Every year after I attend the SBC Annual Meeting I bring a message reporting what we are doing in the Southern Baptist Convention, based on the inspiration of the messages I heard, and the reports about our primary ministries.
Here is my message, it’s sort of long, but maybe NOT as controversial as you might think.
Convention Inspiration 2021
Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 7:9
From Commission to Culmination
IN December of 1975, two weeks before my 11th, birthday God called me to preach. I heard it in my heart as clear as can be. But I waited. I didn’t tell anyone, not because I didn’t want to respond, not because I wasn’t sure, but because my dad was called to preach when he was 11 and I had heard that all my life, and when I heard that voice, I waited because I wanted to be 11. So, I waited two weeks and I felt guilty for two weeks because I wanted to be 11.,,
That call has shaped my life. It has taken me to 4 continents, it has taken me to concerts, and preaching engagements, revivals, church staff positions. But it has also had me share my faith one on one with people on planes, and over lunch, and on street corners, in coffee shops. That call was to preach the Gospel. But that is NOT the first call for the Christian. The first call of a Christian is to share their faith, meet Jesus, share Jesus. It will be different for different people, but it is still an expectation.
What then is the Commission of the Church and When is the Culmination of that Mission
Mission should be measurable and attainable, so what is our mission and how do we know how we are doing and when we are finished?
The Southern Baptist Convention is 175 Years old. We didn’t start for ALL the right reasons. We split from Northern Baptists primarily over slavery. We have confessed that sin as a convention. But our focus has always been on people meeting Jesus.
- What was Our Commission? – Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8
Read Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8
Why Does Jesus have the Right to Commission Us? 28:18
Because he has the Authority. All the Authority has been given to him.
Why? Because Philippians 2 tells us he emptied himself of glory, took up the nature of a servant, was obedient to death on the cross. So that passage says
Philippians 2:9–10 (CSB)
9 For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
Ephesians 1:20–22 (CSB)
20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,
The Father has given EVERYTHING to the Son. The Spirit is pointing everyone TO the Son. It is ALL his … and he says;
– We are commissioned because he is the Boss. Because it is HIS Kingdom, not OUR Kingdom. It is his plan not our plan.
Because HE HAS ALL AUTHORITY. And Dr. Tony Evans preached from this passage and several speakers referred to it. Why because it is where we start. It is why we are here. It is why he left us on earth. He hasn’t left us here because he needs 2000 years to get Heaven Ready. He can SPEAK IT READY. But he left us here because he has a commission for us. Tony Evans reminded us that he has Authority ekousia = power in legitimate hands – authorized authority.
So, the authority IS his, legitimized by Father’s Will, and Spirit’s Power, but by HIS Obedience and Faithfulness to the Cross.
Evans called that process a transformation of worldviews
Certainly, before we can disciple people from being lovers of self into being lovers of God, we have to lead them to Christ through Evangelism. But discipling is copying the Master. But not just discipling THE ONES WE LIKE or the ones like us…
- OF the Nations – ethnos
That’s the Kingdom work that Evans has been focusing on all of his books recently, Kingdom People, transformation of the people, the structures, the systems. Yes, we want to see worlds change, but that happens as we change people, and people engage with structures and systems and we change systems – discipling the nations
And right here we need to be careful. Because the question I asked myself in my notes was, “how can we do this without being trapped by Politics?” and I believe the answer is in WHOM we seek to glorify and WHY. It’s not about the Church being Political. It’s about the People of God sharing Jesus, Engaging in Society, Transforming Systems, with the Good News that though we are sinners, there is transformation and LIFE in Jesus Christ.
Our hope is NOT in ANY Political System – One speaker this week reminded us that Christ is “not riding any donkeys or elephants.”
And our Outgoing President J.D. Greer, Pastor of The Summit Church Durham, happens to be sending Pastor to our Children now on the Mission Field, he said, when the Church gets into bed with Politics it always gets pregnant and the offspring never looks like our Heavenly Father”
But we are to Go and Disciple the Nations
How? By going to where they are!
