LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Three pastors and a seminary president expounded June 23 and 24 on the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting’s theme, “LoveLoud: Actions speak louder than words.”
The theme was based on Matthew 5.16: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven” (HCSB).
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., said Christians are the expression of God’s love and must pray for a radical concern for the needs of the world around them, just as those in the early church expressed compassion for the poor, lost and needy people in the New Testament era.
Platt said he had come to a crisis of belief regarding the Bible — not whether the Bible is true accurate or inerrant, “but do I really believe that this book radically changes the way I live?”
“If this book is true,” Platt said, gesturing toward his Bible, “then the implications are nothing short of staggering.”
He cited statistics indicating that the world consists of more than 4.5 billion lost people, and that 16,000 children die each day because they don’t have food.
“If the Bible says that all throughout the history of God’s people, He has chosen to measure the integrity of our faith by our concern for the poor, then there are radical implications here,” Platt said. “We do not have time to play games with our lives, and we don’t have time to play games in the church.”
Preaching from Acts 3:1-10, Platt continued: “We need God to give us His concern for the needs around us. This is not something we can manufacture. It’s something Christ alone can produce in us.”
Platt said Christians need a radical confidence in the name of Jesus, saying 2,000 years ago the name of Jesus “caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, demons to flee and the dead to rise again. And 2,000 years later, the name is still good.
“Brothers and sisters, we cannot control the culture around us and all that’s going on, but we can control our confidence in the name of Jesus Christ in the middle of this culture,” Platt said.
Platt also said that Christians need a radical commitment to telling the nations about Christ’s greatness. “God, raise up a church that is no longer content to wait for a tingly feeling to go down our spine to cause us to rise up and do what we have already been commanded to do,” he said.
“What happens when we begin to trust boldly in the name of Christ, and we commit our lives to telling the nations that He is great?” Platt asked. “When that happens, the lost find a Savior, and the poor find a helper and the church finds a God who satisfies more deeply than any and everything else this world has to offer us. God, may it be so.”
“A lost passion for the local church means a lost cause for the Southern Baptist Convention and even our annual meeting,” said Jeff Crook, pastor of Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, Ga. “Within our denomination, everything rises or falls in the local church,” which is God’s headquarters on planet earth, Crook said, preaching from Acts 1:8.
The words “You shall receive power” are directed not only to the disciples at Jesus Christ’s bodily ascension into heaven but also “to the 44,848 church addresses in the SBC. If your Bible is open, you can write your church name next to Acts 1:8,” Crook said.
Southern Baptist churches should be experiencing their finest hour, but are not, Crook said. “Have we become satisfied with our unsatisfactory results?” he asked.
“God’s Son did not call us to a lost cause. It is a doable mission. He gave us His power on purpose to fulfill His purpose to win this planet to Jesus Christ,” Crook said.
Crook asked whether Southern Baptists have forgotten the doctrine of hell and the 234 warnings about in the New Testament. “If we go back to our churches and call for repentance, then renewal and revival will follow,” he said.
Basing his thematic remarks on Romans 15:14-21, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., shared his vision for Southern Baptists and the Great Commission Resurgence.
Akin said Southern Baptists should consider that 1.6 billion people have never heard the name of Christ and 3.4 billion have limited access to the Gospel message. “I believe Southern Baptists find that unacceptable,” Akin said. “We find that to be a challenge that we must pick up and move forward with. We must focus on the nations.”
Citing a recent statement released by the International Mission Board, Akin said there is not enough money to send to the field those who are called to mission service. “It breaks my heart that people want to go, but we don’t have the funds to send them,” he said. “I pray it challenges our people to do whatever it takes to get the Gospel to the whole world.”
Akin said he will issue a challenge to students at Southeastern Seminary on Aug. 25 to give to a Lottie Moon Christmas offering.
“We want our nation and all nations to hear the message of God. We ask that God would grant us this opportunity,” Akin said. “You can count me in for a Great Commission Resurgence advance. My call is to get obedient and really do something great for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
“I want to invest my life in something bigger than me,” said Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas, Nev. For Pitman, that “something bigger” is the kingdom of God, which Christians are to seek as a priority.
“Jesus said that the kingdom of God is not just to be in the top 10 of our priorities. He didn’t say it’s just supposed to make the top three,” Pitman said, noting Matt. 6:33. “Jesus Christ said that the supreme passion of our lives is to seek first the absolute kingdom of God.”
Pitman said he thinks many Southern Baptists don’t have such a priority and may not even know what the kingdom of God is. Pitman defined the kingdom as “God’s sovereign activity in the world, resulting in people being in right relationship with Himself.”
After citing the New Testament church at Philippi as the epitome of a kingdom-minded church, Pitman offered what he called “some truths about the kingdom of God,” saying, “God’s kingdom is alive with activity.”
“You and I are living in the greatest days of the history of Christianity to be alive. There are more people coming to faith in Jesus Christ today on a daily basis than at any other time in human history,” said Pitman, who noted, for example, that 40,000 people a day are becoming Christians in China. “And God has birthed us into the Kingdom of God for such a time as this.”
God’s kingdom is full of opportunity for believers to faithfully pray, Pitman said.
“If we really want to see the kingdom of God expanded, let me tell you what needs to happen,” he said. “We need to get broken as a people of God, fall on our faces before Him, and begin to barrage the throne of heaven and say, ‘Oh, God: Would you use us to reach the world for the cause of Jesus Christ?'”
Believers also must be willing to “personally go” and “generously give” so “God’s kingdom can be a blessing to the ends of the earth,” Pitman said.
“God’s kingdom is exclusive in its glory,” Pitman added. “You know what would be great? If we got so consumed with a passion for the kingdom of God that the only credit we cared about is the credit and the glory that belongs to Jesus Christ. It’s not about whose church did this, or whose association or state convention did that…. May we seek first the kingdom of God.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer from Richmond, Va. Lauren Crane and Tim Ellsworth contributed to this story.