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June 25, 2020 5:00 am
This archived broadcast of Janet Mefford today is brought to you by pre-born for $140 you can provide ultrasounds to five women in crisis pregnancies.
Call now 855402, baby. That's 855-402-2229 or Janet Mefford.com is our confidence is in Christ alone and Protestant denomination in the nation just experiences largest yearly drop in membership in more than 100 years. That's what is going on in the southern Baptist convention, which recently announced its biggest annual membership decline since the late 1800s. Now this is from the most recent annual church profile report compiled by life, we Christian resources and it showed that from 2018 to 2019.
The number of Southern Baptist dropped by almost 288,000 people, and as the Tennessean reported.
This is also the 13th year in a row that the SBC has lost members.
Not only that, but church attendance and financial giving and the numbers of baptisms also are all down all of this occurring after years of the SBC trying to put a greater emphasis on evangelism and the great commission.
So what has gone wrong. Is this merely indicative of a general decline in Christianity in America or are there some specific reasons why the Southern Baptists in particular have experienced this kind of downturn and can the SBC be born again or to talk about all of it today with Dr. Chuck Kelly. He is president emeritus indistinct research Prof. of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist theological seminary is also director and founder of innovative evangelism and on his blog, Dr. Chuck Kelly.com.
He has analyzed what is really going on in the Southern Baptist convention and has written a really detailed multipart series on it called the dilemma of decline and he joins us now. Dr. Kelly so good to have you with us.
How are you drawing to be reviewed and thank you for being here.
I have really appreciated reading what you have written at your blog because for a lot of Southern Baptists they might be looking at the current numbers and thinking will. This is just a bad year. In fact, you've pointed out, it's been a bad year for about at least 20 years, has it not yet on March 3, 2000 and do my first public social emotional development decline in the chapel service are similarly gold that produced about setting the agenda talk about market is about 2000 decline really began to lose our level of decline, Southern Baptist history that is amazing. Southern Baptist has had a very interesting history for a long long time you talk a little bit in your blog about the growth of the SBC through you know 1845 all the way through World War II. Then there was explosive growth after World War II. Tell us a little bit about the growth of the SBC and then why the decline kicked in. In your opinion will go Medicare to restrict way of doing church that was the most effective paradigm for church.
The history of American Christianity very simply Southern Baptist church like Paul was all the three-week your community for Christ through four basic approaches (just more magnificently and very well but let your world returns to undo it so you sure you across all of human life is will grow.
Usually, the more problems you and so the 40 word history of every denomination in America grow so decline history of every American church family. So SBC had grow and am not going well. Decline. Plaxo level of total Peter goal were into decline, and we get now and back decline for at least 20 years. Right now where would you put the conservative resurgence on that timeline because there was a blip in church history.
I would say the SBC is quite unique in that the 1979 events brought the convention back to a more biblical approach a conservative approach away from liberalism, so should that not have been something unforeseen. The fact that Southern Baptists were able to see that happen in the late 70s and the power of that movement continue on for a number of years. It would they did that make any difference.
Ultimately, do you think in the health of the Southern Baptist convention Christianity from the theological left server. Theology.conservative theology because of the children resurgence was in place of every SBC but the SBC is not what's happening in the world threatening churches right and wrong. Everything was getting straightened out theologically with the SBC.
All churches were beginning to show the effects of several different burnings want graphic changes in the United States is the population of United States became much more diverse. Driven by a lot of different influx of other religions making evangelism a bit more challenging or difficult, but the really big impact I think was on our entertainment driven culture and the culture will be changed around us and it began crawling Southern Baptist walk.what we can help you live was all discipleship process that is I think the key factor that affected our evangelistic health.
