Chuck Kelley Hopes to Start Conversation About Baptism With New Book ‘Fuel the Fire: Lessons From the History of Southern Baptist Evangelism’

Baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention have been in decline for 16 years. To change that, Chuck Kelley hopes to start a conversation.

“The Southern Baptist Convention is facing the greatest evangelism crisis in its history, with an unprecedented gap between the number of churches and the number of baptisms those churches record,” said Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

A new book by Kelley, “Fuel the Fire: Lessons from the History of Southern Baptist Evangelism,” published by B&H Academic, examines the causes behind the longest running decline in baptisms in SBC history and what can be done to reverse it.

“Southern Baptist churches are not reaching their communities with the Gospel,” he said in an interview, “nor are they reaching the children of the congregation.”

Fuel the Fire is not filled with “data charts and footnotes,” Kelley notes in the introduction. Rather, it’s a book written for every Baptist that he hopes will stimulate research and start a conversation. The book is part of the Treasury of Baptist Theology series.

“The puzzle to be solved is the future, but perhaps some clues on how to solve that puzzle can be found in understanding our past,” Kelley writes.

The book maps out the history of Southern Baptist evangelism from a defining moment in 1904 when a Georgia pastor made a motion from the convention floor and sparked what Kelley calls “The Great SBC Evangelism War.” The motion called for direct denominational involvement in evangelism and revivalism and sparked a two-year debate over the role of the local church versus the role of the denomination.

“For many of the messengers, the real issue was a matter of Baptist polity … for evangelism is ultimately the responsibility of the local church,” Kelley writes, adding that the question became, “Why should the denomination get involved in doing what every local church should be doing on its own?”

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Source: Baptist Press