August 2019

Baptismal pool not a museum piece

August 23 2019 by Marshal Ausberry

One of the beautiful things I like about Washington, D.C., is the number of museums located in the city. There are all kinds of museums: the Air & Space Museum, the Newseum, the National Archives Building & Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Museum of the American Indian, Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Bible Museum. This list is just a small sampling of the wonderful museums in Washington, D.C.

Museums typically tell of the past, of how life used to be. In the church we never want there to be a Baptism Museum. In too many churches, the baptismal pool (or wherever you baptize) has become a museum artifact.

 

Marshal Ausberry


Baptism is not a relic of the ancient past – baptism is an essential part of today’s church. For Christians, baptism was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ for His church, and mandated in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

The filling of the baptism pool with water is a tremendous reminder to the church of the message we are called to remember. We baptize believers!

As we pray that God would grant every church an increase, filling the baptism pool is also a step of faith, believing that God is the one who grows His church. We are expressing our desire to be in step with God – creating an atmosphere in our churches that moves the congregation to be concerned about the lost, all the while looking to God for His mighty move that more men, women, boys and girls will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, I hope my fellow Southern Baptists will join in and fill their baptism pools with water, reminding the church of the commandment to baptize. Filling the baptism pool with water is a sermon in itself.

In order to baptize, we must evangelize! If we don’t evangelize, we don’t baptize! Baptizing and evangelizing are the right and left footsteps of the church – we need both to do what Jesus commands us to do.

My friends, we don’t like to hear bad news, but if you read the statistics, our report card shows a steady decline in baptisms. Therefore, we can’t just stand by and allow our baptism pools to remain empty. If our baptism pools remain empty, then we are not winning souls to Christ.

I encourage you to fill your baptism pool with water on Sept. 8 as a reminder that our baptism pools do not belong in a museum as a relic of an ancient past, but they belong to the living church of Jesus Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marshal Ausberry is the first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention; president of the National African American Fellowship; and senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. Sept. 8 is Baptism Day in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday.)

See related:
Floyd: Special baptism day lives, breathes Gospel urgency
Hunt: Baptism: A sign of obedience to Christ
Greear: Why Baptism Sunday?
8/23/2019 10:59:49 AM by Marshal Ausberry | with 0 comments



Special baptism day lives, breathes Gospel urgency

August 20 2019 by Ronnie Floyd

A special day of baptism will set your church on fire. There is nothing like the joy of baptizing a person who has been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.

On Sept. 8, our 2019 Baptism Sunday, we are asking every Southern Baptist church to do everything they can to have a special day for baptizing new believers in Jesus Christ. We must recapture the culture of the early church. Those early believers were baptized immediately upon their response to trust and follow Jesus as their Lord.

One way we can begin creating and living and breathing a culture of gospel urgency is to make much of this nationwide, coordinated celebration of believer’s baptism. The testimony of baptism is so powerful that no one can deny its authenticity. The testimony of life change that is lived out before the church through baptism leads a church to celebrate what God is doing. It reminds the church of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cross Church photo



Above everything else, we must again become a convention of churches that believes PEOPLE NEED JESUS and PEOPLE NEED JESUS NOW.

Pastor, begin this Sunday in your church, calling people to join you in the waters of baptism on Sunday, Sept. 8. On that day, do not delegate baptizing to another or to an associate pastor, but you do the baptizing. Make it special. Passionately appeal these next three Sundays for people to follow Jesus in salvation and also into the baptism waters in obedience to Christ.

This kind of encouragement is not only believing the Gospel; it is living and breathing the Gospel with a deep sense of urgency. Be more intentional than ever to do this. If we believe the Gospel transforms lives, then we need to preach like it, lead like it, and extend to people the opportunity to be baptized before His church as followers of Jesus.

Pastor, study who is coming to your church that is not a member of your church. Focus on this group now and do your best to inform them of your desire for them to follow Jesus personally. If they have already confessed Christ privately, challenge them to make Sept. 8 their special day to identify with Christ openly and join your fellowship through baptism.

