Because of the urgent Kingdom opportunities and needs laying at the feet of every fully devoted follower of Christ, and at the doorsteps of every local church, a clear and compelling case for passionate Great Commission cooperation must be made.  This “Clarity” column will hopefully provide a step or two in that direction.

In a meeting of the SBC International Mission Board just a few days ago, IMB President Dr. Tom Ellif made an urgent appeal to all Southern Baptists to “carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth—NOW!”  “Why would God entrust to us the greatest lostness in all of history if He did not expect us to do something about it?”  Every person in this world should have a legitimate reason to hope that if they can hold on for a little bit, somebody is going to get to them with the Good News.  Ellif warned the IMB trustees of some disturbing signs that indicate Southern Baptists may not be prepared to fulfill our part of the Great Commission task.  The continued five year decline of CP giving was cited, along with the relatively flat Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  The drop in total number of personnel is not due to lack of qualified applicants, but due to lack of adequate funding.

The direction of the North American Mission Board is to plant 1,000 churches annually across North America.  But because of the estimated 900 SBC churches closing their doors each year, we would barely be maintaining the status quo with 1,000 new churches.  We need to be starting thousands of churches and intentional evangelistic groups each year beyond our present church campuses if we are going to genuinely impact lostness in the United States and Canada.  And, we MUST intentionally and practically give strong attention to church revitalization.  NAMB and state conventions must wisely and prudently utilize Cooperative Program funding to assist the local churches in meeting these challenges.

Our own mission field—Tennessee.  A legitimate Acts 1:8 mission strategy begins at home.  It has been well said that “The light that shines the farthest shines the brightest at home.”  We have over 3.65 million in our own state who probably do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  And the world that we are attempting to reach is coming here, not just to visit our beautiful mountains, but to live.  The Washington Times recently referred to Nashville as “Little Kurdistan,” noting that the number of immigrants in Middle Tennessee has more than doubled in the last decade.  The state estimates that the Hispanic/Latino population will grow by 20-30% over the next five years alone.  And, 80% of your neighbors were not in anybody’s church this past Sunday.

In 2010, the Orlando SBC adopted the Great Commission Resurgence Report.  It is the Heavenly Father’s desire for a Great Commission resurgence of lost people won to Christ.  However, it may not include the network of churches known as the SBC.  If we do not see a great spiritual awakening and recover a Holy Spirit birthed passion to reach lost people, our best days may be in the rear view mirror.  Souls coming to Christ and sacrificial missions giving, among other things, have marked times when the heart of the believer is in step with the heart of the Heavenly Father.

In a recent blog post, Jason Allen, the new Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary president, reported, “Since the 1980s the average percentage that churches allocate to the Cooperative Program has steadily declined.  Over the last 25 years, the amount churches forwarded through the CP has decreased by almost 50%, dropping from 10.52% in 1987 to 5.41% in 2011.  Moreover, the Cooperative Program’s predominant challenge is generational.  Simply put, by and large, the younger the minister is the less committed he is to it.

I desire to propel forward the Kingdom of Christ by training pastors, ministers, and missionaries to strengthen His church and advance His Great Commission.  That is exactly what the Cooperative Program is about and precisely what I am about as well.  To this end, we will do well to reconsider the case for the Cooperative Program.  In Paul’s correspondence, we repeatedly see churches praying for, financially supporting, and ministering to other churches, individuals, and missionary endeavors.  This is exactly what the Cooperative Program does:  it facilitates believers with similar convictions to accomplish more together than they could alone, all under a New Testament template.”

The Cooperative Program for almost 90 years has advanced Kingdom causes unlike any method in the history of the Christian church.  It is a proven tool for Gospel work, and we once again must come together if we are serious about getting the Gospel across the street and across the oceans.

Now what do we do about these things that we have considered?  In the next “Clarity” column, I will lay out eight specific steps toward Great Commission stewardship growth in response to these considerations.

It is a joy to be with you on this journey.


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