EDITOR’S NOTE: Manley Beasley is president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and senior pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church.
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (BP) — Recently, I asked myself a probing question in light of all the crazy stuff happening this year. I ask this on behalf of myself, the church I pastor, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and Southern Baptists everywhere. The simple question is, “What’s next?”
There are two ways of interpreting the question itself. It could mean, “What in the world is going to happen next that we haven’t even dreamed of?” Or it could mean, “With all that has happened and not knowing what will happen tomorrow, what should we do next?”
The second question is the one I think we should ask ourselves, for this reason: We are reminded in James 4:13-14 that we don’t know what our lives will be tomorrow, they are like a vapor. Essentially this means that we can’t know what’s next. Therefore, for us the question is, what should we do next?
2 Timothy 4:1-5 gives great insight into this very basic and legitimate question: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
“Preach the Word,” Paul says. Could it be that God is using these unusual days to call us back to the simple faith that carried us through so many trials with the firm conviction that there was no substitute for the powerful, anointed, bold proclamation of the Word of God? In this same verse he indicates that the preaching of the Gospel will have both times of unprecedented reception and times of downright rejection. Get ready for either — “in season and out of season.”
So, what’s next? I’ll tell you — we need to preach the Word; prepared and fully expecting God’s Word to be effective, producing conviction, correction, and comfort. This is with the understanding that it is doctrinally sound and patiently proclaimed. In Galatians we are encouraged not to lose heart … in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. Patience is often not a part of our vocabulary — whatever we want, we want it big and we want it now.
It is interesting, however, that we are cautioned along with Timothy to be aware of the prospect of difficult times, deceitful teachers and the distortion of truth. It is difficult to identify the specific period of time to which Paul is referring since he wrote it 2,000 years ago and there have been lots of problems since then. But I have no hesitation in applying this warning to our situation today, knowing that the largest population in the history of the planet has produced an exponential increase in every possible sinful activity ever seen or even imagined. Unregenerate humanity has not improved in the slightest. If there is any newness to the expression of sin in our day (which I doubt), it is the ridiculous notion that we have actually made measurable gains toward righteous behavior.
Thus, we arrive at the same conclusion and plan of action to which Paul and Timothy arrived.
— Be sober, we must not let anything, or anyone cloud our thinking.
— Learn what it means to be strong in the strength of His might.
— Get back to work. Should we be surprised that evangelism is specifically associated with work in this verse? There are times when harder work produces more fruit. Now is such a time, and evangelism is such an activity. We’ve complicated it, but Scripture keeps it simple: the seed will fall on four soils, only one is considered good. The more seed we sow, the more will fall on good soil and produce a great increase. We’ve become experts on the soil instead of sowers of the seed. Let God worry about the soil; let’s throw as much seed as we can as many places as we can.
Let us not be confused or distracted. Let us not be overwhelmed by the task before us. The world’s need for salvation remains unchanged, and our calling remains clear. In answer to the question “What’s next?” I say let’s do what God put Southern Baptists in the world to do. Let’s fulfill our ministry.