June 2019

Why more aren’t missionaries: What happens when we lose the news worth sharing

June 14 2019 by Doug Ponder

For maybe the first time in our history, we have “more fully-funded open missionary positions than we have candidates in the pipeline.”

IMB Photo

On one hand, this is an occasion to praise God for the generous giving of our churches, which continues to support faithfulness to the Great Commission. On the other hand, it’s sad that we have more positions open than people who are willing to fill them.
Our situation reminds me of a campaign from several years ago that sought to remedy the foster care crisis in America. The organizers asked, “What if so many parents wanted to adopt that they were the ones waiting for children, instead of the other way around? What if we could change who waits?”
It’s a wonderful sentiment, but it’s not an easy sell. Changing who waits requires motivating people to take a course of action that will alter their lives forever in significantly costly ways.
That’s not unlike the call to missions, especially international missions. How do we motivate our people to leave home behind and head to the nations? How do we reverse the situation such that we have more candidates ready to go than vacancies ready to be filled?

Why our solutions all fall short

For over three decades I’ve heard countless conversations about how to increase people’s interest in missions. Some think we should focus on the need, highlighting unreached peoples with little or no access to the gospel. Others think we should double down on Jesus’s command to go, intensifying the imperatives of the Great Commission.
Still others think we should remind believers that all are called to missions no matter where they live. By reconnecting missional activity to Christian identity, the hope is that people will grasp the heart of what Charles Spurgeon said: “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an imposter.”
All these emphases are biblical, and all are needed. But none of them can serve as the primary engine for missions. They’ll all run out of steam without accomplishing their desired effect. Furthermore, an overemphasis on any of them may even make the situation worse.

For the love of God

Highlighting the vast number of people without access to the gospel, for example, may hurt instead of help. This approach can unintentionally incentivize the kind of pragmatism that ends in heresy. It also can breed guilt-based motivations that usually end in burnout or despair.
Meanwhile, doubling down on the command to “go and make disciples” paradoxically won’t help much either. It’s true that Jesus commanded us to go, of course (Matthew 28:19). But the law has never been able to produce the desire or ability to obey (Romans 5:20a; 7:14–21). Thus the law is but a map: it can show you where to go, but it cannot take you there.
Finally, emphasizing the missional identity of Christians can also backfire. If we tell people repeatedly that being a Christian is synonymous with being called to mission, some will merely redefine missions to some minimalist expression of evangelism. At the same time, tenderhearted believers may look at their lives and conclude they’re not much of a Christian because they’re not much of a missionary. It’s not a far jump from here to works-righteousness.
Again, it’s essential to talk about the need for evangelism and the command to go and the package-deal of salvation and missions. Yet none of these can replace the foundational need for loving God himself. Everything in the Christian life flows from this (John 14:15; 1 John 4:19). In this way, the most powerful motivation for missions is always a deep appreciation of grace (2 Corinthians 5:14; Rom. 2:4).

Good news of great pork for all people

The first time I tried Jamón Iberico de Bellota was an experience I’ll never forget. I savored the nuttiness that results from its acorn diet in the foothills of central Spain. I marveled at its marbling, which almost makes bacon look lean and which imparts its melt-like-butter texture.
It’s been ten years since I had that delicacy, but I’m still eager to tell people about it – even without an eternal need to remedy or a divine command to talk or a job description to fill. The experience was so grand that it made me want to open my mouth long after my plate was empty. I felt compelled to spread the good news of great pork to all peoples.
In a similar but infinitely more serious way, it’s no accident that before the apostle Peter talked about the identity of God’s people and the imperatives that form our mission (1 Peter 2:9), he first stressed the need to taste and see that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:3).
That is the pattern we see throughout scripture. Those most eager to go and tell the world about Jesus are those who’ve had a genuine encounter with his glorious grace (John 4:28–30). Indeed, some couldn’t keep quiet even when Jesus had told them to put a lid on it (Mark 1:40–45). Others continued to speak in the face of persecution and death (Acts 4:19–20).
Nobody had to force those folks to share the good news, just as nobody had to tell me to talk about the glories of Spanish ham. So why do many today struggle to tell the world about Jesus? And how does this relate to filling vacancies for fully funded missionaries?

