Raising the cross across the state of Missouri
In one of his sermons, Billy Graham told the story of a patrolman on night duty in a town in northern England. As he walked the streets, he heard a quivering sob. Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he saw a little boy in the shadows sitting on a door step and tears were running down his cheek. The child said, “I’m lost. Please take me home.” The patrolman began naming street after street, trying to help the boy remember where he lived. He named the shops and the hotels in the area but the little boy could give him no clue. Then he remembered that at the center of the town there was a church with a large white cross that towered above the rest of the city. The policeman pointed to the cross and said, “Do you live anywhere near that place?” The little boy’s face immediately brightened up. He said, “Yes, sir. Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.”
That story, in one way or another, summarizes the salvation testimony of every believer. Someone took us to the cross, and we found our way to be at home with God. Jesus promised that would happen when he said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” He was lifted up to that cross as the sinless substitute for guilty sinners. Through the ages, countless millions have been drawn to Him and received pardon for their sins, and eternal life. Life without Christ is a hopeless end; but life with Christ is an endless hope. And it all began with someone taking us to His Cross.
There is a growing excitement throughout the Southern Baptist community over the new National Evangelism Initiative that was introduced by North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond at the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention. The initiative, launched under the banner of “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS), consists of four areas of focus – praying, engaging, sowing and harvesting. The goal of the initiative is stated in its vision statement, “Every believer sharing, every person hearing by 2020.”
The goal of the initiative is to challenge all believers to pursue lost people in their community with the Gospel. Believers will be trained to pray for lost people, engage lost people with the Gospel, sow into the lost the need for salvation, and work to seek to reach the lost in their communities. The intent of GPS is to raise the cross across America, 2010 – 2020, with 2009 being the pilot year. Thirty-seven Missouri Baptists, from each region of our state, met earlier this month, to contextualize GPS for Missouri. Their input will be made available to all later this year. Meanwhile, our 2009 emphasis will be raising the cross across Missouri. There are three action steps I want us to take in this pilot year. #1 – February through April, let’s intercede, invite, and then celebrate. This means praying for the lost of our communities. This can include corporate praying (worship and prayer meeting), small group praying (prayer triplets), and personal praying (using the 3:16 cards), as well as community praying (prayer walking). Invite means just that – inviting people to come to your church Easter, April 12. A survey in 2008 reported that 80 percent of unchurched people in America said they would attend an Easter service if someone invited them. Let’s do it. Two weeks after Easter, April 26, we are asking every Missouri Baptist Church to celebrate what God has done by baptizing new converts.
#2 – Aug. 29, the Missouri Baptist Convention will celebrate its 175th anniversary. Use some of the ideas in the Transformers I and II Manuals as special events during the summer, have a Harvest Sunday coinciding with the beginning of the school year, and, Sunday, Aug. 30, let’s celebrate what God has done this summer as well as in these 175 years, with every Missouri Baptist church baptizing new converts.
#3 – Oct. 4 designate as soul-winning commitment day, asking every member to commit themselves to win at least one person to Christ in the new church year. Have a high attendance day in Sunday School, Nov, 1. Then, Nov. 22, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, celebrate God’s salvation in many lives with every Missouri Baptist church baptizing.
Take me to the cross!
I believe that is the unspoken plea in the hearts of the majority of those in Missouri. Let’s be faithful to take the message of the cross that has been shared with us, to those around us in 2009. (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)