ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The changes our nation has seen over the past 100 years are mind boggling. Transportation, communication and education barely resemble what existed at the turn of the previous century.
Fortunately, there have been some constants since 1908 that represent a continuity of core beliefs for Southern Baptists. One of those is the value of teaching boys about missions.
As Southern Baptists celebrate the 100th anniversary of Royal Ambassadors, it’s not hard to see all the changes that have taken place through the years. If only some of the first 2 million-plus boys to become RAs could see it today, they would probably be surprised to learn that it now includes first- through third-graders and that the quality of the materials exceeds their imagination.
However, an RA in 1908 would likely recognize one dimension of the ministry that still remains today, the RA pledge. Though it has changed some, the essence has remained the same:
— “As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ….”
Missions discipleship doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentionality to learn the biblical basis of missions and to understand how Southern Baptists do missions cooperatively. Missions learning is the foundation for missions sending. People generally don’t respond to opportunities they don’t know about. Through the study of missions, memorization of Scripture, evangelism training and mission projects, the RA ministry equips boys for a missional lifestyle.
— “to have a Christ-like concern for all people….”
Missions is about other people — all people everywhere. RAs learn that missions means crossing cultures so that everyone can hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. An RA knows that today the crossing of cultures often starts in their neighborhood or school.
— “to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world….”
Missions learning isn’t just about how others do missions. It’s about how even a young boy can carry the message of Christ to the four Acts 1:8 zones through his tithes, prayers, encouragement and personal participation that begins at home and can spread to the ends of the earth.
— “to work with others in sharing Christ….”
RAs learn that missions is rarely a singular effort. Even as Jesus sent the disciples out by twos, RAs learn that missional teamwork strengthens the missionary effort. They learn why it’s important to work with missionaries, church planters, pastors and believers in other countries to accomplish the Great Commission.
— “and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.”
RAs are God’s vessel for Kingdom work. They learn that purity and personal health discipline position a boy for meeting missional challenges.
The return on investment that churches make in boys through RAs is more difficult to calculate than 100 years of enrollment. However, historically Southern Baptist pulpits and missionary appointments have been filled by men who trace their first understanding of God’s missional call to RAs.
Often when speaking in churches, I’ll recite the RA pledge and watch men and boys of all ages across the auditorium mouth the words with me. They might not remember it verbatim, but the essence is still there because the RA pledge is a powerful life pledge.
Just as RAs make a pledge for missions, RAs need churches that will pledge to nurture their boys for missions.
It’s a pledge to invest in the future.
Jim Burton is the North American Mission Board’s mission education team leader. For more information about Royal Ambassadors, visit www.royalambassadors.org.