Tuesday, July 11 2017
I am writing this on the first day of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) taking place in Phoenix, AZ. I became a Southern Baptist some 30 years ago because the denomination I had grown up in had lost sight of its mission and was drifting.
Bob Russell, founding Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville always says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” If I may add, “…and the main thing needs to be the PLAIN thing!” Our MISSION must be CLEAR! As people of the Book (that IS what we are known for as Southern Baptists), the Bible indicates that the main thing for the church is “making disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20)…to follow Christ’s example in “seeking to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10)!”
The mark of genuine Great Commission progress is not how many dollars we give to missions, or how many who hear the Gospel, nor is it simply making the Gospel known to an ever-growing number of people. According to the Matthew 28, new disciples who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who know and obey the commandments of Jesus, and who are themselves engaged in making disciples…THAT is the truest measure of progress!
In 2015-16 the SBC had the smallest number of baptisms since 1946, the smallest number of members since 1990, and the smallest number of people in worship since 1996. And those smaller numbers are in spite of a steadily growing number of churches (479 more this past year). Dr. Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources said, “It’s clear that evangelism and discipleship are waning. I don’t believe it is due to the lack of opportunities, though. Instead, there is a lack of engagement.”
This “mission drift” also known as APATHY is rampant in the SBC and is stagnating and killing churches and contributing to our lack of relevance and impact on a lost and dying world. My friend, Ed Stetzer, former VP with LifeWay Research and now Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College said, “Statistically, our light is dimming. We’re losing our saltiness.” What needs to change?
Acts 1:8 reminds that “…you will receive power when the Holy Sprit has come upon you, and YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES in JERUSALEM (our immediate area) and in Judea (in areas adjacent to us) and Samaria (across the United States), and to the end of the earth (our World).” Those are the RED LETTER words of Jesus friends! It does not get any clearer than that! Does it? Or am I just over simplifying things?
WE make the mission foggy and unclear when we ADD our agendas (political and otherwise) to the core mission of Jesus and the Church. We have made IDOLS out of our politics and preferences (i.e. music styles)! God is not a Republican or Democrat, Calvinist, Arminian, or some other variation of man-made devices! Friends, we are guilty of the same thing the church at Ephesus was in Revelation 2:4 “…you (WE) have left your (OUR) FIRST LOVE.”
C. S. Lewis said, “You can’t get second things by putting them first, you get second things only by putting first things first.” Lewis knew what the SBC has often forgotten: priorities often determine effectiveness. I salute the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and International Mission Board (IMB) on their emphasis toward reaching unreached people groups, particularly in our cities! Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati is a part of the Servants Equipping New Disciples (SEND CITY) initiative! This is ON POINT! I URGE continued support to the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong (EASTER) offering for North American missions as well as the Lottie Moon (Christmas) offering for International missions. (It is still not too late to give to our NKBA Missions Special Offering focused on supporting NEW CHURCHES in the NKBA!)
We MUST GIVE ATTENTION TO OUR JERUSALEM! Look at where your church’s budget is invested. Where is your TIME and HUMAN RESOURCES invested? How much of it is going toward reaching your Jerusalem, instead of sitting in meetings? While we must resolutely seek to reach our Judea, Samaria, AND the utter most parts” of the world, WE CANNOT FORGET OUR JERUSALEM! Let me remind you that 68% of Boone County, 75% of Campbell County, and 85% of Kenton County are unchurched! People are going to Hell on our watch! I don’t know about you, but I can’t live with that!
If we are going to change this trend, we must be LASER FOCUSED ON MISSION! There is no room for drifting into areas that are not centered on the purpose for which Jesus placed us here. Not traditions, preferences, politics, or anything else!
Finally, we must learn to listen. The late Henri Nouwen once said “…without listening, speaking no longer heals.” He’s right. When all we do is talk, our words become a monotone melody heard only by ourselves. We must LISTEN to the hurts of people in our JERSUSALEM and SHOW them Jesus, TELL THEM about Jesus, BE THE HANDS AND FEET of Jesus! It is only when our MISSION is THAT FOCUSED that we can be the SALT and LIGHT that this world so desperately needs!
“Life eventually brings bad news to everyone. As followers of Jesus, we DO NOT have to be afraid of it…run away from it…blame somebody else for it…or ignore it! DO let it change your behavior! This is a CALL TO ACTION more than a call to judgment.” (Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary)
I look forward to seeing you at our summer meeting July 16, Sunday night at 6:00 PM at Living Hope Baptist Church (formerly Highland Avenue Baptist Tabernacle) 1080 Highland Avenue, Ft. Thomas. I will be sharing with you what God has laid on my heart for the future of the NKBA. Pray for me and for one another as I do for each of you and your churches. May we as a people come together ON MISSION and accomplish what Jesus has set forth for us to do. I still believe our greatest days are ahead and I believe we are BETTER TOGETHER!