Dr. Evans had been using a football game as a metaphor and said there three teams in every conflict, home, away, and the kingdom representative, the referees. But he said, that the offense gets into the Huddle … but no one came to watch the Huddle. You don’t MIND the Huddle, but you came to watch them break the Huddle and play the game. The question is DID THEY SCORE? Or Did they Stop them? So, we have to GO. And honestly if you go to the book of Acts, they had been commissioned, and they had been given clear instructions. And the instructions weren’t to build a Huge Jerusalem Church. It was to GO, empowered, to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the Church.
And so, what happened?
Before Saul became Paul. Before he became the great Preacher of the Gospel, I think you could say he became the greatest SENDER of the Gospel. Because there he is at the stoning of the deacon Stephen. And in the CHAOS of Persecution, the Church is forced to DO what they were called to.
- Go – Baptist, Teach to Observe
Baptizing them, who, the Nations
Baptism is how we identify with Christ and with the Church
And Tony Evans said that our Identity as a Christian is MORE than any other identifier we have. He said God went to SAVE the NATIONS and commissioned us to do that. He says God is NOT Colorblind. Still in Heaven they were every race, tribe, color, and tongue – God is NOT Color Blind, but he is also not Blinded by Color.
Baptizing the Nations in the name of Father, Son, and Spirit
Teaching Them (the nations) to OBSERVE
It is NOT in the Knowing but in the Doing that we truly identify AS Christians. Doing doesn’t MAKE us Christians, but it DOES Identify us as Christians.
It’s about Transformation. Our job is to evangelize but to share the accountability to BE Like Christ. And if WE will Observe all that he is Commanded … THEN as Kingdom People, we can see Kingdom Impact in the World.
Tony Evans said, we can’t expect God to “Skip the church house, to fix the White House”
And then as Evans closed, he reminded us that the I am with you always – literally I even I am with you always to the end of the age … he was NOT talking about salvation, he was talking about how he is WITH us, accompanies us. And that God only Accompanies us, is with us as we are with HIM. As we are doing what we’ve been told to do, THEN he is WITH Us.
As we are Kingdom people, living with Kingdom Authority, For Kingdom Glory … THEN he is with us. In John 2:21-25 Jesus preached and many believe in his name … Jesus, however would not entrust himself to them,
There is and can be a time, when we believe, have faith, but we are on our own Agenda and he is not WITH us.
2. Why Is Our Commission? – Acts 1:3-8
If Jesus only has 40 days on earth what is going to focus on? What is most important. He taught them about the Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God NOW is in our hearts surrendered to God. The Kingdom of God to COME is the Eternal Rule of God over all things – Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength, in a Unified Universe of Surrendered Creation and Creature. And he had spent 40 days teaching them about the Kingdom of God.
And the commands them NOT TO LEAVE Jerusalem but to WAIT for the Father’s promise … What was the promise? John 14 don’t let your hearts be troubled… believe in me… I am going to prepare a place for you… I will come again and take you to myself… but then he says in v16, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor… I will not leave you as orphans… the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send me my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you… don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful and in John 15:25 he continues, he will testify about me. You also will testify… chapter 16 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father… I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
So, he has told them he is leaving. Now the time is here. He is leaving. He has also promised them that he will return. But In the Meantime, we have a Person, we have Power, and we have a Purpose. Oh wow that sounds like a sermon doesn’t it.
The Person we have is the representative of Jesus Christ, the Person, 3rd Person of the Trinity, The Holy Spirit. He is NOT the Father, He is NOT the Son, He is the Spirit, and He is GOD! His purpose is to teach us, to convict us, he will encourage us, and he will empower us.
The Power – Jesus says he is leaving. We are going to be wondering what to do. But peace comes in realizing that when Jesus left, he was sending all the power we need. There is power in knowledge. There is power in a message, there is power in purpose.
I have been running 3-4 times a week since I started focusing on running, back in August. It’s been a different thing for me. It has stretched my endurance, my perseverance. There is a trainer that I have been using via video, Tommy Rivers Puzey. And he will be ramping things up and he often says, “come on, you can do anything for a minute”. And so, we would press on and push forward at this new rate, for a minute. We can make it for a minute. And by breaking it down, my endurance increases. What the training is doing is increasing my power, but also increasing my mental, and even spiritual power to continue.