Make the gospel good news again

Fear of man, lack of training, prejudice toward others, love of comfort – these are all realities to contend with. But I think there’s a more fundamental reason why zeal for missions seems to be waning: the gospel doesn’t seem all that good to us anymore (Revelation 2:4). We have forgotten what makes it news worth sharing.
This is why it’s not enough to draw attention to the plight of the lost, the command to go, and the calling of every believer. We can’t guilt people into sharing a message they don’t like. And we can’t command others into obeying a God they don’t love. Instead, we need to expose people – again and again – to grace so glorious that they can’t stop sharing it with others. In other words, we need to make the gospel good news again.
We need good news of a love that’s deep enough for every sin and wide enough for every sinner (John 3:16). We need forgiveness so scandalous that we almost sound antinomian (Roman 5:1–6:1). And we need good news that helps us see we’re more of a wretch than we ever dared to admit, which means grace is more amazing than ever dared to imagine (Roman 5:8).
If we want people to spend their lives telling others about Jesus, we need to recover the message that reminds them why Jesus is worth living for (Philippians 3:7–8). For whenever we lose the news worth sharing, we will always lack people who are eager to share it. Yet when we know the good news of grace, it becomes our joy (not just our job) to invite others to join the party, whether it’s across the street or around the world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Ponder is the pastor for teaching and training at Remnant Church in Richmond, VA. He is also a content editor for the International Mission Board. You can follow him on Twitter @dougponder. This article was originally published at IMB.org. Used by permission.)

6/14/2019 3:08:48 PM by Doug Ponder | with 0 comments

The future of the Biblical Recorder is bright

June 11 2019 by Steve Scoggins

This has not been a good time for many Baptist news outlets. Many have discontinued their regular printed newspapers, and others have been folded in to the communication departments of their state conventions.

The Biblical Recorder now has the oldest Baptist newspaper still in publication, having been established in 1833. Let me share with you three reasons why I believe that the future of the Biblical Recorder is bright.
The future for the Recorder is bright because of the leadership of Allan Blume for the past eight years. Before Blume became the editor, he had a proven record as a pastor in this state. He brought more than ideas about how we should do church. He helped build a great church.
Blume had also shown his love for North Carolina Baptists through his service as the president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s board of directors. He helped reestablish a sense of trust between North Carolina Baptists and their news journal.
During his time, the Recorder accurately presented news that affected Baptist life. But he also presented this news as someone who was positive about the work of the Southern Baptist Convention and the state convention. Many who felt marginalized by the editorial direction of some in the past felt they could return to the Biblical Recorder for news that would be trustworthy and encouraging.
The future for the Recorder is also bright because they have picked the right person to lead into the future. Seth Brown served as content editor for the past four years. He has a thorough grasp about what the Recorder should be. But as a young man, he has fresh insights about where the Recorder should go in the future.
Brown is committed to maintaining and improving the print edition. Many N.C. Baptists receive their information about what is going on in Baptist life through the print edition. But he also realizes the importance of digital news as well. Many of us believe that BRnow.org is the finest source of news in Baptist life. He is committed to a digital-first news strategy.
The future for the Recorder is bright because of its excellence and innovation.
The Recorder is a model for how news should be reported in Baptist life. Brown intends to lead it to become a greater blessing to our churches through new and redesigned platforms, such as helping churches find pastors and staff not only in the print edition, but in a more informative way at BRnow.org.
As president of the convention, I am privy to the fact that he has already found ways to be more cost efficient in this vital ministry.
With all that is positive, our churches can make sure that this vital ministry continues in the future by increasing the numbers of subscriptions among your members. The annual cost for the Recorder is surprisingly low. It varies from $13-16 depending on the number of people subscribing in your church.
Why not spend a small amount of money and give the leaders in your church an annual subscription through a group rate? If you give 10 leaders a subscription, you will have only spent $135 for the year, yet you will have helped them become better Christians, better mission supporters and better church members.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Scoggins is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

6/11/2019 4:40:22 PM by Steve Scoggins | with 0 comments

Advice from Dad

June 11 2019 by Lee Clamp

“I already know, Dad.”

