In Case You Missed It

1) Ed Stetzer published part 2 of Lifeway’s important research on mental illness and the church.

2) Thom Rainer lists the top 10 selling Bible translations for 2014.

3) Ryan Hutchinson, Executive Vice President for Operations at Southeastern, writes as a white guy trying to understand injustices toward black Americans.

4) At CT’s Leadership Journal, Ben Tertin and Paul J. Pastor, report on the painful lessons learned from the Mars Hill collapse. As it turns out, go big or go home is not a biblical strategy for ministry.

5) Trillia Newbill, consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, encourages all Christians to care about “race issues.”

This September Join the Movement #30daysofgoing

The first week of June this year I had the joy of joining with some of my colleagues at Southeastern and about 130 of our great students–along with scores of students from other schools–as part of Crossover Baltimore. This evangelism effort before the annual SBC gave our students a chance to share Christ daily for six days. We had a remarkable time and saw much fruit.

Sharing Christ every day––even in a culture like ours filled with people who do not know our Savior––can prove to be quite daunting. The Great Commission of our Lord does not in its text give such daily specificity to the call to make disciples; but if we are a great commission people, and in particular if Southeastern Seminary is a great commission seminary with every classroom being a great commission classroom, the idea of taking the gospel to the nations should not negate our passion to reach our neighbors, should it?

Last week at opening convocation our president Danny Akin exhorted us at the start of our fall semester on the importance of sharing Christ personally. We are a Great Commission school. This is why at Southeastern we will embark on an effort this fall to bring to a sharp focus the importance of sharing Christ personally. We call it “30 days of going.” You will see the hashtag #30daysofgoing on a variety of twitter feeds in the coming days. What do we mean by this?

WHAT IT IS:

September has 30 days. We look to see faculty, students, staff and administrators praying, seeking, and attempting to share Christ daily for these 30 days. It’s a call for everyone at Southeastern (and anyone else who wants to join) to ATTEMPT to SHARE CHRIST with at least ONE PERSON DAILY for 30 days through the month of SEPTEMBER. The focus is an attempt to share Christ; some days you may not be able to share Christ (we are not encouraging you to force the gospel on someone for a goal) but by consciously attempting to share Christ daily you will have many opportunities throughout the month. We are confident a more gospel-focused daily perspective is a good thing.

WHAT THIS MEANS:

—A daily awareness of our call to fulfill the great commission;
—Thinking strategically of people and places we can communicate the gospel, such as:
–Social media
–Setting appointments with friends we know who are not believers to speak to them about Christ
–Local church outreach
–Sharing Christ with those we meet daily—servers in restaurants, neighbors, coworkers, etc
–Planning specific times to reach out individually or with another believer
—Developing the daily mindset of seeing the lostness around you and taking advantage of opportunities to seek divine appointments
—Going door-to-door with another believer
–Praying with those we meet
–Giving out evangelistic literature

WHAT THIS DOES NOT MEAN:
—You have to share the whole gospel every day with someone (but we pray that most days you will!)
—You have to radically alter your days; instead, simply see your day through the eyes of Jesus (Matt. 9:35-38)

PRACTICAL HELPS:

–Carry gospel booklets with you like The Story or the LIFE: 3 Circles Conversation Guide to give to those you meet
–Each morning utter this 3fold prayer: “God, today give me an opportunity to share Christ, give me the wisdom to see it, and the courage to take it.”
–Remember the definition of boldness from my friend Preston Nix: Going one step beyond my comfort zone for Christ. This month’s commitment may be just that!
–Look for opportunities to ask to pray for someone, to share your testimony, or to have conversations you can include the gospel
–Think of people you know who do not know Christ and with whom you have not shared Christ lately and speak to them
–Post your testimony online; engage someone online in a gospel conversation
Just Imagine:

Imagine what classes will be like as we enter and share together about opportunities we have seen that week?
Imagine the worship in chapel (which is already great) when come in buzzing with gospel stories?
Imagine how simple things like prayer at the start of class can come alive as our hearts break for those around us?
Imagine how God might use this to heighten our focus as SBC President Ronnie Floyd joins us on September 18 for a day of prayer?

I know this: without fail, every time in my life I set aside days like this to focus on soul winning, God does something in my heart.

There is no sacrifice of academic or scholarly pursuit to focus on simple obedience to our Lord’s clear command. There is on the contrary something thrilling, something stirring about being part of a movement like this.

Join the movement. 30 Days of Going. And, hey, you can start today!

How Can We Plant 1,000 Churches by 2050?

If you’re familiar with the Summit at all, you’ve heard our vision of planting 1,000 churches by 2050. When I first floated the number, it was a mix between a hunch (based on a round number) and a Spirit-led ambition, something in the line of William Carey’s “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” More recently, as God has blessed many of our church planting efforts, our staff has tried to think through how we might actually see this happen.

We knew from the beginning that to reach 1,000 churches in one generation would require more than just planting churches from the Summit, but planting churches that, in turn, would plant churches. So we asked a few of our staff to chart what it might look like, assuming that we continued to plant at our current rate (3 churches per year), and that our daughter churches would plant a church every 5 years.

As it turns out, this was a hard question—the sort of question for a math junky, not well-intentioned pastors.

The day was saved by one of our members, John Pearson, who had the mathematical skills and time to run several models for us. He added in a host of other variables (I even saw the terms “mortality rate” and “half-life” in there at one point), and this was the result:

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 3.31.48 PM

John also gave us a few key insights to help us interpret the data. These were his thoughts:

1. Exponential growth benefits from early investment. In some ways, church planting is a lot like a retirement plan. The more you invest early, the bigger the yield in years to come. Or, as the proverb puts it, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today.”

Another graph might help to show what we mean. Look at how small of a proportion our “daughter” churches will contribute to the total church plants:

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 3.32.32 PM

2. The most important factor in long-term success is the rate at which daughter churches reproduce. Even if the Summit plants 5 churches a year until 2050, this accounts for less than 20% of the total. This means that more than 80% of the churches we hope to plant must be granddaughter churches!

3. The only way to reach 1,000 churches is to effectively pass on the vision.  There is very little room for diminishing returns in the daughter church growth rate. The real growth in domestic church planting has to come out of the churches we plant, but that only happens if they believe in the vision like we do. “Sending” has to be in their DNA, just like it should be in ours.

Our current tally is 19 domestic church plants and 41 international church plants. (Everything above, by the way, is only looking at the domestic side!) And 180 of our Summit people are currently serving on international church planting teams. Those are exciting numbers, but I don’t want to simply celebrate what God has done; I want to leverage what we have to see him move in bigger and bigger ways. 

This is a God-sized vision, and it will only pan out if God puts his hand on our efforts. This is something I plead for in prayer daily. But I have no shame in putting our minds to the task, planning for the ways in which God’s Spirit will move. As D. L. Moody said, “If God be your partner, make large plans!”