So, Peter said, to the Lord, a day is “like 1000 years.” So, a day is 24 hours right. So, if 1000 years is a day, then 41 years is an hour. So, I’m going to live to 100 at least. That would simply be living 2 ½ HOURS. And if 41 years is an hour then 8 months is a minute, and 4 days is a second. Tommy Rivs says, “you can do anything for a minute”
And Jesus said, “for a little while you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” If your whole life is TROUBLE – it’s just a couple of hours. But in those HOURS – we can make it because we have the Power of the Holy Spirit.
But IN THOSE HOURS … let’s focus on the RIGHT THINGS
The Purpose – I’m giving you the Holy Spirit to work on the KINGDOM. Now there in Acts 1 the disciples are trying to get the verbiage right. And He has just again promised them that they would be BAPTIZED with the Holy Spirit with Power for the Purpose, IN A FEW DAYS … and the disciples ask, Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?
Oh my they got the word right, but not the concept. We ARE Kingdom People in Christ Jesus, but it’s NOT that kind of Kingdom. Some of us step into the voting booth trying to bring the Kingdom and that’s NOT the place. OH YES. THAT Kingdom is Coming. And that Promise will be fulfilled, but Jesus isn’t asking for our help with THAT Kingdom, but he DOES want to USE us in the Advancement of the Kingdom of God here on earth IN the Heart of All who Would Believe.
And Jesus gently answers their question by saying, it’s not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority …
… BUT you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
So, if that’s our Commission, WHEN will we know we are finished?
3. When Is the Culmination? – Revelation 7:9
Until we get to Heaven and see Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 become a reality, we have work to do.
What does that look like?
Revelation 7:9 (CSB)
9 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.
This is the vision that Great Commission Baptists are Committed to. Yes, we are still the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not all “southern”, but we are all Great Commission Baptists. We adopted this moniker 10 years ago as a way to refer to us. That is our Mission, that is our Focus, to fulfill the great commission. And we put our money where our mission is.
SBC Budget 2021/22 – $190,000,000.
We can do that because we are 48,000 churches cooperating together for the Great Commission. Some might expect that to be a bloating of facilitation and administration, but that’s the beautify of the SBC.
Of the $190Million only 2.99% is spent on Facilitating Ministries, that is the Executive Committee which operates for the SBC between Annual Meetings, and the overall Operations of the SBC.
1.65% is spent on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission which works with Culture and Engagement of Issues. It assists churches in moral and ethical issues, engagement and education. They work with faith-based adoption issues, human rights issues, and religious liberty engagement.
22% is spent on our 6 Seminaries, training the next generation of Pastors and Staff.
Then 73% of our Budget is Spent on World Missions Ministries!
That includes $43,000,000 on the North American Mission Board. The North American Mission Board is focused in the USA and Canada in Compassion Ministry, Evangelism, Church Planting, and Chaplains (Hospitals and Military)
The IMB and NAMB work together on www.sendrelief.org When there is a tragedy worldwide, if you want to give to a specific need, go to send relief. You can give directly to them and know that in addition to meeting needs they will share the gospel. You can also know that they will work WITH Salvation Army and many others on the field to make the most of the opportunity, not compete.
The NAMB is focused heavily on Church Planting and Replanting of existing churches struggling and ready to reengage. Church planting is the strategy to spread the gospel, respond to brokenness, and bring spiritual, emotional, economic and social healing.
Look at this.
Notice the church plants in 2010.
Now SINCE 2011, look at this.
In 2020 we have truly LIT up the Continent with the gospel. 7,300 churches planted in 10 years. 80% are still thriving after 4 years. 18% of the baptisms in our 48,000 churches come from church plants. And notice a little but exciting thing. Down there on the bottom right in Puerto Rico. 16 New Church Plants. No new churches had been planted there in 25 years previously. That’s Great Commission Baptists at Work. http://www.namb.net
Then our Biggest Focus on Revelation 7:9 is the International Mission Board. And we allocate $95.6 Million or 50% of our budget to the IMB, and that does NOT include the $159Million given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, in spite of COVID, that was the 2nd largest Offering every. And with that investment, there are more than 3,500 missionaries and their 2500 children on the field right now. The world becomes more hostile to the Gospel daily and so they have to be creative and create jobs that allow them to work and connect overseas. Companies like www.kingdomgrowers.com in Forney Texas. I’m not a coffee drinker, but you can order online. Check it out. And you can buy plants that go overseas to farmers in need. The IMB is a Partner for the Gospel with Kingdom Growers so you get great Coffee and people learn about Jesus. I could go on and on. But what happens with that money and those missionaries. And with the thousands of short-term missionaries that partner?
