Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm Confused

Baptist Press reports today that the Southern Baptist North American Missions Board (NAMB) has received criticism for its handling of the "GPS - God's Plan for Sharing" initiative. The criticism is that NAMB has not set aside funding for media blitzing related to this initiative as has been the historical practice for previous national evangelistic efforts.

Here is where my confusion comes in. GPS includes the following components:
  • Praying
  • Engaging
  • Sowing
  • Harvesting
Southern Baptists are to pray for and engage the lost, sow the seed of the Gospel, and harvest the results through their churches. Why do you need any media dollars to do any of this? Is this a classic case of "we have always done it that way", and the critics don't know that personal evangelism is far more effective than any national media campaign?

I have been in Southern Baptist life since 1972. Since that time I have seen and participated in the "I found It", "Good News, America", "Celebrate Jesus, 2000" and "Here's Life" campaigns (along with others that I have forgotten). I don't remember any of them being particularly effective. Maybe instead of doing it like we have in the past there is a need to get back to Biblical basics.

How much money does it cost to pray for lost people? None. (I certainly hope that Baptists don't need to pay people to pray.)

How much money does it cost to engage lost people in relationship? None. (However, it might just cost you your comfort and/or your life.)

How much money does it cost to sow the seed of the Gospel? Possibly a small amount if you provide Bibles or New Testaments and tracts, but it could be done for free. (Just how much did the Day of Pentecost cost?)

How much money does it cost to harvest new believers into our congregations? Very little. (In fact, if they are true converts they will pay their own way as the Lord directs their pocketbooks.)

How much national advertising and media purchases does any of this require? Zero, zip, zilch, nothing. (In fact, this type of media "blitzing" may prove counterproductive to this type of grassroots evangelism.)

Maybe I am just confused and the critics are correct, but I think that it is the other way around.


Anonymous said...

I can't say for sure but I think the author brushed up against your observation when he stated, using a military analogy, "The 'air cover' can never replace the ground troops who share their faith one-on-one, door-to-door, but it does pave the way for their presence in their communities."

Media coverage is never meant to replace the personal interaction; but it does let the secular world know that Southern Baptists are "coming" to a doorstep near them and it prepares them for knowing who those folks are.

Jerry said...

I don't normally post anonymous comments, but since yours was polite and reasoned....

Why do people need to know that Southern Baptists are coming? We should have been doing so all along.

Anonymous said...

You're exactly right...but in most instances that is not the case. And in many parts of the nation the only impression that folks have of Southern Baptists...the impression they get from the that we're just a group of folks who argue day and night. It's sorta an attempt to put lipstick on a pig, if you will allow me to be blunt.

Southern Baptists are probably the most maligned evangelical group in the country...because we give the secular media so much to write about our infighting. We take more pride in letting the world know what we are against than for what we are for. If I had not been raised in a Southern Baptist culture I'm not so sure I would take a risk at visiting one of our churches.

Friends in Oklahoma, where the ACROSS Oklahoma evangelistic outreach was held for two consecutive years, tell me the media purchase not only prepared the soil for the sowing to come but, much to their surprise, emboldened the laity to catch the vision and even feel good about going out into the harvest. It even impacted the missions giving for that year as more laity saw the vision of their community as a mission field in their own backyard. I think it was a record offering, from what I read in their state paper.

Oklahoma may just be showing the rest of the SBC how it can be done.

Jerry said...

Anonymous (if you are the same Anonymous),

I thought that maybe you would get the hint from my last comment, and regardless of comment I will no longer allow anonymous commenting on this thread.

That said, maybe Southern Baptists have a bad name due to the fact that we are promoting Southern Baptists instead of Jesus.

It is also a sad commentary indeed if people didn't start telling their neighbors about Jesus until the advent of a media campaign. If it takes that then we really have a dearth of Biblical commitment. I wish the brothers in Oklahoma well, but isn't it correct that God can save people in the Sooner state without a fancy media campaign?

Bob said...

Your last comment is right on. I just re-read Matt 28:19 -- and sure enough, just as I remember, it does NOT say: "Go therefore and make Baptists."

If the Baptists think they have bad public relations now, I guess they've never heard about the first three centuries of the Church.

If we do our job of evangelizing right, we can expect the kind of PR that the Lord has promised us: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19)