Southern Baptist leaders of all kinds, whether volunteers or employees, we must begin resetting our strategies and decision-making processes as leaders who live and breathe gospel urgency. Spreading the Gospel is what each Christian is to do – wherever we are, whatever our vocation, or our location, our age, or our stage of life may be. That is what each Christian is to do and that’s what Jesus tells us to do. As a network of churches, we cannot play it safe, nor can we move in slow motion in a fast-changing, real-time world.

Pastors and all preachers of God’s Word, when you preach the Word of God and then extend the call for people to come to Jesus Christ, do so with your hearts on fire, living and breathing gospel urgency!

How amazing it would be if we saw more people baptized on a single Sunday on Sept. 8 than ever before! Let’s call on people over the next few weeks to lay aside their fears and submit to the waters of baptism, celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of their Lord and Savior!

We are known as Baptists because we believe baptism is an outward picture of an inward change of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We also believe that baptism is a joyous celebration by the whole church that another child has been born into the family of God. It is a visible sign of our spiritual union with Christ!

Spiritually and strategically, we need a major reset. We must take our commitment to “Living and Breathing Gospel Urgency” higher than ever before. Presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations is our mission.

It is time for Southern Baptists to come home: We need to come home to evangelism! This is who we are and what we are about.

I urge every church across our nation to pray, work, and witness between now and Sept. 8, and then stand back and see what the Lord will do in our midst!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday-resources/.)
8/20/2019 11:15:33 AM by Ronnie Floyd | with 0 comments



Baptism: A sign of obedience to Christ

August 16 2019 by Johnny Hunt, NAMB

To me, when I study the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, it appears that baptism is the first act of obedience a believer takes after they are saved. It is so important because it is the first time individuals will share about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and they do so without ever opening their mouths!
 

Baptism serves as a witness to others who need to be obedient to Christ’s command, and it shares the gospel with those who have yet to believe because baptism is a physical representation of how Jesus saves us.
 
One of my favorite baptism stories in the New Testament begins in Acts 8, verse 26. Philip is called by the Spirit to leave a major movement of God in the city of Samaria in order to intersect in divine providence with one person – the Ethiopian eunuch.
 
Philip sees him sitting in his chariot. The eunuch had likely been to Jerusalem and participated in worship, but undoubtedly, all of his questions had not been answered. So, when Philip approaches and sees him reading one of the most prominent messianic passages from the Old Testament, Isaiah 53, he asks the eunuch, “Do you understand what you read?” The man responds, “How can I except somebody help me?
 
As pastors, we are trying to help our people be obedient to Jesus. Christ said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Baptism is not an option. It’s a command. When we encourage our people to be baptized, we are encouraging them to obey Christ’s commands, not ours.
 
There are many questions that I’ve answered throughout my ministry. How old should a person be? Why be baptized? Will baptism get you into heaven? These are good questions, but at the end of the day, we are commanded by Jesus to be baptized.
 
It only stands to reason that if I’ve said yes to Christ as Lord, where does the “no” fit into that equation? How can a person who has trusted Jesus say to Him, “No, Lord?”
 
To go back to the Ethiopian eunuch, when he and Philip came across a body of water, he asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” Based on a simple confession about Jesus in response to the gospel, Philip went down to the water and baptized him.
 
I don’t know that the eunuch knew much more than his simple confession that Jesus is the Son of God and that Christ saved him from his sin before Philip baptized him. I think, sometimes, we may be too hard on new believers as to what we think they should understand.
 

FBC Woodstock photo

They must understand they are a sinner and that – based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – Jesus Christ died for sin and for sinners according to the scripture, that He was buried and raised from the dead on the third day. That is the gospel.
 
In baptism, we are declaring the gospel to the congregation and testifying to the fact that we have already received it. Why shouldn’t we give new believers the opportunity to obey Christ and follow through with baptism immediately after they have responded to the gospel?
 
As pastor at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., we held a service where we allowed people to respond in obedience through spontaneous baptism. Dozens of people came forward that Sunday, and there was such a spirit of celebration in the room that no one wanted to leave.
 
This Baptism Sunday, Sept. 8, our church will be hosting a similar service again. We will have extra gowns, shorts, t-shirts and towels – even extra hair dryers – and we will tell people, “You can come right now and enter the baptismal waters.”
 
