We’re back – finally.
After a long while – I hope not too long – we return to our discussion concerning the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) vision statement. Do you remember the statement? We are looking for Missouri Baptists to become spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the earlier articles we have seen that spiritually healthy Christians are:
• devoted to personal discipleship through daily devotions;
• holy in their lifestyle;
• passionate witnesses for Christ;
• in love with the Lord’s church.
We also noted that the Lord’s church is a healthy church, that is:
• filled with spiritually healthy Christians;
• a church where genuine Christian fellowship is experienced;
• where the truth of Scripture is taught and lived;
• a church with a Kingdom focus;
• a church in which the Great Commission is preeminent.
We’re still trying to determine what it means to be spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ. The earlier two articles attempted to explain the first two segments of the vision statement through a rerun of some even earlier Pathway columns. But I want us to take a fresh look as we seek to describe both the unhealthy world and the healing Gospel.
In my 2009 convention message, when we came to a discussion of the unhealthy world, I made the statement and asked the question, “Surely, I don’t need to say much at this point. Is there really anyone who doesn’t understand that we live in an unhealthy world?” It is true that little explanation is needed at this point. It may, however, be beneficial.
Everywhere we look there are signs that we live in an unhealthy world. A couple of weeks ago I heard another preacher tell about a police standoff in Los Angeles. For more than eight hours the police were held at bay by one woman. Several times during the day, the woman showed herself and the five children who were with her. Just as often, she fired several shots at the police who were trying to talk her out of the house and rescue her children. Finally, after an eight hour standoff, the police stormed the house, saved the children and took the woman alive. During the interrogation, the police learned the reason for the supposed hostage situation. The woman was upset simply because she didn’t have a job and she couldn’t afford day-care for her children. We live in an insane world.
But, not only in Los Angeles. In Laddonia, Mo., recently one man held police off for fourteen hours while holding his wife and one son hostage. Later, we learned that he had already involved another of his sons in his crime. The news reports had an eerie look when they showed pictures of the father and son team that has been charged with murder and the desecration of a corpse. Clearly, we live in a sick, unhealthy world.
The fact that we live in an unhealthy world became abundantly clear to those of us that live in mid-Missouri with the recent news of a nine year old girl who was murdered by another girl, her fifteen year old neighbor. The accused killer has admitted to the crime. And, her stated reason for killing? “Just to see what it feels like.” We live in an unspeakably, horribly unhealthy world.
But, can the Gospel really change the world? Yes it can—and it does so, one heart at a time. Going back again to my convention message, we said then that the healing Gospel changes individuals, families, even communities.
Specifically, we said that the Gospel will change your conscience—the way you think. To accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you will need to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. And, when Jesus is your Lord and Master, you will think differently than you did before you became a Christian.
We said, too, that the Gospel will change your character—the way you act. Makes sense doesn’t it? Because your thinking has been changed, your actions also will be different. As you begin to think Christ-like thoughts, you will begin to act in a more Christ-like way.
And, as your church is filled with changed people, your church also will be a changed church. Your church will be a more Christ-like church. Your church will have the passion of Jesus Christ to reach the world beginning at home. And, the result will be a changed community.
Perhaps the least understood—maybe even the most controversial statement coming from the 2009 Executive Director’s address was/is my contention that community change ought to be our criteria for measuring success in our churches. By way of illustration, I mentioned that the divorce rate in our churches and in the community would go down when the church and community are changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I further stated that the crime rate in our neighborhoods would decrease when people in the community are changed by the power of the Gospel. Theoretically, I alleged that the church wouldn’t have to march around as many abortion clinics when a changed church is changing the community. Those are all pictures of the change that is possible through the power of the Gospel.
Still, several people have asked “How do you measure community change?” And, admittedly that is the most difficult part. The MBC Organizational Study Group and your MBC Staff are working hard to establish some markers to help in that endeavor. But recall church history. In the days of the Great Awakening in America, taverns had to be closed down in the communities that were affected by the revival because people who had been changed by the power of the Gospel changed their lifestyle choices.
Yes, it will be difficult to measure. Your MBC Staff along with the Organizational Study Group is grappling with that very issue. Please. Pray for us as we continue to look for legitimate ways to measure our effectiveness. But, here’s what we know already. Changed people change churches, even entire communities. And, when that happens, we will have become spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please, Lord, let it be.