We’d Just Witnessed the Book of Acts

Recently, I had the privilege of helping lead a missions team from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to a country in South Asia. We spent ten days in a nation with a population four times larger than that of California, but where far less than 1% of the population professes faith in Christ. It is one of the poorest places in the world.

Almost 90% of the population claims the Muslim faith, though the average citizen adheres to what might be called “Folk Islam,” which is a mixture of traditional Islam and animistic superstition. Most of the rest of the population is Hindu.

During our time in South Asia, our team of eight students and two professors were able to minister in a number of ways. First and foremost, we shared the gospel, both through personal evangelism and evangelistic teaching. We also conducted discipleship training with recent converts from Hinduism, most of whom had recently been baptized or were preparing for baptism. We were able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with some of these brothers who had already become baptized church members.

My faculty colleague and I had the chance to engage in some theological training with our translators, all of whom are native evangelists who work closely with our International Mission Board personnel. I doubt I’ll ever have a seminary classroom experience as difficult as trying to teach the doctrine of the Trinity, through a translator, to a group of former Hindus and Muslims.

The highlight of our time in South Asia was seeing six Muslim men come to saving faith in Christ and publicly testify to their newfound faith through believer’s baptism. We had heard there were some Muslims interested in talking about Christianity in a particular village, but when we arrived there, an imam disrupted our attempts to share the gospel. We left their village, but not before secretly passing word to the inquirers that we would meet in another location.

About a half hour later, we reassembled under a bridge, which was out of public view. About a dozen Muslim men came to hear us teach about Jesus. Two students and I shared the gospel with the group, while our IMB missionary and one of our translators answered questions raised by our Muslim friends. Over the course of the morning, several of the men indicated they had trusted Christ as their Savior and they requested baptism.

To be honest, we were surprised by their desire to be baptized. One of the Muslims warned the new Christians that it would not go well for them if they went under the water. This was no idle word.

About a month before our arrival, one of our translators had been savagely beaten for “blaspheming the prophet”-he had shared the gospel. He was thrown out of his village and told not to return to his home unless he had recanted Christianity. He had only seen his wife once in the past month. Though she remains a Muslim, no one in the village will provide for her needs because her husband is an infidel. Our friend is grieving these losses, even as he continues to boldly proclaim Christ. The cost of discipleship is high in this nation for Muslim converts to Christianity.

The realities of persecution were on everyone’s minds as we walked down to the river for the baptisms. One by one, our new brothers in Christ walked out into the water, where they were met by our translator. He asked them some basic questions to make sure they understood the gospel. But then he also asked them if they were prepared to lose their livelihoods, their families-even their very lives. Their response? “Jesus is Lord.” And with that, they went down into the watery grave, only to be raised as new creatures in Jesus Christ. The week after we left, these brothers worshiped together for the first time. Lord willing, they represent the genesis of a new local church.

As we departed from the river, no one had dry eyes. How could we? One of the students asked me what I thought about the events of the morning. I told him we’d just witnessed the Book of Acts.

God’s desire is for the nations. The Lord of the Harvest has redeemed a vast multitude from every people group through the person and work of Christ. He has commanded his people, the church, to advance his kingdom to every corner of the globe. May we obediently join him in the drama of redemption by proclaiming the gospel, baptizing disciples, and planting new churches here, there, and everywhere.

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

In October 2009, Union University hosted a conference titled Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism. The conference was held in conjunction with the four hundredth anniversary of the Baptists. It also revisited an oft-asked question: what is the relationship between Southern Baptists and American evangelicals? You can listen to the conference audio at Union’s website.

For those who are interested, the proceedings of that conference are also now in print. Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism (B&H Academic, 2011) is a collection of essays edited by David Dockery, Ray Van Neste, and Jerry Tidwell. Between the Times contributors Danny Akin, Ed Stetzer, and yours truly spoke at the conference and contributed essays. You can see the full list of chapters and contributors below.

  1. So Many Denominations: The Rise, Decline, and Future of Denominationalism – David S. Dockery
  2. Denominationalism: Is There a Future? – Ed Stetzer
  3. Denominationalism and the Changing Religious Landscape – D. Michael Lindsay
  4. The Faith, My Faith, and the Church’s Faith – Timothy George
  5. The Future of Evangelicalism (and Southern Baptists) – Duane Litfin
  6. The Care for Souls: Reconsidering Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Contexts – Ray Van Neste
  7. Awakenings and Their Impact on Baptists and Evangelicals: Sorting Out the Myths in the History of Missions and Evangelism – Jerry Tidwell
  8. Recovering the Gospel for the Twenty-first Century – Harry L. Poe
  9. Emergent or Emerging? Questions for Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals – Mark DeVine
  10. Reflections on 400 Years of the Baptist Movement: Who We Are, What We Believe – James A. Patterson
  11. Southern Baptists and Evangelicals: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation – Nathan A. Finn
  12. The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention – Daniel Akin
  13. Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism – R. Albert Mohler Jr.

If you are interested in the storied history and future prospects of Southern Baptists, American evangelicalism, and/or denominationalism in general, I’d highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this important new book.

Thank You State Conventions!

At the recent Executive Committee meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in February in Nashville, Dr. Frank Page shared that the leaders of our State Conventions recently voted unanimously to move as quickly as possible to a 50/50 split in Cooperative Program allocation between the State and National Convention in order to get more resources to the nations where 1.6 billion have still never heard the name of Jesus. I want to say thank you and add an enthusiastic applause to this historic decision. Thank you my brothers! It is a demonstration of great courage and commitment that both challenges and humbles me. Such a move no doubt will involve sacrifice and hard decisions. It will require our leaders to be radical for the glory of King Jesus and the good of the nations. However one thing is certain: God will honor this BOLD declaration as it is implemented across our SBC family.

Such a bold move on the part of our State Executives should inspire greater commitment and sacrifice among all Southern Baptists. Local churches should be inspired to give more (much more!) to the Cooperative Program. Church members should be inspired to give more to their local churches as her passion for the Great Commission and the 6,800 unreached people groups brings about new priorities.

Couple this with 1) a growing heart for the unreached and underserved areas of North America, 2) the passion of Kevin Ezell to work with others to do something about this, 3) the nomination of Tom Elliff to lead our IMB, and 4) the growing numbers of seminary students who sense God’s call to the nations and the tough regions of North America, and we all have reason to be encouraged and hopeful about the future. I want to live and die a Great Commission Christian. It seems to me many more want to do the same! To God be the glory! May He make it happen!digital marketing