Now, none of them will do so without sharing a clear testimony with a trained counselor. Some who come forward may not have that testimony of being transformed by Christ yet, but we also know that there are many who need to be obedient. They know what they need to do. They just need the opportunity to respond in obedience to the Lord.
 
Pastor, I want to encourage you to lead your church to do something similar. At First Baptist Woodstock, we are so expectant that we will bring in a second, portable baptismal pool. Regardless of the size of your church, I believe you will be amazed by the number of people who will come forward when you share the gospel and call for obedience to God’s command to be baptized.
 
The night I was converted, many years ago, if they had told me to be baptized that night, I would have been delighted to do so. While they did baptize me the very next Sunday night, I think we often forget the joy a new believer has and their desire to obey their new Savior.
 
Whether it’s new converts who come forward or whether it’s people in your church who have not followed through with the biblical model of believer’s baptism, this coming Baptism Sunday provides the avenue for what could be a special time of celebration of what Christ has done to save sinners.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Johnny Hunt serves as the senior vice president of Evangelism and Leadership at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Prior to joining NAMB, Hunt pastored First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., for 33 years. Baptist Press will be releasing a series of columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Day in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/16/2019 12:10:35 PM by Johnny Hunt, NAMB | with 0 comments



The power of belonging

August 15 2019 by Darrick Smith, BSC

What is every college student on your campus looking for? What is their deepest desire – the thing that they long for? What is the thing that often drives their decisions? Oftentimes, it’s the desire to belong.
 

In the fall of 2002 I was headed to North Carolina Central University to begin my college career. I hadn’t spent much time away from my family, so I was anxious about being on my own for four years. One of my deepest concerns was about making new friends. When classes began, I immediately noticed how others dressed, how they talked, and what they valued. Slowly, I began to adapt. I would develop a new set of values and motivations based off of what I saw around me, and if that didn’t work out, then I would just adapt again.
 

A desire to belong


Deep within me was a desire to be in a community with people who accepted me the way I was. I wanted a place where I could just breathe and be the real me – a place where I didn’t have to cover up my weaknesses. I wanted a place where my flaws, imperfections and insecurities would be accepted. I wanted to belong. I wanted authentic community. I wanted a family, and as a student, I wanted this from those on my campus.
 
This is common for many college students across the world. They want to belong – and they can.
 
So, in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others,” (Romans 12:5).
 

A desire for community


College ministries have something other organizations on campus don’t – the ability to create gospel-centered community. These ministries can be a place where believers come together and find strength, love, hope, accountability and correction. It can be a place where shame is swallowed up by the grace that others extend – a place where needs are met. College students can find a place where the people of God can thrive as they seek to follow Jesus and spur others on toward maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28). College ministries offer students a place to belong.
 
Scripture reveals to us that God’s desire from the beginning of time was to create a family (Genesis 1:28). He desired to create a community where everyone belongs – both to Him and to one another. It pleased the Father to create mankind to exist in fellowship with Him and with others. Through Christ, believers have a place to belong. They not only have a place to belong for the sake of just belonging, but a place to belong with a mission. God doesn’t invite us into community to merely co-exist, but rather, to live out the truths of His Word together.
 

A desire for the mission of God


Almost every organization on a college campus has a mission. The people who seek to belong to that organization are seeking to carry out its mission. Collegiate ministries and churches have a great opportunity to create a space for students to belong, but also to instruct them how to live on mission for God. This is an opportunity to create community that reminds students of the good news of the gospel and what it means for their lives.
 
As you seek to reach college students this year, remember that you have a great opportunity to invite students into community. You have an opportunity to paint a picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus – to belong to a family that seeks to obey Christ and follow His mission for the glory of God.
 
For help implementing a college ministry at your church, please contact the Collegiate Partnerships team.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Darrick Smith is a senior consultant with the collegiate partnerships team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. This article was originally published at ncbaptist.org.)

8/15/2019 12:31:45 PM by Darrick Smith, BSC | with 0 comments



Why Baptism Sunday?

