Friday, July 2, 2010

Things I learned at the 2010 SBC Annual Meeting

Who deserves to hear the Gospel?

A disturbing trend in some very influential circles in our convention is the attitude that no one deserves to hear the Gospel twice while there are those who have yet to hear it once. That might sound good. It is certainly emotionally moving and motivating. That mantra is being used to stir people’s hearts for the nations. But at what cost?

Jesus charged us with reaching the nations. Since our inception, Southern Baptists have always been passionate about joining together to reach the nations for Christ—it’s in our DNA. But we have also always been passionate about joining together to reach our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for Christ. I have never seen an area that we can afford to neglect with the Gospel. Have most of our resources as Southern Baptists been concentrated in the American Southeast? Yes. Is that area so evangelized that we can now pull out and martial our resources in another area? No.

During the period of time commonly referred to as the First Great Awakening, there was no place that was more evangelized than what is now the American Northeast. In the subsequent years, evangelism efforts focused almost exclusively outside of that area. The thought was, everybody has already heard and responded to the Gospel in that area—now it’s time to move on to those who have not been evangelized. Within a generation, the area which had been so fervently on-fire for Christ was now what historians call, “The Burned-over District”. The decline continued to the point that the American Northeast is now one of the most secular regions of the Western World.

I am not arguing against our emphasis on getting the Gospel to unreached people groups. I applaud this emphasis. But Jesus has not called us to an either/or mentality. He has called us to be witnesses everywhere at all times. That includes those who have never heard the Gospel as well as those who have heard and rejected it 1,000 times. Remember that God still sent Isaiah to preach to Israel—even though He told him that they would continually reject his message. The entire history of God’s relationship with Israel is one of them rejecting Him, but God continually sending His prophets to them. I thank God that He has never had the attitude that, “No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice as long as there are those who have never heard it once.” God has never had that attitude and neither should we.

4 comments:

Les Puryear said...

Jim,

To me, it's interesting when someone uses the word "deserve" in association with the word "gospel."

I don't believe that anyone "deserves" to hear the gospel. God is not in debt to me and does not owe me the gospel or anything else. It's all a work of the grace of God.

I know you know this but perhaps some of those who use this phrasing need to be reminded. :)

Les

Pastor Jim said...

Watch it Les--you're sounding Reformed... or maybe just Calvinist. What's ironic is that the ones I've heard use those words are known as staunch 5-pointers.

Joe White... said...

I agree with you, we have not been "called to an either/or mentality". However, I do not agree with your interpretation that the current call to get greater resources to unreached areas is or will lead to an abandonment of our local fields. For too long we have been a "me-centric" people (if not in word then in deed). It is now time to sacrifice all in an attempt to fulfill the Great Commission. If that means that our county,(which has 59 Southern Baptist Churches in it) has to do make do with less funds from NAMB... so be it.

Southern Baptists must make GC centered sacrifices. Making these sacrifices means making the difficult decision of choosing between the good and the best... the easy and the hard... and choosing the best and the hard everytime!

Pastor Jim said...

Joe—
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Praise God that your county has 59 SBC churches! That means that God’s Word is being preached throughout your county in ways that are uniquely effective to each of those individual congregations and neighborhoods that surround them. And because they’re SBC, they are cooperating together to accomplish something bigger than any of them could accomplish alone. I hope that is the case and you are all working together in accomplishing the Great Commission. If I were you, I would be concerned if you aren’t, and I would certainly be concerned if you are receiving funds from NAMB. If you are, then you should work together with your local association to fix the problem, become financially self-sufficient and free up CP dollars to go to places where they are really needed.

I applaud the voices who are calling our attention to the nations. I applaud those who are calling for greater sacrifice and more resources to unreached people groups. But at the same time, I dislike some of the rhetoric being used—including your accusation of Southern Baptists being a “‘Me-centric’ people”. Desire to see churches planted and a heart for the lost in our local communities does not make us “me-centric”. If your local association is receiving NAMB money, then work within your association to fix that problem. In the places where your state convention is receiving NAMB money, make sure it’s going to reach the lost in your state. And at the same time, realize that CP dollars that are spent on planting churches and evangelizing the lost does not equal being “me-centric.” It makes for good headlines, but I do not see it as the case.

Do Southern Baptists need to sacrifice? Of course we do. Do many of our associations and state conventions need serious work and refocus? They certainly do. And, like you, I agree with Ronnie Floyd’s words that we must always make hard choices between the good and the best. Where I have disagreed with the GCRTF is that I believe those choices are best made at the local church, local association and state levels—not at NAMB or a future NAMB/IMB conglomeration.

Once again, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope that you are using your passion to light a fire of cooperation within your church and the 59 churches in your county. That’s where the real difference will be made—it works every time it’s tried!