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Acts 1:8 Challenge embraced in 2,000-plus churches

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–More than 2,000 Southern Baptist churches have committed to the Acts 1:8 Challenge –- the new Southern Baptist Convention initiative to assist congregations in implementing a comprehensive missions strategy involving their community, region, continent and the world.

The 600-member Immanuel Baptist Church in Pikeville, Ky., became the 2,000th church to commit to the Acts 1:8 Challenge in mid-December.

A little more than five months earlier, 1,000 churches had accepted the challenge. Leaders believe the phenomenal growth in churches accepting the Acts 1:8 Challenge is largely because it is a simplified approach to missions that is both biblical and intentional.

Churches registering their commitment to the Acts 1:8 Challenge range in size from the eight-member Deering Baptist Church in North Dakota to the 14,000-member Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., demonstrating that Jesus’ Great Commission challenge can be embraced by churches of any size and location.

Officially launched in May 2004, the Acts 1:8 Challenge is a call for SBC churches to move to a new level of missions commitment by cooperating with their local Baptist association, their state convention, the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board.

Churches accepting the challenge commit to eight “Kingdom-growing” responses as they work to intentionally carry out Acts 1:8: to prepare, learn, pray, give, go, tell, send and multiply.

The Acts 1:8 Challenge is strategically linked with the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis. Many churches offering the study, “EKG: The Heartbeat of God” by EKG national strategist Ken Hemphill have followed with the doctrine study, “The Acts 1:8 Challenge: Empowering the Church to Be On Mission,” by Nate Adams, NAMB’s vice president of mission mobilization.

In essence, the Acts 1:8 Challenge is designed to encourage churches to take another look at how they plan and implement their missions efforts.

That’s what it did for First Baptist Church in Gonzales, La.

Mike Hamilton, the church’s minister of missions, said the Acts 1:8 Challenge helped First Baptist focus on developing a more comprehensive and focused missions strategy.

“For us, it wasn’t until we accepted the challenge that we began to see how this all fit with Acts 1:8,” Hamilton told the Louisiana convention’s Baptist Message newsjournal. “This was a way of being more strategic and not scattered all over the place with our missions efforts.”

Mililani Baptist Church in Mililani, Hawaii, has seen the number of people participating in missions and evangelism grow since focusing on an Acts 1:8 strategy.

“We have folks from 12 years of age to 87 years of age participating and witnessing for Jesus,” said senior pastor Derrick Norris, who noted that the church is planning a new staff position in missions.

“Our goal starting in January is to do four mission trips in our Jerusalem, one in our Judea and one in our Samaria … and we have one in the works to Japan.”

It has been refreshing to see denominational entities work closer together through the Acts 1:8 Challenge, said Debbie McDowell, director of the missions mobilization group at the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

“This united passion for obeying Christ’s command has been a good time to renew the calling for every church and every believer to have a God-inspired, strategic plan to live out Acts 1:8. I pray that this movement of churches to rediscover their place in the Great Commission will multiply across our convention,” McDowell said.

South Carolina recently added a mobilization strategist to its staff whose primary responsibilities include assisting churches and associations to develop intentional Acts 1:8 strategies.

“The Acts 1:8 model is helping local churches of all sizes to be more comprehensive and strategic in their mission efforts,” Adams said. “The process of thinking through and planning how to reach their own Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth brings new energy and motivation for missions to the entire church body, because it helps everyone realize that their own church is its own ‘ground zero’ for impacting the world and fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Hemphill described the Acts 1:8 challenge as “the mission thrust of our Empowering Kingdom Growth focus.”

“We encourage every church to complete the EKG 40-day study and follow it with the Acts 1:8 study by Nate Adams. The fitting culmination to these two studies is the adoption of the Acts 1:8 Challenge,” Hemphill said. “The EKG study aims at transforming the heart or culture of the church, while the Acts 1:8 study will change the thinking of the church. Both of these are necessary before the church can make necessary changes to its strategy or structure.”

When a church commits to the Acts 1:8 Challenge, it receives a packet of resources to help develop a more comprehensive and intentional missions strategy. Resources include a sermon outline, bulletin insert, video clips on CD-ROM, PowerPoint presentations and a 60-page leadership guide. Additionally, churches receive specialized ongoing communications and updates from Acts 1:8 mission partners.

While the leadership guide helps a church evaluate its current effectiveness and implement a plan for the future, other resources such as the sermon outline, videos and PowerPoint presentations are designed to motivate and inspire the congregation to action.
Pastors and missions leaders interested in more information about the Acts 1:8 Challenge or who want to register their church may visit www.ActsOne8.com or call 1-800-4ACTS18 (1-800-422-8718).
EDITORS’ NOTE: Following is a list of 2,009 churches accepting the Acts 1:8 Challenge in each state and throughout the world as of Dec. 14, 2005:
Alaska –- 2
Alabama — 123
Arkansas -– 46
Arizona -– 20
California -– 52
Colorado –- 28
Connecticut -– 3
Delaware — 2
Florida -– 179
Georgia -– 182
Hawaii -– 17
Iowa -– 3
Idaho -– 6
Illinois -– 33
Indiana -– 39
Kansas –- 18
Kentucky –- 83
Louisiana -– 69
Massachusetts –- 3
Maryland -– 21
Maine –- 1
Michigan -– 23
Minnesota -– 3
Missouri –- 160
Mississippi -– 117
Montana -– 2
North Carolina -– 110
North Dakota –- 7
New Hampshire –- 3
New Jersey –- 4
New Mexico –- 13
Nevada -– 7
New York –- 8
Ohio –- 36
Oklahoma -– 52
Oregon –- 5
Pennsylvania -– 11
Puerto Rico – 1
South Carolina — 110
South Dakota -– 2
Tennessee –- 108
Texas -– 155
Utah –- 8
Virginia -– 71
Washington –- 15
West Virginia -– 34
Wisconsin — 1
Wyoming -– 4
Canada — 3
American Samoa — 3
Japan — 1
Tanzania –- 1
Benin, West Africa — 1

    About the Author

  • Tim Yarbrough