I had my doubts over the confidence that my oldest son exuded as he took the car keys from me.
He put the car in drive and sped off entirely too fast.
A lot of thoughts flowed through my mind:

 - “I wish I was 15 years old again so that I would already know everything.”

- “You may know everything, but I’ve got 25 years of experience on you.”

- “If the DMV signed off on you after only 20 minutes, they should be required to ride with you the next six months, not me!”

It’s funny how things come full circle.
It seems like just yesterday I was giving the same instructions to my own father when I was 15.
With an eye roll and a sigh of disgust, I would listen to instructions that I already knew, like checking my blind spot and not going backwards when I wasn’t looking in that direction.
My dad told me once, “I know that you are 15 and already know everything, but give me the pleasure of pretending like I’m teaching you something and just listen.”
Your heavenly Father knows just how you feel, Dad: “If my people would only listen to Me, if Israel would only follow My ways” (Psalm 81:3).
You may be a religious straight-A student who has heard all the Bible stories – with Bible drill medals to prove it.
God may be attempting to speak to you through others and His Word about your brokenness, but you are reluctant to listen to Him and do what He says.
Maybe He is trying to get your attention to get behind the wheel, take a risk and share hope with your neighbor.
What else has God got to do to get your attention?
“Dad, I hit a tree.”
Now before you go feeling sorry for him, the tree had been in the same place for the past 50 years. It was in just the right spot where a 15-year-old who wasn’t looking behind would back right into it.
I like to think my heavenly Father planted it there to remind my son that maybe his earthly father may still know a few more things than he does (and also as a catalyst to get his first job to pay for a dented tailgate).
Maybe it was planted there as a reminder to warn all of us: “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27). God has planted an abundance of divine counsel so that we may be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yield its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lee Clamp, South Carolina Baptist Convention team leader of evangelism, is online at @leeclamp and facebook.com/leeclamp.)

6/11/2019 4:33:30 PM by Lee Clamp | with 0 comments

We’re likewise called

June 7 2019 by Christian Phan

Spreading the gospel is a special call.
In Romans 1, Paul the apostle said he was redeemed by Jesus to preach the gospel. The Lord Jesus Himself called Paul to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.

This was Paul’s experience when he was going to Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus (Acts 9). He became a servant of Jesus Christ because God redeemed him from sin. We are likewise called to spread the gospel for our generation just as Paul for his generation.
Let us remember:
– Paul said he was preaching the gospel clearly predicted in the Old Testament, so that Jews and Gentiles can receive this gospel (Deuteronomy 18:15; Isaiah 7:14, 9:5-6, 11:1-2, 53:1-11; Hosea 11:1; Micah 5:1-2; Habakkuk 2:4). And the gospel is foretold through such symbols as the ship of Noah, the fiery serpent in the wilderness, sacrifices in the Old Testament and Jonah inside the belly of a great fish.
– Jesus, who is a divine man, is the center of the gospel. He came from the descendants of David in the flesh, but He is not merely a man (Romans 1:3-4). If he were a normal man like everyone else, His gospel would be nothing. But He comes from God the Father in the Spirit. He is the Son of the living God. He has supreme power. He rose again by the power of His resurrection, and He, too, can make others rise again.
– The gospel comes from Jesus, and through Him mankind receives grace and peace. Paul used the word “grace” (charis) from the Greek language in combination with the word “peace” (shalom) from the Jewish blessing in harmony regarding those who believe in Jesus (Romans 1:7). Indeed those who believe in Jesus surely will receive grace and peace from the Father and the Son.
– In speaking of the gospel, Paul defined it as follows: “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The power of God was shown in Jesus, who died on the cross for our sin. He overcame death, rising from the grave and giving mankind salvation. God’s salvation is for all, Jewish or Gentile, as long as they believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.
– The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. There are many meanings of the phrase “the righteousness of God,” including:
1. God is righteous in His nature. He is always right, straight and upright. This means that He is never wrong, unrighteous or biased. So God does not accept sin. All people are sinners in the presence of the Creator.
2. God is righteous in His ways. He so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son into the world to be a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. His way is absolutely righteous and also expresses His perfect love.
3. God is righteous in His relationship. He has redeemed mankind and whosoever believes in His redemptive plan will become “children of God.”
4. God is righteous in His judgment. Those who do not believe in His redemptive plan will not be considered innocent. All those who do not receive His grace will accept eternal death in hell.
North America now is one of the largest mission fields in the world. Only a small minority of church members in the U.S. ever share their faith. Even fewer share it regularly.
Every Christian and every church must spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can do so by sharing the Word, praying for missions, sending missionaries, supporting church planters and giving money.
With “Gospel Above All” as the theme of our SBC annual meeting this year, let us do all things and use all methods that we can to carry the vision of Christ, going as He has called us to do, preaching the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christian Phan is the founder and senior pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Renton, Wash., and former president of the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship in the U.S and Canada.)

