward to the lost. I appreciate your humility in this post for we all fall so far short in our love and need admonished from Revelation 2.

  22. Travis Jackson says

    Thank you for having the courage to speak your heart. The burden you expressed is the same burden that almost caused me to walk away from the ministry. However, with every reading of God’s Word I am more and more convinced that I am called to remain in the church and lead others to a proper understanding of what it means to die daily and truly follow Jesus.
    You inspire me as well as challenge me. Keep pressing forward.

  23. says

    We have not reached this state overnight. For years we have been focused on numbers and church growth instead of souls and kingdom growth. Our baptism stats are not broken down to show who is a re-baptism, new member from another denomination or a true soul won to Christ, so it’s actually worse than even the numbers show. Many if not most church members have never engaged in personal evangelism and the concept is simply foreign to what church is for them. We have much fallow ground to plow. It is most definitely a heart issue, and it appears as Jesus said, our love has “waxed cold.” But, their is indeed hope. We are speaking of revival of the saints here, and God has shown us what He desires in order to send revival(2 Chronicles 7:14), the question remains, will be surrender to His desires? You are spot on, it begins with us as individuals. We cannot control the actions of others, and one ember can ignite an inferno. Let us all pray as you stated, “let it begin with me!”

  24. says

    Thank you very much for opening your heart to us… and we too has that deep yearning just like you…

    May the HOLY SPIRIT ignite upon us to always share God’s love and salvation to those who have not known Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour! I am a product of the Southern Baptist mission here in the Philippines through the Baptist Student Center and our seminary, Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary.

  25. Rev. Andy Johnson says

    Dr. Rainer,

    My heart breaks for my brothers and sisters in the SBC as well. Our churches have stagnated and stalled on Gospel-sharing. I pray our interest in winning souls is revived soon. Until that time, as you so passionately stated, I must work on my own efforts. Thank you for the prod.

  26. Michael says

    I am seven months into my first pastorate, not my first ministry but my first church. Unknowingly I walked into an inward focused and divided church. The church Jesus loves and has charged me to shepherd has certainly lost its first love. The vision and mission are incredibly clear but with the absence of our first love there is no momentum. Three D words for the state of this church and so many like us: Dirty, Disgusting, and Discouraging. However Jesus loves his bride and so do I even with the three D’s. Last night I read the follow up to your blog post on the “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” “Can a Dying Church Find Life? Six Radical Steps to “Yes” and desperately want to see the church be the 1 in 1000 that turns around. Furthermore it would seem to me that if the denomination as a whole does not remember its first love there will be so many more churches facing very real and very serious repercussions. Jesus warned the church at Laodicea that he would remove their lamp stand… they are not there anymore.

  27. Prentiss Yeates says

    Thank you Dr.Rainer,
    Over the past 4 Sundays , our Pastor at Bacon Heights Baptist Church, Lubbock,Tx; has been doing a series on ” how’s our church spiritual” . Essentially , he is asking us to take a indepth look at our hearts and pray for unity, courage to change, pray for church leadership and for joy. Our first loves loss is due to critising this sin filled world and less about our savior who has delivered us from this world. Joy , gratitude and love should be our souls desire. So, yes , we are all guilty of such a sin of not being a faithful group who does not have love for one another. Please , continue to break our hearts as Peter did in the first sermon in the book of Acts.

  28. Tony Auxier says

    Your comments are absolutely right. The worship service at most churches today do not present the gospel through biblical, Christ-centered preaching. Instead, they are man focused and man centered. We give the people what they want whether our worship style is contemporary, traditional, blended or liturgical, our goal is to make people happy and comfortable. We do not lift up Christ, we lift up man, and a lost world is not drawn to Christ as a result.

  29. wes says

    “I have no proposal. I have no new programs for now. I simply have a burden.” That hits the nail on the head. So much I could say here but I will not. We have to get away from the way WE want our church to operate (or how the church down the street operates), we just have to love people. We have to love those who we do not really want to love (Woman at the well, etc). Do we really need proposals and programs to do that?

  30. says

    Deart Thom,

    Thank you for writing what many of us have felt, but didn’t know how to express. We are with the IMB and when we go home, it is heartbreaking to see churches who spend more on their landscaping and janitorial service than on evangelism and missions. Who have more announcements than purpose, more programs than passion.

    Thank you.

  31. says

    Thom,

    I pastor a moderate size nondenominational church. My heart oozes your question over and over again. I constantly ask, “People what are we suppose to be about?”

    As one goes through the week, one wonders who will be the next unhappy member bursting through the Senior pastor’s door upset with someone about something which amounts to nothing? As our self-help-feel-good-about-myself theology permeates our churches, I constantly am told by opinions I do value, that I must listen to each person ever endeavoring to bring their hearts to comfort, significance, and I-feel-better-now. Because, the church is about me.

    But, I have yet to see one person burst through my doors crying, “Pastor the whole community is out there waiting to find Jesus. How can we as a church bring Jesus to them pastor?” Or, “Pastor, how can we just love God more and make Him famous in this community?”

    Thing is, as one who spent over twenty years in Africa serving, and returning to the States to take care of family, I determined not to fall from the river bank into the rushing waters sweeping me down stream in apathy and self-focus.

    Sadly, I find myself clinging to the banks of the rushing river trying to get back to solid footing! Perhaps, we the pastors, me the pastor, needs the closest look? We shepherd the sheep do we not? We, me, Christ’s Church in America needs revival. I think that starts with pastors, and perhaps we need the Lions Den in our lives to refocus us upon the only One who is worth of praise.

    Yes, Lord, maybe we need the Lion’s Den . . .

  32. Todd Knock says

    I agree 100% with you, Thom. Now more than ever into my 23rd year of ministry, I must ask myself if the passion is gone, if the thrill is gone, the desire, the urgency to see others come to know Jesus. Thank you for your honesty in letting us all know, we are not alone, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I pray I live out and show others my favorite verse…Philippians 4:4….Live it!

  33. says

    Thom
    I spent last Thursday – Saturday at WorldChangers training for our church’s project. I was impressed by the passion expressed by the national staff. I would love to have a conversation about your letter…as a small church pastor for over 30 years I have watched- even in my own life- a decline of passion. I am currently reading Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley for a pastoral leadership group I am part of. I would love to see a book like Stanley’s written by a small church pastor who use church didn’t groiw to thousands and thousands, but yet whose church made a significant impact on the culture of lostness in their community. Get your editors to find that pastor/writer and let’s reignite our churches!

  34. Thomas L says

    My heart has ached for many years over my own personal condition and the condition of those I lead. I must take first, personal responsibility. The great men and women of God , walk with God, consistently. They died to self and trusted wholeheartly in The Lord. I must confess, I too long have been at ease in Zion and not longing for the sweet fellowship of my Lord. When we desire Him and Him only will we see true revival personally and in our churches. We are desperate for Him.

  35. George Russ says

    Thank you, Dr. Rainer. Your openness is refreshing. The challenges to reaching people seem to toughen every day–a culture moving further away from biblical moorings, a growing and intensifying diversity in cities everywhere, and so on. The real challenge is right where you place it, within our churches, within our hearts.

  36. Lynndon Welch says

    If we aren’t in love with Christ we will never love the lost enough to put all of who we are into evangelism. Pastors must strive to perform as the called, guide the church to love Christ, we become so obsorbed with the job, if not careful we forget the work.

  37. says

    Thom,
    Great reminder. Thanks for the willingness to speak openly, honestly, and directly about this issue. I have felt it for a few years. I am an outsider who entered into SBC world about 3 years ago (and by no means is this “problem” exclusive to SBC world). I have been a part of a number of church plants in my life. I am currently part of another one, as the lead pastor. It has struck me even how many church planting models have become a great way to attract a lot of people. I don’t at all mean to diminish what God has done, and likely will continue to do through such efforts. It is just that nowhere in Scripture can I find the commission to “plant churches.” The commission is to “make disciples.” I have found myself saying lately to our people and others that we are not a church plant. Instead I believe we are better identified as Gospel Planters. My conviction is that when we plant the gospel God will save souls and there will be a need to begin meeting together with those HE saves and shepherd them. It became clear to me that if Jesus had commissioned the first disciples to “plant churches” they would have failed miserably. Church plants tend to attract Christians. Gospel planting though was the war cry of the first disciples and through that God established new churches. Thanks again.

  38. says

    Bro. Trainer, this is exactly what I have been swing for several years now in our churches. It breaks my heart as well. It was the subject of my message yesterday morning to my church. So few people will answer the call to make disciples anymore. May God break our hearts for the lost and fill us with a greater love for Jesus!

  39. says

    Thom,
    Great reminder. Thanks for the willingness to speak openly, honestly, and directly about this issue. I have felt it for a few years. I am an outsider who entered into SBC world about 3 years ago (and by no means is this “problem” exclusive to SBC world). I have been a part of a number of church plants in my life. I am currently part of another one, as the lead pastor. It has struck me even how many church planting models have become a great way to attract a lot of people. I don’t at all mean to diminish what God has done, and likely will continue to do through such efforts. It is just that nowhere in Scripture can I find the commission to “plant churches.” The commission is to “make disciples.” I have found myself saying lately to our people and others that we are not a church plant. Instead I believe we are better identified as Gospel Planters. My conviction is that when we plant the gospel God will save souls and there will be a need to begin meeting together with those HE saves and shepherd them. It became clear to me that if Jesus had commissioned the first disciples to “plant churches” they would have failed miserably. Church plants tend to attract Christians. Gospel planting though was the war cry of the first disciples and through that God established new churches. Thanks again.

  40. says

    I also feel that we have lost our first love. satan has us fighting among ourselves to the detriment of the Gospel. We have become more concerned with who has a bigger congregation/building rather than standing for truth. Thank you for this letter. Perhaps it will wake us up to Kingdom work.

    • Kacy Green says

      Sometimes all we know for sure is our beliefs about Jesus…. but we don’t really know Him at all. Church has become more about doctrine than the good news. I’m so glad to know others see it too :)

  41. says

    Thom,
    I too agree. I believe part of the problem is that we have become distracted by the bride, which takes our eyes and therefor our love away from the Groom. We shifted how we “DO” Church a little over a year ago. We are outside our walls in the parks and parking lots of our low income hotels sharing the Love of Christ in real and practical ways every week. We still have Bible study on Sunday morning, and congregational worship on Thursday nights, but focus on GOING and making disciples. Thank you for the reminder of our motivation.

  42. Peter says

    I am glad you are not offering a new program! We need less programs and fewer meetings at church. We need to be in this world, but not of it.

  43. Paul E. Kullman says

    “Evangelism must be as natural to me as breathing.”
    Amen to that, Dr. Rainer. We all know about it, but sometimes do not believe it. We (I) too need to be heart-broken for meeting the true fulfillment of the Great Commission. You see it in the eyes of those who are “comfortable” with where their church is today. Over the past years, I preached at a couple churches who had no energy or desire to expand their number. Sad.
    Thank you for a letter that was hard to write.

  44. Melvin Mitchell says

    Rev 3:20-21
    20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
    NASU
    Too many churches won’t let the Head in the door, and I agree the church’s can not operate to the Glory of God until we submit to the leadership of Jesus Christ!!

  45. George Williams says

    Thom,
    Before retirement, I spent 15 delightful years at LifeWay working with key leaders and authors. In my position, I could objectively view the agencies, state conventions, associations and seminaries…authors…and leadership at LifeWay. Your VERY VALUABLE post for today could be used as a template to plot the repeated times God brought surges of His Power through SBC over the last 20 years which resulted in greatly increased passion. These waves of God’s presence were repeatedly met with resistance from SBC leadership.
    A few examples:
    “Experiencing God” was a mighty spiritual movement primarily through laity, with MUCH resistance (or apathy) from pastors and leaders (one SBC seminary president told me he could not have Henry speak at their chapels because a “mystic” like him had no place in a seminary environment!!). God said, “I tried!”
    Studies like Steve Gaines’ “When God Comes to Church” powerfully brought a spiritual dynamic that could be used as a small group study to bring about a renewal of passion and power throughout SBC (but the study must first be for pastors and denom leaders!). But, key SBC leaders made sure that study would be buried, (it was DOA immediately the month it was released!). God said, “I tried”!
    In my work with national SBC leaders I saw a strong, unified support for the “Acts 1:8″ initiative. It was easy to get Baptist to build strong programs around the second part of the verse…but never one time did I hear a leader quote the necessity of the first part of the verse… “Be my witnesses AFTER the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon you!!” (Then SBC president gave a powerful message to the EC trustees, “When the Holy Spirit has come!” But, few understood the urgency of the message.)
    I was honored to lead an action group for DOM’s at LifeWay around the topic, “Spiritual Awakening”. The thirst for the passion in your post was powerfully voiced, AND ways to see that happen through associations and pastors was clearly planned; however, leadership at LifeWay refused to allow this to happen.
    The recent emphasis for research from LifeWay has given us invaluable data about problems/opportunities for “the church”. However, this “over-emphasis” has resulted in too much logic and not enough Spirit. (Reminds me of “Armstrongism”…many very accurate questions, but very few answers!)

    Thom, I honor your heart in this post; however, I challenge you to allow the Holy Spirit to work through the answers. This is what we need to reverse the trend showing so few going to SBC seminaries to become pastors. WHY would I want to become a pastor without the power of the Holy Spirit!! Since retirement, I have consulted for many non-SBC denominations. Sadly, they are all experiencing the same issues!
    I look forward to your future leadership…as the Spirit leads…”To God Be the Glory”…for what He is going to do!!!

  46. Ronald McCoy says

    I share your burden. that’s why i was so deeply disappointed with the report of the Great Commission Resurgence committee. Naive me, i thought the emphasis was going to be on prayer and revival calling on the Holy Spirit to revive and energize the church. I think it put the cart before the horse. A revived and energized churches will evangelize and plant churches.

  47. James Hogan says

    Dr. Rainer, I agree with your sentiment.

    I do, however, have a small clarity issue with it.

    Evangelism is hugely important. A church that does not focus on reaching people for Christ isn’t a church, it’s a club… and far too many of our “churches” fall into that category today. Evangelism is an outgrowth of our First Love, but not the First Love in itself.

    If we’ve fallen away from our first love, we aren’t investing in our relationship with Jesus, and that is the priority to get on track. To wallow in His presence, bask in it as we read the word, commune with Him in dialogue, walk through our day focused on the blessed reality of His companionship and availability.

    Dr. Rainer, I see your heart between the lines and only wish to clarify because we’ve arrived at this season of lackluster evangelism from other season where, for many Christians, evangelism superseded Christ Himself in many hearts. As the culture of the world infested the church and the divorce rate, among other symptoms, climbed, we had the church still growing in numbers as our communities were crumbling because we didn’t walk as well with Christ as well as we marketed His name and the gift of salvation to others.

    We need a church desperately in love with Christ in His fullness, and as we pursue the First Love of the chastisement of the church at Ephesus, we’ll see evangelism spark and true discipleship’s warm fire burning within our communities, shining His light into the darkness and influencing outward as a beacon for our society again.

