It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
We’ve all heard that sports cliché and frankly it is one I don’t particularly like. Yes, it does matter how you play the game, but the point of playing the game is to win. However, how we deal with setbacks reveals our true character and builds resiliency. Like Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”
Southern Baptists, it is time to put on our overalls and get back to the hard work that defined us as people who had a passion for sharing the gospel and building great universities, seminaries, hospitals, and mission boards. We did the hard work of sacrificial giving to fuel all these endeavors, often during some of the most economically depressed times in our country’s history. Hard work is in our DNA, and it is time to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
In the wake of the recent heartbreaking cutbacks in our International Mission Board missionary force, I believe there is a fresh opportunity emerging for Great Commission work if we’ll put on our overalls. Here are six ideas I have for moving forward as Southern Baptists.
(1) Work together. That’s what God calls us to as Christians surrounded by a world of polarization. “Together” focuses us on Great Commission work while living a Great Commandment lifestyle. Through repentance of pride, self-sufficiency, and self-centeredness, we can find our way back to a Holy Spirit initiated unity.
(2) Evangelize the spiritually lost. If a farmer doesn’t plant seed he doesn’t reap a crop. Unfortunately, we’ve sparingly sown gospel seed the past few decades and we are reaping a sparse spiritual crop. If we want the lost to come to Christ then we must generously spread the gospel.
(3) Systematically disciple the saved. We’ve diminished the role of formal discipleship in the church along with missions education through opportunities like Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action, and then we wonder why so many people leave the church and why so many of our missionaries don’t understand the importance of the Cooperative Program in supporting their work. We must get back to teaching what it means to be a Christian as well as being a Southern Baptist.
(4) Grow our giving with urgency. People say it is impossible for Cooperative Program giving to return to the 10-plus percent per church that was common just a few decades ago. I say it is imperative if we are going to fuel an Acts 1:8 strategy. Increased generosity includes increased contributions to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and in the case of Tennessee, the Golden Offering. We must recapture the hallmark of generosity.
(5) Pray for everything. We must pray for IMB leaders who are making important decisions and for all leaders across the SBC. Pray for the spiritually lost locally and around the world. Pray for our missionaries to preach in boldness. Pray for the health of our churches and for the hearts of God’s people to reignite with a passion for evangelism, discipleship, and giving.
It does matter how we play, but as Paul describes, we must run the race so as to win it. If Southern Baptists are to regain the global impact of our predecessors, we’re going to have to pull on our overalls and get to work — together.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.