Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 1: Continuity with the Conservative Resurgence

A number of us have issued a call for what is being called “A Great Commission Resurgence.” This idea is being talked about, and there are a number of writings in circulation as well. For example, LifeWay distributed at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis an 83-page booklet entitled Great Commission Resurgence. I contributed to this (a slight revision of my Building Bridges paper) along with Thom Rainer, Chuck Lawless, Jeff Iorg and Jerry Rankin. My Building Bridges presentation can be found at this website.

Still, some may be unclear, or at least have questions, as to what a Great Commission Resurgence would look like in terms of specifics. I believe the big picture is clear: it is a renewed passion for the pursuit and fulfillment of Matthew 28:16-20. I spoke specifically to this in a chapel message that also gave attention to the life and ministry of William Carey. That message is available here. We are to go and disciple all the nations until Jesus comes again knowing He is with us as we go. So, what are some of the details or particulars that would accompany a Great Commission Resurgence, especially for those of us who are Southern Baptists? This will be the first of a series that will hopefully make clear how the Resurgence might, by God’s grace, take shape.

The Great Commission Resurgence, of absolute necessity, must be wedded to the Conservative Resurgence that was launched in 1979 with the election of Adrian Rogers as president of the SBC, and which reached something of a highpoint with the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Had there not been a Conservative Resurgence, we would not even be talking about a Great Commission Resurgence. Therefore, the Conservative Resurgence is the foundation upon which the Great Commission Resurgence must be launched. There can be no backtracking from the ground regained through the Conservative Resurgence. Further, there must be continued vigilance and even advance of the Conservative Resurgence. I have in mind here work that still needs to take place on the state, associational and local church level. Further, our national agencies and entities need continually to be held accountable to the vision that marked the Conservative Resurgence. This will be the very nature of things, an ongoing process. If we fail to build upon and stay rooted in the theological convictions of the Conservative Resurgence, the Great Commission Resurgence will be short lived and ultimately a failure. A Great Commission Resurgence by its very nature must be biblically and theologically driven. What that should look like will be the subject of future articles. Suffice it to say there must be a biblically informed, theologically balanced consensus for Southern Baptists to cooperate in a Great Commission Resurgence. This is not optional. This is not negotiable. Coming together around the bedrock essentials that identify us as orthodox, evangelical and Baptist will be a necessary component of an effective and vibrant Great Commission Resurgence. By God’s grace and for His glory, there will be neither compromise nor retreat from “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Conservative Resurgence was never an end in and of itself. It was about Truth. It was about the gospel. It was about fulfilling the Great Commission.

A Ride Down Prostitution Row: Why The Nations Cry For a Great Commission Resurgence

I write this as my wife Charlotte and I return from Southeast Asia. We have spent a week with precious brothers and sisters in Christ who are faithfully serving King Jesus in very difficult and, for many, dangerous locations. These men and women, along with their families, are heroes of the faith for me. My assignment for the week was to minister the Word to them. I did my best to be a faithful expositor and theologian, and to encourage them in their divine assignment. However, Charlotte and I were the ones who were encouraged. We heard story after story of how the gospel is going forth tearing down the strongholds of the evil one and setting free those who had been captive to sin and the false idols of darkness. With a humility that’s genuineness shown like a brilliant light, one after another after another shared what great things the Lord had done and was doing. Even in the midst of personal tragedies and sorrows, they praised our King for His grace, His mercy, and His faithfulness. More than once Charlotte and I prayed and cried with our family.

However, one experience was not a good one. I cannot recall a time that my heart was pierced as it was on this night. Charlotte and I had asked several couples to let us take them out for dinner. As we were headed to our restaurant, our driver turned down a street where I was totally unprepared for what I saw. Suddenly on both sides of the road, for at least a half of a mile, hundreds and hundreds of prostitutes lined the sidewalks. Some could not have been more than eleven or twelve years old. They were actually dressed in seductive uniforms that were similar to what you would see in a private Junior High or Middle School. The faces of these little girls and women I will never forget. Sadness, emptiness and hopelessness was etched across their countenance. Smiles, if there was one, seemed forced lacking any sense of genuineness. Later I was informed that most of these girls and women had been deceived and basically kidnapped. Sex slave traders prey on ignorant and unsuspecting parents, especially in rural areas, promising a better life for their children in the “big cities.” As I looked into these tragic faces, it hit me. Somewhere they have a mom and a dad. Do they have any idea what has happened to their precious daughters? I was overcome with a sense of sorrow and despair I have seldom experienced. God you must do something. We, as your ambassadors, must do something!

Later my friend Don informed me that once he and two others marched down prostitution row giving out more than 15,000 pieces of Christian materials. Tracts, Bibles, and the Jesus film were distributed to these ladies of the night. He shared with me that the women would chase after them, not to pull them into a “massage parlor,” but to receive the materials telling them about Jesus. He told me the smiles of the women stood in stark contrast to the angry glares of the men who were there to take advantage of these unique and special creations of our great God. He told me as they walked back up the street after giving out all their materials they were startled to see the Jesus film being played as videos in massage parlors. Needless to say Satan took a serious hit, at least on this particular night, on one of the many prostitution rows!

