The French term “laissez faire” means “leave it alone.” The phrase epitomized the 19th century economic and political philosophy in the English-speaking world. It calls for and supports a “hands-off”’ policy on the part of government.
In the 18th century, great emphasis was placed on natural law throughout Western Europe. It was held that the natural order of things was best designed to produce the most beneficent results for man, if man would only leave it alone.
I am developing a “laissez faire” attitude toward the government and sometimes believe we would all be better off if the government would just “keep their hands off”’ the populace and “leave us alone.” However, I know God Himself created the government for our good. It is man who has sometimes perverted God’s good intention for the government to serve mankind.
I am also sure of one place where a “laissez faire” attitude is not good, acceptable, or needed, and that is regarding evangelism – the spreading of the Gospel. When it comes to sharing our faith or winning souls to Christ we must not adopt at “hands-off”’ policy.
However, I fear that is precisely what we have done. Furthermore, I must admit I have been caught up in that spiritual malaise that had cooled my enthusiasm for being the personal soul winner God wants me to be.
I see what is happening in our churches. Our number of baptisms is decreasing. Last year we baptized fewer than 300,000 new converts for first time in 68 years. Baptisms, long regarded as the benchmark for denominational health, dropped to 295,212 in 2016. It was the eighth decline in ten years and the smallest total since 1947. Furthermore, Southern Baptists have one million fewer members than we had in 2006.
One of the alarming statistics is in 2016 the average number of youth baptisms among Georgia Baptist churches was two. The median number was zero. In other words, half of our Georgia Baptist churches baptized zero young people. The average number of children baptized was three. These statistics indicate we are marching aimlessly toward oblivion as a denomination.
I recently talked to an associational missionary who indicated that one-third of his churches would likely no longer be in existence in ten years.
We are basking in the laurels of past victories. We are riding on the coattails of those faithful soul-winners of the past. We are making excuses for not knocking on doors and our excuses will eventually swallow us up like quicksand swallows up an unsuspecting traveler.
I know we live is a society of gated communities and neighborhoods where the residents cocoon (push the garage door open when they get home from work and don’t open it again until they head out to work the next morning), but we really don’t have an excuse, because our Lord told us “to go out to the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.”
We can “market our churches,” have our Facebook pages, and host special events to attract people to our church special events and I am absolutely in favor of doing all of that. We can cultivate people in relationship evangelism; and I also like that approach, but the Lord may well come back before we can build lasting relationships with all those who need the Lord’s saving grace.
There is an urgency about being a soul winner. If we don’t have an urgency about it, those to whom we would share our faith will want to postpone their surrender to Christ or defer to some more convenient season.
Well, I have written quite enough. I am leaving this computer and going to find someone who needs to hear the story of Jesus. I will tell you about my witnessing experience in my next editorial. And I will be happy for you to write me and tell me about yours.
We must not have a “laissez faire” attitude about evangelism.