Do Something

10 09 2012


We had three great lessons yesterday at church that all went together perfectly! In Bible Study we started the fantastic Lifeway curriculum, The Gospel Project. In that first lesson we learned that God speaks through general and special revelation with power and authority. We are then blessed to even be able to hear his voice through God’s grace and mercy. And lastly his voice always calls us to a task that we a supposed to do out of faithful obedience. Our Lead Pastor, Jeff Crawford, then gave a message about the faith of Elijah, and he told the story of how God called the Israelites to cross the Jordan River by first stepping into it in faith. Our church was hugely blessed to have the Lead Pastor of Harvest Time, Marty Sloan, preach our Sunday evening message. He talked about how God works to use us in His work. Sometimes we over-spiritualize things when we just need to do something.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is God and came to earth as a human both fully God and fully man. He was nailed to a cross in our place, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. He then, with all power and authority, gave all of us the general revelation to tell everyone on the planet this very message. We are blessed to be able to hear the message for ourselves and doubly blessed to be asked of Jesus to be apart of His plan to redeem the world. Now it is simply up to us to do something about it. Far too often, we hear this message, and we stop at feeling a warm fuzzy over the blessing of God. Most church members will never do anything about it. I have heard many teachers and pastors say that the reason for this is that people enjoy their comfort zones and by default fall back into them. This is exactly true, but I believe that it goes deeper than that. At the heart of every comfort zone is pride. The reason that more people are not following the Great Commission is because they are the center of the universe in their own minds. They really don’t see Jesus’ command as a blessing but a burden. They have a token gratitude for what Jesus did for them on the cross but not enough to feel like they owe him anything. It is as if all our churches are full a people eating an incredible feast with the best service, leaving a small tip in the offering plate, but skipping out on the bill. We do this for years on end and expect not to be judged by a holy and righteous God.

How about some hard questions: When was the last time someone came to know Christ because of you sharing your testimony? How many people from different nations will worship in heaven one day because of your work on the mission field? How many lost friends do you have, and how many of them have you invited to church or talked to them about spiritual matters?

We have to understand that God did not just throw out the Great Commission as an afterthought. It really is His plan to redeem a lost world. The question is not whether you will pray about it or attend another Bible study or come to church next Sunday, but what will you do about it! How will you be apart of reaching this world for Jesus Christ?

Great Commission Baptists

21 06 2012

Why I’m A Southern Baptist

I am always amazed that people will join a church and never know what the church or denomination actually believes or why they exist. I think that many people were simply born into a church or denomination and have continued without asking the hard questions. My parents were members of a Southern Baptist Church, and it would have been easy for me to just continue on in that tradition without ever even thinking about it. When I went to the University of Arkansas, like many college students, I began to question my beliefs and why I did the things I did. I started out questioning the basic beliefs of Christianity and was satisfied with the arguments for it. I then began to question my interpretations of the scriptures and the tradition of the Southern Baptist Church that I grew up in.

I discovered two things that have kept me a Southern Baptist. Before I state those two things, I will admit that we are not perfect. Like any large institution, there are imperfect people involved. There are things that I wish we would change or do differently. There have been things done in the past that are embarrassing. I am also not saying that heaven will only be filled with Southern Baptist (although we will make the potlucks spectacular). I believe that when we all get to heaven, we will discover that we were all wrong.

The number one reason why I am a Southern Baptist is because I feel like we are the closest to being Biblical of any other denomination. I love our Baptist Faith and Message that most of our churches subscribe to. I appreciate the history of our due diligence to write our statement of faith and to stick with it when it has not been popular.  I will admit that we have some gaps, but these are on nonessential items. I was bothered that in order to serve as a missionary with the International Mission Board I had to sign that I was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church and I did not use a private prayer language. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church, but I was not baptized to identify myself with that denomination. I was baptized to identify myself with Jesus. I don’t have a private prayer language (the gift of speaking in tongues), but I certainly believe it is a Biblical gift that some people have and should exercise. All in all, though, these things are minor compared to the theological problems that I have found in any other denomination.

The second reason why I am a Southern Baptist is because of our focus on the Great Commission. As a matter of fact, our denomination just approved the use of a new name: Great Commission Baptist. Our denomination has the largest mission agency that the world has ever seen.  We are currently supporting around 5,000 missionaries who are serving in every corner of the world. This did not happen on accident. It is the result of the very reason why our churches decided to come together in the first place. We believed that one church could only do so much to change the world for Christ, but together we could not only obey the Great Commission better, but also complete it. Today we are a network of around 45,000 churches that are working towards completing the Great Commission, and I fully believe that we will accomplish this task in my lifetime.