August 13 2019 by J.D. Greear

For several years now, I have been greatly burdened by the declining number of baptisms across the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe the baptism numbers serve as one of the best indicators of evangelism in our churches. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and that means that proclaiming the gospel is the core of who we are – not only as Southern Baptists, but most importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

That’s why I’m challenging every Southern Baptist church to call for baptisms in services on Sept. 8th, the date our SBC Executive Committee has designated as “Baptism Day” on the SBC Calendar.
 
Baptism Sunday will be an opportunity for thousands of people in our churches to take their step of obedience and faith. Many of them already know they should be baptized, and you can schedule baptism celebrations in advance. Other people in your churches may decide on Sept. 8th that God is calling them to those same baptismal waters.
 
I know that conversations about immediate-response baptism services tend to draw some objections, many of which are grounded in healthy concern about encouraging insincere professions of faith. Trust me, I understand the concerns: I have seen dangerous and irresponsible calls for spontaneous baptisms. God forbid that we ever declare someone “saved” when they aren’t. Not only does this give them false assurance, but it also makes them that much more immune to future calls to repent and believe.
 
Our fear of extending these invitations wrongly, though, should never make us shy away from making the invitations at all. After all, every single baptism recorded in the New Testament, without exception, is spontaneous and immediate. For New Testament believers, the pattern was alarmingly simple: Believe, confess, get baptized. There was never a gap between when a person trusted Christ and when that person was baptized. Not one.
 
This follows the example of Jesus’ Great Commission: “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is a believer’s first act of discipleship, a step of obedience that stands as a witness that we belong to Christ.
 
Baptism is like the wedding ring of salvation. I put on my wedding ring at the moment I decided to publicly declare my commitment to my wife. Putting on the ring did not make me married. I am no more married when I wear my ring than when I don’t. But the demonstration of my commitment to my wife that the ring represents was a crucial first step in marriage. Had I refused to do it, my wife would have had reason to question my intentions.
 

The Summit Church photo

In the same way, baptism is an outward symbol of an inward covenant we’ve made in response to Jesus’ offer of salvation.
 
Every one of our churches ought to do everything in its power to ensure that everyone who comes forward to be baptized understands the gospel and the significance of what they are doing. Just because the decision is more immediate doesn’t mean it should be hasty or sloppy. During baptism services at our church, for instance, we individually counsel every person who comes forward. Those conversations take time – often extending into the next service – and we always end up turning some people away. But that moment is important, because it starts a conversation about what it means to follow Jesus.
 
Baptism is of tremendous importance, but we need to keep the biblical order in mind: Baptism is the catalyst to spiritual maturity, not the sign of having attained it.
 
When we invite people to be baptized, we are calling them to make a decision. That’s exactly what so many of our people need. They come to our churches as consumers, going along with Jesus but never deciding for Him.
 
This is personal for me. My dad became a Christian because he responded to an invitation in the middle of a church service. During the worship service, he didn’t think he needed to change. He thought everything was fine. But then one day the pastor called for a decision. It was one of those traditional invitations, too – the kind where they sing 58 stanzas of “Just As I Am.” Well, for my dad, that was the moment the Holy Spirit came after him. He knew in that moment that he had to make a decision. When he let go of the pew and walked forward, his life changed. 
 
Several years ago, our church chose to hold our first baptism service after we noticed the biblical pattern of spontaneous baptisms while preaching through a series in the book of Acts. Starting with that service, we saw three times more people choose to be baptized that year than we’d ever seen! I believe that’s because our church had been faithful in sharing the gospel, and we chose to be faithful in calling for a response to that good news.
 
I’ve been encouraged by the many stories of faithful evangelism in our denomination through initiatives like “Who’s Your One,” and I believe God is preparing a harvest of souls. Let’s faithfully call them to respond by publicly declaring faith through baptism!
 
For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday-resources/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. Baptist Press will be releasing a series of columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Day in the SBC.)

8/13/2019 11:50:26 AM by J.D. Greear | with 0 comments



5 reasons to support NCMO

August 9 2019 by Will Taylor, BSC Communications

Each year, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina places an emphasis on the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), a special offering that supports the ministries of N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), church planting, mission camps, associational projects and mobilization ministry projects.
 