I think you're dead on about that now when you talk about your typical discipleship process as it had been executed in the Southern Baptist convention for those who are not Southern Baptist. What he discipleship used to look like when the churches were on a more healthy trajectory organize strategic approach will be used for congregational discipleship that are so cute ever bother you in the congregation and moving towards more Christlike by teaching them the Scripture by explaining to them that doctrine and then by engaging in ministry that very important to engage in ministry. That's when discipleship really good in somebody's life that last approach discipleship methodology has a shelf life that methodology of discipleship, Godspell, you'll am tired and Bob began to wear out early 70s late 60s early 70s and was not replaced and it was not we invented it just kind of disappeared and was replaced with a patchwork approach to discipleship which is dealing with unrelated segments of the Christian life without any kind of strategic plan that is interesting. What you also mentioned there was a shift in the publisher of the convention's publisher from SBC church discipleship. More to the marketable faith-based products and of course we know the life way bookstores have now generally close down so that that the stores aren't even there now so much local churches to do discipleship work all times or training opportunities conducted nationally. Study local Association geographic area will churches will close together.
Training of Christian workers was very highly/bill Sunday school board like we were specifically targeting cyber churches with their publicly theology and shutterbugs churches were using the tools that the Sunday school board. Well, as the use of those tools began to dwindle in some churches doing other things like where he began branching out to other Christian groups and slowly evil and malicious and all of this just beginning to make the focus of their attention. How can we appeal to the evangelical Christian marketplace. Rather, how can we help the churches of the SBC be so concerned, but wanted churches to be real proud of about what you could just see over time, the emergence of that focus on multiple projects for the whole world. Well I think that's really very true. If anybody had ever gone into this bookstores as I certainly did that there really was a shift from some of the materials that had previously been covered in previously been offered for sale versus more marketable books.
Books that people actually came back and complained about and said you shouldn't even be selling these materials but obviously what we need to get into is what has happened to the evangelism efforts of the Southern Baptist convention were to come back with Dr. Chuck Kelly you listening to Janet.
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The SBC Dr. Kelly we were talking about some of the shifts in demographics and some of the ships and emphases.
The entertainment driven culture.
All of these cultural trends that have had an impact on the SBC and and the numbers you said the year 2000 and marked the profound turning points for the Southern Baptist convention because this was when the baptism numbers began to drop in 2000, the number of churches were still climbing but the baptisms began to drop specifically why do you think that those baptism numbers began to go down. Would you attributed to these general cultural issues that we've been discussing, or were there more precise reasons/single strategy and history of the church from the first century New Testament near the one assumption every single one of one, but common assumption is the largest already Christian person born again you went from the life of a person without Christ. Southern Baptist life was moved Mike towards more and more like the world I call the carnal ship word to describe it.
Christians in our church is becoming more interested in worldliness than they were in discipleship. I didn't want to give up worship, but kept coming to worship, but they were less and less concerned with their growth in Christ likeness – the really big thing and what we word the more we look like the less our neighbors noticed us that have any interest in what were talking about their dislike was I drinking and beginning in 2000 and responsible for being the board shall evangelism in the SBC shifted its attention away from evangelism and began emphasizing almost exclusively church planting and very little in evangelism and when we lost that steady voice and pleasant. I think it contributed to the accelerating loss of interest and focus all evangelism, the loss of production of evangelistic tools and strategies to help churches that buddy go real impacts for tomorrow's global public on theology and Southern Baptist life. It's not heresy is perfectly legitimate interpretation of Scripture, like many evangelical Christians share excellent Baptist is less humane, the passion to grow to our neighbors and share the gospel with them so you can bond oversleeping lack of Christ likeness lack of attention given to the importance of evangelism and I ministry in search of responsibility to go to our neighbors and what you give is the client. Well, that's right.
There's a lot to talk about their I want to back up a little bit because you point out, there have been at least five efforts to address the Southern Baptist convention's evangelism crisis at the convention level since 2000 and some people may know certain efforts of me no more well than they would know others and and I would also say JD Greer has had this current emphasis as he's been president as well. Hoosier one that's another one that that has been present currently having to do with it evangelism.
But when you talk about the first one you talked about Dr. Bobby Welch who is the SBC president using his position at that time to emphasize evangelism.