    As always, I appreciate you and your wonderful heart.
    J. Hogan
    Faithbridge Community Church
    McKees Rocks, PA

  48. says

    Dr. Rainer, I agree with you and think we need to change our approach to sharing the gospel but not the gospel. I love the multiple approaches we are employing at Brentwood Baptist Church. The world’s reaction to traditional approaches have changed and it is punishing to many Christians when they try it.

    Would love to meet you and share what we are doing using Oikos and the neighborhood connection way here in Westhaven in Franklin, TN

    In Christ Alone, Tony

  49. Terry Ryan says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thank you for your openness, your heart is showing! This topic is something I have been concerned with for several years now. I am currently the Pastor at a Church in Miami (been here one month) after serving for several years at one of the State Conventions. I have noticed an alarming attitude of complacency and satisfaction among our leadership. Complacency is just another form of laziness. Like you, I fully understand that any solution starts with me! Moreover, I understand that I serve the Lord, who is able to do all things, so why than do we not reach more? Not only have we left our first love, but when we attempt to come home (back to our first love) we find we are behind! Behind in seeing what God is doing, behind in hearing His instruction and behind in our ability to exercise our spiritual muscle! However, we think we can pick right back up where we left off using what worked yesterday.
    As a Denomination if we do not reengage society with the relevance of the Gospel we will continue to fail. To reengage society we must first reengage Christ ourselves. We must put aside complacency, no longer be happy with the status quo, and get outside the box, the tradition, the norm. I know that many will read this and say, “I am engaging society!”, I say that as well, however, I am called daily to examine myself, am I doing what would reach the community I serve or am I doing what worked for me? Does the Body of Believers I serve reflect the community within which we are located? Are we going out meeting them where they are or are we hoping that the latest program will bring them to us? If we are waiting for the lost world to stumble in, it may be a long wait! While many of the programs we use are awesome, we must remember it is not the program that changes lives, it is Christ! What works in California may not work in Miami. We have become so program driven that we are dangerously close to forgetting all together about the motivation for the programs. Isn’t the Bible, the Word of God, the Gospel enough?
    We have left our first love and in so doing we have lost the power of God in our churches, in our preaching and in our lives so much so that we do not know who we are. This is evident when you ask a member of a Southern Baptist Church, “Why are you Southern Baptist”, and they do not even know that the church they attend is a Southern Baptist Church. We must get back to our first love. We need to get back to the root of who we are as Southern Baptist. This coming month our local body will start a study of the Baptist Faith and Message. For 12 weeks on Sunday night we will read each article and each scripture that relates and discuss what it means. I have a challenge for my Fellow servants, if you are a Pastor, Sunday School Teacher or Small Group Leader and have not guided your fellow believers through the Baptist Faith and Message maybe it is time! Secondly, Preach one Sunday using only the Bible as the Reference (not forgetting good Hermeneutics), use the simple Gospel! Have a Bible Study with your Congregation, you are the leader, teach verse by verse, word by word what God has told you the local body needs. Finally, pray, pray, pray. Jesus modeled a life of prayer for us, follow him.
    Thank you again Dr. Rainer for posting this.

  50. Chris Taylor says

    Humbly, I think a part of the problem is that missions/evangelism (fruit) has replaced Christ and his gospel (root) as the focal point of preaching, in some cases, thus undermining the missions/evangelism effort. Preaching about our call or the urgency and necessity to reach the lost is not the same as preaching Christ and Him crucified. Preaching about the gospel is not the same as preaching the gospel. Preach Christ and him crucified, preach the gospel, and people will go and tell.

  51. David L Rosenthal says

    In my opinion, besides the obvious need to share the gospel message of repentance and obedience to Christ, we tend to fail to teach them to observe all things that he commanded, including the things of which he spoke clearly in Matthew 25:31-46. If we were to be obedient, as a people, the world would be full of light, as he meant for us to be.

  52. Terry Ryan says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thank you for your openness, your heart is showing! This topic is something I have been concerned with for several years now. I am currently the Pastor at a Church in Miami (been here one month) after serving for several years at one of the State Conventions. I have noticed an alarming attitude of complacency and satisfaction among our leadership. Complacency is just another form of laziness. Like you, I fully understand that any solution starts with me! Moreover, I understand that I serve the Lord, who is able to do all things, so why than do we not reach more? Not only have we left our first love, but when we attempt to come home (back to our first love) we find we are behind! Behind in seeing what God is doing, behind in hearing His instruction and behind in our ability to exercise our spiritual muscle! However, we think we can pick right back up where we left off using what worked yesterday.
    As a Denomination if we do not reengage society with the relevance of the Gospel we will continue to fail. To reengage society we must first reengage Christ ourselves. We must put aside complacency, no longer be happy with the status quo, and get outside the box, the tradition, the norm. I know that many will read this and say, “I am engaging society!”, I say that as well, however, I am called daily to examine myself, am I doing what would reach the community I serve or am I doing what worked for me? Does the Body of Believers I serve reflect the community within which we are located? Are we going out meeting them where they are or are we hoping that the latest program will bring them to us? If we are waiting for the lost world to stumble in, it may be a long wait! While many of the programs we use are awesome, we must remember it is not the program that changes lives, it is Christ! What works in California may not work in Miami. We have become so program driven that we are dangerously close to forgetting all together about the motivation for the programs. Isn’t the Bible, the Word of God, the Gospel enough?
    We have left our first love and in so doing we have lost the power of God in our churches, in our preaching and in our lives so much so that we do not know who we are. This is evident when you ask a member of a Southern Baptist Church, “Why are you Southern Baptist”, and they do not even know that the church they attend is a Southern Baptist Church. We must get back to our first love. We need to get back to the root of who we are as Southern Baptist. This coming month our local body will start a study of the Baptist Faith and Message. For 12 weeks on Sunday night we will read each article and each scripture that relates and discuss what it means. I have a challenge for my Fellow servants, if you are a Pastor, Sunday School Teacher or Small Group Leader and have not guided your fellow believers through the Baptist Faith and Message maybe it is time! Secondly, Preach one Sunday using only the Bible as the Reference (not forgetting good Hermeneutics), use the simple Gospel! Have a Bible Study with your Congregation, you are the leader, teach verse by verse, word by word what God has told you the local body needs. Finally, pray, pray, pray. Jesus modeled a life of prayer for us, follow him.
    Thank you again Dr. Rainer for posting this.

    Terry Ryan, Pastor
    First Baptist of Culter Ridge
    Cutler Bay, Florida

  53. Terry Ryan says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thank you for your openness, your heart is showing! This topic is something I have been concerned with for several years now. I am currently the Pastor at a Church in Miami (been here one month) after serving for several years at one of the State Conventions. I have noticed an alarming attitude of complacency and satisfaction among our leadership. Complacency is just another form of laziness. Like you, I fully understand that any solution starts with me! Moreover, I understand that I serve the Lord, who is able to do all things, so why than do we not reach more? Not only have we left our first love, but when we attempt to come home (back to our first love) we find we are behind! Behind in seeing what God is doing, behind in hearing His instruction and behind in our ability to exercise our spiritual muscle! However, we think we can pick right back up where we left off using what worked yesterday.
    As a Denomination if we do not reengage society with the relevance of the Gospel we will continue to fail. To reengage society we must first reengage Christ ourselves. We must put aside complacency, no longer be happy with the status quo, and get outside the box, the tradition, the norm. I know that many will read this and say, “I am engaging society!”, I say that as well, however, I am called daily to examine myself, am I doing what would reach the community I serve or am I doing what worked for me? Does the Body of Believers I serve reflect the community within which we are located? Are we going out meeting them where they are or are we hoping that the latest program will bring them to us? If we are waiting for the lost world to stumble in, it may be a long wait! While many of the programs we use are awesome, we must remember it is not the program that changes lives, it is Christ! What works in California may not work in Miami. We have become so program driven that we are dangerously close to forgetting all together about the motivation for the programs. Isn’t the Bible, the Word of God, the Gospel enough?
    We have left our first love and in so doing we have lost the power of God in our churches, in our preaching and in our lives so much so that we do not know who we are. This is evident when you ask a member of a Southern Baptist Church, “Why are you Southern Baptist”, and they do not even know that the church they attend is a Southern Baptist Church. We must get back to our first love. We need to get back to the root of who we are as Southern Baptist. This coming month our local body will start a study of the Baptist Faith and Message. For 12 weeks on Sunday night we will read each article and each scripture that relates and discuss what it means. I have a challenge for my Fellow servants, if you are a Pastor, Sunday School Teacher or Small Group Leader and have not guided your fellow believers through the Baptist Faith and Message maybe it is time! Secondly, Preach one Sunday using only the Bible as the Reference (not forgetting good Hermeneutics), use the simple Gospel! Have a Bible Study with your Congregation, you are the leader, teach verse by verse, word by word what God has told you the local body needs. Finally, pray, pray, pray. Jesus modeled a life of prayer for us, follow him.
    Thank you again Dr. Rainer for posting this.

    Terry Ryan, Pastor
    First Baptist of Culter Ridge
    Cutler Bay, Florida

  54. Bev Whitely says

    My prayer resonates with yours, Dr. Rainer!!! May God break me until I am all His, telling others about His Son every day. You continue to bless our family! We love you!

  55. says

    Thank you so much for sharing. It seems that lately our denomination has been so caught up in thinly veiled power struggles hiding under debates within our congregation. I firmly hold to the notions driving our SBC Tenets, but it seems that lately we hold those up as an opportunity to disagree, sometimes vehemently, about various topics like church-planting as the only form of home missions, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, or basically GCR vs. Acts 1:8. Makes me wonder if God is not blessing our work because we are focused on rival manmade ideologies so our “work” simply does not bless God.

    I will join you in praying for restoration of my first love, for me, my church, and our SBC.
    Thanks.

  56. J.J. says

    Thanks Dr. Rainer,

    I am new to the Baptist Church and have come to love the tradition of what you mentioned: orthodoxy, adherence to scripture etc. But I can see a staleness, “a cooling of the embers” if you will. I have found that prayer and repentance is the most effective thing we can do. Pray for the leadership, pray for the members, repent of my pride and laziness. Through it all we give God a chance to move, and through repentance, be his vessel.

  57. says

    Thom – thank you for posting this message to our Southern Baptist family. God has focused my attention much in recent years on Jesus’ messages to the churches in Revelation 2-3, with Ephesus at the forefront. Why do we do what we do? If it’s not because we love Jesus and love those around us enough to tell His story, we are missing the mark. If we have ears, let us listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.

    I plan to use this letter as one of our LeaderLessons very soon – we will include your contact information and blogsite address. Thank you for your faithful service to our denominational family!

  58. says

    Tom,

    Sad, but true. We are busy, but no fruitful. While we are concerned about our doctrine, our deeds and our dedication, it is time for us to remember, repent and return to our “first love.” It is not a proposal or program that we need, it is the passion for souls to return to the heart of our being.

    God has a passion for souls, Jesus’ earthly ministry was about saving, He is the master evangelist. Can we really be like Jesus without a passion for souls? Can we truly be obedient without evangelizing?

    Thank you for your leadership. This is not an issue that can be settled by a vote of the Convention. It will require real revival, personal and corporate. Lord, may it begin in me.

  59. Todd says

    I have an idea…why don’t we quit worrying about saving people and just love them in all their divinity and brokenness? That’s how God loves us. Love is what saves us and saves the world. People don’t need you to tell them they have pain in their lives, they know it already. Love them and their pain and their mistakes. Don’t try to change them, just love them in your own little corner of the world. Trying to offer them any other answer to their pain is both arrogant and presumptuous. They already have enough shame and guilt in their lives. Just love them.

    • Bob Hubbard says

      Todd, as an old John Wesley Methodist, I agree with you. I was a Methodist, then a SBC for many years, and found that the SBC left me – I did not leave them. Coming back to the Methodist church brought me much closer to my Christianity and love of Jesus. SBC churches when I left had begun to be very critical and self centered. I do not attend worship services to leave sad and angry – just uplifted and loved. Methodism does that for me. Yes, I do expect to start a firestorm here from my SBC brethern, ;but Todd is quite right. The congregants do have enough shame, guilt and anger in their lives without having their church contribute more

      • Todd says

        Thanks Bob. I grew up in the Southern Baptist church, father was a music minister, and I got my degree in Religion/Psychology with an emphasis in Pastoral Care and Counseling…just to be able to ask questions and find answers. We didn’t do that in my home. Christ is about love, God is love, the Divine is love…and when we open our hearts to love, when we become Christ-like, then we change and we affect the world around us.

  60. nadine says

    Amen, brother!! I believe we truly have a desire to reach the lost, but how? The world has changed so much that the only answers I have are to totally submit myself to being used for the Lord. Then the brainstorming can occur and we can reach the lost. Great thoughts! I needed to read that!!

  61. says

    I too am a Southern Baptist but an old fashion Southern Baptist.
    Thank God Now we are asking the right questions “Have we left our first love” and in many cases the answer is yes.
    May I first say it is not my intention to offend anyone that may read this. For I am an old sinner saver by grace many years ago when preachers preached the whole true word of God and when some old prayer warriors could pray down the anointing and convicting power of the Holy Spirit and when Deacons were not afraid to go down to an old fashion alter of prayer and would say Amen to the pastors sermon.
    Yes I am talking about preachers of years gone by such as D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, Charles H. Spurgeon,
    Sam Jones, Billy Sunday and many more who were not afraid to stand up and preach the whole truth from Gods word. Go back and look at their ministries and see what the difference was from then and today.
    Hundreds of thousands of people were saved during those days. Why? I can tell you why, they reached a time in their ministry that they could go no farther without the filling of the Holy Spirit, an enduement of the Power of the Holy Spirit. And no i am not talking about speaking in tongues but a real filling of the Holy Spirit.
    A filling of Power so that they could speak Gods word BOLDLY.
    Pastors, when was the last time you preached on HELL and HELLS FIRE, or the GREAT WHITE JUDGMENT
    or what is really going to take place during the Tribulation Period.
    Again I am not trying to offend anyone by no means. I am just simply trying to say TIME IS SHORT, we owe it to our
    congregations to preach the truth. Tell them what will happen to their loved ones that are not saved when the rapture comes or when death comes that their loved ones will NEVER EVER HAVE ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY to be saved. They will be doomed. I know that is hard but if we want to see people WE MUST TELL THEM THE OLD FASHION TRUTH.
    Oh God I pray this note will touch someones heart, please God prop us up on our leaning side that we might stand four square for you and tell the truth.
    May God richly bless you all
    In Christ
    David Neal
    Member of First Baptist Thompsonville, Il.

  62. says

    Thom,

    I have said this for over a decade, and have been reading your great research for that long as well.

    When we closed the ‘back door’ we forgot three things.

    1. Evangelism was the gifting God had given us.

    2. We were the Evangelism arm of the entire (ENTIRE) American Church.

    3. We were still growing, and the rest of Christianity was stabilized, and made conservative by our influence. Now we are struggling to maintain, and the rest of American Christianity is in decline.

