Can we impact our state and nation?
I have a book titled “Famous Last Words of Saints & Sinners.” There are many very interesting final words expressed by people as the summary of a lifetime. But none is more important than the final words of our Lord Jesus on this earth. In His final words, He gave us the summary of His life’s work and our most important responsibility “… make disciples of all nations (‘panta ta ethne’ – people groups), baptizing them … teaching them…,” Matt. 28:19. You may be reading this and say to yourself, “So what else is new?” and you are right, this is one of the first and most often repeated lessons taught in every Southern Baptist church.
As this command is not a new revelation to us, how do we strategically implement this purpose? May I further suggest that the primary purpose of your convention staff is to walk alongside the churches to implement this strategic purpose of taking the gospel to every people group of Missouri’s 5.5 million population and beyond?
The first century church in Acts lived out this command and the result was a progression of growth from one hundred twenty (Acts 1:15) to three thousand (Acts 2:41) and more. The growth records are so great that in Acts 16:5 it finally says, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.” They stopped counting individual conversions and started counting the numbers of churches. Churches were added daily.
With this backdrop, how then do we strategically work to take the Gospel to every people group in our state? I believe the answer to this is new mission churches.
Just over 10 years ago, one of our smaller and newer sister conventions, Penn-South Jersey, struggled with their effectiveness in reaching Pennsylvania and South Jersey with the Gospel. Ten years ago, that convention made one strategic ministry decision that has revolutionized their Kingdom impact. That decision was to make church planting a priority. What has happened in the last ten years?
Some graphs, provided to me by the Penn-South Jersey Convention, tell the story. This first graph shows you the number of churches in their convention.
If you do a bit of math, you will note that this convention averaged adding about 4.5 new churches per year from 1985 to 1995. In the last ten years they have added an average of 14.6 new churches per year.
Although not a perfect system, in Southern Baptist Convention life the way we measure how effective we are in reaching the lost with the Gospel of Christ is through our baptism numbers. The question the Penn-South Jersey convention asked themselves was, “As a convention, after ten years of focused attention on starting new churches, how effective are we at reaching the lost for Christ?” I think this next graph will answer that question.
Baptisms for the entire convention jumped from 1,180 in 1995 to 4,437 in 2005. The churches that existed prior to 1995 increased in baptisms as well. But the churches that were ten years old or less baptized 2,943 souls of the total 4,437. The new churches produced two-thirds of all the baptisms of the entire convention. In the summary picture, total membership and total baptisms all grew. Much growth came from churches planted in the cities with new African-American congregations. The Penn-South Jersey Convention is beginning to impact their region for the Kingdom. This region of the United States is not part of what we think of as the Bible-belt either.
When I saw this report from the Penn-South Jersey Convention, I was greatly encouraged. It took them years to realize their dreams, but to see the overall effectiveness of this convention of churches is a blessing. It can happen here too. Wouldn’t you be excited to see our convention’s baptisms and growth become this dynamic? I would.
We have huge pockets of people in Missouri of every ethnicity and culture (“panta ta ethne – people groups”) you can imagine that need to be reached. Just a few of them include African-American, Bosnian Muslims, Chinese, Hispanic, Korean, Filipino, Bikers, the Cowboy culture, Anglo and many more. How can we reach these people groups? We can reach them with new churches. Wouldn’t it be exciting to dream of a day when the Missouri Baptist Convention itself becomes an Acts 16:5 convention by seeing a new church added everyday by Missouri Baptists … somewhere in this world. It has happened in the Florida Baptist Convention.
Be encouraged, our state can be reached with the Gospel message. It was Jesus who said that we are to “make disciples of all the nations (panta ta ethne – people groups), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” We are to be about our Father’s business. Will you join us in this great Kingdom journey? Would your church be willing to not only give to the Cooperative Program, but directly partner with a new church in work, specific prayer and support? If so, call our Director of Church Planting, Jerry Field at (800) 736-6227 ext. 610 to explore the endless possibilities. Your church may want to adopt an unreached people group right here in Missouri.