I have since discovered that the IMB has a specific ministry to reach out to and rescue these ladies from the sex slave industry. I learned we have many openings but few laborers. Granted the work is dangerous and filled with risk. But where did we ever get the idea that serving King Jesus is suppose to be safe?!

The lostness and darkness of a world without Christ came home in a new and unexpected way the night I was taken down prostitution row. The need for Southern Baptists to get radically serious about the gospel and the Great Commission never seemed more urgent. The nations are crying out for hope, and we have it. The nations are crying out for deliverance, and we have it. The nations are crying out for life, and we have it. The nations are crying out for salvation, and we have it.

Do you need a little motivation to pray and work for a Great Commission Resurgence? Take a short ride down prostitution row. I think you will find it will be all that you need.game on mobile

Some Reflections on Missions and Evangelism

Southern Baptists are a Great Commission people. We have been infected with the gospel of Jesus Christ and missions and evangelism are in our blood. It is the heartbeat of who we are. Without a “hot heart” for soul we will die and our death will be deserved.

Our passion is to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We receive our marching orders from Him. Two passages in particular lay the foundation for who we are and what we are about in the context of missions and evangelism:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NAS).

He [Jesus] said to them … but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall by My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:7-8, NAS).

Jesus said go and so we must go. Jesus said witness and so we must witness. Anything less is blatant sin and disobedience. Deep within our soul is the conviction that heaven is real and hell is real and Jesus is the only difference. This “soul conviction” does not mean that we do not love and respect those of other faiths or those who have no faith at all.

Because of our unrivaled commitment to religious liberty we would willingly die for their right to believe as they choose. However, it is because we do love them that we go, witness, share and tell, that we build relationships and live missionally wherever it is that God has placed us. We cannot escape the words of our Lord who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). We are haunted again by our Savior’s warning, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

It was exactly this kind of conviction that launched the Modern Missionary Movement through a British Baptist named William Carey (1761-1834) as he spent his life in India.

Reflecting upon our awesome task he wrote,

As our blessed Lord has required us to pray that his kingdom may come, and his will be done on earth as in heaven, it becomes us not only to express our desires of that event by words, but to use every lawful method to spread the knowledge of his name (emphasis mine).

This same hot passion burned in the heart of the American Baptist Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) and his wife, Ann. It sent them both to serve and die on the mission field in Burma. This burden for souls stirred the heart of Luther Rice (1783-1836) and set him criss-crossing America to raise support for those who were evangelizing around the world.

Southern Baptists, in particular, recognize that we may be out of step with many current trends in theology. So be it. We reject outright as unbiblical heresy any theology that weakens the missionary/evangelistic mandate. We stand against the modern and post-modern mindset which says,

The task of the missionary today … is to see the best in other religions, to help the adherents of those religions to discover, or to rediscover, all that is best in their own traditions … The aim should not be conversion … an attempt to establish a Christian monopoly … The ultimate aim … is the emergence of the various religions out of their isolation into a world fellowship in which each finds its appropriate place (“Rethinking Mission: A Layman’s Inquiry after 100 Years,” in Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions, p. 456; emphasis mine).

No, we look for encouragement and motivation from another Baptist, the great British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1842). Challenging the pastors of his day he said,

The minister who is sent of God has spiritual children, they are as much his children as if they had literally been born in his house, for to their immortal nature he stands under God in the relationship of sire …. No minister ought to be at rest unless he sees that his ministry does bring forth fruit, and men and women are born unto God by the preaching of the Word.

Spurgeon also had a needed and pointed word for parents in this context, and one certainly needed among Southern Baptists today.

It is very grievous to see how some professedly Christian parents are satisfied so long as their children display cleverness in learning, or sharpness in business, although they show no signs of a renewed nature …. When a man’s heart is really right with God, and he himself has been saved from the wrath to come, and is living in the light of his heavenly Father’s countenance, it is certain that he is anxious about his children’s souls, prizes their immortal nature … If you are professing Christians, but cannot say that you have no greater joy than the conversion of your children, you have reason to question whether you ought to have made such a profession at all.

Spurgeon knew evangelism in the church starts at the top, with those God has called as pastors. Spurgeon also knew that there was no better place for evangelism to begin than in the home. The people called Southern Baptists must well understand that our very reason for existing is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We must also be very much aware that there are many things we can do to glorify God in this life and in the life to come. However, there is one thing we can do now to bring our Lord glory that we cannot do in eternity. That one thing is to share the gospel and tell a lost soul about a Savior whose name is Jesus. And so we go, share, witness and tell. Why? Because we know and understand that lost people matter to God, and therefore, lost people should matter to us. Paige Patterson puts it well,

More than 6 billion souls populate our globe. If the biblical message is true, then hell is a tragic conclusion for those who have not come to God through Christ. The potential of forgiveness and eternal life with God demands that all avenues of evangelization be pursued. The urgency of the task is the most compelling of any assignment the believer has been given.

This assignment is ours and this assignment we will endeavor to fulfill. We must, for the eternal destiny of men and women demands it. Our Lord demands it too!java download games