Month: June 2009

An Examination of the Great Commission Resurgence Pt 1

Last week in my Sunday morning message I shared with you the exciting news about the passing of a motion to instruct president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Johnny Hunt, to appoint a Great Commission Task force.  The purpose of this task force is to examine the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention and to bring back to next years convention recommendations for how to return our focus on fulfilling the Great Commission.  As a Pastor and long time supporter of our convention, I am thrilled with the passage of this resolution and hope that you will be as well.  Thirty years ago, we were a denomination facing the serious threat of theological liberalism in our seminaries, churches, and agencies.  In an unprecedented move that has become known as the conservative resurgence, our convention became the only major denomination ever to have returned to from the abyss of theological liberalism.  Since then we have faced many challenges but none so great as we face right now.  A recent report by Lifeway Research says that if our current baptism and membership trends continue we will experience a 50% decline by 2050. If we are going to survive as a convention we must find a way to turn these statistics around.  We need a Great Commission Resurgence.

The call for a GCR was started a year ago by Dr. Johnny Hunt, president of the SBC, Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary.  This call culminated in a declaration that has to date been signed by 4232 Pastors, including myself.  This declaration outlines the essential elements of a Great Commission Resurgence (see http://greatcommissionresurgence.com/)  Over the next ten weeks I plan to go through this declaration article by article and share with you some of its most important characteristics.  My goal is not to get us involved in the denomination, as much as it is to see our church experience a Great Commission Resurgence ourselves.

I am fully convinced that while the convention has taken a positive step in the passing of this motion, that it will ultimately fail if local churches do not adopt a similar action.  Put very simply, God has given the Great Commission to the church not to the denomination.  If the local church fails to carry out the Great Commission it has lost its reason for existing and no denomination can every take its place.  As a local church we must therefore, carefully and prayerfully consider what we are doing to fulfill the Great Commission.  Like the convention, we have become bloated and inefficient.  We must hold every program, activity and ministry that we do up to the light of scrutiny and ask ourselves how it contributes to the fulfilling of the Great Commission.  Next week we will start looking at the first article.  I hope that you will begin praying with me now that God will bring about a GCR here at First Baptist and across the Southern Baptist Convention.

For more info on the Great Commission Resurgence see:

http://betweenthetimes.com/

http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/

http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=30757

Love Your Neighbor

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:39

Last week I preached on the greatest commandment, which is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) This Sunday, God willing, I will preach on the second greatest commandment, which is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus say that on these two commandments hand all the Law and the Prophets.  In other words, these two commandments capture the essence of the Old Testament.  Along with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), these three commands form the foundation of the Christian life.

What I want to challenge everyone in our church to do is to begin looking for intentional ways of serving their neighbors, friends, and family with the goal of sharing the gospel with them.  As I have shared on several occasions in the past, I believe that servant style evangelism is the key gaining a hearing in today’s culture.  We live in a time when Christianity is looked at with a high degree of suspicion.  Gone are the days when we could just walk up to someone on the street or knock on their door and automatically have credibility because we represent the church.  Today, people do not trust the church and therefore, we need to work very hard at demonstrating that we are genuine.

What I want to challenge you to do this week is to intentionally perform an act of kindness for an unchurched neighbor or friend.  It could be anything from buying their lunch, or mowing their lawn, to baking them some cookies or washing their car.  Some of you may live near a widow or widower and could simply visit with them and spend some time just talking to them. Others of you know young couples that could use a night out, why not offer to babysit their children and give $20 to go see a movie.  Now some of you are reading this and saying, what does all of this have to do with sharing Jesus.  Why should I bother?  Let me give you two reasons.

First, by demonstrating the love of Jesus in a tangible way you show the reality of the gospel in your life.  In other words, you show them that you are real and that Jesus has made a difference in your life.  This is more important than you can possibly imagine.  In reality, a person usually does not become a Christian without first getting to know a Christian.  Some studies have shown that the unchurced are very turned off by the Christians that they have met and encountered.  Why?  Mostly because they view them as fakes or hypocrites.  Sadly, most Christians are doing little if anything to break this stereotype.  You can make a difference.  Intentional acts of kindness are a very effective way of demonstrating authentic Christianity and building relationships.  Try it and you will see what I mean.

Second, by doing something unexpected for someone else it naturally leads to an opportunity to share.  We live in a culture where people simply don’t do nice things for others very often.  When you do something nice for someone, they will often ask, “Why are you doing this?’  Here is your opportunity to share the gospel with them.  For instance, imagine that Steve goes to over to his neighbor John’s house one day and begins to cut his grass.  John’s natural response is going to be to thank him and ask him why he did that.  Steve could say something like, “You know John, I am a Christian and Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor as yourself.  Because Jesus has changed my life I want to show his love to the people that I care about.”  From here the conversation could possibly lead to Steve being able to share his personal testimony and inviting John to come to church with him.

Servant style evangelism opens doors and changes peoples lives.  Not only does it change the unchurched person who receives the ministry but it also changes the Christian who becomes the channel for the love Jesus to flow into a dark world.   A friend of mine did something really neat at his church.  He printed up little cards that had the church information on one side and on the other side it simply said, “Because we care…”  He challenged his folks to simply pay for the car behind them whenever they went through the McDonalds drive-in and to ask the cashier at the window to simply hand the little information card to them and say, “Your lunch has been paid for.”  Three things surprised me about his story.  First, he said that what usually happened was that the car behind them would pay for the car behind them and that sometimes this would happen for five or ten cars in a row.  With every one of them asking the cashier what was going on.  Therefore, he started having his folks give the cashier five or ten extra cards.  Second, he told me that his people got caught up into a frenzy of service.  They began to come up with their own idea about how to intentionally serve their community and soon the church was handing out several hundred of these service cards a week.  Finally, he told me that people began to show up at the church and ask, what was going on.  Many of these people ended up being saved and joining the church and guess what, they immediately went to work serving others and sharing their faith.

A similar type card for our church will be available this Sunday. Pick them up, use them, and watch what God will do.