Bailey Smith, former president of the SBC, has calculated that it only costs his ministry $48.00 to save a soul in one month's time. So he has formed the "Soul-a-month ministry." Let me give you his own words from a letter he has posted on his website:
May I share a ministry all can be a part of and I believe, should be, because of its need in this pagan generation? It is the Soul-A-Month Ministry.
I was at Peace Baptist Church in Wilson, N.C. and made the statement that for every $48.00 given to Bailey Smith Ministries someone will get saved. A couple after the service said to me, "Why don't you start a Soul-A-Month club. We would like to send you $48.00 a month." Ministry born!
He goes on:
You can email or call our office for a free envelope. Please keep this envelope in an upright visible place. Sandy and I lean our big envelope against the wall at our desk where we write our check. It will bless you just to see it, and then take the appropriate envelope and mail it to see a soul saved each month.
No, don't reach out to touch someone - reach out to save someone by helping them to the cross of the Lord Jesus. Of course, your $48.00 each month to save a soul is tax-deductible.
Finally, he adds this as a PS:
P.S. - By the way with, some churches it cost $100,000 to $300,000 to see one convert.
Please make your check to Bailey Smith Ministry. Some are giving $96.00 a month representing a soul for the husband and wife.
There is so much in this that breaks the heart it is hard to know where to start or stop in commenting. I will limit myself to a few questions.
Why $48.00 dollars? Couldn't he live more simply and do it for $40.00 a month? That would add another five souls saved every two years. Isn't this worth it? You see the line of reasoning here.
Can conversion really be reduced to a financial formula?
Isn't the comment about churches in the PS designed to make church members think that their financial contributions to their local congregation are less productive, valuable and eternally significant than contributions to Bailey Smith?
Is this the kind of fruit that the conservative resurgence in the SBC hoped to produce? Is this what the battle for the Bible was all about? If so, God help us. If not, who among Mr. Smith's colleagues will correct him?
Can it be possible that a man who promises to save a soul for every $48.00 he receives understands conversion in the same way that our Baptist forebears understood it? Could he possibly see the new birth as the sovereign work of the Spirit whom, Jesus said, is like the wind that blows wherever it chooses? (John 3:8)
This is one more tragic indication of the serious spiritual and theological confusion that dominates much of evangelical church life today. As I have repeatedly stated, the most pressing issues facing evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular are not the five points of Calvinism. As I see it, they are much more basic:
1. What is the Gospel?
2. What is a Christian (and how does a person become one)?
3. What is a church?
When I read Mr. Smith's letter my mind immediately went back to the 16th century:
As soon as the coin in the coffer rings
Another soul into heaven springs.
Where are the Luthers of our day?
(HT to Scott Slayden and Jeremy Moore)