New year means resolutions for church life
I am writing this column on the evening of New Year’s day—Jan. 1, 2009. With every new year comes the opportunity for reflection and resolution. I am doing some of both tonight.
Now STOP! Don’t quit reading just yet.
I know that many of you hate New Year’s resolutions. I’m with you—although “hate” is a bit of a strong word. Still, I stopped making formal New Year’s resolutions years ago—right after I broke my last one within the first few days of the new year. But, while I am not a “New Year’s resolution” kind of guy, I do appreciate the opportunity for a fresh start. I hope you do too.
2009 is an opportunity for a fresh start for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). And a cursory look at 2008 suggests that Missouri Baptists stand in great need of a fresh start in 2009. I told you before that the effectiveness of the church can be measured by analyzing the five functions of the church—evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, missions and worship.
Every area of Missouri Baptist church life could use a fresh start.
Evangelism—Missouri Baptists are ready for a fresh start in evangelism. Some of you recall that the number of baptisms in MBC churches was lower in 2007 than it has been in many years. We are anxious for another opportunity to evangelize the Show-Me state.
Let me return again to something I said to you at the 2008 annual meeting of the MBC. I told you then, that in Missouri-Southern Baptist life, we are too often counting the wrong things. Perhaps the most often touted statistic in Southern Baptist life is the number of baptisms. That is not the most important statistic. It is an important number and a result of the most important statistic. But the most important and the most revealing statistic is the low number of times that Missouri Baptists share the Gospel. We have not been commanded to save anyone. Indeed, we have no ability to save anyone. But we have been commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples”. We have been commanded to simply share the Gospel.
What do you think would happen if every Missouri Baptist resolved to share the Gospel at least once a week—even once a month—in 2009? I am convinced that the number of baptisms in our Missouri Baptist churches would increase dramatically.
I resolve to be a faithful witness in 2009.
Discipleship—in the Missouri Baptist Convention, we are continuing our trip toward church health. I am convinced that the road to genuine church health is paved with disciple making—genuine disciple making. May I give you a picture of what I hope we will become in 2009. To employ an old show-me phrase, I want Missouri Baptists to meet themselves “coming and going” in 2009. I am praying that Missouri Baptists will become spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I resolve to be a disciple maker in 2009.
Fellowship—surely you will agree with me when I say that there is a great need in Missouri Baptist life to begin again in the area of fellowship. You may remember that the theme of the 2008 MBC annual meeting was Restoring Fellowship, Reaching People? Again, a statement I made to the convention gathered in St. Louis last October remains true, that “… as Christians, we have an obligation to restore fellowship, [and that] … we will not reach people until we do indeed restore fellowship.” 2009 offers Missouri Baptists a unique opportunity to apply Romans 12:18 to Missouri Baptist life and restore genuine Christian fellowship to our convention. Will we do it? The Bible says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” You have to notice that the verse does not say—depending on the way that others treat you, or depending on how you feel about what has happened in the convention, or unless someone has attacked you personally. The verse says—rather that verse requires, “… as much as depends on you,” live in peace with all Missouri Baptists.
I resolve to be a peacemaker in 2009.
Missions—a worthy goal in 2009 is for all Missouri Baptist churches and for every individual Missouri Baptist to be involved in reaching Missouri and the world for Christ. Your MBC offers opportunities for missions involvement within the Show-Me state, a North American missions partnership in Colorado, and an international missions partnership in El Salvador. When your church is ready to be personally involved in missions, Rick Hedger, your new MBC partnership missions specialist, is ready to show you the way.
But not every MBC church has the resources to be involved in out-of-state and/or overseas missions. But every MBC church has the opportunity to be involved in worldwide missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program. The current MBC Cooperative Program/Stewardship MBC promotion is called “10 Again.” Imagine the resources that would be available to your church if every member was a tithing member. Your church would be in a position to change your community. “10 Again.” The average Southern Baptist church used to give 10 percent-plus through the Cooperative Program. In fact, back in 1985, the average MBC church gave 14.3 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program. In 2008 the average was approximately half the 1985 average. And, when every Missouri Baptist Convention church becomes a tithing church again, literally millions of dollars would be available to reach Missouri and the world for Christ. What if we all determine to do “10 Again” in 2009? We could change the world.
I resolve to be passionately involved in missions in 2009.
Worship—some of the finest worship leaders that Missouri Baptist churches have to offer, the Missouri Music Men, recently participated in a mission trip to El Salvador. They sang. They led in worship. They shared the love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those Missouri Baptist worship leaders proved again the truth of Romans 12:1 that genuine worship culminates in Christian service. The New International Version of the Bible says it this way—“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Surely that is what Jesus had in mind when He said “… the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”.
I resolve to worship in Spirit and in truth in 2009.
Missouri Baptists—the new year is a new opportunity for a fresh start. Would you resolve, with me, to make the most of it for the glory of God?