WOODSTOCK, Ga. (BP)–An Oct. 1 commissioning service gave North American missionary Vance Pitman an opportunity to share with his sponsoring congregation how God had called him to be lead a church-planting team in Las Vegas.
In a service marked with celebratory worship, fervent prayer and profound gratefulness to God, Pitman joined 69 other missionaries — a total of 33 couples and four single missionaries — being commissioned as church planter interns by the North American Mission Board at the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock.
Pitman told of how he had been humbled through a bad experience at a previous church, and how one morning he felt the unmistakable call that God was leading him and his wife, Kristie, to something different. “And we said ‘yes,'” he said.
It was a few weeks later that they received the call from Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Woodstock church, asking him to consider being pastor of the Las Vegas congregation. It was confirmation of God’s call.
“During that period … I told Kristie, ‘I think I need to be under some godly men for a while to be healed,” he said. “And since I had such a strong pastor’s heart, there were only two men I would be willing to serve under — and that ‘s my dad and Johnny Hunt,” he said.
His challenge for the congregation was for the same sort of openness to God’s call.
“Have you said yes? Has God called you to places? That doesn’t mean you have to pack up and go to Las Vegas, or Boston, or Philadelphia, or Chicago. But have you said yes? I pray tonight that if you haven’t, you will.”
The church plant in Las Vegas is part of the North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus Cities evangelism and church planting emphasis, which will focus on Boston and Las Vegas next year and Seattle and Philadelphia in 2002.
For Alanna Davis, it was a similar shaping process by God that brought her from success in network television to her current role as a lay church planter among upscale professionals in Boston. After accepting Christ she suffered a series of professional and personal setbacks, including having her financial assets embezzled and being robbed multiple times.
The experiences made her realize the needs even among the affluent for a relationship with God.
“Underneath their disguises sociability and success … they too hurt and fear and are alone, and I know how they feel,” she said. “God has given me my heart’s desire. … What man intended for evil, God intended for good.”
Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, shared with the congregation how God’s call throughout the Bible was just as personal. God called his servants by name, he said, from Noah and Abram in the Old Testament to Zacchaeus and Saul in the New Testament.
“He’s calling every one of us by name. And he says, ‘I have a plan for you,'” Reccord said.
Reccord told how God’s call on the lives of a string of leaders called by God — beginning with the Sunday school teacher who led D.L. Moody to Christ — resulted in the profession of faith and subsequent ministry of evangelist Billy Graham.
He also told the story of another man’s commitment to the call God made on his life to tell the people of China about the good news of Christ. William Borden, heir to the Borden dairy corporation, had accepted Christ while on an around-the-world cruise with a friend. The friend arranged for Borden to meet and hear stories from missionaries at every port.
Borden gave up leadership of his family’s company to obey God’s call, telling his parents, “The job isn’t big enough. I’ve got to see people come to Jesus as Savior. That’s the job God is calling me to.”
And even when he became stricken with a fatal illness in Cairo during language school, he remained faithful. A piece of paper found near his body after his death contained his last six words, “No reserve, no regret, no retreat.”
“Tonight, can you say, ‘No reserve, I’m not holding on to anything except [God]; no retreat, I’m not sorry for what I gave up for one minute; and definitely no retreat, wherever he leads I’ll go.’?” Reccord asked.
Several individuals and couples responded to that invitation with a ‘yes’ to be available for God’s call in their own lives, wherever he leads.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: LAS VEGAS CHURCH PLANTER, PRAYING FOR THE RILEYS, PRESENTATION.