You said that was a little too momentary and it gave way to another plan in 2008 the God's plan for sharing. Now, how was it that God's plan for sharing got derailed in 2008 I got ignored more dollars. Also, most matters to well plan only equipped with history of management study. Convention of churches of Shandong to Patricia Perry most associations for your massive emphasis on eventually is the great commission resurgence proposals were married convention that currently attention completely away from God's plan for Sheri put the attentional church clinically and church claiming low dualism between the small little sideline. While both studied was by this call for church claiming the funding changes that will know you as a result of GCR began disrupting the evangelism network spreading Southern Baptist life, so it wants me to see our but basically married to God's plan for Sharon Strobel once. Now there are some questions here because when you talk about the shift of the North American Mission Board more into church planting rather than direct evangelism for those outside the convention, we might say, how can you plant a church without evangelism. Was this merely trying to plant new churches and move the sheep around or was there any evangelism effort attached to that new emphasis on church planting very clear.
There was clearly speaking reach people by starting new churches that that was exactly but let me put it this way you like to mention about 45 files on churches. How many of those churches are going to be engaged in starting new churches at our very rarely have more than a couple of thousand churches involved in that whenever you are watching commercials, but you're not interested in what you doing you trim out on television showing all the conversation is about something that you're doing you don't buy much attention to what was the message for those over 43, 44,000 churches of the city not engaged in church planting evangelism is the heartbeat of everything, but when you stop talking about that you have no real impact on those, 43, 44,000 churches gauged in the church, so there's no doubt there's a connection but evangelism has to happen first and then church if you lead with church planting, you're missing that post what you are. So why did they make the shift to church planting was it's really an effort to see those numbers go up, and maybe church planting would help the numbers get better now was a good worker tried to get when you go there's no doubt about trying something new was doing something to stimulate Baptist convention's immovable job.
But the problem is when you stop walking on evangelism, everything falls apart so in 2011, the first year after the great commission proposal. We have 1003 churches started and then we went from 1327 936 and 2014 2000 and started dropping out in the number of church plants begin falling and so last year we started 553 churches about what we do in 2011 why declining high wars old folks and when you're not reaching people for Christ you're going to diminish everything else.
Eventually this is a really important thing to talk about the great commission resurgence of 2010 because you also say it got more time and he got more attention than any of the other approaches because of money. Now why is that a significant part of the equation. Great commission resurgence walls tweaking the strip, you should love Southern Baptist money was about the cooperative program. I was the only time I did not strive and affirm a great commission proposals and should know I can't because it's about dollars, not about souls well with the only thing that's going to change the percentage of money from the cooperative program but goes from the state convention Street or seven bags convention will get more money convention and sure enough you look at that sharp blog you will soon be the members convention share of sleeping funds went from 38% 41% during the last two years, something changed but nothing else.
That's all that's little problem but you have never you put the focus on something. It also back, eventually protecting themselves particular budgets just not turn out to be healthy. Dr. Kelly when you're talking about the current levels of new churches that are being planted. I think you said 552 last year.
Are we talking about churches that are independent with their own buildings and their own pastors or are we talking about satellite campuses. In other words, what is the general makeup of these churches that are new plants by virtue of our little player has to be a church cannot be number is a congregation published convention to show you how much it's changed.
The initial goal when the great commission resurgence program was launched was to start paying hundred churches years what they said we needed to keep up with the population United States goal dropped to 1200 churches a year and we just have an announcement from Dr. Robbie for the executive committee, evangelism and processing what she wants to target to be 703 feet churches a year well but that's the goal that we said was necessary to keep up with our population and churches so you have that decline. When you take the focus off of reaching people for Christ in your community you stop the flow of new people in the congregation. Everything eventually goes down when you stop the flow of new people and accomplish right well there's a lot more to discuss and were to come back were discussing the dilemma of mine in the Southern Baptist convention with Dr. Chuck Kelly will come right back on 10. This archived broadcast of Janet effort today is brought to you by pre-born for $140 you can provide ultrasounds to five women in crisis pregnancies.
Call now 855402, baby. That's 855-402-2229 or Janet met for.com effort today. Here's your host Joe Mefford great to have you with us in great-aunt with us. Dr. Chuck Kelly, president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist theological seminary, distinguished research Prof. of evangelism and he has written a terrific series over it. Dr. Chuck Kelly.com. His blog on the dilemma of decline in the southern Baptist pension. The current numbers of decline in the Southern Baptist convention have not been good and that's been going on now for some 20 years and it's really a question to be asking whether or not the Southern Baptist convention can be born again as you take from the Methodist analogy there Dr. Kelly in your blog series but we were talking about some of the efforts for evangelism at the convention level we discussed the great commission resurgence in the shift.