NCMO is received during a special church emphasis each September, but contributions may be made at any time throughout the year. NCMO is an opportunity to impact lostness through various ministries that God uses to draw more people to Himself. The goal for this year’s offering is $2.1 million.
 
Following are five reasons your church should consider making a financial gift to NCMO.
NCMO is an opportunity to impact lostness through various ministries that God uses to draw more people to Himself.
 

Loving


Supporting NCMO accomplishes Kingdom work by [obeying] Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This year’s theme is “Known by Love” based on John 13:35 — “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, involves thousands of people in 18 different ministries such as disaster relief, agricultural missions, and dental and health screenings. NCBM sees the world’s lostness and brokenness and demonstrates compassion for others by meeting their physical needs, which builds bridges to meeting their spiritual needs as well.
 

Serving


NCMO supports two mission camps in North Carolina located in Robeson and Cleveland counties. These camps host men, women and student volunteers throughout the year. Your support of NCMO allows these volunteers to participate in service projects that range from patching a leaky roof to renovating a needy family’s home. Projects such as these serve as platforms for sharing the gospel.
 

Going


Each year, gifts to NCMO help mobilize thousands of volunteers for mission projects in North Carolina, the United States and around the world. For many, it’s their first opportunity to serve on a mission trip, and for others, God uses this opportunity to call them into a lifetime of service. Volunteers serve in a variety of ways all over the world in places like Armenia, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Romania and elsewhere.
 

Planting


One of the best ways to reach lost people is by establishing new churches, and gifts to NCMO go directly to church planting efforts in North Carolina. Since 2007, gifts to NCMO have helped start more than 1,000 churches across the state, averaging more than 100 new church plants annually. In 2018, new churches reported over 7,000 professions of faith.
 

Discipling


Every aspect of NCMO and the ministries it supports point to the overarching goal of making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, all of the money given to NCMO goes directly to funding ministry work locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Will you give so that others may know Jesus and become His disciple?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Will Taylor is a communications specialist with the BSC. This article was originally published at ncbaptist.org.)

8/9/2019 11:07:16 AM by Will Taylor, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Heaven will look like Walmart

August 8 2019 by Micheal Pardue

As my wife and I were shopping at Walmart, I noticed the diversity in the people around me. People with many shades of melanin. People from all around the world. People with heritages different from my own. As I observed them, my heart sank thinking of the tragedy at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, just two days before. Another community retail center with people from many parts of the world. A store full of people, shopping and enjoying their day, terrorized by hate.
 

It is simple to blame an act of terror that claimed more than 20 lives in Texas on political ideologies, video game violence, firearm availability, healthcare access or even the hatred inside the heart of the murderous terrorist that carried out this atrocity. The answer, spiritually speaking, runs much deeper.
 
These things happen because hell hates heaven. Hell hates that when I look around me and see people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9), I think about heaven. My heart rejoices knowing that God loves and redeems people from every skin tone and language group – hell shudders at the prospect.
 
I find great comfort knowing that no matter what hell unleashes on us – no matter what wickedness brings ugly terror – heaven will look a lot like Walmart. No bigotry or hate or racism can change heaven. Hell cannot prevail. Hell cannot overcome. The gospel of Christ will transform the hearts of people from every tribe and language and people and nation. People from every race will comprise the Kingdom of Christ. Hate can rage and hell can war, but they do so in desperation, not in victory.
 
When Christ’s Kingdom is complete, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This is the day I long for. This is the day I thought about as I strolled through Walmart.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is first vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastor of First Baptist Icard in Connelly Springs.)

8/8/2019 9:38:21 AM by Micheal Pardue | with 0 comments



The worth of work

August 5 2019 by Paul Kim

Most people wake up in the morning to go to work. During rush hour, cars are bumper-to-bumper while people on public transportation often are jammed-packed like sardines.
 

From the beginning of time, humans have labored for the development of civilization. It’s amazing to think about what human ingenuity and effort have produced – massive dams that produce electricity, bridges that span across waterways, endless highways, skyscrapers that reach for the stars, not to mention the breakneck pace of cutting-edge technological advances in medicine, communications, artificial intelligence and much more.
 
Where can we find the origin of work? Whose idea is this that man has to labor?
 
