'Until He Comes ... Go!' challenge carried to SBC annual meeting
Tuesday, Jun 19, 2001
By Matt Sanders
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Whether through short-term mission trips, church planting, personal evangelism, social ministries or taking a stand for truth in a hostile society, Southern Baptists were challenged to fulfill the theme of their annual meeting in New Orleans by going and sharing the gospel with the world until Christ returns.
"Sharing the gospel, witnessing of God's grace and his love is why we live and why we breathe," said Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, in one of the featured interpretations by pastors and laypeople of the theme "Until He Comes ... Go!" of the June 12-13 SBC annual meeting.
"This is the reason we exist as a convention, to be united together and cooperating together for that purpose, for that passion, for that priority," Graham added.
Calling for a spiritual revolution, Graham said, Christians "must be bold enough to stand for Christ and humble enough to get on our faces before God and cry for a spiritual revolution ... [and] to pray that the world, that our nation, sees in us genuine, authentic Christianity."
Graham spoke of a homemaker who took a stand against Internet pornography in libraries, a high school salutatorian who was told to delete all religious references in his graduation speech, a young man who helped design an evangelistic toy and a woman who volunteers in a crisis pregnancy ministry.
All are examples of believers willing to take a risk in a society increasingly hostile toward Christians, Graham said.
He said that as a result of nominal, carnal Christians who fill churches, "Jesus is not magnified in our culture, he is marginalized in our culture. And churches have become stumbling blocks into hell rather than stepping stones into heaven.
"Find your heart," he exhorted, "and let our heart be [Jesus'] heart."
Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., encouraged Southern Baptists to listen for the heartbeat of Jesus.
Drawing from Matthew 28:18-20, Rogers said, "We need to understand, dear friends, when we go in the authority and the power of Jesus Christ, Satan's kingdom will fall and the power of the gospel will go through his kingdom like a white-hot cannonball through a crate of eggs.
"There is nothing, nothing that can stop the gospel of Jesus Christ but our disobedience and lack of faith," Rogers said.
Failure to participate in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, Rogers contended, is disobedience to a direct command from Jesus and equivalent to "high treason against heaven's king."
Encouraging all Southern Baptists -- especially pastors -- to get involved in short-term mission projects, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, told of God using volunteers to share Jesus Christ with cultural groups around the world.
"In over 2,000 years, the Great Commission has not changed one iota," Brunson said. "God has given us [pastors] the responsibility to lead our congregations ... in the Great Commission and to lead our churches in missions."
An increasing number of members and volunteers from the Dallas church have been involved extensively in mission projects in several countries over the past two years, Brunson said, challenging pastors attending the annual meeting to do what they can to involve their churches in missions and not to allow other ministry programs to get in the way.
"It's not a matter that we can't afford to do it," Brunson said. "We must do it."
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, Tampa, Fla., introduced Alan Duncan, a missionary to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, who said volunteers have played an important role in helping to reach thousands in through sports clinics and other ministries in his city.
Said Duncan, "Until he comes, go. I want to ask you today: What part of go is it that you don't understand?"
Short-term mission trips have "ignited a fire" in his church, Whitten said, adding that last year 300 church members went on mission trips and the church increased missions giving to more than $1 million.
"Whether you're a pastor or a staff person or just a layperson in your church, God is still calling ordinary people to the mission field -- maybe not for years and years, maybe just for weeks," Whitten said.
Robert Webb, pastor of First Baptist Church, Malakoff, Texas, challenged other churches to start churches as his has done. With just over 200 members, the church knew it didn't have the resources to plant churches.
"When we decided to obey Christ in going into our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria, we saw the power of God demonstrated and we saw the impossible become possible," Webb said.
Rainey Matthews, pastor of New Life Complete in Christ Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which was started by First Baptist in a crime-ridden, impoverished neighborhood, introduced Stephanie Porter, whom he met in 1998 when she was in a semi-comatose state in a hospital.
Porter said doctors told her she had died twice in intensive care, once for 30 minutes. She had told a nurse she wanted someone to pull the plug. The day Matthews visited, Porter's family had been called in because doctors thought she would die at any moment. As doctors tried to get a response from her, Matthews called out her name and she woke up. She promised to go to church as soon as she got better.
Porter accepted Christ and is involved in the church's ministry.
Webb reported that his church has started six other missions that have seen hundreds become Christians and have given tens of thousands of dollars to other missions efforts.
"First Baptist Church, Malakoff, learned an important lesson that God's faithfulness is magnificently displayed in light of our obedience," Webb said.
"One of the greatest privileges you can ever have, if God doesn't call you to be a vocational missionary," Calvin Wittman, senior pastor of Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colo., said, "is to be obedient and become a volunteer missionary and tell somebody somewhere else about Jesus who will then go themselves to others and multiply that seed many times over.
The Colorado congregation has sent an average of 40 volunteer missionaries a year overseas for the past 28 years.
On the church's first mission trip in 1973 to South Korea, volunteers saw thousands come to the Lord. After the trip, the church planted a church, nearly tripled its giving to Southern Baptists' Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and sent out 25 career missionaries.
Roy and Janet Miller are two of the 25. Roy Miller called France, the country where they serve, spiritually dead and spiritually apathetic. The Millers thanked the volunteers who have come and asked for more.
"I'm pleading with you; we need so much help," Janet Miller said. "Please pray and ask God to show you what he wants you to do."
Adrian Burton of Great Britain, who came to Christ under Wittman's ministry, said Christians should not avoid coming to Western Europe because they might get a better response in other areas of the world.
"The measure of our success is our obedience, the obedience to the call of Matthew 28: 'Go out and make disciples of all nations,'" said Burton, who lives in Spain. He added that Christians have a plow in Western Europe, and now "Let's go crank that baby up."
Cameron Crabtree contributed to this story.
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