Monday, March 27, 2006

I have finally returned from the Sunshine state and regained internet access. Our ten day hiatus in posting has had to do with a lack of internet access and not a deficiency of topics to post.

The problem now: where to begin?

As you know we have been to the trustee meeting and appointment service of the International Mission Board in Tampa. The events of these meetings have been well documented on several blogs (SBC Outpost, 12 Witnesses, & many others). Rather than rehash these issues, I will leave you with my own observations and lessons learned from an exciting and beneficial week. In future posts, I hope to make comments and observations related to the latest policies passed by the Board of Trustees.

Lessons Learned:

1. I have learned that WE must be active in the convention if we are going to remain Southern Baptists. For many years I have believed (as I know many of you have) that I could continue my ministry in the church and let others worry about the denomination and the politics entailed. After watching the proceedings of the past few months, I can no longer fool myself with such a mindset - it is pertinent that we involve ourselves in the convention. Someone is going to lead the convention, someone is going to control the direction of the convention, someone is going to decide who will be appointed as missionaries, seminary presidents, & denominational spokesmen and leaders. Someone must steer the helm. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves riding a ship to a destination we never intended.

My greatest fear: we’re halfway there!

2. I have learned that there are some amazing men serving as leaders and trustees in our convention and other young leaders passionate about missions and our convention. The highlight of our trip to Tampa was the chance to meet and spend time with some of these people. We had the privilege of eating several meals with Wade Burleson, Rick Thompson, Marty Duren, Ben Cole and others. I had the chance to meet Jason Helmbacher, a pastor from Oklahoma who made the trip to Florida to speak on behalf of some of his church members serving as IMB missionaries and Patrick Barrett, a middle school teacher waiting on his wife, Melanie, to finish her schooling as a dental hygienist before attending seminary in preparation for the international mission field. I had the opportunity to briefly speak personally to Dr. Rankin and watch the grace and humility with which he conducted himself during the plenary session (even amidst a barrage of attacks and obvious undermining carried out by some trustees).

3. I have been reminded of our great missionaries serving around the world. To say the least, it was inspiring to see 40+ people standing on the stage of Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, telling their story of how God brought them to the place in which they stood - a place of devotion that compelled them to leave all comforts and securities behind simply to further the cause of Christ. There were engineers and homemakers, married couples, single individuals, and families; even one couple, I understand, who had a child disappear on the mission field in a former appointment who were now returning to take the Gospel to a new land. These individuals were heading all over the globe – to Muslim countries & communist countries, friendly countries and hostile lands. Some were able to share their full names, others, for security, were forced to be recognized only by initials.

These men and women stood as an inspiration and a reminder of what life and ministry is really all about. We have every convenience, afford ourselves so many luxuries and consider a sideways glance or muttered criticism persecution. These men and women had counted the cost and found that the Gospel and Jesus Christ are truly worth everything.

4. I have learned that if there is ever going to be an emphasis placed on world missions it must begin in the hearts of the pastor and staff of local churches. Meeting church leaders so passionate about missions stood as an indictment to my ministry. I have in recent months and will now continue with greater passion to make known the plight of missionaries, the history of missions and the need for future missionaries. Without this effort on my part, without my praying to such end, without the Holy Spirit using me to reach the hearts of the people God has placed in my ministry they may never be awakened to the great task before us. It was stated at the meetings that an additional 3,000 missionaries are needed to place a missionary in every unreached people group – what a joy it would be to see someone from my ministry called to fill one of these positions.

(to be continued)
posted by Rick