6/7/2019 9:42:43 AM by Christian Phan | with 0 comments

When you meet a beggar

June 5 2019 by Jared C. Wilson

The situation is ages old. We face beggars today just as the disciples did in the first century.

Walking down the street or pulling out of the grocery store parking lot, you’re confronted by a haggard figure, perhaps holding a sign, telling a familiar story about being homeless or hungry or needing to travel to a certain location or having a car out of gas.
In urban settings or rural, the specific contexts may differ, but the neediness and the opportunities do not.
A hand is outstretched before you. Do you put money in it or do you decline?
Most of us at that point begin to measure up the man or woman before us. Do they look authentically “down and out”? Do they look like an alcoholic or drug addict? Then the street smarts kick in. They will probably just spend it on alcohol. I’m probably just supporting their drug habit. If they put just as much energy into finding a job as begging for money, they wouldn’t be in this situation.
Assumptions and presumptions, not actual knowledge of the person, are thinly veiled justifications for not helping. They help us feel better about saying no.
What does Jesus say?
If you were designing a religious system for maximum ease, it wouldn’t be the Sermon on the Mount. It seems designed to make its adherents “get taken.” Somebody asks for my coat, and I give them my shirt too? Somebody asks for a mile, and I go with them two? Somebody hits me, and I offer them my other cheek? This isn’t even common sense. Jesus is asking us to put ourselves in some very vulnerable positions.
And in Matthew 5:42, He says: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Immediately we begin thinking of caveats to explain that this doesn’t mean exactly what it says. And maybe some of those are right. For instance, if you know someone’s going to waste money on an addiction, not suspect they are, it’s probably wiser to give them another form of help – a meal, a friendship – in seeking to obey a pretty clear command that comes with no asterisks: “Give to the one who begs from you.”
Here’s what I think Jesus wants us to do, and our response to a beggar gives us the opportunity to do it:
1) Hold our money loosely. Only in the economy of self-justification is my frivolously spending $3 on a coffee deemed more virtuous than, by presumption, a beggar’s frivolity.
2) Trust Him with people’s sins. Maybe that person will squander what you give. It’s not our job to manage the expected sins of others. It’s our job to be faithful to God, obedient to His commands. Let us give, and let us let the Lord sort it out.
In one of his Letters to an American Lady, C.S. Lewis writes these pertinent words on giving to beggars:
“It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been ‘had for a sucker’ by any number of impostors; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need.”
No, it’s not street smart or common sense to give to those who ask of you, but it is wise. Very, very wise. It is wise to obey Matthew 5:42 with as few loopholes as you can attach to it because doing so says you obey God, not your suspicions, and you hold your money loosely because God is your God, not money. What you do with your money bears witness to what you worship.
I was had for a sucker not too long ago. I had reminded myself of Matthew 5:42 in deciding to give the money out, and I reminded myself of the verse after I realized it was a mistake. I should have helped in another way. Only God has 20/20 foresight.
But it wasn’t just Matthew 5:42 and the Sermon on the Mount’s ethos in general that got me. It was this:
I pictured myself as I truly was, apart from Christ, in the light of God’s holiness. Unclean, undesirable, unjustified. A beggar. Jesus could have taken one look at me and come up with infinite excuses not to help. In fact, because He is God, with the omniscience of being God, He didn’t have to presume or predict – He knew that throughout my life, even after salvation, I would waste His grace like the prodigal moron.
And yet, unhesitatingly, eagerly, with all the love of Him who is love, He gave me no mere pittance but lavished on me the immeasurable riches of His kindness and mercy, united me to Himself in spirit, and guaranteed for me the inheritance owed Himself. Try being stingy and common-sensible with that reality crowding out your brain.

