Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 2: The Theological Foundation for a GCR

This past week Betweenthetimes.com began a series of posts on the call for a Great Commission Resurgence with the post of Danny Akin’s “Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 1: Continuity with the Conservative Resurgence.” The series will continue over the next months, typically with a new post on the topic each week. Our aim is to discuss the contours of a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) in the Southern Baptist Convention. Others in the SBC have used the language of GCR to call the convention to renewed focus on the gospel and the kingdom among our churches and entities. We hope to offer some definition of what constitutes a GCR, why we believe the SBC is in need of such a movement, and what such a movement might look like in SBC life.

In Part 1 of this series, Danny Akin noted that at the heart of the call for a Great Commission Resurgence in SBC life is “a renewed passion for the pursuit and fulfillment of Matthew 28:16-20.” In this post I want to address the foundation upon which such a passion and pursuit rests. We must consider the theological foundation for a GCR because a GCR rests on God himself.

The triune God is the Lord who is life and love. He is Yahweh, the name by which God revealed himself to Moses, which indicates that the Creator who made covenant with Abraham and who delivered Israel from Egypt is the self-existent One. He is the “I AM”, and he is not only the “one true living God,” he is life itself. This life is shared in eternity among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Before the creation of this world, God existed perfectly in his triunity; God’s life is not dependent on anyone or anything.

“God is love” is one of the first confessions Christians teach their children. The eternal nature of divine love is exhibited in the prayer of Jesus: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (Jn 17:24). It is in God’s nature to love, and divine love existed before the creation of the world within the love shared between the Father, Son, and Spirit. This love is not dependent on anyone or anything. God is the God who is not simply living, but who is life itself; God is the God who is not simply loving, but who is love itself.

God chose to share his life and love by creating a world. God did not need a world, since he exists perfectly within himself. That he chose to share life by creating the cosmos is a witness to his love. He created the world to share life and to create a people for himself, creatures made in his own image and likeness, so that they would follow the Great Commandment, to love the God who first loved them, and to give God the glory due his name.

Thus, Moses records in Gen 2:7 that Yahweh breathed life into Adam, and God put at the center of the land he prepared for man a tree called the Tree of Life (Gen 2:9). God created a woman as a companion for Adam, and they were commanded to “be fruitful and multiply.” God’s creatures, including the one made in his image, are to reproduce life. Man, given life by God, was made to love God and to glorify him. All creation is called to join with God himself in loving the triune God.

When Adam and Eve sinned, the life of those made in God’s image is placed in jeopardy, because sin destroys life. God, therefore, sets into motion his mission to redeem a people for himself, a people who will worship God for all eternity. The missio Dei, the “mission of God” includes the Great Commission, but it is rooted in the very being of God himself. God created a world so that his creatures could share both life and love. But in the face of the death and enmity bred by sin, it is the mission of God to restore life and love. God’s mission proceeds from God’s very essence. The church’s mission is rooted in the mission of God. The church pursues its mission because it is Christ’s church. We are being conformed to Christ’s image and we reflect his glory as we participate in the missio Dei.

The foundation upon which a Great Commission Resurgence rests is God himself. We are called by God to this mission and empowered by the Spirit of God to engage in it. As God’s redeemed, we are a people who passionately pursue the Great Commandment by fulfilling the Great Commission. When God finally restores all things, the new heavens and the new earth are centered once again on life with God – the New Jerusalem has a “river of life” (Rev 22:1) and a “tree of life” (Rev 22:19), which recall the original creation. This new heavens and new earth is the place in which God’s people will gladly fulfill the Great Commandment, adoring and worshiping the triune God for all eternity, all to the glory of God. Our call for a Great Commission Resurgence is rooted in these truths about our triune Lord.

Interviewing for a Church Position — Questions to Ask

Often I am asked about how one should conduct themselves in an interview for a ministry position. Usually the conversation is one way: the committee asks the questions and the prospective candidate responds. This is right and fine but also incomplete. A potential minister should also have questions he needs answers to as well. Such questions can help in discerning is this the place God would have me serve. Below is an extensive list of potential questions for the interview process. The list, though long, is not exhaustive. Further, not every question may need to be addressed for every ministry opportunity. I believe one cannot have too much information when it comes to choosing leaders in our churches. I believe this is true both for the church and the minster. Hopefully these questions can guide and aid in a fruitful conversation for both parties in this crucially important process.