More to the emphasis of church planting, rather than direct evangelism, and it occurs to me, even with church planting. If you're not doing effective discipleship as you've already said that that has been scuttled to some extent over the years effective program of discipleship for people who are coming to the churches, then how do you retain people and how do you make sure they're even saved and even growing as disciples of Jesus Christ. You don't convention for so long. But combine to lose him and discipleship. I coined the word but are usually my discussions on this cycle is vandalism but flowed into Congregational discipleship and shutterbug is good that beautifully will batch what happened to me.
That's how I became MIDI when we began discipleship part of the we eventually saw all evangelism part of it began to draw the Southern Baptist convention plateau and we were not declining but we were going up and down in the same general range and we were just getting about a place for 20 years. We worked harder and harder on harvesting, bringing new converts we should of been working on discipleship and helping Christians look at little more like Jesus. Batch the punch that power of the gospel impact the other lives. When people see the difference Jesus might that's really good trends that I wanted to ask you about. You had talked a little bit ago about the fact that reformed theology had a certain impact on the Southern Baptist convention, Calvinistic Baptists, for example, having a large influence. I would say on a lot of especially younger Southern Baptists, and that in turn, even though they would say that reformed theology should fuel missions because so many great missionaries or were reforms. In fact, that didn't go on but the other trend that kinda has come up, and this coincides with the evangelism task force which was launched in 2018. I was at that convention. This was about the time that the entire woke general controversy came about was around 2018. It really came to the fore and it's been an ongoing problem within the Southern Baptist convention where there are conservatives in their people. They are very concerned for example about resolution nine that was passed at the Southern Baptist convention talking about using critical race theory is an analytical tool. How much did those two trends of reformed theology and then also the woke nests on the emphasis on some of the identity politics, how much has that also impacted evangelism efforts within the SBC. What I think you there is a current all will she leave voters away from sharing their faith in Christ. Back current is always there and because of that corrupt you have to actually see could move against the current to go upstream. What happens when you try the spotlight conversation all the great commission in which you decide. People will cherish always. From the very beginning, then the focal conversation of the especially when you change that conversation and take away from evangelism that evangelism is going to drift pushing away the diminished and the life of the churches and individual Southern Baptist and that's what's happened there's the conversation has gone further and further afield need to reach people for Christ and disciple them surprised surprised we delete less and less.
We have less and less concerned about. To be honest, Janet. We haven't yet gotten to what I think is the most dangerous indicator of how far Southern Baptist ball used to be. Yes, let's talk about that a little bit what are your thoughts. My greatest fear, my greatest disappointment, the lack of anxiety over declawing in evangelism Southern Baptist like the older brother Luke 15 parable of the particle side of the prodigal son came home father George. Please.
The older brother came in and was very angry that the father would have this great celebration for the lost. Came home and obviously he simply did not care what happened to that older brother and so we've gotten focused on conversation about matters internal to the church matters that people outside like they just don't care about the pinching tape. As we have gotten away from our conversation of reaching the lost and we seen these numbers go down and people aren't upset members and 10 years almost members in 10 years we baptized more people in 1949 when we did last year. We have lost worship slips drop more than a million people in worship 10 years if those numbers had happened 20 years ago it one of the now for all people would have been talking about, but I have been reading the strong or decade to decade 1215 years I've been beating the internal discussions with incomplete leaders beating this drama by public messages. Whenever I address Southern Baptist churches and leaders and so I'm a bit concerned about more attention now because the numbers were so bad last year but there's just still not this real sense of urgency to turn this around. That is the clearest indicated indication of how unhealthy Southern Baptist have become not upset that without which most people yeah that is a real really, really important point because this dovetails with a video that came out just within the last week or so you might have seen this, but I don't know if listeners have it's called eyes on me was was kind of the video they put this out in reaction to this 20 year decline in the SBC. It was from the North American Mission Board and it was a number of SBC leaders and I'm sure they met very well, but my take away they keep they Seen throughout this video you know when Wheatley comes to the decline in baptisms in the SBC. It's on me and then they go to another guy. It's on me and then they'd say it's on all of us, but it was more it came across to me more as a PR piece then it did a genuine concern for lost people who are headed for hell and I didn't hear any Reno description and in detail about passages of the great commission itself for getting into some of the you know the urgency of spreading the gospel at a time like this.
