Terrorist attacks on Baptist churches in America
March 7, 2006
“Ten Rural Baptist Churches Burn in Alabama.” In recent weeks, this was the headline news. But it was just a flash. That news is old news and the world has moved on. Now, as those churches sort through the ashes, we need to sort through the message left behind.
This past week I was with our SBC President Bobby Welch and Rick Lance, the executive director of the Alabama Baptist Convention, speaking about these events. The messages left behind by the arsonist(s) were clear. First, only Baptist churches were targeted. Eight of these were sister Southern Baptist churches who are part of the Alabama Baptist Convention. The other two are associated with the National Baptist denomination.
The second message left behind was where the fires were started. All were started where the Bible lay open on the communion table at the front of the worship center. There were other areas that could have burned the church down faster, but these places were not used. So the source point of the fires left a message.
The third message was rural. Was this a direct message or was it just because these Baptist churches were more vulnerable? This one is questionable. But the first two messages are clear – Baptists and the Bible.
I am sure that local authorities are doing all they can to put the pieces together and find the arsonist(s). But the cry of public outrage was small from the Christian community, especially when you compare it to the worldwide outrage demonstrated by the Muslim world over a political cartoon published in Denmark at about the same time.
This arson against ten Baptist Churches is a terrorist attack on Baptists. These acts were meant to communicate a message and to put fear in the heart of Baptists.
This brings me to wonder. I wonder if we are awake to what is going on around us?
“…it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the day light is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, and in the daylight: not in carousing … not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.” Romans 13:11ff (HCSB)
Could it be that we are more concerned about our personal agendas in our churches than we are interested in making a difference in our world? We need to stop and put our focus on reaching our whole world for Christ, starting next door, just as He commanded us to do in Acts 1:8. Cooperative Program giving by our churches is down to an average of 6.4% of undesignated receipts for missions causes of the SBC. Baptisms of new believers is flat. Our world would rather play kids’ soccer on Sunday morning than go to church. Have we lost our salt? (Matt 5:13). I know many across our state who have not.
It is not all bad news. My purpose in these lines of text is simply to call us to wake up to what is going on around us. Let’s get our focus on reaching this world, our state, our neighborhoods for Christ. Lost folk act like lost folk. Believers should act like Jesus (Phil. 2:5). Now, let’s switch gears and let me share some victory stories with you. These stories can be yours as well.
At the State Evangelism Conference this past year, we had three churches who reported baptisms of more souls in one year than their church had in average attendance for the year! Fairview Baptist C hurch in the St Louis Metro Association had 55 baptisms; First Baptist Church-Hermann in the Dixon Association had 51 baptisms; Rock Springs Church in the Barry County Association had 46 baptism! All three of these churches averaged 50 or less in attendance for the year! Their attendance averages have now shot up incredibly! A big thanks to these churches for how they have inspired and encouraged me.
Pastor Chris Pinion tells me that the Life Quest Church in Belton (south suburban Kansas City) is only two and a half years old. This past Sunday they had 270 in attendance AND have already started two other churches, with a third in gestation. The first was a Spanish language church that had 30 in attendance last Sunday. The second church is called Urban Impact Church located in the mid-town area of Kansas City with attendance as high as 60 already! The church that is in gestation stage now, with delivery expected in October, will be a satellite church in the Brookside area of Kansas City. A core group is meeting and Pastor Chris says he needs mission teams to come help them survey this summer. For more information, call (816) 318-4673 or visit the website at: w ww.lifequest.tv.
How old is your church? How many new works has it started in its lifetime? What is the impact you are having for the Lord Jesus on this earth? The point is, size and age are not the major issue. I believe it is heart.
“…it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11 (HCSB)