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Put blessings to godly use, Willis challenges Baptists

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southern Baptists are called by God to use their innumerable, providential blessings to fulfill their responsibility of the Great Commission, said Avery Willis, senior vice president in the Foreign Mission Board’s office of overseas operations.

“So many of us treat the Great Commission as a postscript, after the resurrection,” Willis said April 15 in a sermon he delivered as part of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Global Missions Week. “It is the heart of the whole Word of God,” Willis continued. “It is the purpose of God.”

Representatives of the Foreign Mission Board were on the Wake Forest, N.C., seminary campus April 14-17, holding seminars on issues, trends and needs relating to spreading the gospel to every nation and people group before Christ’s return.

Speaking in Binkley Chapel amid the kaleidoscope of color found in the unfurled flags of every nation, Willis called the audience to shoulder the responsibility of God’s blessing.

“About 95 percent of the folks that come out of seminaries like this stay in the United States,” Willis said.

“Today, there are 2,161 people groups who basically have never heard the name of Jesus Christ,” he said.

“He (God) is going to bring all the peoples of the earth, including the approximately 2,000 people groups that don’t know him … to be around the throne. The question is, Can we take the … responsibility and be the people that God wants us to be, or will we take the blessings that he’s given and use them on ourselves?”

Willis said the average American gives only 2 to 3 percent of his or her income to religious causes. “(In) our local churches, we keep about 92 percent (and) send 8 percent to the Cooperative Program. … Our states keep two-thirds (of their budget) and send a third to the SBC.”

As for the Southern Baptist Convention, Willis said, “We keep 50 percent and send 50 percent to the FMB (Foreign Mission Board).”

Willis said Christians in the United States readily accept God’s blessings yet often ignore the ensuing responsibilities. “We have got to understand that our responsibility is not just to nickel and dime and give the leftovers to God,” he said.

“Sometimes we Americans have been just like the Israelites: We thought God loved us better than he loved anybody else,” Willis said. “But just like with them, he blesses us so we can bless the nations.”

Willis, who accepted Christ as his Savior as a 6-year-old in a rescue mission in Fort Worth, Texas, described the meager origins of Southern Baptists like this: “Southern Baptists were not a people. We were poor farmers, frontiersmen. (We) didn’t have a name. (We were) refugees, as it were, in this land.”

God’s blessings, Willis said, mandate Southern Baptists with the responsibility to glorify God to the nations. The glory of God is “what drives us to the uttermost parts, to the last frontier, to the people who have never heard, that by the grace of God, he would break through to the people who would never hear.”

“The more people and the more kinds of people that come to glorify the Lord, the more glory accrues to his name,” Willis said.

“He desires that all the peoples of the world shall know him, and yet we’ve got about 30 percent of this world that has not heard of him,” Willis said.

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  • Douglas C. Estes