PHOENIX (BP) — My heart was racing as my wife and I stood and waited.
Memories from the past several years shot through my mind. Time after time I had heard the cry, “They are perishing without the Gospel! Who will go?” And time after time I had responded. But God’s quiet reply to my soul was simply, “Wait on the Lord….”
Now, in this moment, David Platt was urging the audience to consider how God could use them — and my response could finally be, “I am going!”
During the Sending Celebration at this year’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, the air was thick with a passion for the glory of God. Then the president of the IMB introduced Southern Baptists’ newest missionaries, and my name was one of 31 called. The lights came to life on stage, illuminating our faces, but it was our hearts that nearly burst within us as we stepped forward.
We were being sent out.
All at once the emotion of the long journey to this moment, the feelings of complete unworthiness and the joy of being able to take the love of Christ to unreached peoples cascaded over me.
Then, as the Sending Celebration came to a close, each missionary was surrounded by a sea of people praying for God’s blessing on their future ministries. It was an incredible and tangible picture of God supporting us through His people.
Person after person hugged us tightly and promised to pray for us and our children. As they returned to their seats and we worked our way out of the auditorium, I was struck by the fact that they may never know the impact they had on our hearts in those few moments. The experience that night affirmed three truths for me in regard to Southern Baptists and sending that I’d like to share.
The SBC needs cooperation to send more missionaries.
It is abundantly clear that Southern Baptists love their missionaries. During the Sending Celebration, my wife and I had to pause in order to allow the thunderous applause to abate before beginning our short testimony. Each missionary stood and shared before thousands of people who each represented one of our 47,000-plus Southern Baptist churches. All of those congregations have united in order to cooperate together in the sending of missionaries, and I experienced it firsthand. It’s why the SBC exists, and we must maintain our focus in sending increasing numbers of missionaries to unreached peoples and places around the world.
Southern Baptist churches must provide our missionaries.
There is a common misconception that it is the IMB that sends missionaries to the unreached peoples of the world. The truth is that it’s our local churches that send us in partnership with the IMB, and that’s an important distinction. Each missionary is prayed for and commissioned by his or her local church because those churches are made up of the people who know and love them best. They have watched them mature spiritually and put their gifts into action. They have encouraged them, cried with them, discipled them and given financially to help them get to the field. Though I will be working with the IMB, it is First Baptist Church in Fairborn, Ohio, that is sending my family out. And our hearts surge with thankfulness for the incredible church family they continue to be for us!
Southern Baptists must pray continually for their missionaries.
Having grown up on the mission field, I have unique insight into ministry overseas. Granted, I was young when we lived internationally, so I was not involved in every detail of ministry. But we encountered trials and difficulties together as a family. Thankfully, my parents worked incredibly hard to forge relationships with believers in the States who would hold us up in prayer. No matter the opposition or frustration, we knew that we had people who not only cared for us but were actively before the throne of God on our behalf.
Now, as I am preparing to start my own missionary journey alongside my wife and three children, securing prayer partners is of utmost importance. Without the support of praying people and churches here in the United States, our ministry in Sub-Saharan Africa will fall short. Our task is an impossible one unless God goes before us and sustains us.
Being a part of the Sending Celebration at the SBC in Phoenix will be a memory cemented in the story of my life. When ministry becomes difficult, when sickness attacks, when we are tempted to shrink back instead of standing boldly as representatives of the Gospel sent by our Southern Baptist brethren, we will remember the faces of those who are praying. Their words will echo in our minds and God will give us the strength to carry on in our work.