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‘Where are the pastors?’ missions week crowd asked

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–John Marshall is passionate about taking the gospel to every corner of the world.

Over the past five years, Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., has seen God energize their congregation to live out the Great Commission.

Now he is telling other pastors that if they want to be “in the game” with God, they have no choice but to get involved in global missions.

Like other baby boomer pastors, Marshall said he saw his job as saving America.

“We went at it with a passion and a vengeance,” he told an International Missions Week audience at Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center in New Mexico. But after years of hard work, “Our greatest sadness has been to see that America is going to hell faster than ever.”

Marshall began to realize there must be something much more to the Great Commission.

“The Lord didn’t love America any more than any other country in the world,” he said. “[I was] beginning to realize that if I continued to devote myself totally to trying to save my country, I was going to lose my ministry and I would end in frustration and defeat.”

Deciding to seek God’s mind on the subject, Marshall assembled 100 of the church’s main leaders to meet and read the first 13 chapters of Acts over and over again. Eventually, they broke into four groups corresponding to the “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth” of Acts 1:8.

After a great deal of study and discussion, the group established goals for the church up to 2020 and presented a “Worldview Document” to the congregation in the summer of 1997.

At the same time, the International Mission Board sent letters to the 200 largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, inviting each to adopt a people group that had no access to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Second Baptist asked for a list of five unreached people groups to pray over.

One day, a friend Marshall had not seen in years stopped by the church to talk. Marshall mentioned the unreached people groups the church was praying about adopting.

He was amazed to hear his friend say he knew someone focused on taking the gospel to one of the people groups, the Dong of China.

“From Friday afternoon to Monday morning, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown,” Marshall told the Glorieta crowd. “I knew I was on the verge of the greatest God-thing that had ever happened in my life.”

When Marshall told church leaders about the connection to the Dong, they responded, “God is in it. We are going to adopt those people and make a 20-year commitment. We’ll do whatever it takes to get the gospel to those people.”

The problem for Marshall was that the International Mission Board wanted the pastor of adopting churches to go visit the people group.

“I don’t travel well,” Marshall said. “I hate to travel.”

A church staff member replied: “You have to go. We’ve given them $3,000 and we can’t get it back.”

“That’s how God pulled me into missions: kicking and screaming and fighting every step of the way,” Marshall said.

When he made the trip to China, however, Marshall was unable to visit the area where the Dong lived. Instead, he went with another pastor to visit the people group that church was adopting.

“I had never seen anything like the look on his face when he met the first person from that people group,” Marshall recalled. “It literally broke my heart for the world’s lost.

“I came home a totally and completely broken man. God put passion in my preaching and he put passion in my life. We set ourselves to the task of accomplishing our 20-year goals with a reckless abandonment and total passion.”

The church met all their 20-year goals in the next two years. In 2001, they will send missions teams to dozens of places, including Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, China, Nepal, India, Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt, Spain, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Kansas City, Chicago, Nebraska, Montana and Colorado — plus public schools, parks and rescue missions in Springfield. The congregation is one of 820 members of the IMB’s Global Priority Church Network.

Now Marshall is concerned about all the other baby boomer pastors and churches in America.

“The great burden God has put on my heart is, where are the pastors?” he said. “Where are the pastors with a brokenness, with a hurt in their heart, with tears in their eyes?

“Five years ago, I felt like I was in center field. I could barely see what was going on in the game. But not anymore. Now I’m right down on the playing field.

“If you want to be in the game, you have to be willing to play. God has opened up a whole new dimension of his will for us.

“If you want to be in the game, you MUST go.”

International Missions Week was July 28-Aug. 3 at Glorieta.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: EMISSARIES, MISSIONS FAIR, FROM AROUND THE WORLD and DEBRIEFING.

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  • Sara Arnold