The president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) feels America has not truly utilized its enormous wealth to impact the world for Christ. And it may take some persecution, he says, to force the Church in America to take seriously its duty and its role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

 

Recently, a leader in the growing Chinese house church movement told a representative of the SBC's International Mission Board that persecution has fostered the enormous growth in China's underground church. The Chinese church leader also said many Christians in his country are praying that the Church in the U.S. might experience some of the same adversity and hostile treatment.

 

Draper feels it may take something like that to get the U.S. church moving with purpose. He says America is unlikely to wield the influence it could have "unless we get hungry for God's presence and repent." And repentance, he notes, is integral to true Christian leadership.

 

"I was reading Nehemiah again this last week," the LifeWay president recalls, studying a passage about the biblical leader and prophet, "where he hadn't even been in Jerusalem, but when he prayed to God he confessed the [nation's] sins. He said 'We have sinned.' And he was talking about the people in Jerusalem."

 

Draper believes America's Christians need to exhibit that same sense of corporate responsibility for the moral direction the nation has taken. "I think there's going to have to be a corporate asking of repentance and seeking forgiveness for the national sins that we've committed over the years, even if we weren't the ones, maybe, who were involved," he explains.

 

A changed America, the Southern Baptist leader contends, will not come primarily from the ballot box or from constitutional amendments but from changed hearts that are manifested in godly lives. "I think there has to be a movement of God," he says, "because we've become so arrogant and self-absorbed and self-contained, and there's just no good thing going to come out of those preoccupations."

 

Unless more Christians in America have "a real encounter with the Lord," Draper adds, "I think our worship and our churches will increasingly become formality. And when that happens, then you begin to lose the heart, and the churches begin to empty." Unless it regains its focus, he warns, the Church in America will continue to be marginalized and secularized.

 

But Draper believes that path can be avoided if true repentance and revival take place. Also, he points out, church growth can occur if believers put emphasis on inviting the lost to worship and fellowship with them.

 

The LifeWay spokesman says research has shown that a majority of unchurched people are not antagonistic toward the Church, but simply have never been invited by a Christian to attend a church service.

 

LifeWay Christian Resources (www.lifeway.com)

 

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