In Case You Missed It

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared what could be the worst goal to pursue in 2017.

What are you going to chase in 2017?

If it’s on the leadership level, what mountain are you going to ask your team to climb with you? If it’s on the personal level, what in your life do you want look different 365 days from now?

 

In my last post on goals (5 Reasons You Can’t Avoid Goal-Setting), I pointed out what characteristics make up really good goals. They are S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. These are the types of goals you want to pursue over the next twelve months.

 

So what characteristics would make up really bad goals? What does the worst goal to pursue in 2017 look like? How can you spot one? S.M.A.R.T. goals can provide us some guidance.

 

Here is how the worst goal to pursue in 2017 will present itself

 

At The Intersect Project, Meridith Berson discusses the virus of moral superiority. Meridith writes:

The past election cycle was hard on this country. For starters, it was long. The Republican primary debates started in early August of 2015, leaving us with fifteen grueling months of a politically charged news cycle. As a country we watched as the various Republican candidates spared, dropped out and endorsed or denounced their peers.

 

We then watched as a left-wing Independent from Vermont began what was dubbed as a revolution, aimed at taking the Democratic Party further left than it was accustomed. The reactionaries in the Party then pivoted to bring this wing into their fold. While it was a calculated attempt to reunite the party, it left the remnants of the revolution confused and alienated.

 

Somewhere in the midst of the unfolding drama, the voters spoke and the results yielded two opposites. One was a carefully calculated, and seemingly handpicked, candidate. Her name had been circulating in political circles for longer than most Millennials — the base she desperately needed — had been alive. She came across as scripted, elitist and, for many, the paradigm of corruption. Yet, there she was, the representative of the party that presents itself as the caretaker of the marginalized, the party that fights inequality, the party of the people.

 

Bruce Ashford shared five reasons for atheists to join Christians in church this Christmas.

Earlier this month, American Atheists launched two nationwide billboard campaigns urging Americans to celebrate the holidays by skipping church. The first billboard depicts a text message exchange in which one young woman tells a friend that she plans to skip church during Christmas and that her parents will “get over it.” The second billboard parodies President-elect Trump’s campaign slogan, urging Americans to “Make Christmas Great Again!” by skipping church.

 

In an interview explaining the billboard campaign, American Atheist President David Silverman said, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season.”

 

While we are a little confused by Silverman’s apparent delight in fantasizing about family division during the holidays, we agree with Silverman that openness and honesty are good things and, in that spirit, we offer a few reflections.

 

At the Baptist Press, Micah Fries, Nathan Finn, and Jon Akin shared an open letter discussing the need for cooperation amid SBC tensions.

Controversy surrounding ethicist Russell Moore’s past comments on President-elect Donald Trump has led three Tennessee Baptists — all under the age of 40 — to issue an open letter calling “the [conservative] resurgence generation and their protégés” to “be the statesmen we need them to be in this season of denominational tension.”

 

Jonathan Akin, Nathan Finn and Micah Fries wrote in a Dec. 21 open letter provided to Baptist Press, “Now isn’t the time for acrimonious debates over secondary and tertiary doctrinal matters,” such as the extent of the atonement, church polity, methodology and the appropriate means of cultural engagement.

 

They directed their comments especially toward Southern Baptists who led the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s as well as those mentored by that generation, noting, “Our real enemy is the Prince of Darkness.” The resurgence attempted to make biblical inerrancy a bedrock commitment of Southern Baptist Convention entities.

 

At his blog, Chuck Lawless shared 10 gift ideas which do not cost money. Dr. Lawless writes:

Christmas can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we usually give gifts that don’t last anyway. This Christmas, give one of these gifts to someone.

GCRTF Report Challenges to all Southern Baptists (3b): Challenges for Local Churches and Pastors, Part 2

GCRTF Report Challenges to all Southern Baptists (3b): Challenges for Local Churches and Pastors, Part 2

By Danny Akin and Jon Akin

The local churches are the headquarters of the SBC. Christ died for His church. He commissioned her to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth! So, regardless of votes or passed recommendations, there will be no GCR if it is not led by the pastors and lay people of our local SBC churches.

With that being the case, the core of the GCRTF report is the list of specific challenges given to local churches and pastors. If we as pastors and churches will rise to meet these challenges then a great work will take place in our midst! Let’s look briefly at the last 15 in this section.

  • Get involved in a regular church planting program at some level of your congregation’s capability. This can include specific partnerships with another church, your association, state convention or NAMB.

