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‘Missional’ leaders connect at SBC

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–“A Gathering for Missional Leaders” June 11 was sponsored by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board to help “missional” church leaders “connect with their counterparts, discuss issues of church and culture and learn yet more innovative ways to reach people with the Gospel,” said Mike Cogland of NAMB’s Center for Missional Research and its Missional Network.

Cogland said missional leaders and churches are those that think like missionaries –- understanding the culture of the people they are trying to reach and creating a church environment that connects with that culture.

“This is a conversation we want to be a part of,” NAMB’s new president, Geoff Hammond, told a crowd of about 400.

“As the North American Mission Board, we understand that North America is a mission field,” Hammond said. “We understand that as we seek to be effective at sharing Christ, planting churches and sending missionaries, we have to figure out how to be relevant in culture, be cross-cultural and bring the Gospel to areas we may have very little context with.”

One of the meeting’s speakers, Bob Roberts, founder of Glocalnet and senior pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, said missional “means total abandonment of self up to and including being willing to lose your life for the Lord’s work. We don’t have time to horse around. It’s serious business.”

Roberts mentioned several traits of the missional church movement which, he said, actually started in Asia and Africa before coming to the United States.

“The missional movement has started and is spreading,” he said. “It has caused a shift in Christianity geographically, politically and numerically. We [Americans] used to show up and tell other countries how to do ministry. The tables have turned. Now, I learn more from pastors from Vietnam, China, the Middle East and Africa than I learn anywhere else.

Missional leaders in such countries “don’t care whether it’s a mega-church, house church, traditional or contemporary. They just love Jesus. It’s all fine with them,” Roberts said.

“We in America are still tinkering with the worship service. Let’s get over it! It’s not the important thing,” Roberts asserted. “Church is more than a worship service. It starts with worship but what counts is that you worship God, period. The fact that we argue so much over stupid things is proof we don’t love the marvelous Savior as much as we should.”

Missional churches, Roberts said, are opportunity-recognizing; immediately obedient; have a bias for action; are transforming and holistic; and are global.

“Used to, it was popular to think globally but act locally,” Roberts observed. “Those days are over. Today, you must think globally and act globally if you’re going to survive globally.”

There’s no such thing as North American missions, European missions or Asian missions, Roberts continued. “It’s all one body and one mission field. We talk like that because we’ve always seen the world as segmented continents. That world no longer exists.

“The only movement worth spending your time on is a global church-planting movement,” he said. “In the past, church planting was tied to countries and to tribes. I’ve never seen such an emergence of a global church planting movement. In the next five-10 years, we’re going to see global church planting networks. Chances are, some of you in this room will be involved, but it will take a massive shift in your thinking.”

Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, compared Southern Baptists to a big family reunion, in addressing the gathering.

“At a family reunion, we get tips for raising our children or other advice from others -– maybe an uncle or aunt -– which we may not appreciate. They may get on your nerves. But at the same time, you thank God you’re in the family and that’s how it is in the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Some may talk to you about how you do church or ministry. But one thing is sure. We Baptists have fought the battle for the Bible and inerrancy and the battle is over. The Bible won. Now the family must move on.”

Using Jude 1:3 as his text, Stetzer said Baptists know how to contend for the faith but added that Baptists also must learn to contextualize and cooperate.

“The missional network talks about doing ministry in different expressions. That’s hard for some of our friends to understand. And that’s okay because they’re part of the family,” Stetzer said.

Stetzer said the June 12-13 SBC annual meeting would be a test to see if Baptists can cooperate and whether their churches – large and small — can partner together to reach a lost world for Christ.

“Millions of people are dying without Christ around the world,” Stetzer said. “We have to contend, contextualize and cooperate because if we don’t, nothing else will matter.”

God used the house church to reach China and the mega-church to reach Korea, Stetzer said.

“We want to hold our models loosely and our Jesus firmly. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Let’s do it together. Get on-mission in partnership with the folks at IMB, NAMB, state and local associations.

“God is doing some wonderful things to turn around and transform countries and individuals around the world,” Stetzer said, exhorting missional leaders to do their part “so that the name of Christ can be known wider around the globe.”

Cogland said upcoming NAMB Missional Network events -– similar to the June 11 session in San Antonio -– are scheduled for Tampa, Fla., Sept. 27-28, and Baltimore Oct. 22-24. Other events tentatively are planned for Georgia, North Carolina and the West Coast.
For further information on the North American Mission Board’s Missional Network, go to www.missionalnetworkweb.com or e-mail Mike Cogland at [email protected].

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  • Mickey Noah