    Continue the good fight dear brother,

    Wayne
    Luvsiesous.com

  63. Bob Williford says

    Dr. Rainer, You have ‘hit the nail on the head’ with your statement. For a very long time I have been saying the same thing….crying out to pastors and church members alike that we must do more, not less, personal evangelism. I have heard it said from some that personal evangelism does not work anymore. No, it no longer works because we see so few Believers confronting folks on the street and other public places with Gospel. Certainly many of our churches are silent from the pulpit when it comes to presenting a choice between Jesus and Hell. We have come to a sad day in the life of the SBC……”Set our soul afire Lord, Set our soul afire…..”

  64. George Miller says

    Thank you Dr. Rainer, you are on target with this letter. We have become distracted with good things to the neglect of the most important. I preached a similar message yesterday on Philippians 3 and Paul’s pursuit of Christ. Paul was a great missionary, evangelist, church planter and pastor; greatly used of God to impact the world for His kingdom. But I believe the reason God was able to use Paul was because Paul’s passionate pursuit was the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8). Everything else was counted a loss to him that he might gain Christ. And his ministry that impacted the world flowed from his passion for Christ. For too long we preachers have attempted to use guilt, manipulation and even inspiration to get the people of our churches to share their faith and reach the lost. We know the failing results of such tactics. I join you in praying that we will become a people who will passionately love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and see that love overflow in our missions, ministry, evangelism and outreach. Thank you for your leadership and encouragement to the pastors and people of our denomination and of the Kingdom of our Lord.

  65. says

    I had a meeting today with a Pastor of a non-denominational church. I love his mission, and his passion to reach the lost. He walks a very needy neighborhood, meeting people where they are, praying with them for their needs and requests, and following up with them. Miracles are happening, one person at a time, and lives are being changed. Remember, there is no lack of churches in the area, but they are almost all so risk-averse that they just never leave the comfort of their church building to “go” and build the church.

  66. says

    As you stated at the beginning of your article, you could be writing for a broader audience. I myself am an Anglican evangelical sojourning in a Southern Baptist church. Many churches in other denominations have lost their passion for those who do not know Christ. Many have never had any passion for lost people in the first place. There is a real need for revival and spiritual awakening in North America in churches of every denomination.

    This past year my church launched a second campus in a community about a 19 mile drive from the first campus. The second campus was not a success. The congregation at the second campus did not see the kind of growth that the congregation at the first campus enjoyed. A number of factors may have contributed to the second campus’ failure. Among these factors is that the cultures and demographics of.the two communities are different and the model that worked so well in one community did not work in the other. Planting a church in the second community also appears to require a greater effort at building bridges between the community and the new congregation and establishing relationships with the young unchurched adults in the community that were the new congregation’s ministry target group. The new conregation initially attracted older, church-going members of the community and this group may have actually become a hinderence to its efforts to reaching its ministry target group. Here is where a passion for lost people and the willingness and ability to form relationships with lost people became an issue.

  67. Richard Holloman says

    You probably won’t remember me. I met you once at a Christmas luncheon for Mid TN Church Planters several years ago. You were asking me about my very short hair cut because you were thinking about going that route. But that really doesn’t matter.

    I can relate to your concern from the perspective of a person who deal with gay attractions. I have a ministry called Sight Ministry (since 2000), I am a 1976 grad of Southern, ’72 grad of Union University, have pastored several SBC churches, Campus Minister at Union for 5 years, was Counseling Pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church for several years when Jerry Sutton was pastor. I also served on the SBC Taskforce on Ministry to Homosexuals since 2003 and its end.

    Southern Baptists as a whole have expressed little redemptive interest toward individuals who are gay. For the most part, they have been more concerned about winning the cultural war than building authentic relationships with gay people for the purpose of sharing the GOSPEL OF JESUS in the biblical sense of that term.

    Southern Baptists, in my opinion, have not been interested in sharing JESUS because they most have not experienced authentic intimacy with GOD but mere religion and religious activities. There is a huge difference. When one experiences an authentic intimate love relationship with GOD then talking about Him does become as natural as breathing. I’m convinced, idealistically, that if we focused on relationship rather than religion and religious activities and programs, more Southern Baptists would be “breathing out” their faith . . . “life-ing” out the life of JESUS who truly indwells them in HOLY SPIRIT. Evangelistic programs and training can never replace one’s authentic intimate relationship with GOD.

    The LORD has made it very clear through the Shema and in the New Testament when JESUS share with the religious leader about what is the great commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). The most important thing in all of life is to love GOD with every dynamic of your being. The result of that kind of intimacy with GOD will loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. It a done deal! You can’t train that or equip that . . . it is His work alone through His Spirit with in us. I think this kind is only caught . . . not taught.

    When we as Southern Baptists learn the difference between religion and relationship we will then better understand that to love “sinners” is being GOD-like . . . it’s being like JESUS . . . and it is not embracing their life’s choices to do so! The Church looks and sounds hateful and angry . . . certainly not loving and compassionate. I’m pretty much done with what I call the “typical church.” I’m incredibly thankful for a church plant in Nashville that models what it looks like to truly be an authentic follower of JESUS and how to build relationships with the gay community and those who are sinners and outcasts of our culture.

  68. says

    Thank you for this Dr. Rainer, I couldn’t agree more. I was praying to find an evangelistically-minded local church and was blessed by God’s providence in stumbling upon a Southern Baptist church plant. We have a significant focus on evangelism but I know that many churches have become more inward-focused than we really should be.

    I will be praying for a greater focus on evangelism in the SBC and all local churches around the world. Thank you for bringing attention to this all-important issue.

  69. says

    My heart is with you too brother. While our SBC church does a little outreach we oftentimes drop the ball on follow up. On a related note…I’ve noticed our convention at state and association levels have been placing a major emphasis on planting churches, while existing SBC churches are dying and turning over buildings and other resources to other organizations, some that are not even doctrinally orthodox.
    The Scriptures seem to place more of an emphasis on revitalizing existing churches and encouraging sick churches not to die. This was one of the reasons Paul penned his letters to the Corinthian believers and Jesus communicated His scathing but loving rebuke to the seven churches in His Revelation to John.

    Let’s seek to awaken the sleeping or sick churches in our convention. If we do, I am certain evangelism will increase.
    ~Chuck

  70. Corey H says

    This is such a disheartening article. Not toward you my Brother Thom. To the believer in the pew though, this should be and is disheartening. Our pews are either full of visitors and occasional uncommitted attendees or so empty we are barely hanging on and we wonder why. The answer is simple. Those in the pews aren’t serious.

    The message of John is more relevant now than ever before. Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand! If this message was preached in truth we would have pews full of believers that are on fire and serious for their Lord. Instead, the watered down and mangled message being preached in our churches is nothing more than what scripture calls a soothsayer preaching falsities.

    How do we solve the problem? We preach the truth in love and do it without reservation. The truth is Jesus is lord, we are lost sinners with no eternal hope and we are doomed to hell without Him. Why is this so hard to preach? Because the truth isn’t accepted by a list world serving the prince of the power of the air.

    Hear this Christian! Don’t preach salvation from your pews and pulpits alone! Preach it where Jesus preached it. OUTSIDE the church! The gospel is most needed in the list world. We wonder why our churches are empty. Let’s go get some souls for the kingdom! Preach the truth. REPENT! THe kingdom of God is at hand!

  71. Susan jobin says

    I certainly share in your broken heart. In the past I have always tried to bring Jesus into any conversation whether it’s in the check out line at the store, at the dentist or hair salon etc! But this year I’ve committed myself to be even bolder. I am speaking out more about Christian values and what I stand for and why. I do not fear rejection nor am I embarrassed about the gospel. I am tired of others being able to voice their beliefs and Christians, if they do speak out, being thought of as “intolerant”. The Lord has filled my heart with love for the lost, not condemnation, i too am the worst of sinners. Pray for me as I will pray for you. Thx for your letter

  72. says

    It seems that we could stand to be a little more introspective and challenge our existing assumptions about how to reach the culture where it is. I hurt with you. We’re suspicious of new methods, jealous of new churches, and resistant to new ways of doing things. At the end of the day, it just seems that we’re going to have to do some HARD things and make some HARD changes… or die.

  73. Strongforu says

    When you open your doors to welcome ALL of God’s children without prejudice, then, this passion that you yearn for will be restored. Until then, the desert will remain dry.

  74. Jerry Fleming says

    At the close of one of our worship services yesterday, when our pastor had challenged us to commit to sharing the Gospel with one person, a young girl came to the front and asked our pastor to pray for her uncle because he did not know Jesus. After praying for her, the pastor shared with the church that if we all had that passion for sharing the Gospel, we could turn the world upside down. I am praying for that kind of passion.

  75. says

    Hello Thom,
    I hear echoed in the comments a recurring lament that left me sad and dismayed at what my eyes took in as I went through seminary over the past 5 years. I was in mentorship at one of our areas largest SBC’s, was licensed by an SBC church, and graduated from a Baptist seminary. The more I looked, the more I couldn’t bear to think that my future was going to be shackled to a church that had lost its first love. It really hurts to say, because my calling is genuine and I have so many church family in the SBC that I struggled mightily to stay, but eventually had to leave.

    So many in leadership in the SBC are busy blaming others for the shrinking numbers of 1950’s era worship centers. There is, all too frequently, an angry tone that says “If you don’t agree with me you’re a man-centered gospel, ear-tickling addict.” Truth is, the church has anthropologically changed its worship style for 2000 years to reflect the new ways that people process information. If the SBC really wants to connect, why not do solid work to advance the gospel that doesn’t force the 70-year-old window dressing of the SBC onto its people, particularly the seekers?

    I serve in a non-denominational church, now. I lead a ministry that serves people suffering from broad-spectrum addictions and compulsive behaviors. Our Sunday morning services are contemporary, dressed casually, and preach the rock-solid Word of God right out of the Bible… book after book. No politics no suits, no organs, no 10X12 classrooms stacked up down a narrow hallway. We, as a congregation, invest 30% of our gross income in missions before we pay the first bill. My question is, why can’t the SBC seem to move in this direction? As I joined the fellowship, I attended a new-member introductory course that was a packed house. To join, new member candidates have to either testify to their salvific experience or confess Christ and be baptized. Service is going on in the building virtually every night of the week, for Bible study, to prayer groups, service organizations and the like. Why not in the SBC? I searched the search of a person twice graduated from a Baptist seminary, raised in the SBC, and I could not find us advancing the gospel in quite the same meaningful way. Advancing the gospel, sometimes, but most of the time losing ground.

    God bless, and thanks for introducing the forum.

  76. Dan Styles says

    Thom,
    I will preface this message with the fact that I have been a life-long member of the Church of Christ..ok..if you are still there I will continue :)…. I have been struggling in recent years as I have sat and listened to sermon after sermon deliver the repeated message of why “we” (C of C) were right and every other denomination was wrong in what it takes and what it means to be saved and what our purpose as Christians is while we are here on this earth. Rest assured that your letter not only applies to, but should be received and taken to heart by the vast majority of the congregations of the Church of Christ…as it certainly struck a chord with me. As I have learned a bit over the years to study God’s Word objectively and free myself from the doctrine of exclusivity perpetuated from the traditional Church of Christ pulpit, I realize just how far off the path many believers (of all denominations) have strayed from the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ. I have reached two conclusions:
    1) How in the world could I have missed the true meaning behind Christ’s message to the legalistic Pharisees?
    2) Through His Word, God is exceedingly clear about what our priorities should be if we truly seek to be pleasing in His sight: a)” Love The Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind”
    b) “Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Love one another”
    c) Fervently SEEK and save the lost ( if we love God we will “feed His sheep” and if we truly love our neighbor, the security of their soul’s salvation is a priority)
    Contrary to my upbringing, I don’t believe that belonging to a certain denomination will get you to heaven any more than it will send you to hell. I still have questions that I don’t have the answers to and will continue to search the scriptures and pray for Gods enlightenment. I do know that your letter hit the nail on the head and is applicable to all, regardless of what is written on the sign out front. We sooth our conscience when we write that weekly check, resting assured that we are financing some missionary in a foreign land and thus fulfilling our obligation to the Great Commission. But we wouldn’t dare approach our bosses, co-workers, classmates, or even our next door neighbors for fear of being labeled a “Jesus Freak” or offending an unreceptive ear.
    I pray that all who wear the name Christian willingly be “fools for Christ” and be reminded that His message is offensive to those living in sin… but it is our duty to display our love of our fellow man in the most essential way…lovingly lead them to Christ. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this wake up call to return to my first love.

  77. James says

    We need to weed out the wolves in sheep’s clothing in our pastor-eater churches if we’re going to see any kind of change in our decline. I’m personally tired of being the prospective pastor to churches only to find that I am possibly the last pastor before they close the doors because they are bent on running off pastors and alienating members. This is the way it has been in the last three churches I’ve served in. I don’t know why I keep finding these kinds of churches. Is this an epidemic throughout our convention? When churches can’t reach anybody because of their dysfunctional reputation in their respective community then we must have a serious problem that no one seems to want to talk about. Obviously we have left our first love.

    • Tom says

      I understand your frustration, for I too served as pastor of a church whose sole purpose was to undermine the pastor’s ministry, whoever he was. Obviously it too “enjoyed” a bad reputation in the community it was supposed to serve. At the time I was there, the two deacons attempted to get rid of me so they could call another man; I found out about their attempt when a faithful member came by my house to tell m e what they were doing. I confronted them, asking why they were undermining the ministry; of course they had no reply. Sadly, after I left, the church had two more short-lived pastors before it closed its doors. Either we believers are ashamed of the gospel or a shame to the gospel. To God be the glory!!

  78. Bob Ward says

    The needed course correction and style adjustment for the early Church to reach the World was communicated by letters from the shepherds led by the Spirit of God. The church responded to those letters and the Gospel was preached throughout the traffic lanes of life, in the most hostile environs.
    I know that Jesus came to me just as I am…but he didn’t leave me like I was.
    I know that I am not saved to set, but saved to serve.
    I know that I must tell somebody, tell anybody, but tell them NOW….because I have read those letters and they are preached from the pulpit and taught in classrooms of our church. It’s in my head and in my heart…
    Thank you for the preaching and teaching and the pastoral letter from your heart.
    I see the heart of the Savior in your plea to know Him and make Him known to others.
    Jesus knows me this I love!

  79. Bruce Taylor says

    I may be wrong, but I think we have lost our passion for the lost because we have not paid much attention to the Great Commandment. If we cannot love God with all that we are, we will never love others as He does. We spend so much time preaching the Great Commission, and we should, but not at the expense of what Christ said was foremost.

  80. says

    Dr. Rainer, I’m thrilled to say that I pastor a “turn around church” in La Grange, Tx. We have added 180 new members in three years, about 30 by baptism, including 10 senior adults. The other new members are almost entirely new to our community. We focus on two realities: Love God. Love people. Simply! (I think you know a thing or two about that). Our worship is passionate and our unity infectious. We are all having “the time of our lives” at FBC, La Grange. I share this as a word of encouragement to those churches that are in small town USA, as we are. God is with you dear people of God. His agenda is the only agenda for His holy church. Adjust your church to His plans, and you will be unstoppable. 35 attendees to 400 attendees in 7 years is work like I’ve never known, but I wouldn’t leave this fellowship for any church in the country. Pray for your pastors. Love and honor them and follow their leadership. For the sake of the kingdom, Pastor Jonathan Smith

  81. says

    I thought about this a long time before responding.

