The Great Commission, You, and “Them”

One of the great joys I have in my role here at the seminary is to work with the leadership of the Center for Great Commission Studies. This center helps to guide our campus in both our awareness and understanding of and our participation in global missions. As a church leader you should check out their website and blog.

This week they are sponsoring our Global Missions Week which features various events and training opportunities for our students, faculty and guests. These days truly represent the ethos and mission of Southeastern! It is fun to meet missionaries from around the world and watch them interact with our campus.

One event is a pastor’s luncheon jointly sponsored by the CGCS and our Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching, featuring a discussion panel with Drs. Johnny Hunt and Daniel Akin as well as presentations by the CGCS team. The theme is “The Great Commission and the Local Church.” Be sure to check out the video that will be on the center’s website. Since I am facilitating part of it, I have been thinking a lot about this topic.

We as Baptists often talk about a primary way to fulfill the mission of God and to bring Him glory is through the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Our denomination is intended to be one large Great Commission affinity network by design and purpose. It is really why the Southern Baptist Convention was created and why we should continue to exist. If each church, therefore, would engage in true Great Commission fulfillment then logically our convention should be so engaged as well. So, what are we doing? How are we doing? Why or why not are we doing?

Sometimes it seems to me that we create this nebulous “them” that somehow gets us off the hook or lessens the blow of our failed responsibilities. The denomination becomes someone other than us somehow. It is always easier to blame “them.” Sounds to me like an old story in a garden about a piece of fruit.

For the Southern Baptist Convention to be engaged fully in Great Commission fulfillment, each church must be engaged as stated above. For each church to be engaged, we need engaged leaders and members. This whole process must begin with each believer. Then it’s harder to make that a “them.” I believe that is an “us.”

So think about these questions before you try to find another “them” to blame: What does it mean to personally be engaged in Great Commission fulfillment as a church leader or member and how do I lead others to join me? How can we best lead churches who have not had a strong commitment to this type of Great Commission fulfillment to develop the necessary awareness and to actually pursue it?

And while we are at it let’s make certain we are leading our churches to fulfill the “whole” Great Commission. Christ’s mandate was not simply a call to evangelism. He also wanted us to teach them what He taught us and to lead them to identify with Him. As YOU are going, disciple. Hard to push that off on “them” isn’t it?

The CGCS on Evangelism and Church Planting

As we do every Wednesday morning, today we highlight the work of the Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern. Recently, the CGCS folks published a series on evangelism and church planting. Below is an excerpt from part 4 in that series. 

If church planting is an effective method of evangelism, then we need to give attention to strengthening our church planting efforts. In 2007, the Center for Missional Research produced the “Church Plant Survivability and Health Study,” assessing the factors contributing to growth and survivability of SBC plants. One of the study’s central criteria is baptism numbers. Factors associated with higher baptisms included: conducting new member’s classes, having members sign a church covenant, and lead planters being assessed prior to planting.

Click here to read the full post.

Chuck Quarles: The Value of Christian Education to Churches

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Charles Quarles is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern, author of numerous scholarly and popular level books on the NT, and a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti SocietasHe is also an experienced pastor, missionary, and theological educator, and so an able guide on the topic of Christian education. The following is part 2 of two parts on the true value of Christian education.]

In a previous post, I discussed the value of Christian education for students and parents. Churches often invest in Christian education, too. Southern Baptists contribute through the Cooperative Program to support Baptist colleges and seminaries. Increasingly churches are asking whether this is a wise investment. How much does Christian education really contribute to the mission of the church? Should churches consider decreasing or even dropping contributions to educational institutions in order to have more for local ministries or international missions?

I would argue that Christian education is a very wise investment for local churches. Christian education is of enormous value for the kingdom of God and the mission of the church. Students who attend public universities are four times more likely to stop attending church than those who attend authentic Christian colleges. Students who attend public universities are seven times more likely to stop praying consistently than students who attend authentic Christian colleges. Churches that do not encourage their youth to attend Christian colleges will likely suffer the heartbreak of seeing a sharp decline in the numbers of educated young adults that participate in church ministries.

Even if such young adults remain in the church, they may ultimately have a negative impact on the church’s health. A March 29, 2005 Washington Post article revealed that 72% of college professors view themselves as “liberal,” 84% support abortion, and 67% view homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. (Consider how much these numbers may have increased in nine years.) One rarely sits at the feet of such instructors for four years or more without being influenced by their ideologies in overt or subtle ways. Unless the church strongly promotes Christian education, the young adults who receive this dangerous tutelage will form the primary pool of future spiritual leaders for our churches. These young adults will carry the intellectual and philosophical influences of their educational background into their Sunday school classrooms, the deacons’ meeting, and committee discussions and potentially infect others with non-Christian views.

Students who attend authentic Christian colleges typically grow in their Christian commitment at five times the rate of students who attend other schools. They have a Christian worldview and a good foundation of biblical knowledge that equips them to serve Christ through their churches as well as through their professions. One can hardly estimate the sweeping impact that a Christian physician, attorney, public school teacher, journalist, or businessman may have on the kingdom of God in a local community when these influential believers view their profession as a divine calling and mission.

One of the great concerns related to the future of several of our Southern states is the notorious “brain drain” on our population. Bright educated young professionals are abandoning struggling states in unprecedented numbers as they seek higher salaries and greater potential for advancement in other states. However, the feared brain drain can also have a devastating effect on local churches. If Christian parents and churches entrust our best and brightest students to secular universities and they are schooled in unbiblical ideologies, the church risks losing its rich intellectual tradition. The church will be poorly equipped to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith to a culture that is increasingly hostile toward our deeply cherished Christian convictions.

It may surprise many to discover that education is such a vital part of our Baptist heritage that one entire article of the Baptist Faith and Message is actually devoted to discussing the importance of this endeavor. Article XII. Education states:

Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. . . . [T]he cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence.

Christian schools prepare outstanding Christian leaders for a variety of professions in which they have unique opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who better to share the gospel with a teacher or attorney than a respected colleague who views his vocation as his calling and seeks to use it to glorify Christ at every opportunity? Christian education is thus a helpful strategy for assisting the church in fulfilling the Great Commission. That’s why our confession insists that just as the church supports the causes of local and international missions, education “should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches.”

When our churches affirm this historic Baptist confession, we are also acknowledging the value of Christian education and pledging our commitment to support this cause with generous gifts and fervent prayers. The need has never been greater and the ministry more strategic than now.

The College at Southeastern seeks to provide the sort of high-quality Christian education about which Dr. Quarles writes. For more info on the programs, faculty, and tuition costs for The College, check out the website and/or contact admissions