Understanding that the GCR Task Force Report is up front of the minds of many Missouri Baptists, I felt that I should alert you to the fact that I will be publishing my response to the GCR Task Force Progress in my next Pathway article. I want my response to be measured, thoughtful, truthful and filled with grace. For those reasons, I want to take some additional time to put my thoughts together. Right now, let’s focus on Missouri-Southern Baptists and how we can fulfill the Great Commission in the Show-Me state.
Spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what Missouri Baptists are seeking to become. By now you have heard that vision statement, and we have given ample time and ink to explaining what that looks like.
But, how will we get there?
That is the issue your Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) staff sought to deal with in our recent annual Staff Advance. I guess I should pause long enough to explain that we don’t have an annual Staff Retreat at the MBC, because we are not in a “retreat” mode. We are “advancing” the Kingdom of God—so, just a couple of weeks ago, we held our annual Staff Advance. And, our focus at Staff Advance 2010 was a discussion of how each MBC ministry area relates to and seeks to fulfill the Vision Statement.
To help in that process, I introduced the staff to another statement. This one is our MBC Executive Board Staff Purpose Statement: The MBC Executive Board Staff exists to encourage and enable MBC churches to live out the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31) and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Let me explain that statement.
Living out the Great Commandment includes loving the Lord with everything you have and all that you are. Living out the Great Commandment also includes loving your neighbor as yourself, including fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. The New King James version (NKJV) of the Bible says that Mark 12:29-31 is the first commandment. Other translations call it the foremost commandment. Some translations say that it is the most important commandment. The Amplified Bible says “…This is the first and principal commandment”.
Apparently, the most important thing Missouri Baptist churches can do is to live out the Great Commandment, including genuine Christian fellowship. Genuine Christian fellowship includes accountability. Accountability involves discipline—church discipline. For too long, Missouri-Southern Baptists have ignored this important Biblical teaching. Church discipline should always be a rare thing in our churches. But, for genuine church health to exist in our MBC churches, discipline must sometimes be administered Biblically, thoughtfully, tenderly, compassionately—never punitively. Your MBC Staff is searching for the best curriculum available to help Missouri Baptist churches with the application of Biblical church discipline. We want to help you restore fellowship in the life of your church. Additionally, whenever the staff is called on to assist in a church conflict situation, we will begin by considering the spiritual issues that may have led to or are perpetuating the conflict. We want to be very intentional in assisting Missouri Baptist churches to become healthy in living out the Great Commandment.
As we do, we will also be fulfilling the Great Commission. In fact, an authentic commitment to the Great Commission will always begin with a full commitment to the Great Commandment. To fulfill the Great Commission Missouri Baptists will have to be about the business of making genuine disciples.
During the Executive Director’s address, at the last annual meeting, I stated that, “…for health to come to many of our Missouri Baptist churches, there are some Missouri Baptists who are going to have to get saved. Genuinely saved. Lordship salvation type saved.” Time constraints did not allow me to elaborate on that statement in that message.
Let’s talk about it now.
Lordship salvation is a concept I first heard as a student in Dallas Baptist University. There was something of a debate going on at that time in Southern Baptist life between those who encourage marking decisions and others who emphasize genuinely making disciples. The catch phrase that often marked the debate was the following statement, sometimes heard in our churches; “…I made Jesus my Savior when I was a child, but now I have made Him my Lord.” I submit to you that declaration is not a scripturally-based testimony. Romans 10:9-10 declares “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It is not possible for Jesus Christ to be your Savior and not also be your Lord. Does that mean that, suddenly, you will live a life of sinless perfection? Certainly not. But it does mean that when you trust Jesus for your salvation, you simultaneously take Him as your Lord. You become a true and committed disciple—a learner, a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
In the past, Missouri-Southern Baptists have been involved in some outreach ministries designed to provoke decisions, rather than produce disciples. Too often, we have been guilty of utilizing evangelism techniques that promote an “easy believism” over a genuine commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. No more.
What does all this mean to your MBC staff? It means that, in the future, we will produce and/or promote programs, ministries and training that teach making disciples over marking decisions. As well, it means that we will not produce or promote programs, ministries and training that lead to empty pledges coming from insincere promises.
Healthy Christians live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission. They “…love the Lord…with all [their] heart…soul…mind, and…strength.” And, they demonstrate their love through righteous living. Again, that does not mean that we will live in sinless perfection. It does mean that we will be the people of God who are in the process of becoming like Jesus Christ as described in Ephesians 5:1-2. We call it sanctification. “Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…” results in God’s people living holy lives.
Our current Church Health emphasis requires that we ensure that our Missouri Baptist churches are filled with genuinely saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified and fully surrendered people of God. Walking an aisle and taking the preacher by the hand doesn’t change a life. Church membership does not save. Baptism cannot change a life. Only genuine conversion, through regeneration, following Biblical repentance and full commitment to the Savior, will renew your heart and change your life.
Am I saying that we will no longer place a high priority on baptism? Of course not! I am, in fact, convinced that as God’s people begin to live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission, the number of baptisms will increase and those we baptize will be found still serving the Lord in our Missouri Baptist churches years from today.
Your MBC Staff exists to encourage and enable MBC churches to live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission. As we do that together, we will surely become spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lord, let it be!