As we approach the 139th meeting of Tennessee Baptists in Chattanooga I want to take this opportunity to remind you why we are gathering for The Summit. Our convention exists to reach the lost for Jesus Christ and to strengthen our churches in that mission.
It is our Savior’s last command and should be our priority assignment. The Summit is an opportunity to step back and ask, “How are we doing, and even more so, are we doing it?” It is an opportunity to regain our focus and recommit our hearts to the task. Are we about the business of reaching people with the gospel in Tennessee?
It’s easy to think because we hear from the pulpit about reaching the lost that somehow we are doing it. James reminds us, “Don’t be merely a hearer but a DOER of Gods Word” (James 1:22).
As we gather in a few weeks at The Summit I want to give you four reminders of the call that God has given us as Tennessee Baptists. These reminders will help us keep the gospel at the forefront of our churches:
(1) Remember you’ve been commissioned to go.
There is something encouraging to me in remembering that God has specifically commissioned me with His gospel. I am His ambassador.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
When we remember that we’ve been commissioned to deliver a message with this urgency and importance, it adds weight to our responsibility.
(2) Remember you need compassion as you go.
The ministry of Jesus was characterized with compassion. He didn’t see people as numbers but as precious people with souls. Our compassion comes from the fact that as we look at people everyday we know they are bound by eternity. If we truly believe that Jesus is the only way to God and that people are destined to either heaven or hell it should break our hearts and should compel us to witness to our friends and neighbors. The reality of hell should be a huge motivation to witness to the lost with a heart of grace and compassion.
It’s easy for our tears to dry up and become halfhearted and passionless in our witness. It’s so easy to be distracted by our own needs — our own agenda — and lose our zeal for reaching the lost. We become lackadaisical because we are hardened to eternal realities.
Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion. Remembering the reality of hell and the truth of the gospel should thrust us into action; it should add an urgency to our witness.
(3) Remember you need to connect with people.
The Apostle Paul recognized the need to connect with people and was willing to go to any inconvenience to create a bridge with those he longed to reach.
“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake” (I Corinthians 9:22-23).
Connection takes place in two ways. First, it happens when common ground is shared. This requires being observant. It may be as simple as noticing a ball cap someone is wearing of the team you follow; it may be seeing the piano in the living room and asking who plays; it may be commenting on the roses in the yard. Take a moment to establish a sense of common ground with those with whom you speak.
Second, connection takes place when people sense your love. Although they may not put it into words, people can sense if our motives in reaching them are rooted in compassion and genuine love. Of course, this requires that we really do have compassion and genuine love.
(4) Remember you need the Holy Spirit to bring conviction.
Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who is the true soul winner. Only He can convict people of their need for Christ and convince them to place their faith in Him.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:7–9).
It is encouraging to me to remember that this delicate work of conviction is not my job — only the Holy Spirit can work on the heart.
However, the Holy Spirit does use His Word to bring conviction. Thus it is our responsibility to share God’s Word with those who do not know Christ. The Holy Spirit then uses His Word to point out the person’s sin and the righteousness available through Christ.
We need to consider two basic questions.
Are we looking?
If we would go out every day with an eternal focus — specifically, attentively looking to reach the lost — we would be more successful in our efforts.
Are we going?
Are we going because we’ve been commissioned by God? Are we seeking to show others the compassion of Christ? Are we remembering the eternal realities of the people we meet and then earnestly seeking to make a connection with them? Are we taking the conversation beyond a simple invitation to church, sharing God’s Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction?
I hope to see you at The Summit in Chattanooga, Nov. 11-13! It’s an honor to have served as your president!
— Haun is pastor of First Baptist Church, Morristown.