Toward a Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention: Part One

Today I am writing from the fifth floor of a hotel in Central Asia, having just gotten finished conversing with a local Muslim merchant, whose political and religious views are farther to the right than Sam Donaldson’s part. Having escaped from the conversation as quickly as possible, I am now seated on the terrace roof of a very small hotel.

It is noon and the local mosques are having their calls to prayer. Within my line of vision, there are nine mosques, their prayer-callers warbling and wailing over the loudspeakers attached to the minaret. It is at once humorous, as the prayer-callers compete with each other by increasing their volume, and quite serious, as it calls attention to the fact that there are close to two billion people worldwide who have little or no access to the gospel.

By “little or no access to the gospel,” I mean that, for the majority of them, unless something changes, they will never encounter a Bible, a Christian, or a church. Whereas in the United States, an “unreached” person is one who does not attend one of the many churches in his city, in other countries the word “unreached” signifies those who could not possibly find a church even if they wanted to. They could leave their houses and walk, for days and months and years, and never find a believer or a church.

To compound the problem, the only thing they know of “Christianity” is that Christian countries like the United States manufacture such commodities as Britney Spears, Sex & the City, and homosexual marriage. They know this b/c their religious and political leaders, and their satellite dishes, tell them so. While it may be difficult for American Christians to believe that large swathes of humanity would caricature Christianity in such a manner, it is the very real perception of much of the world.

The Unique Situation of the SBC

What gives me hope, however, is the network of churches with which I am associated, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I am here in Central Asia with 20 of our SBC students, many of whom will be coming back here to live and work for the rest of their lives. Our churches have entrusted their best and ablest to us, and we are sending them to join the dozens of other SBC families who live and work in this region, and the several thousand who work across the globe.

Never before in history, and at no other place on the globe, will one find a network of churches that is more capable of planting the gospel among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have the theological, financial, and personnel resources to finish the task given to us by our Lord-we have enough people, enough money, and a statement of faith that reveals our belief in the uniqueness of Christ. Any Southern Baptist who does not have doctrinal, moral, or medical obstacles can be fully salaried and sent to proclaim the gospel and gather churches in nearly any country in the world.

We are committed to this because we are “taken” by John’s vision in Revelation 5 in which all of heaven bursts forth into worship. Among those worshiping are men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This is the vision that drives us-that our Lord will be worshiped from all corners of the globe. He is no tribal deity, limited to receiving the admiration of a few. Rather, there is something about Him so profoundly true, and comprehensively good, and strikingly beautiful, that He will find worshipers among every type of person who has ever lived. He alone is worthy of such worship. We believe that our lives should be lived in such a way as to contribute to this triumphant march of God, as He draws unto himself worshipers from among every people group on the face of the globe.

The Task of the SBC

What, then, is our task? Our task is to make the gospel readily accessible to every tribe, tongue, people and nation; it is to do so even in the face of formidable financial challenges and potential personal cost, to do so joyfully even when we might suffer for the sake of the gospel.

The magnitude of our task, moreover, is matched and exceeded by the magnitude of our biblical convictions: That God is a missionary God; that all people without Christ are lost; that a central theme in the Scriptures is God’s desire to win the nations unto Himself; that since the coming of His Son, God has chosen that all saving faith be consciously focused on Christ; that the church’s task in each generation is to proclaim the gospel to her generation; and that this progress of the gospel to the ends of the earth may be hindered temporarily, but there can be no doubt about its final triumph.

A Great Commission Resurgence

This, then, is why the call for a Great Commission Resurgence resonates so deeply within the convention. Based upon our gospel convictions, we as a convention know that we must build Great Commission churches and seminaries. We must be committed to making disciples “to the ends of the earth.” As mentioned above, upwards of 2 billion people have little or no access to a church, a Bible, or a Christian witness of any type. In the words of Paul, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15).