Friday, July 31, 2009

A Chance to Demonstrate the Priority of Missions

How important is the Great Commission? Important enough that Jesus gave it as his final command. This central command of the New Testament is a corporate command. While the command has implications and application to individuals, it is given to the church as a body. Each of the four gospels and the book of Acts contains a commissioning statement, the most famous of which is in Matthew’s gospel:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matt 28:18-20

How important is the Great Commission to my local church? Important enough that it is at the heart of our mission statement: “Harvest Baptist Fellowship exists to glorify God and make His Son known throughout the world to this generation.” Important enough to be the climax of our church’s core values: “At Harvest Baptist Fellowship, we value a commitment to the . We will express this commitment through …the training of believers in personal evangelism and Christian discipleship, as well as through the sending, equipping and financing of missions efforts locally, regionally, and internationally.”

How important is my church’s commitment to the Great Commission now? Important enough to take a special offering for international missions at the end of this month. Earlier in the year, our International Mission Board reported a massive shortfall in missions giving. Due to the recent economic climate, churches had given less to the cooperative program, resulting in less money for international missions. In addition, the annual Lottie Moon offering for international missions fell a whopping $30,000,000 short of its goal. As a result of this budget crisis, the trustees of our mission board were faced with tough decisions including cuts in personnel and a reduction of new missionary appointments to some of the most unreached areas of the world.

When my co-pastor Chris and I heard this news, our hearts sank. We knew that our church needed to take action. In our quarterly business meeting, our church voted to amend our 2009 budget to shift some of our money to missions. At the same time, we came up with the idea of “Christmas in July” – Harvest would take up a special summer Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for missions to further help make up the shortfall. Little did we know that hundreds of other churches had the same idea. The proposal has been now made that SBC churches have a “Christmas in August” offering for international missions. Thus, at the end of August, we at Harvest will have another opportunity to show that the Great Commission is indeed a core value of our church and the heart of our mission. On Sunday, August 30, Harvest will answer the call and join hundreds of fellow Baptist churches in this special opportunity to give.

Whether you are a member of my church or not, pray for this offering. Ask God how he wants you to participate in this special opportunity to support the Lord’s work. Give sacrificially. If you are not a Southern Baptist, I encourage you to prayerfully consider a special gift in August to the missions sending agency of your choice – chances are, they are having similar financial difficulty. Besides, bad economy or not, giving to missions is always in season. I pray that Southern Baptists and other Great Commission Christians will rise to the occasion and meet this financial challenge.

To God be the glory!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two Challenging Sermons from the SBC Pastor's Conference

Returning from the SBC Annual Meeting, Pastor Chris and I (with Jeremy) came home with several “take-aways” from the pastor’s conference. Two sermons were particularly striking and left us challenged and coming back to important questions about life and ministry.

The first sermon was by Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA. I really tracked with him in this sermon and found that I have been asking similar questions as he has measured his life and ministry against what he sees in the New Testament. In the take-away point of the sermon, Chan asked, “Do I really want to know the will of God? . . . what would God do with me right now if he had complete control of me?” In thinking through his question myself, and having wrestled with the text of Philippians in our present sermon series at Harvest, I found myself asking further questions: How would I spend my money if God really had complete control of my checkbook? How would I spend my time if God really had complete control of my schedule and calendar? How would I use my possessions for God’s glory if God really had complete control of my resources? What things would I have to give up if I were really willing to give it all for the sake of the gospel?

While still pondering the questions raised by Chan’s sermon, another compelling message was brought from Hebrews 13 by David Platt, pastor of Brook Hills Church in Birmingham Alabama. The main question for his sermon was “Are we going to live in our religion or die in our devotion?” or, put another way “Will we retreat from the mission of God or will we give everything for the sake of his mission?” His was perhaps the most compelling sermon I have heard at any pastor’s conference. In the sermon, Platt exalted the glory of Christ and the importance of living to make Him known. The question before us was not did we believe in the mission of Christ or even were we willing to commit to it. Platt placed before us two options: retreat or risk it all!

These two sermons are ones I’m still chewing on. The implications, if seriously considered, are staggering. I’m still thinking and praying through what this means for my life and for our church, but I am willing to take up the challenge. I want to know and do God’s will. I want to risk it all for the glory of Christ! Think and pray through these challenges with me and let us do all to fulfill our mission to glorify God and make His Son known throughout the world to this generation.