We read about it in Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” It was God’s command to Adam to work and be productive, as it was a reflection of God Himself, who worked for six days in creating the world and rested on the seventh day from all He had done (Genesis 2:2).
 
The heavens and the earth are proof of God’s divine work through His Word. We are mere stewards of His creation and we have the responsibility to maintain the beauty of His world. He is the creator and the owner of this world and it is a God-given privilege to live and to work in it.
 
It wasn’t until I immigrated to Hawaii from Korea in May 1967 that I experienced a hard day’s labor for a wage.
 
I found a summer job at a bakery where I started work at 4 a.m. The shop was less than a mile from our home on the same street. It was toward the center of town, a short distance from the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Since I had no previous work experience, everything was new to me. So whatever the chief baker told me to do, I obeyed his instruction. What a learning experience, my very first job in America.
 
And how proud I was to have earned my first paycheck. It was a different era then. My hourly wage was $1.20. For context, gas was only 32 cents per gallon, a first-class postage stamp was 6 cents, a brand-new car was only $3,000. Today’s youth would not believe my college tuition at the University of Hawaii at Hilo was just $114 per semester.
 

Submitted photo
Paul Kim, with his wife Rebekah, revisits the bakery where he first worked in 1967 after immigrating to Hawaii from Korea.

After that summer, as I thought about what I’d like to do for my future, I found myself wanting to volunteer for the Vietnam War, so I enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 in 1967. The Army sent me to Fort Ord, Calif., for basic combat training and advanced infantry training for 16 weeks. But instead of sending me to Vietnam, they transferred me to Fort Lewis, Wash., where I served as the artillery unit’s supply clerk for the remaining 19 months.
 
During those two years on active duty, I developed a life of discipline and a lifelong work ethic. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was preparing me for a future as an Army Reserve chaplain and a life in pastoral ministry.
 
Reflecting back as a pastor emeritus after 38 years of ministry, I see the guiding hand of God in every job I had beforehand.
 
In John 9:4, the Lord Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” I want to be able to finish the God-given task to be faithful to Him to the end and abide in the everlasting promise of God that our labor in the Lord will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.)

8/5/2019 11:36:39 AM by Paul Kim | with 0 comments



Why we must send more missionaries of color

August 2 2019 by Doug Logan

I grew up in historically black churches. I planted an inner-city church. Now I pastor a multi-ethnic congregation, and I work with planters in urban communities around the world. But I only know one black missionary serving on the field today.
 
Just one.
 

IMB file photo

According to recent estimates, African Americans comprise as few as 1 percent of international missionaries. As recently as 2013, in fact, only 27 of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 4,900 missionaries were black. Similar stats about the rarity of missionaries from other demographics are easy to find as well.
 
At this point, the conversation often veers toward discussing the historic causes of this disparity. Those are important, but I’m more interested in a way forward. For the glory of God and the sake of the nations, we need to send more missionaries of color to the world. I want to show you why we must and how we can.
 
But first we have to talk about who “we” is.
 

Wait. Who’s ‘we’?

 
I’m arguing that we need to send more missionaries of color to the world.
 
But many missionaries serving today are already sent from non-white, non-Western countries (places like Brazil, South Korea, and India). This is a wonderful reality reflecting the rapid rise of a global Christianity.
 
Nevertheless, if you look at the top 10 missionary-sending countries, the U.S. still sends more than the next seven countries combined. We should rejoice in the increasing missionary work of believers from other nations. But we also need to recognize that America still has a disproportionate effect on world missions – for good or for bad.
 
So when I say we need to send more missionaries of color to the world, I’m talking about North American sending agencies. I’m talking about the International Mission Board along with other likeminded organizations in America that we love and pray for.
 

Why missions can’t be colorblind

 
In a perfect world, everybody could accept the truth from anybody. Blacks could hear truth from whites, and vice versa. The poor could hear truth from the rich. And nations struggling under the long arm of oppression could hear truth from descendants of their oppressors.
 
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
 
Instead, we live in a world where fallen hearts are hunting for any excuse to reject the gospel. This is why Paul had his Timothy (who was biracial) circumcised for the sake of the Jews (Acts 16:1-3). There wasn’t anything wrong with Timothy; nevertheless, something about Timothy was still a stumbling block for his audience.
 