It was more kind of how it's on me. It's on all of us. I thought if you're not can it take it seriously at the leadership level. Not that not but none of them are that seem to me to be a little bit of a trite response to the real urgency and an anxiety that SBC members and leadership to be feeling well one of you. All the strange conversations about evangelism of the denominational level over the last 10 years you hear phrases like pushing back lostness is not about the New Testament talks about reaching lost people when it talks about the loss. Paul talking about being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of his dear son about lost people be moved from hell and you depersonalize the mission what it's all about people I know who don't know Jesus are going to spend eternity in hell people that I love who don't know Jesus going to spend eternity in hell that child that grows out of my home that I pushed great grades into being good sports need to give a college scholarship you can. It go to hell if he does not meet Jesus in the sense of consuming passion that we must share the gospel because it makes an eternal difference is what is just the way rain delay from the southern about this conversation about who you are well.
I want to talk about some hope whether or not the Southern Baptist convention can be born again is that more will come back with Dr. Chuck Kelly you're listening to Jana Mefford today for today is proud to partner with pre-born to help save babies lives. My name is Dan Steiner and I'm the president of prewar ultrasound truly is a game changer when a mom comes into pregnancy center under pressure to abort her child. Perhaps the day is gone, perhaps her mother is pressuring her most of the time in her heart she doesn't want to abort what she needs is something that will give her the strength to choose life against the pressures that are forcing her to consider abortion. That's the ultrasound.
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Let's do more than talk about abortion. Let's save some lives. Please call now with your gift. 855402, baby. That's 855402 baby 855-402-2229 or there's a banner to firstname.lastname@example.org you're listening to Janet effort today. Welcome back. It's great to have you with us and why I think this is a really important conversation, not just for people who are within the Southern Baptist convention, but for all of us. This is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and its tentacles have stretched far and wide for many many years and actually one of the greatest things about the Southern Baptist convention over all these many years it's been in existence has been its emphasis on evangelism and discipleship whenever you wanted to talk to somebody who really knew his Bible and really knew how to share the gospel. At least in my experience, you could always count on a Southern Baptist to do that, but lately it's become something of a crisis. As these numbers are going down of members within the SBC Dr. Chuck Kelly is with us.
President emeritus of New Orleans Baptist theological seminary and has written on the dilemma of decline. A great series that Dr. Chuck Kelly.com. His blog this is my concern. Dr. Kelly I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.
It really has been the case that if you needed to pick out a Christian who was most likely to share the gospel and have a passion for the Lord Jesus, and know his Bible and know how to disciple you want to set a Southern Baptist, probably first. So how do you get back to that place.
Obviously there has to be an intervention by the Lord. There has to be a revival.
There has to be something happening within the hearts of God's people within the SBC to return them to their roots, but what are your thoughts on the return of the SBC to what made it great in the first place. Somebody knows how bad things are choosers. Hope in spite of the circumstance we find them optimistic that I think the challenge is getting evangelism to once again be the focal point of the agenda and merciful to me. SBC really working towards that. That's just so very important. Secondly, the biggest challenge battle. We have the fight is the battle Christ likeness of really beginning teaching and challenging people to be Christlike in their living borders their gravity.
Controversy fights with that because our people of our people have become so very worldly so very carnal or simply not pursuing Christ likeness. And getting that is going to be the big battle because we don't look like Jesus. People are not going to be interested in what we have been both look for things related to all of these is getting a steady voice sounding out evangelism about the great commission is our transcript. That's what we've lost for the last 10 years and getting the American mission born again found out message all the time barred resources to provide strategies to provide a multiplicity of what the church is giving to the members and sharing Christ is very very important value about 2003 – four star got ignored dollars convention is called for that to happen and back actually started the limited way and I'm encouraged and hopeful about that but is one of the reason that I'll be happy to come to know later about why I am an optimistic pessimist. Great will get to that in a second. I think that's great.
