76% of your church members may not know this basic doctrine

By Joel Southerland

The Barna Group recently released a study about the Great Commission.

Here’s what the study reveals:

51% of church-goers have never heard of the Great Commission
25% of church-goers couldn’t recall the exact meaning of “the Great Commission”
= 76% of church-goers aren’t familiar with the phrase
Barna goes on to explain that it doesn’t mean people are not familiar with the intent of the Great Commission. Maybe the phrase has fallen out of favor.

I totally get that and would probably agree. A younger generation would have a different vernacular.

However, with the steady decline in baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention, perhaps it is more than semantics. The most recent data says 32% of churches that filled out an ACP reported zero baptisms. Zero. None. Not one soul. Not one child. Not one teenager. No one. One-third of our SBC churches went 365 days, 52 Sundays, and didn’t see life transformation with the gospel. It’s almost hard to believe.

The very entity charged by God to be keepers of and conveyers of the gospel is basically out of the gospel business.

What would happen if a car dealership went a year and didn’t sell one car?

What would happen if a McDonalds went a year and didn’t sell one Big Mac?

What would happen if an insurance agent went a year and didn’t write one new policy?

You know what would happen.

So, maybe it is more than semantics. Maybe our churches aren’t familiar with even the spirit of the Great Commission.

Can we do something? Yes.

What can we do? Here are three quick suggestions for pastors.

1. Preach the gospel. We probably shouldn’t have to say this but, in this climate, we do. How far have we fallen from what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”? Pastors, ring out the gospel, week in and week out, from your pulpit. Someone will be saved for sure.

2. Preach the Great Commission. It doesn’t matter what you call it; it matters that you do it. Every Christian has a responsibility to be on mission in their world with the gospel. Remind them. Challenge them.

3. Preach the grave. I know that sounds morbid, but we are all going to die. And when we do, good people don’t go to heaven and bad people don’t go to hell. Saved people go to heaven. Unsaved people go to hell. Don’t let your church lose sight of that.

We can do better than we are doing. It’s not the fault of NAMB, the state convention, IMB, or anyone in Nashville that our baptism numbers are declining. It’s not the culture or the context.

It just may be that 76% of our members don’t know what they ought to know.

Published May 1, 2018

Joel Southerland

Joel is the Executive Director of Evangelism at the North American Mission Board