Jun 2, 2009

Tuesday is for Thinking

Fish or Cut Bait by Alvin Reid


Earlier this week I had one of our wonderful students come to see me (I really love these students). During our conversation she shared her plans to go with the IMB as part of our 2 plus 2 program. Then she mentioned hearing about our International Mission Board cutting back on the number of missionaries because of the economy.

I love to encourage students. I especially love to encourage those in our 2 plus 2 program who spend some of their best years in some of the most difficult places on earth. I sometimes wonder: are we as committed to the Great Commission as we say when so many times I have sat as students, tears in their eyes, told me how their “good Christian parents” are ticked they are going overseas (”how dare you take my grandbabies overseas?”). While this is the exception, it is too common.

My president Danny Akin has two children serving with their families (and grandbabies!) in Africa and Asia. For him, a Great Commission Resurgence is more than a slogan. I submit most of us see the call to spread the gospel as at the heart of the inerrant Scripture we so zealously defend.

So, being the optimist I am, I told her I was sure that one thing Southern Baptists and other Christian missionary organizations will not do is cut back on sending missionaries. We are a Great Commission people, after all.

Then I read the press release on the IMB. Read it at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=30535.

Really. We do not have the funds to send missionaries. One might think this would be the last thing we would ever allow to have happen, economic downturn or not.

Have you ever noticed how the biggest thing we tend to call our people to sacrifice for is a building program? “Not equal gifts but equal sacrifice.” All my life I have heard call after call for this or that building project. Not a bad thing. We are blessed to have the ability to provide such comfy places of worship in the US. My church is about to go to four services for lack of space because we are serious about the GC.

What if we took one year and asked our people to sacrifice like never before for, not for a building or an institution, but for the nations under the banner of the GREAT COMMISSION?

It is time to fish or cut bait. Enough of the “let’s not get too carried away,” “let’s be positive,” “let’s just keep doing what we are doing” talk. Enough bickering over semantics and excusing away our genuine decline. I submit this is the day of Amos and Micah. It is not a time to chill out, kick back, and remember past successes.

Some days I just want to get in touch with my inner John the Baptist.

But instead of being negative, why don’t we do something about this? I sat down with Michelle and talked about what we can do. We will give a special gift to Lottie in June (Christmas in June!). What if every one of us provoked by the economic effects on missionaries did just something greater than complain? What if each leader pushed for “not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice” for the nations?

What if every pastor in the SBC took a special offering Sunday, June 14? I have been a commissioned Home Missionary, a pastor, a state convention employee, and now hold an endowed chair at a seminary. I have many friends in all those positions. What if every convention employee–seminary faculty/staff, state convention employees, national agency staffs, DOMs, all came together that day to give to an urgency offering for the sake of the gospel?

What if Jerry Rankin stood up at the SBC and report that we in fact in ONE SUNDAY made up the shortfall? Outsiders might think of us less as people bent on fussing and more about the gospel. People in our churches might begin to believe we are serious about fishing for men rather than arguing over how we divide up the bait.

Instead of complaining, I want to do something. We have observed plenty of other traditions lose their grasp of the gospel. I still believe the majority of us are serious in our love for the gospel. Perhaps this could be a rallying point. We argue over such petty things sometimes. COULD WE NOT COME TOGETHER AND JOIN HANDS FOR GLOBAL EVANGELIZATION? I think we can. I know we must.

If we cannot get together for the gospel, we are never going to come together. Enough self-preservationism. Enough mincing over words. It is time to walk by faith, to risk nobly for the gospel. Let us do something.

Pick your cliché:
Fish or cut bait.
Put up or shut up.
Walk the walk and talk the talk.
It is time to ACT.

On another June day almost 70 years ago, Winston Churchill delivered a famous message at a time when the German army assaulted the continent, taking Paris June 14, 1940. In his speech to the House of Commons on June 18, he uttered these famous words:
” Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

Could it be that in the providence of God that at the Southern Baptist Convention, dealing with a matter of even greater importance–the gospel, we could come together for the Great Commission?

Perhaps this could be our finest hour.

I pray it will.

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