|Posted on October 25, 2016 at 2:45 PM|
20/20 Vision "Becoming a Proclaiming people"
We will be a Baptist Association of churches that equips and inspires one another so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed by every member of every church at every opportunity.
We are at an exciting time for our Association. God is providing for us collectively a vision of where He is leading us for the future. The source of this vision is what the Lord has said to the Leadership Team through you, the churches of the CCBA. As Director of Missions, I am honored to be the spokesperson for this vision.
While this vision is new for us today, it is really a return to our own heritage. I have read as many of the founding documents of the CCBA as I could find and there were two recurring themes. The first was the need to be born again and the second was that a born again experience should result in a transformed life. Our founders started with a clear proclamation of the gospel. That is the heritage to which we are returning. It is not that we have ever abandoned the proclamation of the Gospel, rather we are at a time when we need to refocus our efforts on this great commission.
The problems that we are facing as an Association are not unique to the CCBA. It is a systemic problem in the evangelical church across North America. There is very little conversion growth. In an article by Dr. James Eckman, he stated that only seven North American church denominations or fellowships experienced any net growth over the past decade. The growth rate of established churches over the past decade is zero percent. Half of North American churches did not record a single conversion last year. Seventy-two churches close each week in North America; 48 new ones are planted. North America is the only continent in the world where Christianity is not growing. (“Issues in Perspective” by Dr. James P. Eckman, Omaha, May 8-9).
Is this just a product of the times in which we live? Is the tide against us so that we cannot overcome? I have seen many believers who have surrendered to this error. ‘We live in a time where people are so given over to materialism, and they are so prosperous, that they think they do not need God. In our postmodern world, there is very little interest in objective truth. With the rise of relativism and tolerance people have disdain for the claims of exclusivity which Jesus makes. Our communities are shrinking and there are fewer people from which to build a church.’ These are all common excuses, that lead to the conclusion that the tide is against us. Some have started measuring success by just continuing to exist. I have been there myself.
The Power of the Gospel
In all of this, something is missing. It is something that all of us have experienced. It is something that all of us know. However, it is something of which we can somehow completely lose sight. It is the power of the Gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul says:
Rom. 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes."
The gospel is everything about Jesus with His atoning death and resurrection being the central facts of the Gospel. The gospel is the power of God to save sinners. There is no one for whom the gospel is not sufficient to save them and transform their lives. Every time that we tell someone about Jesus, about His death and resurrection, there is sufficient power in that Gospel presentation to change their lives forever. If we have the blessing of seeing someone respond to the gospel, somehow we are surprised. Yet, the Gospel is the power of God.
The Great Commission
How does God intend to disseminate this Gospel? He has chosen us to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world. This is the Great Commission that God has given to all of us.
Mark 16:15 "… Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
Historically, the CCBA has a wonderful track record of taking the Gospel to the far corners of the world through missions. We've also have planted churches outside of our County. However, in this generation, we are lacking in taking the gospel to our neighbors. All the world includes our families, our coworkers, our communities, and our neighbors. God has commanded that His Gospel is proclaimed by every member of every church.
The Gospel Onslaught
In hearing this, how quickly we can slide back into the mode of excuses. How quickly we can forget the power of the gospel. Jesus told us how powerful the Gospel really is:
Matthew 16:18 "… on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
I believe that the rock Jesus was referencing was Peter's confession of faith. He stated that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus was the anointed of God. He was the one chosen by God to do the work of salvation for us. That is the proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus is saying that as the Gospel message goes out, even the very gates of hell itself shall not stand. Why would we ever be intimidated to share our faith with anyone? Satanic forces and strongholds cannot stand against the power of the Gospel.
Now some may object, ‘I know that the gospel is powerful, I am just so inadequate. I don't know what to say. I can't explain things very well. I feel afraid.’
Faith in God, not in ourselves The key to success in proclaiming the Gospel is not in our abilities. It is the power of God. Paul made this very point to the Corinthian church:
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 "… my preaching … [was] not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." By strategically planning we can locate every home, identify every lost person, initiate a witnessing conversation, and ask people to Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Just because someone walked the isle or got baptized does not mean that they know Jesus personally or have eternal life. God’s Word has established that it is our responsibility to confront every individual in our church field with the gospel so they have an opportunity to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no legitimate excuse to fail to proclaim the Gospel. We know that Jesus died to pay for our sins. We know that God resurrected Him from the dead. We know enough to proclaim the Gospel. Our skills to explain are not sufficient to bring anyone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That requires a miracle. No amount of human skill can accomplish that. However, God is the God of miracles. It is not the one who proclaims is powerful. The Gospel proclaimed is powerful.
*note* Adapted from the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches Vision Statement.
By the grace of God, let us not be satisfied with anything short of the body of Christ in our churches proclaiming Jesus at every opportunity. Getting around to it is the difficulty that I challenge the churches of Clarke County Baptist Association determine to overcome.