SAN DIEGO (BP) – Across the nation – California, Kansas, New England and elsewhere – Southern Baptists are in the early stages of joining forces through All.America with other Great Commission Christian groups and organizations for the spiritual transformation of their towns, cities and rural areas.
San Diego is a case in point.
“Like all large cities in America, San Diego has issues from political divisions, social media distraction and certainly from COVID: isolation,” said Mike Carlisle, director of missions for the San Diego Southern Baptist Association, and executive Director of All San Diego, a nonprofit outgrowth of the North American Mission Board’s Vision San Diego.
The association organized and hosted the Oct. 6-7 Love Your Neighbor Summit at Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, which brought together nearly 200 individuals from many San Diego evangelical churches and parachurch ministries. See related article.
“Now more than ever we need to come together and serve our community with the love of Christ,” Carlisle continued. “Our purpose in life is to love God and love our neighbors. That’s the Great Commandment.”
The “Love Your Neighbor” Summit is one of many options suggested by the linking organization All.America. It is “an organized attempt to bring the church together,” Carlisle told Baptist Press.
The summit had two purposes, the director of missions said. First was to assist church leaders “with tools for their churches to pray for and make friends with their neighbors. The second step is to launch a movement where loving your neighbor becomes a normal and natural part of being a follower of Christ.”
The ultimate goal of All.America: Completion of the Great Commission as given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (NASB)
“Uniting around the Great Commission is not a new idea,” All.America’s National Coordinator Joel McGill told Baptist Press. “There’s a new season and a fresh urgency in America, an awareness America is not OK. I really believe this whole effort is to get out of our silos and engage with the larger body [of Christ.]”
All.America’s genesis came at the World Congress of Evangelization in 2000 in Amsterdam, where a group that came to be called “Table 71” came into being. Out of that collaboration Call.2.All – call2all.org – was launched in 2008, which gave birth in 2016 to a focus on bringing to Christians in the United States a fresh resolve to reach every person in the United States with the life-transforming news of God’s unconditional love and desire to be in their lives.
“It’s not an organization. All we are is an onramp to the Great Commission,” Doyle Pryor told Baptist Press. Pryor is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., and in his first term as president of the Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptist Convention. “What we’re doing are ‘finish lines,’ connecting people with Jesus, the Bible and the Christian community.
The five “finish lines” as developed by All.America are “a way to strategically focus on what Jesus commanded us to do,” according to the website allamerica.com. “Prayer, Compassion & Justice, Evangelism, Bible Engagement and Christian Community, as finish lines, give us a comprehensive framework to see this nation transformed and discipled.”
McGill jumped into the discussion.
“It is not a program but a framework the Body of Christ can use to strategically plan for the Great Commission,” the All.America national coordinator explained. “It allows people to stay in their lane and but be able to see the broader Body and how they fit.
“Reaching the finish lines of the Great Commission is the core idea,” he said. “What does it take to take frontier missions concepts and apply them to America, reaching unreached people here. The strategy centers on unifying the Body of Christ around a common goal with clear metrics, measurements.”
Pryor shook his head in disappointment.
“What we’ve been doing independently has not been working,” he said. “Over the last 10 years in SBC life, baptisms have decreased but the population has increased. Southern Baptists alone are not going to accomplish the mission. It’s going to take all of us. We have many counties in northwest Kansas and western Nebraska that don’t have even one evangelical church. It’s going to take more than just us.”
Kansas was the first state where Southern Baptists got involved with All.America, McGill said. This was because Southern Baptist missions leader Avery Willis knew Pryor from Pryor’s nine years as a trustee on the International Mission Board. Willis, one of those at Table 71, continued in leadership of Call.2.All and then in All.America.
“When I saw who was involved with All.America, and remembering the success we [Southern Baptists] had had in India reaching two unreached people groups – working with other Great Commission Christians – I was in,” Pryor said.
Kansas hosted the first All.America summit in May 2019, with 164 Christian leaders from across the state. Partnerships developed. At one point, speaking from the platform, Terry Yancey, the Kansas Assemblies of God superintendent, called Pryor to his side.
McGill recalled that meeting: “Terry said, ‘If you believe that we can reach Kansas without our Southern Baptist brothers, then you are deceived. We need one another,’” McGill said. “And then he and Doyle hugged. It was a really beautiful moment.”
Pryor said the group is “honored to be the tip of the spear, to help figure out how churches and organizations can work together for the sake of the Gospel, especially in non-legacy states where we don’t have such a strong Southern Baptist presence.
“We have made plenty of mistakes,” he continued, “three or four different starts here in Kansas. At the same time we’ve seen so many victories. It’s people working together for the sake of the Gospel who weren’t before.
“Our state convention has been a great partner in this. We couldn’t have accomplished what we have without them. The benefit here for Southern Baptists is, this is who we’re supposed to be. God has given us these incredible resources, this influence, so we can help resource the church to accomplish the Great Commission.”
The All.America strategy is a catalyst to the churches, Pryor said, one that creates missional movement as people get excited about working together for a larger-then-life purpose. The website lists all the onramps for individuals, churches and others to get involved, and includes all the resources.
Those resources – offered free of charge – are the “best practices” developed by the largest and most effective overseas missions organizations and missionaries.
“We’ve never been exclusionist in Southern Baptist life,” Pryor continued. “I’ve been in ministry 35 years and we never had the idea we were in this thing [the Great Commission] by ourselves.”
Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Churches of New England, spoke with Baptist Press about being “in the beginning stages” of All.America in the six states from Maine south.
BCNE this April (2022) hosted an informational gathering that drew about 50 leaders spanning New England’s evangelical spectrum, with representatives from the Billy Graham and Luis Palau evangelistic ministries as guests.
“We dreamed and we prayed and then we prayed some more and then dreamed and prayed some more,” Dorsett said. “There have been several Zoom meetings since. I don’t know that we’re ready just yet for more. We’re identifying leaders for each of the five finish lines.”
BCNE will take leadership for evangelism and Bible engagement, the executive director said. “We don’t have an action plan yet. We’re still in the dream stage.
“Next year,” Dorsett said.
“Southern Baptists in New England do not believe they can reach New England alone,” the New England executive director continued. “Though we could forge ahead on our own [with All.America] it seems wiser to wait until there is unity of heart and mind with other evangelicals in New England. Then we can all move forward together with a major evangelistic initiative across the region.
“First, if we’re going to reach the world, it’s going to take all of us,” Dorsett said. “Second, we think the three other finish lines – prayer, compassion and justice, and Christian community – are important and we want to be a part of a movement addressing all of those too, even though we’re not spearheading them.”
Chicago’s immediate focus is uniting together in prayer, McGill said. In San Diego, under the leadership of SDSBA DOM Mike Carlisle, it’s uniting together in evangelism.
“Our end game is to make disciples, but our first move is to make friends,” Carlisle said. “God wants to bless all of us in the same way that He caused the rain to fall on the just and unjust [in] Matthew 5:45. He served people who didn’t follow Him, and so must we.
“Jesus commanded us to,” Carlisle continued. “Love God. Love neighbors. The ultimate goal is to earn the right to share the Gospel with them so they too come to love God and love neighbors.”