ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A new North American Mission Board emphasis on affirming God’s call on the lives of laypeople apparently is striking a chord — prompting some of the strongest responses from audiences since the entity was formed in 1997.
A May 4 commissioning service for 57 missionaries at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., resulted in a record 1,137 response cards from individuals willing to say they will answer God’s call “to be on mission where I live.” A total of 309 people were interested in short-term mission opportunities, 78 sought information on full-time opportunities and 1,123 committed to prayer for NAMB missionaries.
NAMB President Robert E. Reccord said the results are just the latest affirmation he’s seen of a central message he and the entity’s leadership team have been putting forth since January.
“We have made it sound for a lot of years — unintentionally — like the highest call that God gives is to be a vocational minister or missionary,” he said. “That’s a very important call, and God calls those people to go to the frontiers and be the equippers. But we must move to helping the student understand that they’re called to be on mission to their campus, and the professional person to understand that their vocational occupation is a platform for mission, and the business person — as well as the housewife who pours her life into her kids,” Reccord said.
“We have inadvertently too often left the impression that it is primarily the minister and missionary that are called by God to change their world,” he added. “But Scripturally it is every Christ-follower who is commissioned to be on mission, beginning right where they are.”
Closely related to the concept is the theme that has become NAMB’s central message this year, “Answer His Call. Tell His Story. Change your world.”
The response also has come from people talking with Reccord after speaking engagements, including three Sunday morning services at Johnson Ferry May 4.
“I had a very successful businessman come to me with tears running down his cheeks,” Reccord said. “He said, ‘I never thought about my business as a platform where I could be on mission. But starting Monday I’m looking on my business life in a whole different manner.'”
Another lady said “this is the most freeing message I can remember, because it makes me sense that God has called me right where he’s placed me,” he said.
The response has also been unusually strong after two recent speaking engagements on college campuses.
“What I’m really focused on is year-round missions right where you are. But that just doesn’t happen,” Reccord said. “You’ve got to be intentional.”
“One college professor told me he had never thought about emphasizing God’s calling being found in settings like teaching, business, medicine and law — but now he planned to start clarifying that message,’ he added. “If we are ever going to have a movement of on-mission Christ-followers changing their world it is going to have to start in their homes, neighborhoods and work places where God has placed them and called them.”
Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry, said Reccord’s message resonated with a congregation that was already tuned in to the importance of lay ministry, with about one fourth of Sunday morning attendance regularly participating in mission trips and 2,800 people committed to some sort of ministry through the church.
“I’ve received many comments from not only our staff but our congregation of how powerful his message was, how well he related to our congregation and how clear he challenged everyone to be in ministry,” he said. “That really connected because of the church culture we have with those priorities ourselves.”