    I think the main thing the church has lost is the zeal to make disciples. We’ve had evangelism programs for years, but it amounts to not a whole lot more than winning converts and then seeing them fall by the wayside. I can find no other explanation for the fact that, in Alabama, attendance in SBC churches in the 6 largest population centers in Alabama is 33.28% of membership, whereas other denominations report 53.97%. These come from the last such statistics I have seen published by the Alabama Baptist.

    I suppose God is more pleased by our “winning souls” than not, but I wonder whether He is inclined to bless an organization which so misses the mark of the Great Commission.

    I have said that the way to keep people coming back to a church is to have something going on that they want to come back to. I firmly believe challenging discipleship is what it’s going to take. I know personally, I rarely walk out of church feeling challenged.

  82. says

    Thom,
    Thanks to your love and concern for our denomination sbc. I have been praying for revival for churches to wake up and be compassionate for the lost. My prayer that God will give me 5 people to share a week and in most cases He give me more. Last year I was able to baptize 21 New believers and this month I baptized 2. Praise the Lord.

  83. says

    Thom,
    Thanks to your love and concern for our denomination sbc. I have been praying for revival for churches to wake up and be compassionate for the lost. My prayer that God will give me 5 people to share a week and in most cases He give me more. Last year I was able to baptize 21 New believers and this month I baptized 2. Praise the Lord.

  84. Bro. Emile Bordelon says

    The problem is in the pulpit, there are many preachers who have sold their soul to the devil for the all mighty dollar. Leadership of the local church will not let preachers – preach against sin, the leadership tells tells the preacher that it is easier to get rid of the preacher than, to get rid of the sin, therefore if a preacher wants to keep living in the parsonage and keep his monthly income he compromises GOD’s word in his sermon, endorsing the sins of the lifestyle of church leadership. I have personally seen Deacons change their doctrine of salvation so, they could justify the sins of their family. God forbid that we continue in sin. Pray that people will be obedient to GOD.

  85. Harold Best says

    I remember taking a class at SBTS in 2001 and it seemed every week Dr. Rainer was telling about somebody he shared the gospel with (on the plane, in the terminal,…). You really stirred my passion to be a soul-winner and to look for opportunities to share Christ. I tried to convey that passion to my church and when they see the pastor doing the work of an evangelist is it often contagious. However, after less and less participation in outreach programs we tend to slowly loose some of our fervor for winning souls. I look at my current witnessing practices and bemoan the fact that I don’t go fishing for souls nearly as often as I use to. I, too, need to repent for not laboring more in the harvest fields. Thanks for the letter. I long to hear more of your gospel sharing adventures and have my own stories to share with my church with the hopes that God will rekindle our evangelistic fervor.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thank you Harold for remembering some good things about me. I can assure you that I’ve fallen short more times than I’m comfortable recalling.

  86. says

    Thanks, Dr. Rainer. You are so right. The question is, how do we get it back? I was reading today about the late Evangelist Eddie Martin who determined early in his ministry (inspired by Moody) that he would not lay down to sleep at night without having shared the gospel with at least three people.

  87. says

    “Real ministry is made in the closet of prayer; God’s men and women are made in secret. Their lives and their profound convictions are born in their secret communion with God…. The church today is weak in praying….their pride of learning is against the dependent humility of prayer.” E. M. Bounds

  88. Paul DeGuzman says

    Well said Dr. Rainer, just hope that many of our pastors in our denomination would realize what you just shared.. Our churches become commercialized in terms of programs and how every one approach the work God has given and entrusted to every pastors… May God forgive us!!! Let us return to realize our first love… God bless you, the work He has given you, and your family…

  89. Tom Robinson says

    Well, let me throw my 2 cents in :
    First, I’m 63 years old, Retired from the U.S. Navy, travelled the world and played music in a lot of countries most people can’t point out on a map.
    Second, I’ve played with a Southern Gospel Group for over 35 years. Had an awesome time !
    We played some of the largest Churches around Ms. and Al. We also played some of the smallest.
    Didn’t matter to me, if they called, we showed up ! Now I’ll inject my 2 cents worth.
    From my point of view, which was on stage, I had the unique opportunity to “see” everyone’s face. I’m also a good lip reader, which helps my ability to play. Not only could I “see” you, I knew basically what you were “talking” about. And no, you weren’t singing the lyrics. A lot of people were “dis-engaged” as to why they were there. Obligation comes to mind, what someone else might say if you’re not there, I might as well support the Church, I could go on….. But mostly I began to see a dis-concern. Someone that really wanted to be anywhere “but” here. We’ve played to a packed house, and we’ve played to 7 people. Don’t get me wrong now, a packed house is a lot more fun for us than the 7 people I mentioned before. But, those 7, they wanted to be there. Not saying the packed house didn’t, but, from my vantage point, I can still point out the one’s that want to be somewhere else.
    Then there’s the dis-concern that, “He came to Church in those clothes”. Why, yes he did ! (or she).
    I remember the first booking we had in a small Church in Ms. I wore black “tennis” shoes. At the end of the show a kind little grey haired lady handed me a pair of black lace up patent leather shoes, and kindly “told” me, “you can’t wear tennis shoes to Church”, then walked off. I gave ‘em away the next day. I had 2 pair in the closet, I was in the Navy, didn’t need another pair.
    My point is, it’s become more about what you wear, what you drive, where you live, what you have, than it is, “why” you go to Church. Early in my life I was “asked” to go home and change clothes and come back. My parents didn’t take me to Church, I walked, about 2 miles. I told 2 “deacons”, If I go home, I won’t be back. Never saw them again. My maternal grandparents told me one time, “Jesus Christ wouldn’t be welcome in that Church” I’ve asked for forgiveness a looooong time ago. I’m 63 years old now and still don’t know if I’ve received it, but I’m still playing in a Church Band, now in Ca., and I still see the same “problems”.
    I know why I’m there, I tell people why I’m there. If I’ve ever played 1 note that had any soul searching impact on anyone’s life, I am forever grateful. You have to believe that this is where I need to be because not what people will of will not say. Trust me on this, people are going to talk about you, I don’t care who you are.
    So, if you’re gonna go, go for the right reason. I go because I know Jesus Christ died on the cross for MY sins. One day it’s only gonna be me, Jesus Christ and His Father. Right now, I don’t know how I can justify my life and what I’ve lived for. Maybe I’ll figure it out before then, but I know I won’t be alone…..

  90. Mark Ritchey says

    Tom, the message has been use this plan. By this program. I’ll tell you from 14 yrs experience,
    1. prayer is key. A team of 3 or more committed to four hours a week other than Sunday and WednesdAy.
    2. Evangelistic action, go as big as you can dream, God will and does respond.
    3. Then disciple, intentionally use small groups.
    **Pastors study Malachi and reflect. The church will rise and fall on your leadership in prayer, discipleship, giving, and evangelism.

    Thom, you wanna see change, the corporate high speed greed model must be replaced with a prophetic model based on the Acts/Gospels/ and a serious look at Gods people and their Priests on the OT. We have got to love what God loves and disdain what he disdains. This works every time. Our growth and reach has blown away what we were and been replaced with who promote and love. “Love Jesus, Love People.” All churches can do this.

  91. Mark Ritchey says

    Tom, the message has been use this plan. By this program. I’ll tell you from 14 yrs experience,
    1. prayer is key. A team of 3 or more committed to four hours a week other than Sunday and WednesdAy.
    2. Evangelistic action, go as big as you can dream, God will and does respond.
    3. Then disciple, intentionally use small groups.
    **Pastors study Malachi and reflect. The church will rise and fall on your leadership in prayer, discipleship, giving, and evangelism.
    Thom, you wanna see change, the corporate high speed greed model must be replaced with a prophetic model based on the Acts/Gospels/ and a serious look at Gods people and their Priests on the OT. We have got to love what God loves and disdain what he disdains. This works every time. Our growth and reach has blown away what we were and been replaced with who promote and love. “Love Jesus, Love People.” All churches can do this.

  92. Jesus G. Canindo Jr says

    God uses SB in our ministry, we are very thankful. Through this denomination, we are aware to share the Gospel to all people as mandated in His command but sometimes we feel lukewarm in sharing our first love. It is timely reminder for all of us, CHARGE and PROCLAIM the GOOD NEWS of SALVATION to every nation, tribe, people and language.

  93. Lauralei Clower says

    I wonder how much of this lack of love comes from the mounds of idols we a Christians have in our lives. There are many things that distract us from walking in the truth and thus being a living example for salvation. If we stink as the world does of death because we have feasted on the things of the flesh then how are we to ever lead others to the truth. Also, if we are so layden with guilt because of a lack of repentance, how will we ever love the one who first loved us? The truth is that we are in a battle and many of our fellow baptists don’t know how to wage war in the spirit. This is a topic that is not often preached or taught. Our enemy roars about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. One of the enemies greatest tactics in our culture is to have us believe that we are not in a war, that we are safe. Once we believe this and begin to live the luke warm life of satisfaction then we fall away and become as those who are neither hot nor cold. This is a problem that can not be fixed by our hand but only through repentance and the mighty, unfailing mercies of our God. But there is hope in the midst of all this. Jesus has overcome our adversary so we are to longer walk as those who are dead for he who has been set free is free indeed! The victory was his on the cross and forgiveness is available for those who would seek……… seek oh and you will find when YOU SEEK WITH ALL YOUR HEART! To our GREAT GOD be the glory. We are his children, heirs to the throne! Praise the LORD.

  94. says

    Thom,

    I hear your heart brother yet at the same time I think I can help you see why so many have lost their first love. If I can be so bold I’m going to use a few of the statements you made in your letter.

    1) You said “The purpose of this letter is not to chastise. I am a messed up sinner who has no right to look at the splinter in the eyes of my brothers and sisters when I need to deal with the plank in my own eye.”

    In these two sentences I see so much that is just incorrect. You are not a “messed up sinner”, Paul would call you a saint, he even called the “messed up” people in the Corinthian church “Saints”. You were once a sinner but something happened at the cross. God gave you a new heart and put His Spirit in you and now calls you “The temple of His Holy Spirit”. His temple is holy, it is set apart and as you probably already know the word for saint is “Holy One”. Not by your works but because of His finished work in you. If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away behold the new has come 2Cor 5:17. Our core identity is no longer just “Sinners saved by grace” but now “Holy Ones that may sometimes sin but are no longer devoted to it (definition of sinner) but one that is devoted to Christ” and that is why sin breaks our hearts because it is a new heart fashioned by the very God of love.

    There is also the issue of “not judging”. Brother, don’t you even realize that we will judge the angels! If the log is so entrenched in your eye that you cannot see clearly then of course you cannot help a brother take a splinter out of his eye but when you are seeing clearly we are instructed (Mat 7:5) to help take it out.

    2) You said ” I need to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. I need to share His love as part of my very being. In His power I must do more and I must do better.”

    You do not have a “love factory” in you. How do you propose to fall more deeply in love with Christ – – – probably by works of some sort. The reality is we can only love because He first loved us. When we allow His love to fill our deepest longings and hurts and we get true faced with Him and with our fellow brother and sisters, His love will flow in new and profound ways. When we start agreeing with how He defines us then we will then have confidence to approach the throne of mercy and grace in our time of need because His love will have cast our all fear.

    The second part is that your “must do more” statement reminded me of Mary and Martha. Martha was doing more and more and more and more. She loved Jesus but she wasn’t willing to relate to Him in intimacy and even got mad at her sister. What did Jesus say, “Martha, Martha, you worry yourself with so many things but Mary has CHOSEN to do the one thing necessary and it will not be taken away from her” (Not a direct quote from the word they are my words here). When we begin to sit at the beautiful feet and hear His voice it will energize the body of Christ like never before.

    3) You said “No, the purpose of this letter is simply to share a broken heart, and to express a heartfelt desire to change. I must love Jesus more deeply and tell others about Him more often. I must show Christ’s love not only with my words, but with every action and interaction I have. I must be more like Him every day.”

    Again it seems right and it seems noble to have a heartfelt desire to change yet at the same time it is unbelief. The truth (and reality) of it is YOU ARE CHANGED, you are a new creation that is being matured more and more into who you ALREADY are. Many times we are like people trying to enter a room we’re already in! I am a partaker of His divine nature and when I realize and receive the revelation that I have already died and am made new then I no longer look at how He wants me to change…why? I’ve done all the changing ontologically that I will ever do now I get to mature into this new believer identity. In fact, I no longer live but now the very Christ that loves me and gave Himself for me lives in me (yes, even on my worse day because He said he would never leave me or forsake me)

    Oh, beloved man of God if you can receive what I am saying it will radically change it all. I could have written the same letter verbatim a number of years ago (who knows I probably did). But God saw fit at the right time to send others into my life to help me see the truth and that truth has set me free to love and live for God in ways I never even imagined. I hope this does the same for you. I have included my information in case you want to reach out to me.

    All His Best that now Lives in Me (Col 1:27)
    Pastor Dave Geisler
    dave@agpchurch.com

  95. John Rodgers says

    Thank you Thom for sharing your heart. I agree with you 100%. How will people get saved unless we share the good news of Jesus Christ!

  96. Craig says

    Several observations. 1.). When did the numbers in the SBC begin to drop precipitously? The same time time the SBC got very involved in politics. Politics is not the church’s job or calling. Involvement in politics has hugely compromised our ability to evangelize, for a whole host of reasons. 2.) in the vast majority of SBC congregations the style of worship has not changed in 50 years. The style that connected 50 years ago is not cutting it now. The Gospel never changes, but the style in which is presented must stay current with the culture if any effective evangelism is going to happen. 3.) Our culture here in the USA is now just as cynical and suspicious of Jesus and the Church as any foreign mission field. This means that if we aren’t doing right here the same kind of good works that we do on foreign mission fields we will be less and less effective in winning folks to Christ right here. Who comes, for the most part, to revivals? Christians, not unbelievers.Who comes, for the most part, to Christian concerts and out reaches of all kinds? Christians, not unbelievers. This culture has to have it’s heart melted by our good works before they are willing to listen.

    • Mark says

      When evangelical Christianity got in bed with the Republican Party and the far right side of it, problems resulted. How can you expect to keep the younger people when you take stances against women? Stop worrying about birth control and women’s health care issues. Stop making women second class Christians. If women are scared of your Ideas, they won’t come. Jesus was not against women, but conservative Christianity is.

      • says

        Mark, I will tell you what I’ve been telling all my friends: God has not called us to be Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat. He has called us to love like Jesus, and that means everybody! Furthermore, James warned us to love each other, or risk hearing from Jesus, “I never knew you.”

  97. says

    The church is going the way of the whole country. Families are breaking up, marriage is not held in high honor, and children are neglected in their homes or pampered. Is church irrelevant? boring? hypocritical.
    Visit http://www.biblestoriesforyoungadults.com. “Young adults” are any between puberty and the age of 40 and we are losing this entire generation. My daughters are in this age group and they are in church, but they say that there are not many in their churches. The children that come are being brought by grandparents.