So there you have it! Why are you attending the church that you go to on Sundays? Do you know the history of your church? Are you apart of a church that is doing their part to reach Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the Earth?

Run the Race

2 06 2012

One of our purposes in going to Colombia next week is to lead some of our missionaries in a Prayer Retreat. I will be in charge of leading the worship and leading the Bible study with the adults. Whenever I have the opportunity to share with missionaries serving on the field, I am always faced with the dilemma of what I should speak about. I have been praying about this retreat for quite some time now, and I think that I have come up with a topic that will speak to their hearts. I am going to be speaking about how we should be running the Race that God has set before us. In Hebrews 12:1-2, the author reveals that we should run the Race with fellowship, with freedom, with endurance, with purpose, and with joy.

When the author of Hebrews says that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,” I have always wondered what exactly that has meant. I believe that the author was referring back to chapter 11 where he described those that have persevered and eventually died for the cause of Christ. Is this allusion to them meant to say that in light of what they have done, we should run the Race, or is it meant to say that they are actively watching us even now? Have those that have preceded us in death the ability to see us and intercede for us? The picture that the author gives us is one of a huge stadium filled with fans cheering on those that are running on the track below. For me this is a great encouragement to know that I am being cheered on and maybe even prayed for by those who have already fallen asleep in Christ. On the other hand, it makes me wonder what those who are watching are thinking when I am stumbling along or not even running. It gives me accountability to keep up the fight – to keep pushing even when I don’t feel like running.

Please be in prayer for me as I share with these wonderful people the power of God’s word. Pray that they will be encouraged and pressed to continue on with the difficult Race that God has set before them.

Get to Church

18 04 2012

When my family served as missionaries over in Tanzania, East Africa, we had a fantastic leader named Jon Sapp. Jon now works for the Kansas/Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptist Churches. I will never forget the phrase that he said all the time… “Get to church.” What he meant by that was that everything that we were doing should end in an indigenous, self-replicating church. And we are not alone in that work! Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that He will build His church. Jesus is in the business of building His church, and if that is what He is doing, then I want to be about that as well.

I had the privilege Monday of meeting a man by the name of Bobby Gupta (HBI Global Partners). He taught a Perspectives class that I have been taking. Bobby is from India and has some awesome experiences related to church building. He is actually a part of a movement trying to see 1 million churches started throughout India. During his talk, he shared some of the challenges that he faces. He said that many preachers love to come to India, because they can share the gospel and thousands of people will respond. He said that he has heard mission teams come back from India and other similar places boasting huge amounts of people accepting Christ. The problem, he said, is that he lives in India and he can never find all of those masses of people who have supposedly believed in Jesus. He claimed that too many Western Christians are focused on the proclamation of the gospel only, when Jesus told us very clearly in the Great Commission to go and make disciples – not converts only. This is a much more difficult work. Planting churches requires so much more time and energy than simply sharing the gospel and leaving, but it is essential to the completion of the Great Commission. Bobby left us all with some great quotes from some top missiologists, and I would like to share some of them with you…

David Womack says:
There is only one way the Great Commission can be fulfilled, and that is by establishing Gospel-preaching congregations in every community on the face of the earth.

Dr. Ralph Winters says:
…it seems to me that we should say a church for every people group in the world and at least one for every 1,000 within those groups.

Dr. Donald McGavran says:
The only way we will get the job of the Great Commission done is to plant a church in every community in the world.

Dr. Peter Wagner says:
The best method under heaven for evangelism is church planting. There never was a better method and there never will be.