The GCRTF report challenges every church, regardless of size, to be a church planting church. This is as it should be (always have been!) because churches plant churches. If we are going to reach North America for Christ then we need churches of every size, model, and method that are biblically faithful to reproduce themselves. This will look different in each case. But it must be done. There are exciting church planting movements taking place right now in America and around the world, and they are being driven by small churches, medium churches, and large churches.

In order to achieve this, churches need to seek out partnerships with other churches who are currently planting to see how you can get involved. Seek out partnerships with your association, state convention and NAMB. They are there to assist us in planting!

  • Adopt an unreached people group and an underserved megacity in North America and regularly inform the membership about them, pray for them, and when applicable work toward short-term mission trips to serve them. Encourage families to consider moving to those cities to be part of the core group for that plant.

This is one practical way that churches can own the Great Commission. Our church (Jon’s church, Highview Baptist in Louisville, KY) has adopted and is in the process of engaging two unreached people groups in Africa. There are over 6,000 of these unreached people groups in the world, and 1,568 unengaged people groups who have no Christians or missionaries among them. If every one of the thousands of congregations in the SBC adopted an unreached group, prayed weekly for them to be reached, prayed regularly for more laborers for the harvest field, annually or bi-annually sent short-term teams to them, and eventually called out at least one from their church to give their life to reaching that people group then in the generations to come we would see a great multitude of people singing “Worthy is the Lamb,” who currently have no worship of Christ in their midst!

Highview Baptist Church has helped support many church plants in major cities and we are currently helping in places like NYC, Philly, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Boise, etc. We keep these cities and these works in front of our people through prayer cards, maps with planters pictures on them, etc. We send teams to minister there. Faithful members of our church have uprooted their families and moved to be a part of the core group of the plants. This has instilled in us an attitude that it’s not all about us, but it is about reaching others, and it has given us a heart for the big cities of our country where so many millions are moving, as well as enlarged our heart for our city! If we are going to reach North America we have to reach our cities. This is not an option. It should not even be up for debate.

  • Plan at least one evangelism training course annually for your church members; consider inviting members of other churches in your association to participate, especially smaller churches.

People must hear the gospel to be saved, and in order for them to hear it, Christians must know how to share it and then obediently tell the good news of Jesus Christ. It is heartbreaking that most “Christians” will live their entire life without ever experiencing the joy of leading another person to faith in Jesus. This should not be! Some do not share because they do not know how or what to say. Training our people in evangelism can relieve at least one burden that hinders us from sharing.

If there is to be a GCR then this has to be a priority. Not only do we need a Great Commission Resurgence, we need an Evangelism Resurgence. Evangelism is not optional for the Christian. It is expected, not just of a “good” Christian, but of every Christian. Anything less is simply sinful disobedience and in need of repentance.

Reaching our local communities in North America is the responsibility of the churches. We already have an army of millions of people who claim the name of Christ. If we could train them and unleash them to share the gospel imagine what might happen! Churches need to help churches in this area by linking with other churches who are already doing the training.

  • Plan at least one North American or international mission trip a year and/or encourage members to participate mission trips sponsored by a local association.

There is no better way for people’s hearts to be captured for this nation and all nations than getting them on the field! Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the multitudes who were like sheep without a shepherd. If we can get our people among the multitudes then their hearts will burn with a passion to reach them. I have never seen a person or church who loves being involved in international missions who was not also motivated more than ever for local work in their own neighborhoods with greater passion after trips like these. Short term trips are a great way to energize our people for work at home and abroad.

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for sharing the gospel with every person in your community with no regard to racial, social or economic status. This may include elements such as home-to-home evangelism, neighborhood block parties, servant evangelism projects, one-on-one mentoring, after-school programs, university campus outreach, innovative outreach events, neighborhood Bible studies, evangelistic mercy ministries, etc.

Any type of prejudice or bigotry in our churches must be banished now and forever! There are no segregated communities in heaven. There should be none here on earth either!

  • Enter, if possible, the world of private Christian schooling and Christian homeschooling to provide a Christian alternative for the education of children, especially in areas hostile to the Christian worldview. See this as a complement to the many faithful Christians serving in the public school systems who see their calling to be salt and light in a missional assignment.

This challenge is not a challenge to a sectarian lifestyle. If you do choose homeschooling or private school for your children, then please find other ways to develop relationships with and engage the lost in your community.

  • Encourage Christian schools to send each student in their high school year on a cross-cultural missions experience or to an international mission field for at least one week before they graduate, developing a strategy to pay for these trips as a school in order to build a genuine passion and commitment to reach the nations.

Again, there is no better to way to set a person’s heart on fire than to get them on the field. May we train our young people in this early on!