  98. Lori Chilton says

    Dr. Rainer,
    I appreciate your observations and your contrite heart. I can only hope that there are others within the SBC that feel the same way. My personal experience as an SBC member at the largest SBC church in VA was that there were many people who believed and were saved but instead of that being the beginning of their spiritual journey that is where it ended. Salvation was the goal unto itself rather than continuing on toward sanctification and truly selling out for Jesus. That was a little too radical. Once a warm body could be counted as having “made a decision for Christ” their spiritual growth was considered complete. Nothing too controversial was said from the pulpit in case we scared off any “seekers” who may have visited that day, nor anything but “christian lite” taught in Sunday School classes. The combination produced some of the finest carnal christians you could ever hope to see.
    Sadly we watched as many very respected couples within the church fell to divorce, were caught in embezzlement charges and jail time, and whose adult children, having grown up in that very church, were struggling with drinking/drug addictions. My husband and I finally had to look at our own family with our elementary aged children and ask if we thought our church home was a suitable place for them to find Christian mentors. From the staff on down through the many people that we loved the sad answer was “no”. So we left our church family to attend a non-denominational church where the senior pastor makes no bones about proclaiming truth each and every time he stands before the congregation, and challenges church members to not just be believers but to press on to become disciples.
    What I see as the luke-warmness of many of the American churches in today’s culture saddens me. I have no doubts that Christ’s true church will survive this period in our history for He will make sure it does to proclaim His own glory. However, I think that the American body of believers will end up being far smaller,and more persecuted, than it has been in recent past. I hope that the SBC can survie to make a difference.

  99. Kent Shirley says

    Our Creator God gave the wisest man to lead God’s people in the early years His answer to our greatest need as individuals & churches today. ” If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will….”. Our greatest need is true God breathed Spirit led revival (renewal)! Revival cannot be programmed, manufactured or caused to happen by mankind. Only God can bring revival. Revival is conditional upon meeting God’s conditions as found in this ancient passage. There is no shortcut to revival. There never has been and never will. His Word is unchangeable! Revival is the greatest blessing God wants to bring to His church. He is waiting for His church (beginning with you & me) to meet His prerequisites!

  100. says

    Dr. Rainer,

    I join with you in feeling this burden that we are missing what God’s called us to do, to share Him with others who haven’t met Him yet.

    I just met with my leadership team for our military wives ministry and our scripture focus this year is Matthew 5:13-16. We are calling and encouraging military wives who know Christ to make Him known to others! I pray that people in churches everywhere will also do the same!

  101. says

    I would mark the decline as beginning in the 1970’s, when the Fundamentalist slowly begin to make their move into positions of influence, especially academic. One negative side effect was the limitation of debate, hence the expression of different ideas was not a priority. But, like other Christian denominations, they were not really aware of certain “Historical” influences which served to sway them (perhaps without their knowledge) into areas which would ultimately suggest a re-visiting of 325 AD, especially in the area of old animosities, hence the Jewish question. Does God hear the prayer of a Jew? According to one President of the SBC, the answer was no. I personally had begun to distance myself from the SBC over their Masonic prejudices, which I felt would alienate at least 5 million men from fruitful fellowship. But my studies in Political Science also reflected two things, one is that the anti-Semitic ghost of 325 AD, needs to be identified and abandoned, it’s influence halted. And the second is a pattern of Jewish-Free-Mason persecution which has usually gone hand in hand throughout the years, the most notable in recent years was that of Adolph Hitler, who took out the Freemasons of Germany before he fell upon the Jews. Interesting huh? My advise, would be a return to a greater forum of free dialogue withing the Baptist Churches, each church to remain Autonomous, and to permit those Christians who choose to honor the ancient Sabbath to do so with your blessings and support. I still care for the Baptist faith of my childhood where I was tutored by many fine Christian people, and as a Messianic Rabbi, I will love you till the day I die. Shalom…

  102. Heartspeak says

    Wow! Over 170 comments at this writing. Dr Rainer has hit upon a topic that stirs us all. I am heartened that so many can see that things are not right in the american church. Our dismal record is calling out to us. Many have proposed various ‘solutions’. Each is right to some extent but specific reasons alone can’t really be the only ones.

    I grew up in a Baptist church (a more Northern version and often assumed in my youthful naivete that the SBC was a touch liberal!). I don’t think that I could ever return to one short of God speaking to me pretty clearly and specifically but that’s another story. This is not an issue that is SBC’s alone.

    I know that for me, I long to be a part of a Body that understands that it really isn’t about our actions on a Sunday morning, our format, our music, our denomination. I long to be a part of a Body where the Shepherds are not constrained in their teaching by fear for their jobs and livlihood to support their families. I long to be amongst fellow Christ-followers anxious to equip, challenge, encourage and share with other Christ-followers as they follow the Master as they live their lives of love to their neighbor.

    The doctrines, the church politics, and pettiness only serve to isolate and bring our Lord and Master into disrepute.
    If it’s about our organizations, our denominations, our jobs, our comfort, then we are doomed. The Good News is that it’s not about such things and the Bride of Christ is not doomed.

    I long to see and hear of Godly men and leaders who step down from their positions in front of and above their flocks and get down with and amongst them in a ‘council of war’ sense of urgency and never, ever leave it. As long as we do ‘business as usual’ on Sunday mornings and preach another ‘good word’ to the congregation, we will preside over the carcass of what was once called ‘church’ in North America. Some will leave. Some will bemoan their discomfort. But just as Gideon demonstrated with his 300, the Lord’s army will prevail.

  103. says

    Sadly the “world” looks in at the church and is not attracted when they see how we treat our own. We judge one another, we don’t extend grace and we are more concerned about our image than we are about people. We, too often, are more like country clubs than places where broken people can find acceptance and healing. We are gatherings of cliques that make fellowship difficult to experience when coming in from the outside. We often find the disenfranchised disruptive and inconvenient and turn them away. We look more like the world than we do the church in the book of Acts. Have you ever wondered what Jesus thinks about the way the church is today?

    I have had 12 major moves in my adult life. I have been a part of Baptist, Evangelical Free, Wesleyan and Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches. If I wasn’t a believer, I am not sure how attracted I would be to many fellowships. We must become discontent with the status quo. We may need to do some uncomfortable deeper healing of the brokenness we all have. Only then can we truly seek to become more like Jesus. Only then will be become who/what God desires for us to be – to enhance the Gospel – rather than be a part of an organization to meet our personal needs for attention, power or control. There is no perfect church today – anymore than there was in the time of the early church in Acts. But the Gospel was the focus more then thanI fear it is today. . We need to be vulnerable about our own brokenness. The world today is in desperate need of good news – the Gospel. We need to be salt and light to make a difference. I highly recommend Scazzero’s EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY to all individuals and fellowships. We need to be still and know God in order to hear Him.

    • says

      I repost this Tweet from yesterday: People complain about two problems in the church today: A lack of evangelism, and infighting in the church. There is only one problem, really.: If the church focused on evangelism, there would be no time for infighting. End of story.

  104. Bruce Rider says

    Thom, all is not lost. Last night I had the privilege to attend a “coffee shop” bible study. A young junior church staff member has mentioned this group, so I asked if an old guy (long time SS teacher and grandpa) could show up just to be support. What I witnessed was the antithesis of your blog. If half of this group were to show up at our “main campus,” security would be alerted. Their tattoos, raggedy clothes, and skateboards would have freaked out many of our more respectable types. But that really isn’t a problem, because they’re not going to come to us… we, on the other hand, have been commanded to go to them… It was an honor to see this young guy making disciples of all people. No Thom, all is not lost!

  105. Jay Tigner says

    Some in this thread have said that preaching and teaching needs to go beyond the Gospel to the “deeper” things of God because “everybody in the church knows the Gospel story.” This statement just affirms what Dr. Rainer is pointing our attention to. If the Gospel ever gets old to us– If the Gospel ever seems elementary to us–If our hearts no longer leap for joy within us when hearing the Gospel–we have lost our first love. There is no “deeper” teaching than the fact that God would send His one and only Son to live the life we could not live and die the death we deserved to die so that those who are hopelessly dying in their sins may have life, here and forever more, in Him.

  106. Gus says

    Focusing on Jesus and the Gospel will always produce evangelism!! Always!!

    I love the letter and the challenge for the church to focus on evangelism. One thing I will add is that I was a believer for almost a year without any church or discipleship on evangelism…Yet I simply could not help but to tell everyone about Jesus!! I simply thought this was the norm.

    In my experience, teaching people HOW to evangelize is helpful, but getting people to evangelize will only come through getting people to experience the Gospel (His absolute holiness…Our absolute depravity…His scandalous love for us anyway through Jesus at the cross) day after day!! We can never shift our focus from the Gospel…EVER!!

  107. Rick says

    In my morning devotion time today I had prayed (as I have for the past year or so) “Lord where do I fit in?”

    Then checking Facebook (something I don’t often do) I saw this link. Like Bob Hubbard said about the Methodist church, I have gone to the early service at the local Episcopal church for several years now before going to our Sunday School and church. I am a long time SBC deacon, teacher, SS director and have been on about every search committee for the past 25 years in our medium size county seat FBC. I remember the days our services brought tears to my eyes on a regular basis. Now we are so casual and bereft of tradition that I find those worship tears in the Episcopal church. I am 180 out from the leadership in that denomination on many issues but I could bring a lost person there who would be loved into the fellowship without hearing sermons on politics or the latest youth trip to send our teens into a shopping mall or apartment complex trying to get people to “say the prayer.”

    Following Christ is the greatest calling any of us could have. When asked what was the main thing Jesus could have cleared up a lot of issues about communion or baptism or security of the believer. Instead He said love God…love others. I am finding more of that in the Episcopal church than in the SBC church that I love.

    • Mark says

      And to be ordained as episcopal clergy requires a load of hard work, and time in a congregation or chaplaincy. That means the ministry candidate has seen quite a bit and learned a lot about human nature. Not just go to school and get a masters and walk into a pulpit. You’re correct, the episcopalians (Anglicans) also read a lot of the bible every Sunday and preach on it (using the famed 11-minute homily) regardless of whether it is in vogue or deals with the slaughter of infants (courtesy of Harrod). They also show how Isaiah’s prophesy was fulfilled in The Gospels. That is why some episcopal churches are growing again and they aren’t trying to make their service “cool”. They still use the pipe organ, Elizabethan English, and wine in the chalice. Their priests also have been known to let loose in their homilies and aren’t generally bashful.

  108. Frank Rahm says

    I love this letter. It speaks truth. I am a United Methodist pastor, and we have been saying the same things to each other in our denomination. Thank you for sharing this. Friends and neighbors, there is no reason for some of the rancor displayed in some of the comments here. We all have a job to do, a job we share as followers of Jesus Christ. I will join in the prayer to God to lead me to love more deeply.

  109. Mark Taylor says

    Dr. Rainer,

    It’s Mark Taylor. I haven’t had any interactions with you since Church Central days. I’m so grateful for how God is using you at Lifeway and how you have influenced me. About the Letter: I think there are at least five things we may be lacking that may give insight to losing our first love and to our lack of evangelism. First, we need to refocus our worship. Worshipers of God, not worshipers of self, live to give God glory in all they are and do. I have found that SBC churches are either not informed, misinformed or are living in rebellion of what worship of God means. We need to live under His rule and reign and put away our idols. I agree with John Piper: “Evangleism exists because worship of God doesn’t.” Second, we need to a better understanding of what the whole gospel is that we are mandated to share. Perhaps we start with clarity of God’s gospel and the doctrine of salvation, as revealed by the authority of Scripture. The gopel is good news, not good history. We’re still not on the same page as Southern Baptists. I’m growing in this myself. I would recommend the book Faithmapping by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper (Lead Pastor and Worship Pastor at Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, KY). Third, we need to work together, not separately, within our respective associations, to be God-glorifying, gosepl-speaking, neighbor-loving, community transforming churches. Fourth, there may be a lack of faith. Believe that the nations will be given as an inheritance and the ends of the earth as a possession. Know that His Word will not return void. We need to be unified that the glory, mercy and beauty of God must advance to all people. Fifth, we must depend on the Holy Spirit, not own abilities. Let the Lamb receive the just reward for His suffering in the way we worship, serve and live.

  110. says

    As the Pastor of a Church that was headed in the wrong direction I can say without reservation that many Churches could care less about reaching the lost. Many Churches are consumed with making the flock comfortable. The Pastors cater to their every whim, feed me this type of sermon, sing me this style of music, visit me daily when my bunion hurt, live at the rest home and don’t ask too much of me or I’ll go somewhere else. These type Churches will either wilt away till they close the doors or they will need to change. We made a decision to be the hands and feet of Jesus and now we are helping start a new Church in Bellevue Washington and another in Moldova, we are feeding the homeless and giving food to the poor. We’ve opened our doors and invited people of all types to fill our pews and we have encouraged our members to go out those same doors to find ways to do ministry. The people who visit us now aren’t looking for the old status quo but have heard ministry is happening and want to be part of it. Praise God and let us all go into the world and lift Jesus up.

  111. says

    I have been a Southern Baptist for many years. I have served as senior pastor and as an associate pastor in different churches. My concern is the lack of biblical preaching coming from our pulpits. I have worked with new church starts and it seems to me that the young men that occupy these pulpits have no real sense of their purpose or their message. Peter called for his people to return to the preciousness of the Gospel. But it seems to me that the church of today and its pastors seem more content to be acceptable, funny, have the latest gadgets and lighting. All these things are fine but if there is no foundation then there is no ministry. The Word of God has been passed up for the sake of being “up to date.” The Gospel is offensive to a dying world but it still must be preached. We still need to continue to fight the good fight. If the Word of God is not important to new and old churches alike then there is no power to change a heart. Is it any wonder that our world thinks nothing of the church? If Christians, those who make this claim, are not willing to give their time, effort or finances to the local church then why should the world take heed of its message? Baptist need to return to their first love, the Word of God. We need to stop planting churches just for the sake of planting churches. We need DOEM’s to be just that, directors of missions not politicians. We need to place young men behind pulpits with a clear understanding of their responsibility and calling. Not fill in a blank on some Home Mission Board statement. We need to have the mindset of Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” To have the conviction of, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” Galatians 6:14 (NIV). The time has come for this convention to stop apologizing for past events and start propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to stop feasting on foolish philosophies and start sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ one soul at a time.

  112. Wade says

    Dr. Rainer,
    While I understand the sentiment and desire to see the SBC in general and her churches in particular grow numerically (the only reasonable way to measure large groups), I am not sure that a passion for the lost is what is missing. In my experience, the main discussion in many churches at any given meeting is somehow evangelistic. Invite to Sunday School/Small group. Invite to Sunday service. Make a relationship so that you can share and/or invite someone to one of the above. In fact, I think we have tended to treat evangelism like network marketing, lots of excitement without much substance. Many of our services are emotionally driven to the point that they resemble pep rally.

