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America’s ‘tough places’ need ‘high-impact minister

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Noting both the character and the impact of John the Baptist, Rick Ferguson, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, issued a plea for high-impact ministers willing to go to the tough places in the cities of America.
Ferguson, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke April 8 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
Of planting churches in suburban areas where churches already abound, Ferguson said that in Valdosta, Ga., there is a Southern Baptist church for every 1,800 people. In Denver, he said, there is one for every 59,000 people; in Seattle, one for every 149,000 people.
“Where are the guys being called to the tough places, to the inner cities of America?” Ferguson asked. “Where are the men and women who are being called to the places like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast?”
What is needed, he said, are high-impact ministers like John the Baptist. Using John 3 in the New Testament as his text, Ferguson pointed out the stagnant religious establishment feared John the Baptist; Herod both feared and protected him; and Jesus called him the greatest man who ever lived. “How would you like to have that on your resume?” asked Ferguson.
Ferguson named several characteristics of John the Baptist’s life and ministry, including passion, relevance and exaltation of Christ.
Concerning passion, Ferguson said John the Baptist came thundering out of the wilderness, unshaven with long hair, wearing a coat of camel’s hair, eating wild locusts and honey and preaching a fresh, crisp message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
“Whatever you think about John the Baptist, one thing is for sure: There was nothing boring about this guy,” Ferguson said. “High-impact leaders will no longer be able to get by with standardized, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, stagnant religious programs. They’ll be forced to get their agenda from God and pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Concerning the relevance of John the Baptist, Ferguson said while the religious leaders of his day were preoccupied with irrelevant religious debates, John was on the streets connecting with people. For the church to be relevant, Ferguson said, it must contextualize the ministry without compromising the message.
“Our message never changes; we don’t have the right to tinker with the immutable message,” Ferguson said. “But the means, the methods, the symbols and the forms by which we communicate these truths must be constantly updated so we can connect the truth with the culture we’re trying to reach and impact.”
Explaining some of the ways Riverside tries to be culturally connected, Ferguson named the various types of churches and congregations they have started: Gen-X, Vietnamese, African American, Hispanic, native American, Romanian, cowboy and even a biker church.
“Christians must learn to think ‘kingdom growth,’ not just church growth,” Ferguson said. “The kingdom of God is greater than our personal ministries, our churches and our denominations.”
In his concluding point, Ferguson pointed out John the Baptist’s willingness to diminish his own life and ministry while exalting the living Christ.
Amid today’s postmodernity and relativism, Ferguson said, the world needs the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament. “The cosmic Christ of the New Age tries to make bad men better, but the living Christ of the New Testament makes dead men live,” Ferguson said.
“If we really want to make an impact on the world, we must be committed exclusively to the mission of exalting Jesus Christ as Lord,” he said.
The price for a high-impact ministry is exacted every day, Ferguson said. “Here’s the price: ‘He must increase, I must decrease,’” he said, quoting John the Baptist.
“High-impact ministers,” Ferguson said, “will be men and women who love not their lives to their death.”

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  • Kyle Roberts