Like it or not, the legacy of European colonialism is a major stumbling block for many of the millions who suffer in places ravaged by centuries of light-skinned oppression. In contexts like these, black and brown missionaries simply bring credibility that’s hard to obtain otherwise. On top of this, diverse missionary teams avoid sending the wrong message about our faith. Simply by virtue of being different, they help the world see that the gospel is for all types of people.
 

How to address the current lack of color

 
We can do one of two things at this point. We can ignore the racial realities of global history and the stumbling blocks that exist because of them. Or we can take the recognized need to be contextually sensitive and expand it to include being color conscious. It’s not much of a choice.
 
Being color conscious will not usher in the return of Donald McGavran’s homogenous unit principle with its strategic avoidance of diversity in our churches. On the contrary, we are seeking to increase the diversity of our missionary teams. Yet the goal is not decreasing the number of white missionaries on the field. Rather, the goal is a Psalm 67 consummation of a Matthew 28 commission. We want all nations going to all nations.
 
In view of all this, when I look at the current lack of color on missionary teams I see three ways to address the situation.
 
1. Reclaim our colorful heritage of missions.
 
While there may be a current shortage of missionaries of color, this is not the whole story. Take George Liele, for example. He wasn’t just America’s first minority missionary. He was America’s first missionary, full stop. When you think about the racial climate of 18th century America, it’s truly stunning that our first missionary was a black man!
 
Or consider the story of Lott Cary, who purchased his freedom from slavery, learned to read, pursued theological training, and became America’s first missionary to Africa. And then there’s Betsey Stockton, the first single woman to serve as a missionary in the modern era. (She did so long before Lottie Moon would become famous for doing the same, even while remaining relatively unknown herself.)
 
Simply put, you can’t tell the story of American missions without missionaries of color. Reclaiming our colorful heritage, therefore, is a vital step toward empowering many minorities to resume their legacy of global missions today.
 
2. Raise awareness of the opportunity for missionaries.
 
I recently read that the IMB has more fully-funded open missionary positions than we have candidates in the missionary pipeline. I thought to myself, “So you’re telling me that there are open slots waiting to be filled by qualified candidates, and these openings are fully-funded positions? Seems to me that we ought to be shouting this from the rooftops!”
 
Yet I spoke with a few of my friends who pastor majority black congregations, and none of them had heard about these fully-funded vacancies. Now, I’m not saying that it’s anybody’s job to tell everybody about this. At the same time, it may be true that “Ye have not because ye ask not,” (James 4:2 KJV). If cash-strapped churches in the hood knew about these openings, there would be a lot more candidates of color in the pipeline. Don’t underestimate the importance of raising awareness about the opportunity to fill a need.
 
3. Reach out to diverse churches, networks and initiatives.
 
Building off the previous point, if you’re going to raise awareness you need to know who to talk with. Organizations like the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) represent more than 4,000 predominately black congregations in the SBC. (This figure represents a more than 275 percent increase in black churches affiliating with the SBC since 2001!) The SBC’s official journal (SBC LIFE) also has pages dedicated to highlighting the work of Black churches, Hispanic churches, Asian churches, and multi-ethnic churches in the convention.
 
Meanwhile, seminaries like Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary have started the Kingdom Diversity initiative, which strives to “raise historically underrepresented voices on campus,” to “build and strengthen partnerships with diverse churches, church networks, and educational institutions,” and to “help foster diversity within the church and the broader denominational environment.”
 
Organizations like these are great places to start vital conversations if we are serious about finding, equipping and sending missionaries of color to the world.
 
For if the Great Commission is truly about “making disciples who make disciples,” then we can’t just go to the nations.
 
We need to send all nations to the nations, too.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Logan is the president of Grimké Seminary, Acts 29’s director of diversity for Church in Hard Places, and a pastor at Remnant Church in Richmond, Va. He is also the author of On the Block: Developing a Biblical Picture for Missional Engagement. This article first appeared on the International Mission Board’s website, imb.org.)

8/2/2019 10:48:51 AM by Doug Logan | with 0 comments