    But emotion without substance burns out. Jesus did not tell us to make converts, but disciples. Our churches are constantly on the hunt for converts and expect that the converted will just become disciples. We focus on the benefits (salvation/ avoiding wrath) without preparing people for the high cost of discipleship. Network marketers do the same when they focus on the potential money to be made and downplay or ignore the work that it will take.

    The church must make disciples, not just converts. My guess is that we have lots of converts on the rolls that need to be made disciples. Then, as a disciple, they can replicate and change their community.

    It would be nice if we had a way to measure growth in terms of spiritual maturity in our churches. Don’t know how that would be measured, but I think it would be a good thing to investigate.

  113. Joe Hall says

    That balancing point between pragmatism and spiritualism.
    Dr. Rainer, you your team have literally done tons of research over the years and published the findings in a quest to identify what “works” in certain scenarios.
    Yet in spite of this mountain of research, the church is less effective in making disciples.
    The reasons? Could it be that leaders simply ignore the facts and statistics, and the prescribed fixes?
    Perhaps. Thinking outside the box just doesn’t sit well for some church leaders.
    But we cannot ignore the other element….God is in control.
    If we really believe that, then we simply have to trust Him, even with the ineffectiveness of the various congregations.
    I truly believe there will not be one lost soul that is sent to hell simply because someone forgot to say anything to them. (This is the Calvinist in me)
    To say that all we need to do is employ some sort of program (pick one) and more disciples will be made, is pragmatism. God can and does use this, but we have to recognize God creates the disciple not our program.
    If a congregation has no baptisms, then yes, there should be an alarm sounded, the leaders must – do – something…but God isn’t surprised. But if that’s simply to pray – an nothing else – then that’s the other extreme.
    It starts with the leadership, then progresses from there. If there still are not new disciples, then maybe that’s within God’s plan.
    We must strive for that balancing point between extreme pragmatism (where we’re in control) and extreme spiritualism (where we pray and do nothing else).

  114. says

    Thom, thanks for this challenging reminder. As a church planter who recently transitioned for the south to NYC, I have been overwhelmed this year by how committed I was to seeking comfort in my Christian life instead of Christ Himself. This journey into a new culture to plant a new church from scratch has reminded me that if my life is not characterized by a deep, abiding love for Jesus Christ I will have NO impact for His Kingdom. Comfort breeds complacency!

  115. says

    I’ll try to make this my last reply to this post, because it’s getting really crowded in here.
    I think the answer is very simple: We must all start treating our current church as if it were a new church plant. Go out into the community and start meeting the people where they are, looking to pray with them for their needs, and finding ways to meet those needs. When they see that our message of love is substantial (not in word only), then they will tend to want to become a part of that church!
    As long as we live His Great Commission, the rest will fall into place.

  116. Sean McKenzie says

    We have (for the most part) won the theological battle in the SBC. However, now after years of struggle, we have moved on to other things… and some of those things are good. Yet we are in danger of replacing the BEST (the Gospel) with very good things. We can never let things like great ministries, education & music (which are all very good things) get in the way of our primary calling; sharing the gospel and making disciples! And as we refocus on sharing the gospel… may we never forget the second half of it; disciple-making! They should always go hand in hand.
    I’m proud to be a pastor of an SBC church who “gets it”!
    Thanks Dr. Rainer!

  117. Jonathan says

    Currently, many outsiders view Southern Baptists as people who are uptight…about music, clothing and a lot of other non-essentials. I pray for the day when we are instead known as people who are easy on non-essentials, but desperately in love with and obedient to Jesus. Thanks for your leadership, Thom.

  118. John W Carlton says

    Very well said, Dr. Rainer. I am serving as interim pastor at a Free Will Baptist Church. They were almost ready to lock the doors when I came on November 10, 2013. God is working on them and especially on me. I retired from the pastorate in 2011 due to a heart condition, but with the 4 stents I have had I feel better than I have in years. That said, I am burdened for not only the SBC, but also other evangelicals who are not passionate about winning the lost to faith in Jesus Christ. I am praying for a renewed zeal for the lost in my own life and ministry. In the words of the B. B. McKinney hymn, “Lord, send a revival, And let it begin in me.” Amen.

  119. Terry Jones says

    It is indeed sad to see lukewarmness but it has always been there. It was an issue addressed to the early church. Have we ceased reaching out to a lost world? Partially. However, perhaps the world is growing more and more indifferent and cold to hearing the Gospel message. The job of the church is not to save people. It is to equip and send out. The failure is not with the church or the denomination but rather with each and every follower of Jesus Christ who is not living a lifestyle which attracts others to Him. We were given our final orders by Christ to ‘be my witnesses’ and not to ‘do witnessing’. Certainly, ‘doing’ is part of being but being His witness entails a life so enjoined with the life of Christ that within our daily lives what we do, what we say, how we act is infused with Christ himself. We, nor the church, ‘save’ – we witness. Secondly, ‘the love of most will grow cold’. No matter what your view is on the end times, it is difficult to look at the world and not see prophecy playing out before our eyes. I believe also, that there is coming a time ‘casual’ Christians-those who really do not know Him-will begin to fall by the wayside. In God’s Word, there are no denominations. Only obedient, spirit-filled and empowered members of the family of God. The question should not be ‘Has our denomination lost it’s first love’ but rather ‘have I lost my first love’. Having answered that question, get on with serving Him and enjoying the abundant life He has promised us.

  120. Dallas says

    Wow, you want to know where the problem is, it’s in the first twenty comments. People of the same denomination can’t even come to a consensus on what they even believe. How do you expect to grow a church or strengthen the number of believers or share God’s love among people who don’t know his love when you don’t even share it among yourselves. I grew up in a “Southern Baptist” church and believe me, this is a reoccurring devastating issue! You do little to nothing to get new people in the doors and when a new person comes to visit only a handful of people attempt to make them feel welcome, oftentimes all members offer is piercing glares and tension. I have never seen more unhappy people, there is no emotion when people “praise” their Lord, like seriously, what’s your plan for when you get to heaven. God’s not going to let you out at 12:00 everyday to go eat lunch. The problem is is church goers tend to believe that church is there to fit around their molds of what they feel it needs to be and to suit their needs, and when that doesn’t happen several things happen, you lose pastors, ministers of music or the whole church splits. All of which happened to my church i grew up in, and I’m only 21 so lets get it together folks. You want to make progress let’s decide why you even dress up and go on Sunday mornings. Because if you don’t know or your answer isn’t very quality then how can you expect a young non believer to do it.

    • Kent Shirley says

      Dallas,
      I too grew up in SBC churches. I say churches because my dad was a pastor, so we moved around. A few were lines the one you described. The majority were loving, accepting, growing churches where people tried to live for Christ. I became pastor and a missionary. Some churches where I served were friendly, loving and accepting, and others were not so much. As a leader I tried to set the example of being more likeJesus. He makes the difference in lives. Calling oneself a Christian isn’t the difference. Being a Christian is the difference. Come visit the church where my wife and I now belong. I have found it to be a loving, accepting, grow group of believers. The church is Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington.

  121. david thompson says

    Thom:

    My mother passed away, this past March, a godly woman who raised 6 children, worked as a nurse, and who went on mission trips to Romania, served on the church missions committee in her later years. It was evident at her funeral that her life had weight to it.

    I took a lesson from that, and decided it was time for major changes. God moved me and my wife to a new church whose pastor has a heart for two things: evangelism (he is really gifted in that regard) and helping men in their 40’s and 50’s redirect their lives for a strong finish. We began meeting weekly. I sold my expensive car and moved into a pickup to save money. I started intensive discipleship with him (MasterLife, Spiritual Warfare, both by LifeWay). I just got back from a week long mission trip to Jamaica where we spoke in 12 different schools and did street evangelism. We didn’t focus on a magic prayer, but we did lead sinners in prayer to receive Christ. We plainly expounded upon Hell, and Sin and Lostness, and really focused on the fact that Jesus is coming back soon. That really resonates with people in general. Anwyay, it was a fantastic experience and in July we are going to Zambia to preach to seminary students and evangelize there (I have an MDiv)

    I hope to kindle this fire and allow it to blaze through my life! I hope I can influence others to follow. Jesus is coming back soon, so we must work while it is still day.

    Thank you for your very insightful open letter. You are correct that we as a denomination better wake up! I stepped outside my comfort zone and God has blessed as a result.

  122. Jay says

    We all need to ask ourselves what are we living for. I believe we may have to experience a total collapse of the economy before we will lean on each other. We need get our eyes off popular culture and cast our gaze upon Christ. Jesus is our all in all His love is our battle cry. Liked this video by a young man spoken word.
    http://youtu.be/QKCMbbeMaxM

  123. beccaj says

    “For I delivered unto you first of all that . . . Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, . . . that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

    “I affirm that the present day popular preachers DO NOT KNOW what human guilt, before God, is! DO NOT KNOW that Christ really bore wrath under God’s hand for the sin of the world! DO NOT KNOW that He was forsaken of God, as the whole race, otherwise, must have been!

    I affirm that they are preaching as if an unrejected, uncrucified Christ were still being offered to the world! They preach the “character” of Jesus, saying “nice things” of Him, and telling people to “follow His example”: while the truly awful fact that Christ “bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” that He was “wounded for our transgressions,” that He was “forsaken of His God”; that “God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up,”—and that “for our trespasses,” is never told to the poor, wretched people! Nor are they warned of that literal lake of fire and brimstone into which “every one not found written in the book of life” will be cast, and that forever.”

    “The shed blood on the Day of Atonement witnessed that a death had taken place. The person for whom the blood was shed could not approach or stand for a moment in the presence of the infinitely holy God. When the high priest came in before Jehovah on the Great Day of atonement, carrying the basin containing the poured out life blood of the slain goat, he swung the censer, and the cloud of incense filled the holy of holies, covering from all human sight or approach, the mercy-seat where dwelt, upon the cherubim, the Shekinah Presence of God. He approaches and sprinkles the blood upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat seven times, and retires.

    Now, what does this witness? Not an angry, vengeful God, but infinitely the opposite—One who would send the Son of His bosom as the spotless Lamb to pour out His blood for us sinners, and then ascend to His God and Father,—and, unspeakable grace, now our God and Father also!

    But, this laid-down-life witnesses that all approach to God on our personal part is impossible forever! To be made nigh unto God in the blood of Christ means that we come as those whose Substitute has been smitten unto death,—and that under forsaking and wrath by God Himself. There is peace through this blood, but a peace that leaves for us in our own right, no place whatever. Herein is the “offense” of the cross. Shall Christ be smitten for my sin? Then I deserve such smiting. Shall Christ be forsaken? Then I should have been forsaken. Shall Christ give up the ghost? Then all my hopes in myself have perished forever; for He who stood in my place has been smitten, forsaken; has died.

    All this men hate and will not hear.”

    William R. Newell – Romans Verse-by-Verse

  124. says

    I enjoyed reading this article and can understand the frustrations that we face in the Christian church. I’m not part of the Baptist movement but I do attend the Alliance church in Edmonton Alberta Canada. I have always looked at myself as part of the body of Christ, that is, the church. I’m sure we confuse many people, when we talk about the church being, a body of people or a building. Denominations were created by man, not God, we did this to ourselves, now we pay the price for that. We all have our own little quirks and little ways of doing things, to our detriment.
    We run each other down, condemn, make fun of and tell jokes off the pulpit about other denominations. Everybody laughs and thinks it’s very entertaining, if you are one of them, you’ll know what I mean. I remember living out of town and I attended a baptist church with my family. During the week, I attended a pentecostal church for bible study. When I went to someone’s house for study, one of the guys asked me, “so what church do you regularly attend?” I said, “the baptist church”, he then remarked, “so when did you start backsliding?” of course, all the guys started laughing. Here I am now, feeling like a piece of garbage, because I now feel like everybody’s laughing at me. You see my friend, this is what church is really about, people hammering each other, people not getting along with each other, denomination bashing etc.
    I have always believed in what Jesus said in Mark Ch. 16 V.15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”.
    You see, it’s one thing telling people to go out into the world and reach sinners,but for what, so that they can become like Christ or like you? (by the way, don’t take this as a personal attack, I’m generalizing).
    Are they coming to be entertained, hear the loudest music, have the best potlucks? We have to ask ourselves this question, are we bringing them or inviting them to have their lives cleaned up by God? Do we want to increase our congregation and tithes? or do we really want them to know Jesus Christ.
    I have prayed to God and said earnestly, “you know what God, Christianity is just a game, it’s competition between the different churches, to see who can offer the best program, the best entertainment, the best jokes, sorry Lord, but this is the way I see it”.
    When I look around the church I attend, I often wonder, how many people will share their faith, me included between now and next Sunday, not too many.
    It’s funny, we knock the Jehovah Witness’s and the Mormons each time they come around the community , in fact, the Christian church is scared of them. I’ve heard people say to me, especially Christian friends, when they ring the bell we just don’t answer the door. It’s kind of funny, all Christians will say say, that they both minister the wrong gospel or that they distort the scriptures in some way, yet, they are the ones who go out two by two ministering the word of God. If we believe that as Christians, we have the true gospel and they don’t, then why are we not going round the doors trying to reach those who are lost?
    There is an old scripture that people don’t like to hear or they say it isn’t relevant in today’s day and age of Christianity and it’s found in Ezekiel Ch. 33 V. 8 “When I say to the wicked, you will surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his sin. V. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself”.
    Even this scripture in the old testament tells us to reach out and minister to those who don’t know God. When it comes to ministering to homosexuals, we are now treading on glass so to speak, we have to be careful not to condemn the person’s sin or offend him in any way, we have to let him know that God loves him and hopefully, that will be good enough. As Christians, we’re just plain scared and terrified to minister. That’s the plain truth, most won’t like to hear this, but that’s the way it is, we’re scared. We have no power in our lives, when was the last time you asked God to really anoint you with the power of the Holy Spirit, no, I’m not Pentecostal, I just believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to take away any fear that we may have to minister to those who are lost. This my friend, is why we are not ministering.
    I didn’t mean this to be negative in any way, seeing as most of the comments were just positive and agreeable with each other.
    To all denominations out there, we have to get our own house in order before we try to clean the houses of others. Hope you all have a great day.
    Check out my blog: http://chriscampbellturner.blogspot.ca/

  125. Cole says

    Amen!

    We have been entrusted with a great gospel. So may we share it from the overflow of our joy that comes from being redeemed in Christ. This news must be told.

