NASHVILLE (BP) – It was in the third grade that I learned there were countries that weren’t open to Christianity, yet there were people committed to share the hope of Jesus Christ with people who lived in those countries. Mrs. Smart was my teacher at Stone Mountain Christian School in Stone Mountain, Ga., who shared that story with me.
I grew up in a family that prioritized our faith. We prayed regularly, read the Bible and were always active in a local church. I am grateful for my heritage and do my best to keep from taking it for granted.
About six years after that third grade experience, we joined the first Southern Baptist church our family attended. I began to learn about the missions heritage shared by Southern Baptists. I began to learn about ladies named Lottie and Annie and how their love for Christ propelled them to share the Gospel and help pave the way for others to do the same.
It was there, at Eastwood Baptist in Bowling Green, Ky., that I really began to learn about the importance of the Gospel, discipleship and worship.
After high school, I began to learn there were practical ways I could not only grow in my faith, but share my faith at college through the Baptist Student Union, as it was known in those days. We not only tried to help our classmates come to faith and remain faithful, we sent out missionaries to serve through Southern Baptist causes each summer.
Before college was finished, I began serving in Southern Baptist churches. After graduation, I continued to serve in churches while, eventually, earning two degrees from two different Southern Baptist seminaries.
It’s been 40 years since God used that missions story to move my heart. There are many days I am amazed the Lord has given me the opportunity to help lead a team who strive to share similar stories with the readers of Baptist Press.
This week I was with more than 30 state Baptist publication editors from all across the United States. One seminary president joined us and almost all of the entity presidents were there. Whether we were enjoying times of fellowship or hearing formal presentations, there was a common theme – a love for Jesus, a love for the local church and a commitment to cooperatively pursuing the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
One leader after another talked about how their local church is making an impact on their lives. We agreed over and over how we’ve desperately needed our local churches during these pandemic years of craziness. The Lord has worked through the truth of His word and the local church to tether us to Him and one another.
During our meetings, people were repeatedly asked, “What do you see that is encouraging in the SBC?”
The answer also connected back to our shared commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message, our commitment to cooperative missions and giving, and involvement in our local churches. We often say that we are better together. That’s true, but there’s more to it. We need one another. Our faith, while personal, is not private. Jesus died for a body, a house, a people, a church. He knows we need each other, and He wants us to be together.
Are there issues to address in the SBC? Absolutely.
But let’s address them together. The load of addressing our issues will be lighter, the answers will be wiser and the plan will be more effective if we’ll work together.
When Mrs. Smart shared that story back in third grade, there was one other element she shared. She emphasized how there are many different ways we can work together to reach those who don’t know Jesus. Some go. Some send. Some receive. We all pray.
In the end, there is greater joy when we join together in our local church, association and conventions to accomplish the commission Jesus has given us.