Holding God’s Blessing

11 04 2012

I believe that most Christians are well-meaning when it comes to missions and the Great Commission. I would never expect a believer to think that missions is a bad thing or even not Biblical. Most would certainly agree that the Great Commission is a mandate given by Jesus for all believers to follow. When pastors preach on Matthew 28:19-20 they always get plenty of amens! The question then is why are more Christians not following this command. I don’t think that most people sit around thinking about how they are going to actively rebel against what God has told them to do, but the fact of the matter is the mandate is not being followed by the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians. There are many answers to why the command is not followed, but I want to focus on one in particular. I believe it to be the biggest culprit. Bear with me as I set it up…

In Genesis 12 we read the Abrahamic Covenant which essentially claims that God is going to bless Abraham and his people so that they, in turn, can bless all the nations of the earth. In other words, God is going to give Abraham land, a large family, wealth, and a great name, so that he can use those gifts to bring glory to God by redeeming a lost world back to God. This applied to the Israelites who would go through seasons of following this command and seasons of rebellion. In the end, the Israelites decided not to share the blessings, so that God eventually hardened their hearts completely (Romans 11:25) and shut off the blessing. Because of Israel’s unbelief, the blessing of the gospel was given to the Gentiles. Now, about 2000 years later, we sit as Americans in the very same position.

The blessings that Abraham received are the same blessings we enjoy today. God gave Abraham land, and today we have unprecedented access to countries that were closed for hundreds of years to the gospel. In two or three days we can literally be anywhere on the planet. God gave Abraham a large family, and in America we have many who profess to be believers and churches everywhere. God gave Abraham great wealth, and in the same way God has richly blessed America.  I have seen poverty, and our poorest are rich compared to most of the world. Our churches contain an incredible amount of wealth – enough to complete the Great Commission if we wanted. God gave Abraham a great name, and he has given America great fame.  I realize that the media shows that the rest of the world hates us, but when I travel overseas I find that to not be true. Everyone wants to move to America.

The question is what are we going to do with these incredible blessings. Will we hoard them for our own good or will we turn around and bless the nations as God commanded? Do we hold our blessings loosely with an open hand or clench them tightly in our fist? I had the privilege of hearing Todd Ahrend speak on this subject in a Perspectives class a couple of months ago. He made the statement that most Christians are well-intentioned, but they are too busy managing their blessings to make an impact for God’s kingdom. Please hear this: We cannot take our blessings to heaven with us, and we will be rewarded in Heaven based on how we use our blessings here on earth (read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

God has greatly blessed you and me. It is now up to us to decide what to do with that blessing. Will we build our own little temporal kingdom or will we use it to build God’s eternal kingdom?

The Idea of Missions

1 04 2012

In today’s sermon, Pastor Jeff Crawford (read his blog here), talked about how God is always trying to move us somewhere to somebody. He then concluded that the problem is that most Christians don’t move. As I was thinking about this, I thought that most believers, if not all, love the idea of missions, but really do little to nothing for the kingdom. In a gospel-centered church, congregants will hear over and over about how they should invite friends and neighbors to church, look for opportunities to share the gospel, sign up for mission trips, etc. The fact is that a very small percentage will actually ever do these things. So the next logical question then is: Why not?

I do not know of any believer that has a problem with Jesus being our Savior. I do not know of any Christian that would not agree that Jesus is the Savior for all the world. Most Christians that I know love the idea of going to the remotest portions of our planet to share the gospel, as long as it is not them. They want to see the Muslims saved. They want to see churches continue to be planted in East Asia. They want to hear about the miracles that our missionaries are experiencing. But to actually be a part of it themselves, they would have to make Jesus their Lord. This is where I see the answer to the “why not?” question. The reason that the vast majority of so-called believers will not go next door to share Jesus with their neighbor, much less go to Central Asia on a mission trip, is because Jesus is not their Lord (think, boss). If Jesus is our Lord, and He gives us a command, we do it. It really is that simple.  This leaves us with two options for the answer: either we are disobedient believers or we are no believers at all.

Jesus did not design this to be rocket science – only for the elite Christian to figure out. It is constantly staring us in the face both Biblically and demographically. As we look to the scriptures, it is clear that Jesus has commanded us both in His words and His example to share the gospel. As we look to the world population, we see the great need for Jesus everywhere, but especially in the unreached and least-reached places. It is clear that Jesus has mandated that we are to stay here on planet Earth to fulfill the Great Commission. If we are not a part of this plan, then we are missing out on our one purpose for life.

In high school, I used to run track. I loved running the half mile race. What would you think, if you were watching a race, and one of the runners, instead of staying in their lane around the track, just began to run in a little circle around the starting line? You would think that guy is crazy. Yet so many Christians do just that. They run around in their own little circle saying how much they love Jesus, His commission, and His people, all the while they are missing the race. Don’t be a crazy person! I implore you to not just like the idea of missions, but to run the race! Truly make Jesus your Lord, step out in faithful obedience, and experience the blessing of being a part of God’s awesome story!

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