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Cooperate & pray, speakers urge

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Southern Baptists attending their annual convention June 10-11 in Indianapolis heard three “challenge” sermons highlighting cooperation, prayer and the importance of balancing grace and truth.

Preaching the sermons were David S. Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Rob Blackaby, president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Alberta, Canada; and Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

“Southern Baptists must embrace both convictional confessionalism and collaborative cooperation if they are to preserve the Gospel and effectively spread it around the world,” Dockery said June 10.

Dockery cited 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Expressing gratitude for the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, Dockery said the convention must have a spirit of collaborative cooperation, adding that Southern Baptists can cooperate because they trust the same Savior, have received the same Spirit, have been given the same gift of grace and forgiveness and belong to the same Father.

“Let us live in truth, let us be faithful to the truth, let us walk in the truth and let us serve and relate together as co-workers in the proclamation of the truth,” Dockery said. “We need to recognize that the Christian faith stands or falls on this glorious Gospel and the ultimate issues that bind us together.” He noted that “these bedrock, first-order matters are under assault today both in our secular culture and in some sectors of the church.”

“We can trust God to bring a fresh wind of His Spirit to bring renewal all across Southern Baptist life, resulting in a Great Commission resurgence to the glory of our great God,” Dockery said.

Blackaby told messengers June 11 that his seminary trustees asked him to “thank Southern Baptists for the years, the decades of commitment and investment in our convention, as well as in our school, to see men and women trained with the Gospel to take the saving grace of Jesus Christ across Canada and around the world.”

Referencing 1 Corinthians 4:20, Blackaby said, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of fancy talk; it’s a thing of power.” He said Corinth was a city “broken … confused … spiritually and morally adrift.” He likened Canada to Corinth, saying, “If you ask me how to describe Canada in the 21st century, I would say it is a nationwide description: broken, spiritually adrift, confused, embracing life without God.”

Citing results of several national surveys of his country, Blackaby said 27 percent of Canadians have no religion. In British Columbia, that number climbs to 55 percent, in Alberta 33 percent. In Quebec, the evangelical presence is 0.5 percent.

“A national survey released in Canada two weeks ago revealed that one in four Canadians do not believe there’s a God,” he said, noting the ratio drops to one in three for those under age 25.

“If you pastor in Canada, you feel the dwindling, the almost absence of any Christian subculture,” he said. “Many Americans would look at Canada and feel like we’re America north. But I would tell you we are Europe north.

“We are far more like the continent of Europe as far as abandoning our Christian morals,” Blackaby said. “The community at large is not opposed to the Christian message; it’s just ignorant of it.”

To help remedy that ignorance, Blackaby said, “Our Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists has committed to pray, to go to every town and city from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and pray that God would give us a harvest. That’s across five and a half time zones. That’s three ocean shores.”

Blackaby asked the question: “How can you pray for Canada? … Pray that we live in and experience the power of God washing over the nation of Canada” and “that the gates of hell will crumble in this nation, that our enemies will not prevail.”

“I’m asking you to pray that God would open up the heavens and immerse Canadians in a deluge of His presence,” he said. “We need a fresh demonstration of God’s power.”

Blackaby also noted the need for spiritual leaders in Canada “who are willing to be stretched like no other … young men and women who are willing to be emptied of absolutely every ounce of self-reliance and be left broken and desperate before God, saying, ‘We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.'”

Endel asked messengers June 11: “Why aren’t outsiders attracted to us like they were to Jesus?” He then recounted a study from the Barna research group revealing a litany of reasons why non-Christians avoid Christians.

“They are saying that we are hypocritical [and they are] skeptical of our morally superior attitudes… [and we are] too focused on getting converts,” Endel said. “They say that we are anti-homosexual, that we have a disdain for gays and lesbians. … They’re saying that we’re too political [and are] judgmental as well.

“You see, as they look at us, they don’t see Jesus,” Endel said. “In the light of what they see, they see an attitude and don’t see a heart after God and a heart after them. How will we reach people who think we are so judgmental? How will we take the Gospel to them?”

Endel said the answer is in John 1:14 — “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Drawing parallels from the Old Testament and New Testament, Endel noted that God the Son, Jesus Christ, dwelt among His people in person and not in a symbolic way, and that Jesus has set the example of how modern Christians must exemplify the balance of grace and truth.

“If we will declare the glory of God in His Son Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth, North America will respond to the Gospel,” Endel said.

Endel said Southern Baptists “are either sometimes truth tellers or grace givers. But we cannot be either/or; we must be both/and. Embracing truth alone leads to cold, harsh legalism. Embracing grace alone leads to compromise.”

Referring to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Endel said, “The most horrific moment in all of human history took place when grace met truth at the cross, where God’s love and God’s wrath came to bear on God’s own Son.

“It was grace that took the nails in the hands and the feet … that hung naked and bleeding on the cross … that called out, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ It was grace that cried out, ‘It is finished,'” Endel said.

“Southern Baptists full of grace and truth — we must do both if we will reach the world with the Gospel.”
Tim Ellsworth contributed to this story.

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  • Norm Miller