  126. Mr. Paulien Guillott Jr. says

    As a Southern Baptist, I find it hard to pigeon-hole the cause or solution to this issue. I see far too many places of worship who obsess how the leader of the Church who occupies the Sacred Pulpit dress. The demographic scope of worshipers is much broader than what now appears to be the target audience. Generational issues are NOT being addressed, and when they are, it is to arbitrarily dis-regregard/discard the very values that brought us to where we are today. I see many of our traditional songs of praise being discarded simply to use music that ostensibly will “appeal to the youth”. I fail to see very many “youths” being attracted by this genre of music. Many adult worshipers over the age of 55 often leave a house of worship not being full-filled spiritually because of having to cope with the extremely high decibel level of amplified music, then trying to filter through a message from a speaker who has deliberately chosen to “dress down” in order to again, appeal to a younger demographic. We are not giving a good example of God. We are, however well intended, giving an example of humanism. The Organization formerly known a “The Broadman Press”, has deleted the King James Scripture from it’s Bible Study (Sunday School) literature and instead use only a version of the scripture of which the Southern Baptist owns the copyright. Why are we afraid of the past? Why are we discarding our traditional Music? In the first century Church, Gamaliel, a Pharisee, warned the doubters of this new Gospel to be aware, that if it were not of God, it would “go away”, but, if it were of God and they fought against it, they would indeed be fighting against God. It is time to evaluate our ministry as a New Testament Church. Are we telling the Gospel according to God’s word, or, are we attempting to change God’s word into a more savory rendition of a document that is pleasant to the ear/eye when we hear or read it? I know this reads harshly, but it is from my very soul. Some of our methods of “contemporary” worship remind me of the Old Testament story when the very sincere folks wanted to build the Tower of Babel. We know what happened there. We must be careful that our well meaning methods do not parallel those. Are we not trying to substitute that tower for increased decibel-level “music”? The question is how can we reach the greatest number of souls without compromising God’s word and the intent of God’s word. I pray this will be revealed to us.

  127. says

    I agree whole-heartedly. That is part of the reason I preached a whole message on soul-winning last Sunday. When was the last time you heard a whole message on just that topic? It was very well received by my congregation. Let’s be world-changers, as were the first century Christians! Thanks for the wake up call!

    Jim Baize

  128. says

    Dear Dr Rainer,
    In 2001, you wrote a book that changed our lives. In 2005, my husband Norman was looking through the Christian book section at our local book store and found “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched.” To make a relatively long story reasonably short, in your amazing book, we found concrete reasons for our unrest, and a path toward peace.

    After 39 years in the United Methodist Church (22 in our current one) we were simply heartsick that no one, no, NOT ONE person in our church was interested in lost people. Not only were we not “an effective evangelistic church” as defined by you (bringing one, ONE, lost person to Christ for every 20 members of the church–we were a church of 250), in the 22 years of our membership, there had only been 5 salvations—and not one of those persons was still present.

    I was dying spiritually. I had tried to get my husband to leave the church and try another—any church. But he was the EVANGELISM chairperson. He worked so hard to have workshops and teach people what it meant to share the Gospel. We both tried to get people to see that we basically have two purposes in life: to worship God and bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus (He saves them–we don’t. But they have to get to know him first. They can’t do that if we don’t tell the story!)

    We kept telling the story, trying to get people to see that it was a LIFE SAVING one, and that others needed to hear it. But the consensus was that if we told others, they might want to come in–and then things would CHANGE.
    In 2007, when we finally left, it was after I preached my final sermon. You see, both my husband and I were lay preachers in the United Methodist Conference. In that sermon, I let loose. I told them that due to my dissatisfaction, I had actually withheld my tithe, which was a sin. I had been responsible, therefore, for robbing God and our church. Our Church had not made its entire apportionment to the Conference. As a member, as a Christian, this was horrible for me to confess.

    But I confessed other things as well. I confessed that I had expected too much of my pastor and too little of myself in the way of witnessing to others. I expected him/her to do all the visitation. I expected him/her to plan all the events. Teach all the study courses. Care for all the hurting folks. Solve all the problems. Etc., etc., etc. In other words, preaching was just a side line. I expected little of the members—and they met those expectations.
    My sermon was not well received. In fact, from the time I gave it in March until our last Sunday in June, no one spoke to me—and we sang in the choir!

    I say all this only to be supportive. We have lost our first love—Jesus Christ has become a name we speak, not the God we serve. It has become MY church, not HIS church. But worse than that, as someone mentioned, it is, quite literally, a social club. You need to dress, act, and behave just like the rest of us. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t bring up anything controversial. And for goodness sake, don’t talk about sin. It’s just too uncomfortable. Especially if it is the one that I am committing Monday through Saturday and the one I don’t mention on Sunday.

    My husband and I did find “and effective evangelistic church” and have been owners their since June of 2007. I say owners because members have rights, but owners have responsibilities. In 2013, NewSpring Church in South Carolina welcomed 12,000 new believers. And yes, we disciple them. NewSpring Church exisits to reach people far from God and teach them how to follow Jesus step by step.

    Thank you Thom Rainer for continuing to speak out boldly to all people about what breaks your heart. I believe it is what breaks the heart of Christ as well.

  129. says

    Dr. Rainer, you are so right…it really does start with me. There have been many comments shared about your letter. But, the bottom line is the “ME” in what you wrote! Are the “ME’s” who have read these words willing to effect change in the life of those around them by committing to love God more and more and more? We’ve lost our passion! Church has become the social club of the neighborhood and community – maybe even the town! But, as for me and my house…you can be sure I will ask God for strength and wisdom to love Him more and more! I will ask Him for the passion and zeal as never before to tell my community about Jesus. I’m 61 and know that I have lived more on this earth than I have days and years in the future! I want my last days, even if God allows me to live to 100, to FINISH WELL for the Kingdom. Thanks for the candidness of your letter! Thanks for your honesty and boldness is publishing this plea for all of us. But, most of all, knowing you these years, thank you so much for your heart! What an inspiration you are to me personally and so many of us trying out best to lead our church to PREACH JESUS more and more! Thank you, my friend!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Randy –

      I am so encouraged by your words. Thank you for your heart and your life. I appreciate that our lives have intersected.

      • says

        Commit to love Him more…I can’t do that yet I can commit to allowing Him to love me more, making myself ready for His intimate touch and presence every breath I take. Then in being overwhelmed by His love I will love, I won’t be able to help myself. See when I make it about my commitment then I am already in error and teetering on the edge of religious pride. But when I make it about Him and His commitment to me then I live out of the fullness of Christ in me and humility is the by produce.

        I never speak of commitment save His commitment for His beloved

  130. says

    I have many prayers for our convention, for the Church at large. That we love Jesus and follow Him completely, in unity and love so that we would be light and salt to a world needing both is first and foremost among them. I pray that we would not run from the world but into it- to love as Christ loves. I firmly believe it is the love we have for our Savior, each other, and the world that will draw people to him. Praying for you and our other brothers and sisters, Amy

  131. Adolfo R. Juiel says

    Perhaps our bigest problem is that we are to worried about our religion, and why we are not growing. Perhaps like Thom has noted we have lost our first love. Christ is supposed to be our first love; and we have traded Him for a religion. I would remind all of my brothers and sisters that Christ wants us to have an indepth personal Relationship with Him… Perhaps our problem is that we have made Christianity into a religion. Our walk with Christ is what truly matters if we walk with Him then we will want to do the things that He wants His church to be doing. Christianity is not a religion it is a Relationship with the one true and Holy Savior, Our King!

  132. Elias mugambi says

    This is one of the sincere letter i have read this year it a challenge and encouragement, sir continue the good work .am not a baptist but that was mine

  133. says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thank you for your courage and for your heart. After spending 20 years pastoring in pioneer missions in Big Sky Country, I returned to the Deep South to become a hospice chaplain in Southern Ga. I have been fillingbthe pulpits of several churches in supply ministry and what a disappointment . All but one have had little to no discipleship, no outreach and no growth in years. Worse, there is no discernable burden for anything to change. I fear we have become a mainstream, cultural denomination and no longer can be classified as evangelical. My burden and prayer is also for us to recover our love for Jesus. Without that, we will be irrelevant to a dying world.
    David Herndon
    Chaplain – Comfort Care Hospice
    Baxley, Ga

  134. says

    We appreciate your heart so much, Thom. I don’t see how we will finish the task God gave us until all the church is all in, in fulfilling the Great Commission. It’s not going to happen by trying to gather all the lost into our church buildings to hear the Gospel…even from the best of our preachers. It’s about our churches sending all God’s people into the marketplace, equipped to demonstrate and proclaim the Gospel. All God’s people…fulfilling the Great Commission. Thank your for your stewardship and influence in that.

  135. Alph says

    Our churches behave like a peace time army, they are fat and happy, act as though they are right and good, meantime a war for real souls is taking place each day in you and my neighborhoods and our response is to play it safe..
    I have spent 32 years in the southern baptist church community and have watched a new generation grow up.. They have not lost the first love you mentioned, they have lost their passion for a Holy God because we have a generation of pastors who failed to teach them about The Holy God of Heaven..
    We are no longer an active part of SBC because it lacks the power of Almighty God..

  136. Betty M says

    Dear Thom,
    Let me first say I have a history of being a member of many different denominations the North American Baptist Convention being one as well as United Methodist, Mennonite Brethren and Evangelical Free. I am now LCMS. I do have to say that the problem is until a person grasps that Jesus died for them personally and truly “gets it” nothing else will work. We need to realize that anything we do is just beating our heads against a stone wall. It is all about what the Holy Spirit does through the reading and studying of His Word. We have become a lazy generation. We expect our churches to be cool and crisp each summer Sunday Morning so we do not perspire to badly, we expect the music and message to entertian us but not offend us in any manner. We are totally missing the mark!! It is not about experience or getting a spiritual high it is about hearing the Gospel short and simple and until people are driven to our churches to learn of Him and His Word nothing else will really matter. We can try every gimmick in the book to get the people to our doors but if it is to do anything other than to hear and study the Word of God then our efforts will be short lived because eventually they will tire of our entertainment or catchy ways to get them. They most have a desire to hear the Gospel more than anything else and once the Spirit moves with in them then teaching them to serve becomes a dream come true because they do it purely for the love of Jesus not any other notion.
    We must first teach them the love of the Word of God and pray the Holy Spirit moves within thier lives to empower them to serve then the rest will be easy!! We are commanded to sow the seed the increase is up to God!!
    Every congregaiton is seeing an apathy. So many couples are struggling so hard to make ends meet there is little time for spiritual matters these days they want the Word to be brief and sweet but only diligent searching and studying of His Word is going to bring the results we are praying for.
    We are in this together my friend so keep praying and keep an eye to the sky!!
    Betty M

  137. steve says

    We all need to pray that Jesus Christ works in and through each of our pastors. And, we should give thanks to God for these men and their families, who reflect the image of our Creator.
    We all need to be reminded that even our pastors meet with internal and external opposition and difficulties. Our pastors need the people of God praying for them. Not only should we pray for the pastor, but we should pray for his family also. We need to pray that none of them fall victim to the world, the flesh, or Satan. Not only should we pray for their protection, we should pray that doors are opened for the Word of God to penetrate the hearts of those they minister to.
    We need to pray that our pastors might spread the gospel with boldness and power. And, that they might continue to grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding.
    We need to pray that our pastors have a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. That by the power of the Holy Spirit they might preach and teach the Word of God.
    We need to pray that our pastors and their families keep Christ first in their hearts. We need to pray that they not become so overwhelmed by service projects and busy schedules, so absorbed in tasks and duties, that they lose out on communion with Christ.
    Pray that our pastors remain devoted to their personal prayer time.
    God demands His shepherds practice holiness, and maintain a loving attitude toward all people.
    Pray that the Holy Spirit guide their every step.
    It is through a deep love for God that our ministers will maintain the courage and boldness needed to preach the Word of God. Our prayers should specifically encourage this kind of confidence.
    Pray that our pastors set the Lord always before us, knowing that this “Golden Psalm” pertains to them as well. With the Lord always before us our faith will be strong, hope will be energetic, humility will be deep, contrition will be enduring, evidences will be agreeable, and our example will be as a bright light! Pray this for our pastors.(Psalm 16)
    Pray that our pastors will “turn this world up-side-down!”
    Thom – I’m praying these things for you right now.

  138. Philip Ademola Togun says

    I am an American of Nigerian extraction who was mentored by a Southern Baptist missionary, the late Mary Frank Kirkpatrick from Noxapater, Mississippi, in Nigeria while I was a college student and she was the director of the Baptist Student Center in Ibadan, in Western Nigeria. She TAUGHT us how to share our faith one on one as often as the opportunity presented itself. As a young Christian, I had accompanied Mary to a high school on a Sunday morning. When it came time for the sermon, she turned to me and asked me to give the message. I was stunned because I was not prepared. She insisted that I should give the message, which I did though I do not remember what I said. She told me that a Christian had to be ready at all times to share his/her faith. Young people need to be adequately discipled so they can disciple others. BIBLE ILLITERACY IS AN EPIDEMIC in churches today. How do you share what you don’t know?

  139. Rhonda Lynn Wilkinson says

    Dear Thom, and other Brothers or Sisters who posted here or who might stumble on this post buried in the many others,
    First, what a great topic to bring to the forefront of all our minds! Thank you Dr. Rainer! I truly believe that people in our pews do not share Christ because they don’t know how simple it is to do so, and how much fun and awe-inspiring it is to watch, not their own skills lead others to Christ, but the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, gradually draw others in as they taste and see that the Lord is good! Perhaps Christians today think they have to have an “effective presentation” or the “gift of evangelism,” that God has to somehow give them extra boldness to break the ice and bring the topic up with their neighbor, co-worker, family member, friend, or a total stranger, that their sharing must have instantaneously positive results, or even just a positive response, and if it doesn’t then they have somehow failed or messed up. Or perhaps they think that they don’t know enough to evangelize well, so better not to try and then to fail. Assuming believers do genuinely love their Lord, yet are still not sharing the gospel in a systematic way with others, I think the greatest thing we can do is to help them get their eyes off themselves and back onto the Lord of the Harvest.
    When God moved my heart to commit to missions as a timid, socially awkward, 19-year-old college sophomore, it was not because I realized I was gifted and able to bring others to Christ, but just the opposite; I knew that I was weak and insufficient, but I was challenged to stop making excuses, because He was strong, because the power and ability needed was not something that had to come from me; it was already in the gospel (Romans 1:12) and in the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), and in the Holy Spirit, who brings to life the “dead!” Nothing wrong with praying for power for ourselves or others or for wisdom or boldness, but it is not dependent upon us. In my pride, I had to get self out of the way and see that all God was seeking was someone willing to offer the hungry the bread of life and the thirsty the living water (No matter how refined or how resistant they look on the outside, they ARE hungry and thirsty for the Truth). He wanted me to find a way to get out and mingle with the spiritually hungry and thirsty, to love them, and to invite them to read the Bible with me. For me, it meant a career of missions that for many years looked like full time teaching (home-schooling or teaching missionary kids) and evangelizing on the side. It was and continues to be a time investment…The spiritual fog doesn’t always clear right away, but as we spend the time in the Word with others, they will either embrace Christ or they will walk away . . . and if they walk away, and they let us, we still maintain genuine relationship…because we never know when they might return, admitting their hunger. They are people, not projects! A very wise elderly Christian man once told me that, for those of us who come to Christ, God has given each a uniquely individual path that leads to salvation in Christ. I cannot write someone off who is unreceptive at the present. I may want them to walk a straight path to Jesus, but God may have for them a winding path in the wilderness. They may be unreceptive or mocking of me and of my Lord, but I must still treat them with love and kindness as they may be my future brother or sister, that lost sheep for whom Jesus would leave me and his 98 other sheep in the fold to go after to rescue.
    My current field of harvest is primarily with Hispanic immigrant women in my area of the USA who are so alone and desperate for friendship and for someone to listen to them, and so help carry their burdens. I meet them at a local pregnancy/parenting education center where I teach them English or parenting lessons (It helps that I am also conversational in Spanish). I hear their stories and am reminded of the darkness, misery, confusion, loneliness, and messiness of life without Christ. I long to see them come to freedom and peace through faith. I currently have a small group Bible study off center and also 2 ladies who come to the center to read one-on-one with me. I also have 2 kids – private ESL Chinese students, with whom I read the Bible. Many people come to Christ just through reading the Bible on their own, but not everyone has that kind of initiative or self-discipline—especially when it is new and confusing. Many need to be invited and to be accountable to read with someone who clearly loves and serves them. Though I’m no Bible expert, I do know more than they do, and fielding their questions helps me learn and grow. Then, I get to be a part of seeing them coming slowly to life…. I get to see the spiritual fireworks of understanding go off when they learn something new. And it is not, “Look what I’ve done,” but, “Wow! Lord, look what YOU are doing!”
    So, if I’m getting lax and need to do better at evangelism, what can I do? Focus on increasing my love for God by spending more time in my Bible. I will both know God and the riches of His Word better. I must find people to love whom I probably think are unlovely (-not a lovely Christian, like I am! [Ha!], and because sin is unlovely!). I need to see the darkness of their lives up close, to pray, to spend time with them in the Bible, and to introduce them to Jesus throughout its pages. If everyone of our church leaders and pew-sitting believers made sure they always had at least one unsaved or new believer with whom they were reading the Bible, and then, once saved, this new believer was taught to do the same, don’t you think we’d have revival in our churches? Let’s not blame our lack of evangelizing on our churches, though. If we feel dead spiritually, or like our church is dead, maybe it is because we’ve never taken responsibility for living like we were re-created to live… and, therefore, we have never known the excitement of a spiritually reproductive lifestyle!

