WOODSTOCK, Ga. (BP)–Missions leaders from every level of Southern Baptist life celebrated a unified hope May 19 that every church in the convention would see itself as a worldwide mission center -– developing strategies to advance the Great Commission at local, state, national and international levels.
That concept -– known as “The Acts 1:8 Challenge” – sets forth a framework for a unified denominational missions strategy based in the local church.
“This could be the beginning tonight of revival around the world, for the hearts of men to be aflame with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, at the opening of the celebration service at the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock.
Participants included trustee boards of both the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, state convention executives, associational directors of missions and Woman’s Missionary Union leadership.
Earlier in the day IMB and NAMB trustees met together -– a first in the history of the boards — to adopt a resolution affirming the Acts 1:8 challenge. Trustees also met for an extended joint prayer session.
In accepting the Acts 1:8 Challenge (www.ActsOne8.com) churches commit to embracing a comprehensive missions strategy in partnership with associational, state, national and international missions. Taken from Christ’s challenge to his disciples to take the Gospel to the nations, “Jerusalem” corresponds to the local Baptist association, “Judea” to the state convention, “Samaria” to the North American Mission Board and “the ends of the earth” to the International Mission Board.
“Our mission field is all of them … and we need to be reminded of that,” said J. Robert (Bob) White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, representing state convention leaders.
“Christ reminded us that our mission field is the ‘uttermost (parts of the earth)’ but it is also Jerusalem. It is Samaria, but it is also Judea. It is the whole of our mission field that He has called us to and that He has empowered us by the Holy Spirit to reach — not to our glory, but to His glory.”
The service included a public commitment by the first two churches to accept the Acts 1:8 Challenge –- Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., and First Baptist Concord of Knoxville, Tenn. The “Acts 1:8 Covenant” was signed by the churches’ pastors, — Terry Fox in Kansas and Doug Sager in Tennessee — who serve as chairman of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, respectively.
The covenant indicates partner churches will “be intentionally engaged in the Great Commission, awakening Christians to God’s calling to join Him on mission, and helping take the gospel to all people groups,” and committing to comprehensive missions involvement in the local community, the state, the continent and the world.
The covenant also suggests a series of “Kingdom-growing responses to the commitment -– including raising awareness of missions in the church, prayer, giving, personal participation in missions and evangelism, and starting new churches.
Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, echoed the reliance on the Holy Spirit for the mammoth task of reaching the nations with the Gospel, with the Acts 1:8 Challenge helping churches develop a unified strategy for doing that.
“We have always had a vision for being obedient to the Great Commission task of our Lord,” he said, “But could it be that God has now brought us to the point of learning to face that task with a servant heart of empowering, enabling and facilitating one another with a new dimension of cooperation?”
Robert E. “Bob” Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, said he believes God is working in the hearts of young people today to take leadership of Southern Baptist mission agencies.
“I believe God has ordered our steps to give us something so critically important that I want to give them something worth having,” he said. “I want to be able to say, ‘I’m Southern Baptist, and I’m proud to be Southern Baptist. For I’m a child of the King, and I’m going to tell anybody I can about the King, win them to the King and disciple them for the King.”
Jim Freedman, president of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions and director of missions for the Nashville (Tenn.) Baptist Association, noted that associational ministry has been around for 279 years -– long before state or national bodies. And it was there that churches first realized the value of cooperative missions.
“The churches that had been established at that time realized that we can do more if we link with [other churches] right in our area,” he said. “We can reach more people for Jesus together. With Baptist associations across the Southern Baptist Convention, we can reach our Jerusalems.”
Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, shared some of the context for Acts 1:8 in the message for the evening, which focused in part on the role of the Spirit in empowering the church to fulfill the Great Commission.
“The Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost in order to empower the church, but also in order to expand the church. The church is to be reaching outside its borders to make a difference for the Kingdom of God,” he said. ‘… The good news is it’s the Holy Spirit who does all the pleading and calls for the verdict. We are only to go and be witnesses of this great message.”
Churches interested in learning more about or accepting the Acts 1:8 Challenge should visit www.ActsOne8.com or call 1-800-4ACTS18 (1-800-422-8718). There is also an opportunity for individuals to share the concept with their pastors or missions leaders.
Registration information for churches accepting the challenge will be shared with partner entities at associational, state, national and international levels, which plan to make available special resources, networking opportunities and other services for churches. The kickoff service also is available via streaming video on a link from the site.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: ACTS 1:8 PRAYER, ACTS 1:8 COVENANT SIGNING and ACTS 1:8 PARTNER.