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Reccord underscores ‘urgency’ in wake of Wedgwood shootings

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The Sept. 15 shootings during a youth rally at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, should serve as a wake-up call for churches to do youth ministry with an “intentional urgency,” said Robert E. “Bob” Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
Recounting the deadly shooting at Wedgwood, Reccord said seven places now are open on the front line of ministry, as seven committed Christians were killed that Wednesday night.
The seven victims were killed when 47-year-old Larry Gene Ashbrook entered the Wedgwood sanctuary on a Wednesday night and opened fire into a crowd of about 150 to 200 teenagers and adults during a “See You at the Pole” gathering.
Among those killed in the gunfire were four teenagers as well as two students and an alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Two other Southwestern students were also injured. Ashbrook killed himself before ending the shooting.
Speaking during “Culture Shock ’99,” an annual youth ministry conference Sept. 20-22 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., Reccord asked, “Who’s going to fill the seven places? Are you ready to be urgent? Are you ready to step into the front line?
“We don’t have time anymore to baby-sit kids,” Reccord declared. “We don’t have time anymore to have the major thing of youth ministry to be parties and celebrations. We’ve got to equip these kids for a warfare they’re being launched into.”
Describing the modern American culture as “anti-Christian,” Reccord said to be prepared for an effective youth ministry today “you better be keyed in on the word urgency,” similar to that of soldiers preparing for battle.
Reccord challenged the church to avoid a survivalist mentality like that adopted by allied forces during the Korean War, when soldiers’ fear of being shot made them cower in their foxholes and trenches. A survivalist mentality in ministry, Reccord said, keeps Christians in their “foxhole” or “comfort zone,” otherwise known as the church.
“Do we say, ‘We’d love to minister to you, as long as you dress up … and come on over to my foxhole?’ or do we go out” where the multitudes are? Reccord asked. “Don’t ever feel like the church where you serve is a place primarily where people’s lives are changed,” he said. “The church is just the refueling station. The work is out there! God says, ‘I need you outside these walls.’”
Continuing the wartime imagery, Reccord likened an ineffective minister’s methodology to that of the allied forces who, having attained victory in World War II, then suffered defeats during the Korean War because they didn’t understand their enemy and were unfamiliar with their own weapons.
Reccord likened churches today which depend solely on the “heavy artillery” of preachers and other church staff members to evangelize the world with the allied forces who relied too much on heavy artillery from the air during the Korean War while neglecting to effectively use ground troops.
The only way God’s mission of getting the message of salvation to all the world will be accomplished, Reccord said, is by “not relying on the preachers up in the pulpit” and “not relying on the churches saying, ‘You all come.’” God’s mission will be successful “the same way wars are won anywhere … with every soldier involved taking his part on the ground wherever God sends him or her.”
Reccord said those in youth ministry will only be effective if they understand the enemy. He said youth ministers should make sure their young people know not only that Satan is “the ruler of the air,” but also know what that means, practically in their lives, by equipping them to defend their faith through Christian apologetics.
Challenging youth ministers to be familiar with their weapon, the Bible, Reccord said they must not only get into the Word by reading it, but also get the Word into themselves by memorizing it, so they can successfully apply God’s teachings.
Reccord said Christians should remember that the battle is the Lord’s, as well as the strategy, “but the decision is mine.”
Because the battle is the Lord’s, there is no need for fear, he said. Since the strategy is the Lord’s, “I’d better be in tune with what God’s strategy is for today,” he said, noting biblical accounts of God using different strategies to defeat the enemy. “The strategy that worked for you yesterday in ministry will likely not work for you next weekend,” he said.
Since “the decision is mine,” ministers must decide now if they will function in an urgent manner, Reccord said. They must decide, “Am I or am I not going to take God at his Word, regardless of what everybody says and how things look,” and “Am I or am I not going to get on a war footing, rather than being comfortable in peacetime mentality?
“If you want ministry that just sort of eases along, get out now, because the heat of the battle is turning up, and it’s going to get hotter,” Reccord said. “We don’t have time for business as usual.”

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  • Debbie Moore