The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention (Pt. 7)

#7) Southern Baptist have a hopeful future if we raise up a generation of pastors who lead their churches to see themselves as a gospel missions agencies equipping and training all their people to see themselves as missionaries for Jesus regardless of location or vocation. (Eph. 4:11-16)

The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention is the local church. All associations, conventions and national entities exist to serve them not the reverse. Further, these agencies and entities exist to assist the churches in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Missions is not a ministry of the church, it is at the heart of the church’s identity and essence. No Great Commission passion, no genuine New Testament church.

The strategic and biblical importance of the local church in this regard must be recaptured. The local church is to be ground zero for the missio dei. Here is the “spiritual outpost” for the invasion of enemy territory as we reclaim lost ground for its rightful owner King Jesus. A new vision that I pray will grip the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention is, “every church a church planting church and every church a Great Commission church.” This must be more than a slogan. It must be a reality.

Pastors must be seized by a vision for the strategic importance of their calling as the head of a gospel missions agency called the local church. This will involve:

1) Rightly defining the Great Commission and missions. The shibboleth that “everything we do is missions” is without biblical warrant and is theologically flawed.

2) Being used by God to call out the called who have an overseas calling given by our commander-in-chief, the Lord Jesus.

3) Partnering in strategic and vibrant church planting that assaults the major population centers of North America following closely the pattern of the apostle Paul revealed in the book of Acts. Again, this will inspire and energize a younger generation because of the excitement entailed in new works. For too long we have neglected the great urban centers such as New York, Washington, DC, Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, cities that are almost completely bereft of evangelical influence. This cannot continue or we will face a future of irrelevance and insignificance.

4) Working to help revitalize existing local congregations so that we do not lose a meaningful past and squander massive assets built by our parents and grandparents.

5) Training all of our people to see themselves as a God-called missionary no matter what their vocation or location happens to be. God has gifted them and we must equip them for their service of ministry and missionary service in their community, school, workplace and places of recreation. Religious practices and traditions are not the same as missional and gospel living. We must recognize the difference. We must help our people recognize the difference.

6) Motivating our people to give the necessary funds to match the missions strategy plan that is in place to reach the nations. That will require funding 8,000 missionaries, not the 5,700 we have this year, and the 5,000 that it seems will be on the field in 2010. Money follows vision. Jim Henry is correct, “Many of our faithful people are more than ready to move into reproducing their church; but let’s face it, they can only go as far as the pastor’s passion and support for the project will allow.” A true and lasting GCR will be a bottom up movement. It will start in our churches! It will be led by our pastors!