News Articles

‘Highest Power for Greatest Task’ stirs SBC theme interpretations

ST. LOUIS (BP)–The importance of having purpose, being missions-minded, raising up a model church, lifting up the cross and seeking spiritual growth were highlighted in “The Highest Power for the Greatest Task” theme interpretations at the Southern Baptist Convention.

Five speakers focused on the theme during the SBC’s June 11-12 annual meeting in the America’s Center in St. Louis.

Robert White, executive director of the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia, said the church must plug into the power of God to be effective in its calling and ministry.

“The church had a powerful beginning, but at times in our world the church seems weak and anemic,” White said. “The bold preaching of the gospel was and is to be the foundation of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ on this earth.”

Using the apostle Peter as an example, White noted that his preaching to the Jews and then the gentiles gave impetus to the church’s founding.

“Following Peter, there would be other rocks, many who are here this morning, who stand in the pulpit week after week, declaring, ‘Thou art the Christ, the son of God!” White declared.

White wondered whether the tragedies of Sept. 11 would have been avoided if “the church had not been so anemic, so powerless, so focused upon ourselves and our own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God.”

His prayer, White said, “is that we will focus on doing the ministry and mission of doing the work for the kingdom of God.”

“Jesus said look at your Jerusalem … and take [the gospel] to the uttermost parts of the world.”

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said Southern Baptists must be more intentional with their lives.

“So much of what we do won’t matter in a year, much less eternity,” Warren said. “You only get the highest power when you do the highest task. God is not obligated to empower your ‘to do’ list. If you want to revitalize your life, your ministry, your church, your denomination, then you need to focus on the greatest task, and not some subtask.”

God will only place an anointing on a person’s life when that individual cares about what God cares about, Warren said. “And what God cares about most is redeemed lives.”

Citing a talk given earlier in the convention by outgoing SBC President James Merritt, Warren noted the messengers gave a standing ovation when Merritt stressed the importance of defending the faith. Yet a few moments later, there was only polite applause when Merritt stressed the need for Southern Baptists to share their faith.

“You must care about what God cares about,” Warren said. “He wants his lost children found.”

Recalling that his church went 15 years before breaking ground on its first building, Warren asked, “Do you think it was fun to set up and break down a church of 10,000 every week? But we did it because people need God’s love.

“Over the last seven years we have baptized 9,117 people,” Warren continued. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Southern Baptist Convention: That is God’s agenda. Nothing else. The agenda is the redemption of lost souls.”

Abandoning all other distractions is key to the success of a soul-winning church, Warren said. “What’s distracting you?” he asked. “Is it criticizing other believers? Is it expecting non-believers to act like believers? Is it fear of criticism?

“In the next 365 days, 235,000 Californians will die,” Warren said. “Will they head into a Christ-less eternity? In the next 365 days, 2.3 million Americans will die. In the next 365 days, 54 million worldwide will die. Will they head into a Christ-less eternity?”

Nothing matters more than leaving a legacy of God’s agenda, Warren said.

Having the right agenda will assist pastors in developing model churches, said Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist in Wichita, Kan., who used the church of Antioch as an example of a model church.

“As you study the church of Antioch, you find agenda was important,” Fox said. “Soul-winning must be the number one agenda of the church. I don’t believe we’ll have a model church and the impact that God wants to give us in our communities unless we keep the passion for soul-winning.”

Other components for creating a model church include the right atmosphere and the right attitude.

“If you had lived during the time of the New Testament church, we would not have found dead, cold, liturgical, liberal churches,” Fox said. “I believe as you study the Scriptures, the local church was alive with the power of God. It is inexcusable for people to come to church on Sunday morning and find a church spiritually dead. We serve a resurrected Christ and we need to portray that in our preaching.”

It’s important to recognize what a model church is not, Fox added. It is not a church with large facilities, a high number of baptisms or a large membership. Rather, it is a church that is “impacting its community for the Lord Jesus Christ,” Fox said.

Declaring these are “difficult days” in which to minister, former SBC President Jerry Vines encouraged Southern Baptists not to give up, but instead focus on the presence, protection and promise of God.

“Believers live not by explanation, but by promise,” said Vines, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla. “You have the promise of the presence of Christ.”

Vines said ministers of the 21st century face a culture much like that which the apostle Paul encountered in Corinth, a sexually promiscuous city that “worshiped the almighty dollar.”

When feeling defeated or dejected, Vines encouraged ministers to take heart in the eternal promise of potential.

“If you want something that will encourage your heart, tell others about Christ,” Vines said. “The opportunity is ours to see through the eyes of Jesus.”

Speaking on the importance of preaching the cross, evangelist Junior Hill of Westmeade-Decatur, Ala., said there are three types of righteousness: the inherited righteousness passed down from fathers to mothers to children; an improvement righteousness which tries to do better; and a kind of imitation righteousness that seeks to be like Jesus.

“I’m glad that God is moving us all toward the likeness of Jesus Christ,” Hill said. “I would remind you today, as wonderful as sanctification is, you’re not saved by sanctification or by being like Jesus. Improvement righteousness, inherited righteousness, imitation righteousness all stand under this condemnation — the best of our righteousness is like a filthy rag before God.”

It is the imputed righteousness of Christ that causes him to stand as a perfect man, Hill said.

“Jesus is not a good way to be saved or the best way to be saved, Jesus is the only way to be saved,” Hill said. “Anybody who preaches the gospel that says Jesus is not the only way has covered the cross.

“Don’t cover the cross.”
Lee Weeks & Jon Walker contributed to this article.

    About the Author

  • Sara Horn