Is life left to destiny or accidental-like?
There is a riveting scene near the end of the movie, “Forrest Gump.” Forrest has buried his wife, Jenny. He stands at her grave, reflecting on life, and voices a question that I believe is being asked today on Main Street U.S.A.
“Do we have a destiny, or, are we all just floating around kinda accidental-like, like a feather on a breeze?” Gump’s question reminds me of the ultimate question asked by Job, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (14:14). That question inevitably challenges every person who walks this planet.
Reports indicate that the downturn in our national economy may be driving Americans to rethink and even return to their religious roots, consider their mortality, and welcome thoughts of God back into their life again. A recent headline in the New York Times read, “Bad times draw bigger crowds to churches.” It told the story of an Evangelical church in “a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund managers.” The “sudden crush of worshippers” has required the church to “set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV and 100 folding chairs.” The article continued to reveal that it is not only the upscale set that is turning their attention to God, but the middle class as well. Members of the Christian Cultural Center in the Flatland section of Brooklyn are arriving early to make sure they can get seats. A. R. Bernard, senior pastor and founder of New York’s largest evangelical church, told the Times: “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.” Yes, these economic times are shaking people to the core.
This phenomenon is not limited to our times. In the wake of the 1857 economic panic, a group of New York businessmen met to pray in a church just few blocks from Wall Street. The resulting Fulton Street Prayer revival led to tens of thousands of conversions in New York alone, and perhaps a million across the country. Additionally, the American branch of the Salvation Army traces its origins to the revival which started in the wake of a Wall Street collapse.
Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint newsletter echoes that the connection between openness to the Gospel and tough economic times has continued. He cites a recent study by David Beckworth of Texas State University which found that during “each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004,” evangelical churches grew 50 percent faster than during better economic times.
Reminds us of the Bible, doesn’t it? During good economic times, we, like the “rich fool” in Jesus parable, feel self satisfied and complete. You and I (and the “rich man”) know that feeling self-satisfied during good times is not only dangerous, it is an illusion.
I’ve carried this statement in my Bible for years: “Life’s setbacks are God’s setups for great comebacks.” The loss of an estimated 8 trillion dollars in wealth is driving Americans to their knees to make them realize the emptiness of material possessions. The church must make the most of these days for our Lord, and I believe around Missouri we can. Let me offer some ministry suggestions for these times.
First, prayer walk your community, at least portions of it. Knowing that some of Missouri church fields have homes a mile apart (and more), I suggest you prayer drive (I’ve done that too). Ask God to show you the people of your area – who they are and what they are like?
Secondly, encourage church members to pray for the unsaved and unchurched of your area by name. Ask them to use specific names, at least in private prayer.
Third, get to know your neighbors. Invite them to your home. Take them out to eat. Discover their interests and involve yourself with them where appropriate. Find out what their needs are and promise to pray for them.
Fourthly, invite them to attend church with you Easter. Surveys tell us that four out of five non-attenders would attend Easter if invited personally.
To say it simply, I’m suggesting that you intercede, invest and invite. Surely anytime and all the time we should be implementing this three fold strategy, but, especially in these days.
One final suggestion: Let us seek to have baptisms in every Missouri Baptist Convention church April 26. I believe God is preparing a great harvest. Let’s celebrate by seeing new believers follow our Lord in baptism.
Forrest Gump, we do have a destiny. None of us are here “just floating around kinda accidental-like, like a feather on a breeze.” Jesus Christ came so that “We might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). People are ready. Let’s go tell them! (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)