ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I have traveled throughout the Southern Baptist Convention this past year, helping dozens of local churches, associations and state conventions to more fully implement the Acts 1:8 partnership. As a result, I am amazed and humbled by the renewed passion God is creating among His people for His mission.
From the beginning, the purpose of the Acts 1:8 Challenge has been that it would be a passion, not just another program. Pastors and other key leaders in Southern Baptist churches of all sizes are identifying a return to an Acts 1:8 style of missions as God’s way of refocusing their ministries. The purpose of the church is for every member to be actively sharing Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world — “in Jerusalem, in all Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth!”
Versailles (Ky.) Baptist Church recently celebrated what God has done in the congregation since officially kicking off their Acts 1:8 Challenge emphasis in November 2007.
“Our missions giving has increased over 30 percent this past year,” said Michael Cabell, minister of discipleship and evangelism. “Our Lottie Moon giving was double what it was the year before. In 2007, we had 16 people go on short-term mission trips. In 2008, we had 138 people [go] … that’s an 870 percent increase!
“Acts 1:8 has made a marked difference in our church,” Cabell said. “It has become the ‘bonfire around which our church gathers.'”
Stories like that are being repeated in many of the nearly 3,500 churches across the Southern Baptist Convention that have accepted the Acts 1:8 Challenge.
When a church focuses on the Acts 1:8 paradigm of missions, every aspect of the church — His church — has purpose. For example, no longer is a small group Bible study, music or youth ministry only for members who have been assimilated into the body of the church. Rather, these programs become strategic and significant outreach tools to share the message of Jesus Christ.
First Baptist Church in Star City, Ark., was founded in the 1800s and has a long history ministering to the rural community surrounding it. During an Acts 1:8 conference hosted at the church for the Harmony Baptist Association, I visited briefly with the church’s young pastor, Stephen Beavers.
As with many churches its age, tradition sometimes trumps new and innovative ministry to the community. But through the congregation’s focus on God’s mission and a commitment to the Acts 1:8 Challenge, Beavers said the Lord continues to keep the evangelistic glow alive.
Recently, after the church’s youth pastor left, God used a mission trip to its Samaria to raise up a new leader for the church’s youth.
“While in Wichita, Kansas, where we were doing street witnessing, God ignited a passion for youth ministry in a man who had been saved at our church,” said Beavers. “He personally led several people to the Lord.”
Today, the man serves as the church’s interim youth pastor.
“God has done a great work there,” Beavers said. “And it started during a missions trip experience!”
At this time of year, with the Christmas season and New Year’s Day at hand, now is a great time for a church to consider “rebooting” its mission, so to speak, and install new Kingdom focus “software” and missional DNA that will fuel everything the church is and does.
A commitment to making disciples of all nations by taking the Gospel to a church’s community (Jerusalem), region/state (Judea), nation/continent (Samaria) and world (ends of the earth) clarifies, simplifies and gives direction to a church’s earthly existence.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and pageantry of Christmas programs, churches with God’s mission at their core will focus on the true reason for the season and how they share Christ in a world so desperately in need of Him.
Tim Yarbrough is a mission strategist and leader of the Church Relations Team at the North American Mission Board. He serves as the national coordinator of the Acts 1:8 Challenge initiative. More information about the Acts 1:8 Challenge is available at www.ActsOne8.com.