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for Great Commission discipling of all church members. This may include elements such as Sunday School and/or small group ministries, mission education programs, one-on-one mentoring, affinity ministries (e.g. women, singles, etc.), pastoral leadership training, diaconal leadership training, etc.

The Great Commission is not just about making converts; it’s about making disciples. We have fallen extremely short in this area. We are a convention full of Christians who are biblically illiterate, lack a Christian worldview, rampant in sin and who do not make life decisions based on the authority of God’s Word. Discipleship is a must!

The Bible tells us that God’s gift of the local church is the place where discipleship happens. We are to not forsake assembling together because this is where we stir one another up to love and good deeds. It is in the fellowship and community of the church under the teaching of the Word that discipleship takes place. This should be done in co-ed groups, as well as older men to younger men and older women to younger women. Titus 2:1-8 is our model.

  • Develop a comprehensive church-based strategy for reaching and discipling college students, including international students.

Young people are so often passionate and idealistic and seeking adventure. If we can capture their hearts for the mission of God then great things will happen. That is why training college students to think and act biblically is so vitally important.

Plus, young people come from all over the world to train in the US, many from unreached peoples. While they are in a context that encourages research and studying new things we have the opportunity to present them with the truth of the Gospel, care for them in the context of the local church, and then launch them out for mission!

  • Develop as a comprehensive church-based strategy for reaching and discipling individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.
  • Send teenagers and young adults on mission trips with the hope of exposing every young believer to global missions.
  • Partner with like-minded ethnic churches or missions in evangelizing immigrants and other underserved ethnic minorities, including migrants and other short-term workers.

May our churches and our cooperation mirror Revelation 5. We are still way too segregated in the SBC. We are making progress, but the process needs to be excelerated!

  • Reclaim the Baptist vision of regenerate church membership, recognizing that this vision is central to our Baptist identity and understanding of the church.

Stating that we have “16 million Southern Baptists” has become a running joke, because as the saying goes “we can’t find half of them.” Baptists have historically believed what the Bible teaches, that the church is for those who are saved. Our rolls should match up with the roll in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Since this is the case, we need to take church membership seriously.

One of the reasons we may be declining is because of this very thing. Our churches, because we do not consistently practice regenerate church membership, do not reflect a redeemed community and we therefore look like the rest of the culture. This blunts our witness. Regenerate church membership is vital to our corporate witness to the outside world. It is a biblical necessity.

  • Reclaim corrective church discipline as the biblical means of restoring believers to healthy discipleship and faithfulness.

JL Dagg has famously said, “When discipline leaves a church then Jesus goes with it.” If that is the case then we are a convention of Jesus-less churches. Personal holiness is not something we are known for. Hypocrisy might be.

Discipline is not retributive; it is a rescue mission, and we need to practice it in a way that leads us to plead with people (similar to what we do in evangelism) to turn from sin and trust in Jesus. Discipline is about restoration not punishment. The process may lead to dismissing the member, but this is necessary in some cases not only to protect that brother or sister from sin, but also to disciple the congregation through the discipline situation as well. (If you would like to read and think more on this go to www.danielakin.com and read “Church Discipline: Expository Insights from Titus 3:9-15).

  • Emphasize meaningful church membership through such practices as decision counseling, believer’s baptism, new convert mentoring, membership covenants, prospective member classes, and redemptive church discipline.

How we do church matters. It matters so much that many of our forefathers were drowned fighting for the Baptistic way of doing church. We need to recapture this in our day. Business as usual in too many churches must come to an end. There needs to be a new day of biblical faithfulness and radical obedience. The GCRTF report seeks to balance the biblical and the practical. That we are true to the whole counsel of God’s word is our hopeful and prayerful goal.

Why We Believe the GCRTF Report is Good for the Future of the SBC (4b): Reaching North America

By: Danny Akin & Jonathan Akin

The recommendations of component 4 will allow NAMB to have a direct church planting and evangelism strategy where they can appoint personnel directly. They have not had that freedom in the past. At present, and much of this due to cooperative agreements, the majority of NAMB “missionaries” are serving in the most reached and most served areas of North America (see recent blog by Micah Fries). Despite some comments that we as the SBC have “gotten outta Dixie,” the evidence shows that we are still a mostly Southern convention, and we are failing to direct significant resources (people and money) to the places with the least access to the Gospel. The 9 states with the most significant amount of lostness have a total of 322 NAMB missionaries in them (just over 6% of NAMB missionaries). At present, we are not targeting in any kind of strategic way the most needy states. Texas alone has more NAMB personnel than Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Iowa, South & North Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Nebraska, and Illinois combined. This says nothing of the needs of California and New York!