    • Steve says

      You write, “Nothing wrong with praying for power for ourselves or others or for wisdom or boldness, but it is not dependent upon us.” and you are certainly correct. God is self-sufficient and He lacks for nothing. However, we are not complete and without Christ Jesus. We will wither and die an eternal death without Jesus.

      According to God’s Word “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). “For in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-6).

      The Shunammite woman’s ministry was one of hospitality. She had the financial means to facilitate the work of Elisha, a man of God. Through her God refreshed Elisha so that he could teach more effectively teach the Word of God. She was truly a godly woman, but little is said about her verbal testimony. (see 2 Kings 4:8-17).

      I give thanks to God for what He has done and is doing in your life. I pray that your testimony will be well received my those you come in contact with, but you are correct it isn’t dependent upon us – it is our privilege. And, as parts of the same body we are all given different gifts:
      to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit,
      to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit,
      to another, faith by the same Spirit,
      to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
      to another, the performing of miracles,
      to another, prophecy,
      to another, distinguishing between spirits,
      to another, different kinds of languages,
      to another, interpretation of languages.
      But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.

      So as you write, “maybe it is because we’ve never taken responsibility for living like we were re-created to live… and, therefore, we have never known the excitement of a spiritually reproductive lifestyle!” Living out our faith takes on many forms and just like the Shunammite woman some simply need to humble themselves to unselfish giving in the name of Jesus.

      I will be praying for your ministry. Thanks for all that you do in the name of our Lord. Have a Christ filled day!

      • Rhonda Lynn Wilkinson says

        Excellent addition to the discussion, Steve!

        I did understate the need for prayer! Not only is there “nothing wrong with praying for boldness and wisdom,” as I stated, it is precisely because the fruit of evangelism does not depend upon us, that we NEED to pray! -as you so kindly reminded us :) along with another good reminder that we should each be faithful in exercising the variety of gift that God has given us.

        But I do have a question for you. Do you conclude from the examples you gave that some believers are excluded from giving a verbal witness because they are gifted in another way? We can’t expect the Shunammite woman to testify of the gospel, as Jesus had not come, died, risen, and ascended yet, but there are plenty of other examples of women or men commended in the New Testament for their service without a mention of their verbal witness of the gospel (Dorcus, Lydia – Acts 9:36-43; 16:14-15). Does that mean they and we can be exempt from giving a verbal witness if we have another gift that is not evangelism? Does a gift of hospitality, for example, excuse me from being a verbal witness (Acts 1:8)? —from not making disciples (Mt 28:18-19), from not being ready to give an answer (1 Pet 3:15), from not preaching the Word, since faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:14-15), from not loving others as I can? If 1 John 3:17 questions whether we have the Love of God in our hearts if we do not meet someone’s physical needs when we are able, how much more if we do not attempt to meet their spiritual? (Who was it who wrote: “To have the gospel and to not share it with others is the most unloving thing one can do”? Mahaney? Piper? And I’m being convicted as I write… I need to be more intentional to pray for and to witness to certain people coming to my mind.
        Before I sign off, I’d also like to clarify my previous entry by saying, all of the women I work with ARE lovely and worthy of dignity and honor as ones made in the Father’s image. Sin is not lovely, though, and it (their sin or someone else’s) can make their their lives pretty ugly sometimes. But such were Jesus’ friends.
        Thank you for praying for my ministry!

        • Steve says

          No, no at all – my point is that you followed Jesus by speaking through your actions and actions speak louder than words. I thank God for those like you who boldly dedicate their lives in service to the Lord. However, there are many who simply water what you and others like you have planted. I believe all who know and love Christ as Lord will witness by the power of the Holy Ghost. I have a grandson who is without speech and a nephew with CP – both witness according to their ability. Both pray, even without speaking and God hears them!

          Piper writes, “Jesus intends to create a praying people. His demand is clear,—” Does that mean that we pray and wait for God to do what we have asked? I think not. I believe prayer acknowledges our dependence on a Holy God. I believe prayer magnifies God’s glory. I believe there is no salvation without prayer. Prayer is a starting point and an ending point. Jesus modeled the importance of prayer. When we stay connected to God, He provides our every need.

          Jesus instructs us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Why? To show that we are children of God. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” I believe this means that loving acts (actions) open doors for testimony. Not everyone is called to preach, teach, travel and etc. but you are absolutely correct in that Acts 1:8 applies to us all.

          Thanks & Have a Christ filled day!

  140. Nena Roberts says

    Well said Dr. Rainer. I’ve been “preaching” this for years and have lost friends because I am not “faithful” to the “denomiation” because I bring to light that we have lost our focus. Having lived in Glorieta for eight years and expriencing members of our SB peers constantly and consistently preaching denomination instead of Christ, has jaded both my husband and I from a denomination that we love. This is also the same reason why so many locals in that area will have nothing to do with Southern Baptists. We must be Christ FIRST, denomination second, or third, or fourth. I respect your decision to have this “family discussion”. It is LONG overdue. My faith is in Christ not, my denomination. My prayer is that God will use your words to impact and change the heart of Southern Baptists who have lost their first love.

  141. Cynthia says

    Couldn’t agree more with this letter. I was born and raised Southern Baptist, and grew up in churches in the “pioneer mission field” as it was called back in the 1960s and 1970s. A small church where 59 on a Sunday was a crowd. Everyone had their part in that church, from the newborn to the oldest person. Fast forward to the 1980s and I’m back down south, where most churches are so large that’s it’s easy to let others do the work. Where worship became entertainment (I dislike it when people clap after someone sings – especially if I’m the singer), when the great hymns with great spiritual messages gave way to pablum disguised as praise choruses that instead of focusing on God focus on the individual. I hear people say that we have to attract people to the church – once we get them there… So what do you do differently when you get them there? You give them more of the same. Eventually why bother to get up early on a Sunday morning for church when you can get the same rush the night before at a secular venue? We’ve gotten away from real worship where God and Christ are central to what is happening in any given service. That is the only “attraction” we should be aiming for, and everything said, sung, prayed and preached should reflect that. This is part of the solution at least. The other part is getting back to activities such as church training where our spiritual formation is developed, making us not only spiritually stronger but equipping us to telling others in the way that best suits our individual talents and strengths. None of this is a one size fits all solution and it won’t happen overnight.

    • Jorge says

      Unfortunately many of the Southern Baptist Convention churches are all about baptisms. They boast about how many “we’ve baptized this year…more than any church in our district “or you’ll hear “Our baptisms are low, we’ve got to do something about this.” I was part of an SBC church where these words were heralded from the pulpit and in deacon meetings. Many of those baptized didn’t know their right hand from their left. but praise God are baptism numbers are up! Often those involved in “ministry’ lived lives od demons, but as long as they’re involved we have a chance to reach them. Such sacrilege and blasphemy. immodest dress was allowed from those in “leadership” under the guise of liberty in Christ. Say a word about this (which I did often as a deacon) and you’re labeled a legalist. Sunday School teachers and worship leaders posting scandalous pictures of simulated sex on statues, exposing body parts, kissing vodka bottles, clubbing, trash taking about the people of Israel, dating Muslims, married to unbelievers (on purpose), physically and verbally abusive daycare workers allowed to continue in their position because they were either the wife of a minister or deacon, silly jokes and stories from the pulpit and movie comparisons (for 30 min out of a 40 min message), Catholics praised, mother Theresa lauded, Rick Warren exalted, the Pastor saying from the pulpit in a congregation filled with impressionable youth that “If the apostle Paul were alive today, he’d probably have a tattoo,” advising youth that the bible doesn’t say anything about tattoos, and I could go on. Needless to say I left after many years of praying and challenging the leadership to change. They would not…they love their licentious freedom too much and disguised it under the name of the HOLY Christ. I took my family and hightailed it out of there! The Pastors and leadership will have to stand before Christ and give an accounting, but maybe Christ will look the other way because they had a lot of baptisms! First love? They don’t even know what that is!

      • Kent Shirley says

        While I agree that we as Baptists need to live a transformed life reflecting Christ, I also believe that the Jesus is the answer and if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself! Revival is the answer for His church. It is the only remedy for the sin problem among genuine believers. Instead of leaving the church, perhaps you should have tried praying and leading your church toward revival/renewal??

  142. says

    Thom,
    I’ve served as pastor to a small Southern Baptist church for 10 years. I am glad to say that we are growing…growing in our love for Jesus, as a person, who is present. For a long time, we were more concerned with being right, with being orthodox, with being relevant than we were with being in the presence of Jesus and loving him. This is finally changing because the burden that is on your heart has been on ours as well. God is moving and I join you in your prayer.

    One issue, I think, is our view of evangelism. We hear that word and we think of another program, method, or liturgy. We are never given technique in scripture. We are told that the world will know we are Christ’s by the way we love one another. Authentic Christ-centered community is what draws the broken and builds trust among the wounded and opens the door for the Gospel to set free the captives. When we love Jesus as you described, we will walk with him daily. As we walk with him, we will reveal him to those around us. Evangelism is not a program, it is a product. …At least that’s what I’m beginning to see.

    Thank you for your ministry and service to the saints. I am grateful for you.
    michael

  143. Roseline says

    Thanks for you time Dr. Walter , I am so happy and no longer sad about my husband,we are back together as one family and he did not go for the divorce again,thanks for your work once again.Longer may you live on this continent,you are must trusted.You email is left on this site so that people that needs your service can contact you.I have equally forgiven him.
    lordmazitemple@yahoo.com

    Roseline

  144. says

    If this letter has broken our heart, we will just get up and preach the Gospel just to our neighboard but we are still talking about “Sinner’s prayer”, Justification, sanctification. Is the sinner need to be a theologian? He just need to know that he is a sinner and lost and need a Savior. Jesus simple message without any termonology.

  145. James says

    Preachers – you who refer to yourselves as pastors – are you elders of the church? Ministers, preachers and evangelists are just that. A simple reference. The word pastor is grossly incorrectly referred to.
    Plan of salvation for any New Testament church – read Acts 2:38.

    • Kent Shirley says

      Michael, Sounds like you’re carrying a lot of bitterness from a long time ago. Let me encourage forgiveness and ask you (for your sake) to receive the peace and ability to move forward that comes from forgiving someone or some group for something that happened long ago. Blessings!

  146. says

    There is a cultural southern baptist and a new birth in Christ southern baptist. I think that southern baptists haven’t completely made that distinction between the two groups. The cultural southern baptists like the values that are coming from the pulpit, the style of worship and a very literal reading of the bible because they aren’t interested enough to think. Two generations ago, they resisted integrating their congregations and the new birth in Christ southern baptists had to work around them to get the southern baptist community where it is today. The new birth in Christ southern baptists often arrive at the same theology as the cultural southern baptists, but they get it from the holy spirit rather than from their gut. Both co-exist because they like atmosphere of the local southern baptist congregation. The challenge is to evangelize the man in the pew so that he is led by the spirit to love and grow. Unsaved southern baptists are the unseen obstruction to our following the great commandment.

  147. Tony Auxier says

    Instead of presenting the gospel through biblical, Christ-centered preaching, most worship services (traditional, contemporary, blended, or liturgical) focus on what the people attending want. Our worship is so man centered and focused, that we fail to lift up Christ. As a result, the lost are not drawn to Him.

  148. Rico almiranez says

    Thanks for the open letter. Since I came to know Jesus it has been my passion to share Him. Last year our church baptized 21 and this year I am praying for more. Two Sundays ago I baptized a couple. Praise God. Every week my prayer is to have 5 soul s to share Jesus at times God gave me more than that. Lets continue to pray for revival amongst sb chutche’s. empowered by the Holy Spirit we will share our testimony and the gospel as we pray daily and disciple New believers.

  149. Carl Bane says

    What an open and honest letter! If it had ended there or more of the same had followed, I might be tempted to give a Baptist church another try. My Dad was a Baptist preacher when I was growing up and because of this I was able to see “the behind the scenes” look at many churches. The bickering, back stabbing, politics, egos, etc etc. Reading the replies to this seemingly innocent cry for Gods help, I see nothing has changed within the hearts of the church members. Same old bickering and back stabbing. The difference now though is you can hide behind a bogus email address and name.

    If I was not already a Christian and I stumbled onto this thread, I would never step foot in a Baptist church. Shame on some of you!

    Carl

  150. Kent Shirley says

    I too am the son of a Baptist pastor. As a retired pastor, missionary and now a transitional pastor I have seen hypocrisy in the lives of too many church members. However, I would only be telling half the story if I didn’t tell about all the godly. humble, Christ focussed Christians, who happen to be Baptists, who it has been my privilege toknow in literally hundreds of SBC churches in various states and overseas. I feel your hurt and bitterness. I pray that with God’s power you cannot become an overcommer!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Have we lost our first love? Thom Rainer takes a moment to share an open letter to the SBC. “The purpose of this letter is simply to share a broken heart, and to express a heartfelt desire to change. I must love Jesus more deeply and tell others about Him more often.” […]

  2. […] The Lutheran article on “re-baptism” can be found here. JD’s article discussing why Scriptural baptism is not “re-baptism” because a libation ritual perpetrated upon unwilling unbelievers isn’t “baptism” can be found here. Thom Rainer’s open letter to the SBC is here. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


eight − 8 =