What I wanted to ask you is if you are to see the rebirth of evangelism within the SBC on the local church level. What would be most helpful to do first. Would it be evangelism training or would it be a discipleship program where you put everybody in the church threat from children all the way through adults. How would you structure it if you could do it within a particular church and duplicate that in a number of SBC churches.
What would be the best way of handling that started with going out regularly and sharing with people that actually affect that is not happening when a church is not going to become evangelistic. We actually wanted to know BPR seminary, but look back connection is began setting the target. How many people do we think our church can return to get pastors and church leaders talking together and together coming up with goal. How many people do we think we can baptize next year and you have a goal that you work towards what people think about. That's really really important thing is to make baptisms publicly encourage people when someone you say your child alter any age to get them to like their plans to come to the baptismal service people will come to life which will, even if I can do nothing about the rituals themselves, but will call because of friendship and family connections baptismal good deal of people to come every travelers baptism and have a party after the baptism is over and let that person sugar testimony share of the gospel begin that kind of light pollution was more, because I ask yourself how you helping people becoming more Christlike and began to make the conversation with church to give about strategic and pixel quote come in Christlike things that I would like all those are all great and you also mentioned in your blog that most importantly, there needs to be repentance when you say the hindrance to revival is us all of us.
That is something that applies.
I think to the entire church of Jesus Christ in the United States right now that we desperately need you know repentance across the board and what would that look like to you what you think that if there were a movement of repentance to first occur within Southern Baptist churches. What should you repent of.
First, the worldliness, the lack of attention to evangelism all of it all at once.
What what would be your thoughts on that. We have to realize parables of Luke chapter 3: when the prodigal son.
We are the older brother that that was addressed to the scribes. Please were back at the crowd, composed of tax collectors and sinners about older brother was the culminating point of all three of those parables and I know when Jesus said that he was looking at those crotch and peers that would be me. That's why with the lock of the Bible and a commitment to God's way. That is where we are afterward. Being the older brother and again embrace our need for compassionate concern and aggression outreach to the particles were out there some really good kiss really if you don't have the biblical conviction individually as a Christian that lost people really are going to hell what will motivate you to evangelize your neighbor mean that it all has to come from that biblical conviction and that understanding that, but for the grace of God in Jesus Christ. I would be going to hell I owe certain people adapt who were willing to share the gospel with me that has to happen individually, doesn't it not just on a corporate level with certain programs which can all be good and helpful, but individually.
Yeah, that's why the repentance is necessary and why each of us need to get back to the word of God, correct, we will not we will not go my one-word record evangelism go go you go to your parameters to be sharing our testimony of how we came to Christ with our children what we deduct from stores.
We also also share one or more experiences of how Jesus was intervened in our life and really helped us with our children.
We ought to talk with our children at bedtime another to call up and I left about ocean.
Jesus was such frequently the work you know, what about you going to be going to shut my dad my mom my grandfather my grandmother loved to talk about Jesus and that day when Jesus came into the shot out the door that day where Jesus really helped crisis of their life. We'd never hear those stories Christian.
That's because were not telling the story of Noah to our children, but no agreement but do I know you came to me Jesus that's really important. That is the most important thing that's excellent.
So let's return to the question that you wanted to answer why are you an optimistic pessimist, Dr. Kelly.
I grew up in the 60s.
Janet water tumultuous trial was turned upside down right through the use of unpopular war, political/nations shall use the drug culture becoming fixed. In America the sexual revolution everything and to top it all off and was a big theological movement of the day called God is the cover of Time magazine that God is built on the cover theologian at Emory University in Atlanta was promoted theological perspective of God is good and that was the 60s and there was no no one who Saul anything great for Christianity on the horizon. Then the wind God sent the Spirit on his people in America and everything changed. We call it Jesus movement when that same job magazine that had God is built on the cover.
Three years later. Five. Jesus is the man of the year. Hot plays on Broadway were Jesus Christ superstar and Godspell in the top 40 pop stations will play your hand in the hand of the man who spilled the water. Oh happy day.
Other Christian songs, amazing Grace, when Jesus became conversation looks. God I wish I saw how bad it was so was God's love to talk to Chuck, Kelly, check out this blog Dr. Kelly.com. Thank you so much Dr. Kelly God bless and thanks for being here is all right here. Thanks for joining us today