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The Open Door

 

The New Year presents the opportunity for a new beginning. This can be a significant time for you to correct past behavior, improve your life in certain areas, strengthen your devotion to your family, your church and make new commitments to Christ. What you do with the opportunity to start anew could impact the rest of your life.

Among Georgia Baptists, 2005 is a year of evangelism, church planting and church growth. For several years we have been anticipating this emphasis under the theme "What Now, Georgia?" This focus in Georgia is related to a Southern Baptist Convention emphasis called "What Now, America?" "What Now, Canada?"

From the beginning of the plans for 2005, Southern Baptists began to talk about some major goals. The task force that envisioned this emphasis began praying three years ago that we might see one million baptisms in our Southern Baptist churches in one year. During the same year it was anticipated that we might see 2500 new church starts and 100,000 new units in Sunday School.

The vision was slow to catch hold in the minds and hearts of Southern Baptists until our president Bobby Welch was elected last June and God laid on his heart a strong desire to see Southern Baptists get off the baptism plateau that we have been on since the mid-1950's. Bobby leased a bus and toured every state in the nation emphasizing the importance of evangelism and the vision for seeing one million baptisms in our Southern Baptist churches in one year. We owe much to our president who not only toured, preached, prayed and encouraged, but also went witnessing with local Southern Baptists wherever his bus took him.

The impact has been incredible. There will be a special focus upon evangelism and baptisms at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville this June. The weekend before the beginning of the convention meeting there will be an evangelism rally and witnessing event that is predicted to attract over ten thousand participants. You are invited to participate. I hope you will plan now to be involved. The days in which we live are such that we can no longer be satisfied with business as usual. The world will not be turned to Christ simply because our churches exist. As we are taught in God's Word, "We must go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in."

What is Georgia's part in all of this? Our "What Now, Georgia?" emphasis looks forward to a great time of celebration as 50,000 people are baptized in our Georgia Baptist churches in one year. We also anticipate planting 100 new churches and starting 3,500 new units in Sunday School. Mike Minnix, our vice president for evangelism, has been promoting the Wave Revivals for two years. He refers to the revivals as a "Tsunami wave of evangelism" that will roll over Georgia beginning in South Georgia in February and then proceeding north until it concludes in a series of revival meetings in North Georgia in April.

The effect of this increased emphasis upon evangelism was being felt even before we began 2005. The statistical reports from our churches were showing strong increases in the number of baptisms being reported by our churches for the year 2004. In December, Dr. Minnix was reporting that he believed we were heading for a new record number of baptisms in our Georgia Baptist churches. He reflected upon this as a great step in the right direction as we prepare for 50,000 baptisms in our churches in 2005. How wonderful it would be if we would do something in 2005 that would clearly declare to the world that God's Kingdom is alive and well especially after just coming off one of the most amazing Christmas seasons in history where so many unabashed efforts to remove Christ from His own birthday have been seen.

Jesus Himself promised that though the church would come under attack by Satan and all of his forces, the gates of hell would never prevail against the church. Be courageous, church! Be encouraged, church! We already know how this will all conclude. Jesus is the Victor. His church will never fall before Satan's army.

I am praying that 2005 will be the most remarkable year ever witnessed in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Georgia Baptist Convention. Will you join me in that prayer?