SPRINGFIELD – To promote forward thinking, Neil Franks looked back.
Franks, pastor of First Baptist, Branson, gave the president’s address at this year’s Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting, using a cleverly-filmed video and a throwback to his high school days to drive home his point.
The video showed a man walking forward on a street, while the world moved in reverse around him. But then Franks showed the video the way it was filmed: the man walked backwards; he, not the people and objects around him, were moving in reverse.
“Our world is convinced they are moving forward … and making progress,” Franks said. “You and I, not thinking critically, begin to agree with them. We think we must go backwards. …
“It puts us in an uneasy and an untenable position. Churches become conservatories rather than places of advancement.”
In reality, Franks said, the world is moving backward, “to days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and to the tower of Babel and to the days before the flood.” In contrast, the church is called to press forward for the sake of the gospel
“We’re not here to preserve some past kingdom,” Franks said. “We’re here to advance a godly kingdom, a heavenly kingdom.”
We’re not here to preserve some past kingdom. We’re here to advance a godly kingdom, a heavenly kingdom. – Neil Franks
Preaching from Philippians 3:13-14, Franks explained that the apostle Paul once struggled to hold onto the past, trying to stomp out Christianity. But then “a heavenly light came” upon him and transformed him forever. “My hope is the heavenly light will dawn on us this evening,” Franks said.
From the time of his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul “reached forward … and pressed toward the goal,” Franks said. In doing so, as Philippians 3:13 states, he had to forget “the things which are behind.”
“The church today cannot be “living or longing for…the past,” Franks said. The past includes failure, sin, and mistakes, but also successes, accomplishments, and triumphs.
To demonstrate, Franks donned his high school drum major letter jacket, admitting he looked “cool” in high school, but now at age 44, looked ”ridiculous.”
“Yet so many of us with our churches … and our methodology … the way we approach ministry, we think it is the coolest thing in the world. They say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ We need to move forward so people will not miss the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has to be Christ honoring. It means never going back to a (pre-salvation) time.”
“It won’t be easy,” Franks added. “That’s why verse 14 says ‘straining.’” But forward thinking is key “because the gospel demands it.”
“If we don’t get a response for the very things we used to do, it’s not their (lost people’s) fault,” Franks said.
“Every challenge is me seeing how God is growing me into his likeness to become who he designed me to be. At the end of this life, we won’t take our church or pastor, but we will stand in front of God and give an accounting.
“These are great days to be alive and follow Jesus. The social capital it will cost in the days to come will weed out some people. What will be left of the true church of God is to press forward to the high calling of our salvation. May we as Missouri Baptists move forward.”