“Wait” Before We Go

When it comes to the Great Commission, the lostness of the world is second to the global glory of God.  God’s greatest concern is His great glory among the nations.  Only when our passion for God’s glory blazes will our endeavors to make Him famous among the nations shine bright. 

photo by IMB

Ironically, instead of blazing a trail for God’s glory in Jerusalem and abroad, the early disciples were first told to wait.  Wait?  The strategy for which the Lord gave the apostles began with waiting.  That seems quite odd for a movement that was intended to take the world by storm.  But if you think about it, where does this unquenchable passion for God’s glory among the nations come from? 

Jesus knew that what the early disciples needed most was power from on high, not power from within.  Passion for God is ultimately God-given passion.  Therefore, Jesus instructs the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for what the Father had promised, namely the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).  Both the power and passion for accomplishing the Great Commission comes from above; it comes from outside of ourselves.  The Holy Spirit would ignite a passion and provide the power to go into all the world preaching the gospel (Acts 1:6-8).

Interestingly, after Jesus’ departure, we find the disciples locked up in an upper room . . . waiting.  That is, waiting and praying (Acts 1:12-14).  Great Commission advancement always invovles waiting and praying.  A survey through Acts demonstrates that gospel boldness is closely connected and often follows the fervant prayers of God’s people (e.g., Acts 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:6-7; 10:9; 13:1-3).

As we examine the book of Acts it’s no wonder why we see such incredible gospel advancement.  The early church bathed the advancement of the gospel in prayer.  Yet, prayer seems to be an afterthought in so many churches today when it comes to Great Commission faithfulness.  “The gospel must be on the go,” we say.  “We don’t have time to pray when lostness is all around us,” we chide.  Yet, the underlying truth that the early church understood, that we would do well to understand, is that the gospel advances supernaturally through the prayers of the people of God.  In other words, the battle against lostness is first fought on our knees.

photo by IMB

We need churches and associations entering the battlefield on their knees before going to their feet.  Yes, “beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom 10:15).  Yet, as we see from Acts, the beauty of our feet comes from calloused knees.  Great Commission faithfulness must begin with empowerment thru prayer.  Strategies void of prayer will be strategies void of power.  Only when God’s people cry out to Him, who alone can take a message offensive and foolish to the world and turn it into a beautiful embrace of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, will that message advance powerfully.  Let us be faithful to advance the Great Commission, but let us wait upon calloused knees for God to give us His power and passion.

Importance of the Pastor as a Catalyst for Missions

The Pastor is called to be a preacher/teacher within the body of faith.  This place of leadership gives him a unique authority and influence in the local church.  When the shepherd of the flock leads, the flock will follow.   This is crucial for the general health of the church but also for the missional health of the body of Christ.

The pastor is called to be God’s strategist for the local mission field but is also critical for God’s command to take the Gospel to the nations.  When the pastor has a passion for missions the church will be ignited to go into all the world for the sake of the Gospel.

The pastor is vital in:

  • Casting a missional vision. If it is not said from the pulpit most in the pews do not think it is important.
  • Helping the body of Christ understand lostness. When the pastor is consumed by the urgency of our work for Christ, it will overflow to the people in the pews.
  • Making missions a regular and important part of worship. Missions should flow from the worship of God. We were created to give God glory. When we meet God in worship, it stirs our hearts to make His name known among all peoples.  The pastor plays a key role by seeking ways to make missions a part of worship (preaching on missions, showing mission clips, praying for missions, highlighting mission offerings, using missions’ illustrations in his message, inviting missionaries to speak).
  • Preaching the Word faithfully and challenging the people to live life on mission for Christ.
  • Leading by example. The church will never be more committed than their leader.
  • Fostering the development of missionaries within the congregation by seeking to grow and encourage those in the family of faith to serve and surrender to a missions’ calling. Pastors are called to equip up the saints, so that these disciples may be sent out on mission for Christ.  The Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention can assist individuals in connecting with our Southern Baptist missionary sending organizations to begin exploring the missionary appointment process.
  • Developing a comprehensive mission strategy to move the church to reach its Jerusalem, to have impact in the church’s Judea and Samaria, and to take the Gospel to the farthest corners of the globe.
  • Being an encourager of missions and missionaries. Invite missionaries to your church and help the church to build relationships with missionaries.
  • Promoting missions giving. This is the lifeblood of missions, and when we give cooperatively, we can do more for the Kingdom than any of us can alone. The pastor plays a vital role in helping the church to understand why we give to missions and choose to work cooperatively as Southern Baptists.
  • Encouraging the church to pray for missions, unreached peoples, and missionaries.
  • Energizing the flock to “Go.”

The strength or weakness of each local church’s missionary program, its missionary support, and its missionary outreach will depend, more than any other one element, on the mission-mindedness of its pastor.   

Names Do Matter

William Shakespeare, author of “Romeo and Juliet” didn’t think that names should matter very much. He had Juliet say: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”  I would disagree with old Shakespeare on how much a name matters.  What we call something describes its function and helps give meaning to its purpose.  

The role of the local Baptist association has changed throughout history and must continue to do so in order to be relevant and of value to its member churches.  Likewise, the role of the associational leader is ever changing as well. It was in recognition of the changing association that served as a catalyst in 2017 for SBC Associational Leaders to establish a study committee to meet, pray, research and engage in meaningful dialog around the language describing the title and the role of those serving as leaders within local associations.  

The study committee presented their report in Dallas, Texas during the 2018 annual meeting of SBC Associational Leaders.  While there are many perspec­tives on this topic, all can agree that many changes over the past few decades have impacted the function and focus of the local Baptist association. The commission signaled, and I agree, it was time for a fresh look at associational leadership.  

The study report addressed several key items, but the one creating the most discussion, was the recommended use of “Associational Mission Strategist” when referring to associational leaders in the future. The decision to use this terminology is more than just a name change. It describes very well what the role of the associational leader is to be.  Ray Gentry, Executive Director, Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, shared that “this was the first time in more than 40 years that the title was updated. But having just three or four names spread over three centuries is not all that bad.”  

Most every title used to describe the associational leader has advantages and disadvantages. A frequent complaint about “Associational Missionary” is that when the word “missionary” is employed in common usage it refers to someone commissioned to work on behalf of a group – clearly not to the role of someone guiding a coalition of churches doing the work themselves. “Director of Missions” likewise connotes an image of someone with authority over churches, which is simply untrue. “Executive Director” sounds corporate or secular to others.

The term “Associational Mission Strategist” however, or “AMS” as an abbreviated version, speaks to the singular focus associational leaders have of serving churches to engage with one Great Commission, while skillfully selecting intentional ways to engage and energize local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

If you’re familiar with Southern Baptists polity, you know that it is up to each autonomous association to determine what term they will use to describe their association’s leader.  But for clarity and consistency, the Kentucky Baptist Convention will begin referring to associational leaders as AMS or Associational Mission Strategists.  I’m excited about the term and pray that it will serve as a reminder to each of us of the responsibility entrusted to the person in the role to be strategically focused and intentionally missional in everything that he leads the association to do.   

I hope now, that you will agree with me that Shakespeare was wrong in thinking that a name doesn’t really matter. The names we give positions and people do matter and what we call something has importance.