6/5/2019 11:36:29 AM by Jared C. Wilson | with 0 comments

Snapshots of inclusion

June 3 2019 by Laura Hurd

I have a friend who has been a constant voice in my life, never being deterred by my unique circumstance as I care for a child with autism.

My son and I recently had the honor finally to attend a local women’s Bible study group to which she had invited us. No matter how many times I have had to cancel on her or just flat-out turn her down, she has never given up on us.
Anytime we encounter a new opportunity, I have to carefully determine if it will be a good fit for my 5-year-old son that doesn’t cause him anxiety from being stretched outside his comfort zone too far, too fast.
This was the case with this women’s Bible study group. Of course I wanted to go every time we were invited and, all the more, I wanted my son to have a chance to be a part of the children’s class there that would enrich his life through God’s Word – a class led by women willing to come alongside us and help him succeed in spite of the often unfamiliar territory of the autism spectrum.
That same evening, I was at our home church for the Wednesday night service. Our church offers a Mission Friends class during adult Bible study so both children and parents have the chance for fellowship, ministry and learning. Again, this has not always worked well with my son’s schedule and ability, so we haven’t always been able to show up.
Now that he is older and his schedule has changed, the teachers welcome him as though he has been there for every class. Some of the same boys in his Sunday School class are a part of Mission Friends. They have never treated him any differently. In fact, the teacher sent me a photo of my son and her little boy embraced in a side-hug with smiles across their cheeks.
These are snapshots of our lives that form a bigger picture of the simple act of inclusion.
Here are a few ways the local church can begin to minister to special needs families in their own communities:

1. Start with an attitude of inclusion.

Many families often feel isolated because they think the church doesn’t understand or care. Families who are just receiving a diagnosis will need emotional support that begins when we take time to understand that children with disabilities may be different, but they are not any less. We can take a quick look at scripture and be led by the example Jesus set when He went out of His way to care for those who had been ostracized from their communities. He had a heart for inclusion.

2. Talk to the special needs families.


Submitted photo
Miles Hurd, left, smiles with Jaxson, one of his friends at church.

In my own walk with a child with autism, I have gained the best advice from those adults who have autism themselves. It’s priceless firsthand information that helps me weigh the right decisions to make for my son. Most of the time there are at least two good options, but one is usually better than the other.

Ask the parents of children with special needs what would help them. Don’t just assume that what one church is doing will work for your church. The landscape of those with special needs may be entirely different in your church.
You may be tempted to think that some may expect special treatment in these circumstances. For our family, we are grateful for any help we receive that allows our entire family unit to make it to church. Most of the time it didn’t cost the church much in terms of funds or resources.

3. Members want to serve special needs families.

In our church, there were already families with a heart to care for those parents, siblings and children with special needs. Once we received our son’s autism diagnosis, they were given the chance to make a difference within the church walls.
Because of the strong biblical influence set forth in the New Testament, you can be sure God has already made a way for you to easily talk to people in your church about serving this unreached people group.

6/3/2019 10:26:23 AM by Laura Hurd | with 0 comments