Suspend disbelief across the state of Missouri
“To believe, suspend disbelief!” At first glance you would assume that some deep thinking theologian was playing mind games with the subject of faith. Quite the contrary, that statement was a sage piece of advice from a former Ronald Reagan speech writer, Peggy Noonan. She offered those words because of the historical implications of the election of our new President, Barack Obama. Noonan said, “Something unthinkable 50 years ago, an African American becoming President, means that this country has proven again that anything is possible. If we can do this, we can do anything.” Times like these require something special that she calls the “willing suspension of disbelief.” Then Noonan says it plainly: “To believe, suspend disbelief.”
What a powerful statement. What a mandate this becomes to the followers of Christ today. How else can we understand the miracles of the Bible? How else are we to face the hopeless situations all around us? If it’s a miracle we need (and who doesn’t need one, sometime, somewhere?), then, we must suspend disbelief. We must stop saying, “This can’t happen,” because when you factor God into the equation, nothing is impossible.
A foreboding cloud has settled around the church today, interpreted by many to precede her demise. Fewer than 20 percent attend church on Sunday (yes, in America); 7 out of 10 people are without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; someone dies every 11 seconds, three out of four die without Christ; 80 percent of our churches are plateaued or declining (some say it’s closer to 90 percent); more than 10,000 Southern Baptist Convention churches reported no baptisms last year. Is it time for believers to throw in the towel, lock themselves in their prayer closets and beg Jesus to return soon?
NO! It’s high time for the church to do what our spiritual forefathers did 2,000 years ago – suspend disbelief. As long as we limit God to what we think He can do, we will never see anything great because our faith remains so small. But once we are willing to suspend our disbelief and renounce our skepticism, then and only then do we become candidates for a miracle. The life of faith is inherently a life of risks. It is not for those timid souls who want to play it safe all the time.
I want to challenge Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) churches to suspend disbelief and trust God in two areas this late winter and early spring: Intercede and Invite.
Intercede? Yes, pray for the unsaved and unchurched in your community, by name. I have long believed that prayer is our greatest expression of faith. Our Christian life began with prayer, didn’t it? Why not live the Christian life the same way (see Col. 2:6)? Pray for those in your realm of relationships to be saved. We are always praying in the will of God when we pray for people to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9).
Invite? Yes, invite those you are praying for to attend church with you Easter Sunday, April 12. A popular survey was making the rounds this time last year. An overwhelming 80 percent of the unsaved and unchurched who were asked, “Would you attend church Easter Sunday if you were personally invited?” responded, “Yes.” Suspend disbelief, invite that neighbor, co-worker, school mate, relative, and don’t faint in front of them when they say “yes.”
John Calvin put it this way: “How graciously Christ pours out His grace when He finds the vessel of faith open.” Are we open to receive all that God has for us? Can we believe Christ wants to save multitudes across Missouri this Easter season? Begin now to pray for lost people, by name, in your community. Ask God to open their hearts to receive Christ. Ask God to cause them to be open to your invitation to attend Easter services. Trust God for a great harvest of souls Easter!
Then, let’s celebrate the harvest God gives, with every MBC church baptizing two weeks later, April 26.
I was the guest in one of our churches last month that reported no baptisms in 2007. The month before, they began praying for the lost in their community by name, and inviting them to attend church that Sunday. When the invitation time concluded that Sunday morning, eight people had responded, professing faith in Jesus Christ. How did such a harvest occur? God’s people interceded, God’s people invited, God showed up and did what only He can do!
“Faith is not the absence of questioning; it is the presence of action in the midst of those questions” (Woodrow Kroll). Let’s suspend disbelief across the state of Missouri, believing God to bring and save many this Easter. (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)