Well, last year in spite of covid 422 new missionaries went to their fields. 18,000 local pastors received training. 127,000 received leadership and theological training. In Healthy Church Formation 35,000 groups are meeting intending to BECOME a church. 15,000 groups were just started with the intention of becoming a church. 18,380 New Churches were formed 57,888 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Generation churches are meeting with only 670 churches that have stopped meeting. Then the Big Winning Numbers. 769,494 people heard a Gospel Witness by our 3552 missionaries and partners. OF those 576,395 had an opportunity to respond to Christ. 144,322 became New Believers. One of those new believers was a young man who met our son and the went through the Gospel of John and He said, “I can’t believe what they did to Jesus”. He is a brother now. Then of those new believers 86,587 baptisms. You realize that is equal to nearly Two Mission Baptism for EACH of our Churches.
That brings us to ONE other Focus. $200,000 has been allocated for a new effort from our Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd.
We are Great Commission Baptist. The Great Commission Compels us to Go. Why? Because Matthew 25:46 says that without Christ, they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. What’s common, ETERNAL. What’s different is the address. If we want to take the Gospel to the Nations, leading to faith, baptizing for declaration, teaching to live according to the truth of the Kingdom, We have work to do.
So, we have been presented with Vision 2025 with 5 Initiatives. It was amended to include a 6th initiative.
- Increase the total number of Missionaries by 500. That will account for 100 lost annually.
- Add 5,000 new Church Plants taking us over 50,000 churches.
- Calling Out the Call – each church taking their role in calling on students, adults even retirees or career change new Pastors and Staff Ministers.
- Turn Around Current Reduction in Baptisms by focusing on children and students between the ages of 5 and 17. The numbers have dropped dramatically in the last 10 years
- Increase % giving, and Numbers given to the CP to 500,000,000
Then from the Floor came a recommendation for an addition to this task, of these important things:
- Prayerfully Endeavor to eliminate all incidents of sexual abuse, and racial discrimination, in our churches – those two atrocities’ damage people and damage the work of the church. We will seek to END their incidence, and end churches being silent when it happens. We must protect the next church after you put that pastor out. We have a responsibility to protect one another. And there is no place for hatred of any kind in the Church of Jesus Christ.
I read Francis Bacon – he said that what gives rise to Atheism is primarily 3 things, 1) divisions in religions. When we fight, the world doesn’t believe. 2) Scandal among the preachers of the gospel. 3) Profane Scoffing in Holy matters, which he says defaces the reverence for God. He then added a 4) learned times especially in peace and prosperity. When times are GOOD, and we are “smart”, we forget God.
We can combat Atheism, not by ARGUING truth, but by Living the Gospel we Speak of
David Jeremiah says “Preach the Gospel with Word, Picture the Gospel with Life, Practice the Gospel with Love.”
The Prayer is to engage the 331million Americans, and 7.9 Billion worldwide, with the Gospel.
But until we stand around the throne, we have work to do.
What does that mean for us? There is a Message for Everyone. Oh, you might say, “well, there are mostly white people around us.” If that’s TRUE. I would still say the word “mostly”. Reach the rest. But Revelation says, “every tribe and people”. Are there people you don’t reach out to because they are of a different “tribe” or a different “people”? “Oh they aren’t LIKE US”. Praise God … go get them! Different Tribe. Is there a place for Republicans here? How about Democrats? How about Independents? What about other Tribes? You name the divider do they need Jesus? Will we allow Jesus to be the only definer? Will we allow his WORD to be our only Teacher? We still have work to do.
And so, the Call for you and for me is to Go
Go To friends
…To hard places
…To near places
…To far places
Give to facilitate the work of others
Pray for the advancement of the gospel
Cooperate with others on the same mission
You may not be called to be a preacher, or a missionary
But you have a Commission to Share your faith, from home, across the street, into the hard places to the ends of the Earth.
Are you A Great Commission Baptist? I am, We are, There’s room for you.