  1. Do you have a church constitution/bylaws that I can see?
  2. Do you have a church budget I can review?
  3. Are you committed to reaching all people within your geographical area (regardless of race, social or cultural status)?
  4. Do you believe the pastor is called to lead the church? Does your church believe this also?
  5. Who decides who fills the pulpit?
  6. Who calls and hires staff? What is the relationship of the pastor and staff? Do you utilize/have a personnel committee? What is their function?
  7. What is the role of the deacons and their relationship to the pastor? Do your deacons rotate?
  8. To whom is the pastor accountable? The staff?
  9. For what reasons would you consider firing the pastor? A staff person? Has your church ever fired a pastor or staff person? If so, when and why?
  10. What were the tenures of your last pastors? Why did they leave?
  11. What is the committee structure of your church and how are they elected?
  12. What expectations do you have for the pastor’s wife and family? Staff and their spouse?
  13. Would you provide for me the names and telephone numbers of your last three pastors so that I can visit with them about their ministry here?
  14. What are the doctrinal essentials your church has for: a) the pastor; b) worship leaders; c) teachers; d) membership?
  15. May I share with you certain doctrinal standards and emphases of my theology/ministry?
  16. What is the present membership of the church? Is it in a pattern of growth or decline? Where do the members live in relation to the location of the church? What is the age balance of the membership? What is the educational level of the membership?
  17. Is there a clear and complete job description of all staff positions?
  18. What, if any, secretarial and other assistance will be at my disposal?
  19. Has the church been successful in meeting its yearly budget?
  20. What are the music/worship concepts of the church?
  21. Could the community be characterized as static, transient, growing or declining?
  22. Would the church be responsive to innovations in worship? Ministry? Programs?
  23. Does the church support the Cooperative Program? Other programs of mission outreach, both local and international?
  24. What is the position of the church on race relations, homosexuality, women as pastors/elders?
  25. What is the position of the church on inerrancy, baptism and communion?
  26. How effectively does the church minister to its youth? Senior adults? Families? Singles?
  27. What is the salary structure of your church, the pattern and policies on future salary increases and the tangible benefits such as hospitalization, disability, retirement, housing allowance and travel expenses? Is a house or housing allowance provided?
  28. What opportunities will there be for outside engagements? Continuing education?
  29. What commitment does the church have to long-range planning?
  30. May I see a video tape of recent services?
  31. Is there a church policy about staff members’ involvement in weddings, funerals, etc.?
  32. Is there an annual review or any standardized evaluation process of my work?
  33. What are the spiritual “barometer readings” of the church?
  34. What is the theological basis for this church’s existence?
  35. Do you have a Confessions of Faith?

How to Weaken Pride and Cultivate Humility

One of the most convicting and encouraging books I have read in the last year is C. J. Mahaney’s Humility: True Greatness. At the conclusion of the book, Mahaney offers a list of activities to help believer’s weaken their pride and cultivate humility. Though I meditated on the list when I first read the book, I was reminded of it on a recent Sunday when one of our pastors referenced Mahaney’s list during a Sunday School lesson. I thought I would make the list available here as a brief word of encouragement for all of our readers who, like me, are daily waging a spiritual battle against pride and seeking to mortify that most fundamental of sins.

HOW TO WEAKEN PRIDE AND CULTIVATE HUMILITY

A List of Suggestions

Always:

1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.

As Each Day Begins:

2. Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God.

3. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.

4. Practice the spiritual disciplines–prayer, study of God’s Word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at day’s outset, if possible.

5. Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture.

6. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

As Each Day Ends:

7. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God.

8. Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep.

For Special Focus:

9. Study the attributes of God.

10. Study the doctrines of grace.

11. Study the doctrine of sin.

12. Play golf as much as possible [he wrote it–I promise! NAF].

13. Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.

Throughout Your Days and Weeks:

14. Identify evidences of grace in others.

15. Encourage and serve others each and every day.

16. Invite and pursue correction.

17. Respond humbly to trials.

[Note: This list is taken from C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah, 2005), pp. 171-72. I would also highly recommend Mahaney’s great little book Living the Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing (Multnomah, 2006). Either book would be an excellent choice to read as part of your personal devotions and the latter especially would also be very useful in a small group study in your local church.]