One essential part of an Annual Meeting is greeting the people we know and meeting new people who have joined us in our cooperative ministries. This year was no exception, as godly men and women gathered and fellowshipped. Sure, we had business to do, but this year it was obvious that we took away from the meeting a much deeper understanding of the ways of God.
The meeting in Kansas City is now history. However, if you haven’t watched from the website the executive director’s address, let me unpack the four initiatives I proposed:
1. We must rethink promotion of the Cooperative Program.
I confess we made a grave mistake in thinking that it is the job of the state convention staff to be the primary promoters of Baptist cooperation through the Cooperative Program (CP). This notion evolved during the 80s and 90s and it is time it had a funeral.
From the historical outset, the central educator for Baptist cooperation was the local church pastor. Somehow we abandoned that grand idea for a centralized promotion process that was doomed from the start.
The key to Baptist cooperation is pastors who are growing in their faith and who work together with other churches to accomplish the Great Commission. The state mission staff role is to give encouragement and resources to help cooperating pastors do their work.
Last year we developed a training video, “From You to Eternity.” We also developed a monthly video series called “Because You Give.” There is a new “Countdown video” this year for use in local churches. Together, these videos and other CP resources “put a face on missions.” Many pastors have adopted these tools to teach their people the eternal value of cooperative ministry.
We ask you to pray, “Lord give us faith to trust you with the resources you desire to give through our church to the ends of the earth.”
2. One million Bibles.
If a farmer is to ever get a crop, he must sow the seed. Ladies and gentlemen, we must sow our state with the word of God. We believe the word of God. We stake our lives on the principles of the precious word of God.
This initiative is so simple. We challenge your church in 2014 to:
• Map out your community.
• Organize your people – say on a particular Sunday afternoon or over several days; you can even help a sister church.
• Secure the Bibles. Order from our website (mobaptist.org/evangelism).
• Pray together and ask the Lord’s Spirit to go before you.
• Go to the highways and hedges and share God’s word.
Simple. But God has a way of using the simple things to make Himself famous.
3. Be holy.
I’m asking Missouri Baptist men and women to throw down one of the major false gods of our culture. This one issue is eating the core out of the spirit of our men. It is robbing them of their confidence to stand for righteousness in a sin-saturated society.
I’m asking all Missouri Baptist men to join the one million men initiative (www.join1millionmen.org/get-on-the-wall). This initiative is supported by our Woman’s Missionary Union with prayer andmaterials.
Let us stand up against pornography. We may be the only ones to do so, but we must stand to say this is wrong.
4. The Heartland Interstate Strategy.
I-29 starts near Midwestern Seminary and runs all the way to the Canadian border, just south of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The other day at First, St. Joseph, I sat in a room of mission strategists and church planters. We heard brothers from Winnipeg tell about their city with over 600,000 people and 17,500 immigrants coming every year. We have one church there with a full-time pastor and three others with bi-vocational pastors. And that is just about the sum total of that city’s evangelical witness.
I heard the testimony of other strategists talk about the need for hundreds of church planters. I learned how college campuses are desperate for a witness and possibly a university church.
We asked the North American Mission Board to join us and they responded with $250,000 per year for 4 years to help fund the planters that we assess and train.
Then Midwestern Seminary’s president, Jason Allen, caught the vision and brought one of our best church planters, Joshua Hedger, to the seminary to become the new director of Midwestern’s church planting center. By combining our excellent church planting team and Midwestern’s new degree programs, we believe we have the incubator for hundreds of church planters.
When all of this was laid on the table, a bi-vocational pastor from Sioux Falls said, “Brothers, this looks like the providence of God.” When he said that the little hairs on the back of my neck bristled with the thought of cooperating with God and fellow Baptists to bring a wave of gospel witness to the Heartland.
I ask you to talk about the Heartland Interstate Strategy. I ask you to pray. Get in the car or the church van with your fellow deacons or pastors in your local area and drive the Interstate. Stop and pray. Take a team on mission with God to these cities. Adopt a partner. Coach/mentor a church planter.
The Lord is moving and working among Missouri Baptists. Let’s join Him in the journey.