So, this recommendation, as much as any other, attempts to directly penetrate lostness and reallocate resources (people and money) to places with the least access to the Gospel in North America. The major pockets of lostness are the Northeast, the West, and the Northwest, and yet we continue to spend the majority of our resources in the church saturated Southeast. 2/3 of the CP is spent in regions where 1/3 of our population is, and in regions that are most evangelized. This has to change, and the GCRTF has figured out a way to make us much more strategic.

The way the GCRTF hopes to accomplish this is by phasing out the cooperative agreements and unleashing those monies for significant church planting. Cooperative Agreements were agreed on partnerships between then the Home Mission Board (HMB) and each state convention whereby the two entities would jointly fund ministries in that area. So, a church would give money to the CP through their state convention. The state convention would keep a percentage of the money to do the work of their ministries, and then send a percentage on to Nashville. This amount would be divided between the IMB, NAMB, seminaries, etc. NAMB would then take a portion of their allocation and give it back to the state conventions to jointly fund ministry in that state. This was the logic of the time in corporate America as well, and it served Southern Baptists well at the time. However, times have changed and radically so.

The SBC now needs to update its strategies in order to directly penetrate lostness in North America. The cooperative agreements ensure at present that the vast majority of our resources stay in the places with the most churches. Approximately 63 cents on every $1 given to the CP is kept in the state it is given, and then more of that dollar is given back to the state convention through the cooperative agreements. This means that the greatest percentage of our monies remains in the states with the largest Southern Baptist populations.

States keep 2/3 of the CP money given, and then receive more back. With these cooperative agreements we fund some very good ministries like: chaplains, deaf ministries, ethnic ministries, resort missionaries, DOM’s, etc. But, Dr. Rankin points out that only a small proportion of the cooperative agreements go to direct evangelism and church planting. Most is used to support state convention staff, DOM’s, consultants, etc. He also noted that one state that received a million dollars from NAMB started only 3 new churches last year.

Some have written recently that this component will “devastate missions” work in some of our states. This fear has been raised both in oldline and frontier conventions. Let’s be honest. This component will call for a shift in some things that we are doing currently. Lamentably, some good ministries might get cut or need to be carried out in a different way than they have been in the past. For example, resort ministry could become more local church driven than CP funded. But, in order to penetrate lostness, we have to ask some tough questions about all our ministries. The issue here is not that the cooperative agreements go to fund bad things. This is not a question of good versus bad. It is a question of good versus best, good versus most strategic, and good versus most needed.

The GCRTF is attempting to shift our resources to the places of greatest need (i.e. least access to the gospel, least churched, etc.). The GCRTF encourages frontier state conventions by telling them this means MORE resources for them. This means a concerted effort to get resources out of Dixie and on to the places that are the most underserved. Those who oppose this measure favor continuing to spend the majority of our resources in the places with the most Christians and most churches, and then as we saturate those places, we will let resources trickle out to places that are most in need. The GCRTF says instead, why don’t we reallocate these resources to impact the lostness directly and begin doing it immediately, not later?!

It seems that some have misunderstood this recommendation. Former HMB President, Larry Lewis, says the GCRTF is calling for “competitive” missions between the state conventions and NAMB, but that is not the case at all. This recommendation calls for new strategic partnerships. One thing we can be assured is that these strategic partnerships will focus our resources on church planting and the underserved regions.

Some have misunderstood and thought that this measure is calling for new, costly regional offices rather than one HQ in Alpharetta. The recommendation calls for decentralization but not regional offices.

Conclusion-

We need a viable and effective church planting network. The perception at present is that we do not have one. We lamented Ed Stetzer’s tweet a few days ago which read, “I just talked with my 31st planter who wanted to plant with the SBC, met with denominational leaders, and is now non-denominational. We must do better. #GCR.” Indeed, we must do better, and we believe this component gives us the opportunity to do so.

This recommendation is the best opportunity to most directly assault the lostness in North America. Southern Baptists need a viable and focused church planting network. This will give us one! Imagine if we as Southern Baptists were focusing 50 million dollars a year plus, that has been tied up in various things, on church planting in the most unreached areas of our nation! Imagine if we as Southern Baptists were able to launch a generation of gospel-centered church planters into the pockets of lostness in North America! Imagine, not a convention of 45,000 churches, but with focused church planting efforts over the next few decades 70,000 plus churches reaching our homeland for Christ, 70,000 plus churches calling out and funding missionaries! Let’s rally around that vision in Orlando! Why not America, and why not now?!