ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–In his first message as president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, Frank Page warned the sin of uselessness is paralyzing the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches.
Page, elected to the post only hours earlier, addressed the closing session of the Woman’s Missionary Union 122nd annual meeting of in Orlando, Fla., which drew 600 registrants to the June 13-14 meeting.
Citing the parable of the fig tree found in Luke 13:1-9, Page said the tree had been planted with a purpose of bearing fruit. “You are not here just to provide shade,” he told the participants. “You are here for a purpose and that is the purpose to bear fruit.”
Many Southern Baptists, like the tree, are not producing fruit, not verbally sharing their faith, and moving from their excitement, unwilling to be Great Commission churches, Page said, noting, “Uselessness invites disaster.”
While judgment is deserved, Jesus offered a message of grace, Page added.
“I believe God’s message to us is a message of encouragement,” Page said — another opportunity “to do what He called us to do in the first place.”
Page called for Southern Baptists to bear fruit individually, in their churches and in a denomination purposely fulfilling the Great Commission.
Page’s message served as the cornerstone for the remainder of the session, as the WMU focused on the spiritual needs of the world.
A dramatic art presentation by Mindy Jaquith of Okeechobee, Fla., reminded the audience that 1.68 billion people in the world do not know Jesus and His great love for them. Jaquith serves as a counselor for Camp WorldLight, the Florida Baptist Convention’s GA and Acteens camp.
A call to worship by the “Femmes en Action,” a women’s ensemble from First Haitian Baptist Church in Orlando, and special music from the Korean Pastors’ Wives Ensemble, gathered from across the nation and dressed in traditional garb, demonstrated the diversity among Southern Baptists.
Margery Fils-Aime, a member of First Haitian Church, told how after returning to her native Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake, she was struck by the “poignant picture of loss — loss on so many different levels.”
Yet God was blessing the efforts of the Haitian churches in that politically unstable and impoverished country, Fils-Aime said. “The Haitian church is not confused. It is a ripe time for evangelism,” she said. “The people are looking for faith. They look to God.”
Lynn Latham, a North American Mission Board missionary in Orlando, told of Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts in Haiti and asked for prayer for Buckets of Hope collected by Southern Baptists that still remain stalled in customs in Port-au-Prince. She noted that the Florida Baptist Convention pays the salaries of pastors in Haiti through a partnership relationship.
Work in South Korea continues to grow and strengthen, said Wanda Lee, WMU executive director-treasurer, and Angel Kim of Houston, Texas, who traveled to that nation in 2009 to assist in worship and training of Woman’s Missionary Union members.
Especially memorable for her, Lee said, was standing at the demilitarized zone looking across to North Korea and praying for “our brothers and sisters living across that border.”
“Missions education through WMU is strong in South Korea under Sook Jae Lee,” who has led South Korea’s women’s missions organization for 25 years, Lee said. “And it is equally strong here in the U.S. within Korean Baptist churches because of the faithful leadership of Angela Kim,” who serves as a WMU Korean consultant.
Wearing a traditional Muslim “hijab,” Beth P, an IMB missionary serving in the North African and Middle Eastern peoples affinity, shared how she and her family of four have dedicated their lives to serving the Muslim people in large cities and small villages in that region.
Claiming the WMU theme verse for the week, Hebrews 12:1-2, Beth P said she was seeing God’s Word and witness “unhindered” and called for an “unhindered global focus” to reach the North African and Middle Eastern people groups.
“That great cloud of witnesses has laid the foundation and workers are going forth, but there is no way the task will be finished without you and our church and your children,” Beth P said. She estimated that, with the number of workers among Muslim in these countries, every worker would be required to win 700,000 persons for Christ to reach that group.
She also urged the audience to embrace with kindness and Christian love the people from these people groups encountered in the grocery stores, airports and malls here in the United States.
“Persecution is a daily reality when you are serving in [this area], and that persecution hinders the Gospel,” Beth P said, as she asked for prayer for workers and new believers.
Closing the session, in her final act as WMU president, Kaye Miller of Little Rock, Ark., presented to the newly elected president, Debby Akerman of Myrtle Beach, S.C., a biography of Fannie E.S. Heck, a ring designed for the current WMU president and a gavel.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.