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The Open Door to Kingdom Harvest
Monday, February 16, 2009

The Open Door to Kingdom Harvest

President’s Report
SBC Executive Committee
February 16, 2009

Our nation has been brought to its knees financially.  Now the question is, “How shall we respond?”  What, if anything, will we do differently?

So many in our generation have tried and tested many gods only to discover none of them has the answer to the emptiness in their hearts.  If the financial collapse in the United States has reverberated to every nation on earth, could not the fresh wind of God’s Spirit reach every continent in the world?  It can happen, but only when we are serious enough about the things of God to abandon all of self for all of Christ.  You know, it’s not difficult to be human.  It’s the natural thing to do.  We’re made that way and we fail to be less than God intended because it is in our very nature.  God has given us the capacity and the privilege to know His power within.  Consequently, we are to live our lives supernaturally rather than naturally.  Our spirit is quickened, i.e., brought alive when we trust Jesus Christ as our personal savior.  We are alive. We are alive in a way that no other human beings on earth are alive.  There is a sense in which you could say about those who have never come to Christ; they’re walking dead men and they do not know it.  They do not know to search for the Jesus Christ as the answer to every dilemma.  We have an unusual opportunity in this environment to introduce our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ to those who are in our circles of influence and beyond.  God’s fresh wind can and will happen only when the church is ready to provide real spiritual leadership, to teach kingdom values to the newborn in Christ, to do ministry and to fulfill Acts 1:8 imperative.

The general tenor in our country is one of panic and fear.  I don’t know about you, but it took me a moment to get adjusted to major losses in my savings.  I had come to count on it and to be grateful for it.  I was shocked when the crash occurred, and the crisis seems far from over.  If you think just a moment of panic or fear might even enter the hearts of those of us who name the name of Jesus above every name, can you imagine what is happening in the hearts of those who have no promise for eternity with a living God?  Our treasure is laid up in heaven; and we have to remember that.  Our retirement may be reduced, but heaven is coming and there’s no limit to the streets of gold and of the eternal treasure we’ll enjoy.  If people don’t find an answer for their panic, the dire predictions of national leaders actually may become self-fulfilling.  So again I say, how shall we respond?

First, we need leaders with the courage of a Joshua to challenge their communities to replace fear with faith.  Three times in the opening verses of the book of Joshua, God challenges Joshua to be strong and courageous.  Remember, difficult circumstances are the platform on which God reveals His supernatural activity.  Have you noticed that in times of trouble, He gets our attention easier than when things are going well?  I think we’ve all experienced that.  It is in this moment, with this platform of anxiety in the world, that God can release Himself in such a supernatural way that lives can be changed; they can be turned right side up; they can be coming out of the bars and the salons of the world, falling on their faces before a holy and mighty God.  That is spiritual awakening and nothing less.  When we hold nothing back from God in the face of difficult circumstances, our response will allow God to demonstrate His supernatural power through us.  We must take our eyes off the crisis and fasten them on Jesus.  Christ alone can bring calm to the fear of the human heart.

Second, our response to this financial crisis provides a wonderful opportunity to saturate ourselves daily with a fresh word from God, praying that He will raise up an abundance of new spiritual leaders whose purpose has not been lost in personal goals, but hunger and thirst to be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. 

We need prophets in the land who love Jesus first, foremost, and forever.  We need prophets who are empowered, anointed, and inspired as they preach Jesus and Him crucified.  When God’s spirit touches the human heart, and the person trusts Christ for his salvation, that life is changed for all time and eternity.  We need prophets to guide the newborn in Christ to an understanding of living a holy life where righteousness prevails over godlessness and desperation.  Many of us on occasions have walked out of the pulpit after preaching a sermon realizing that something supernatural happened.  It happens when our hearts have been overwhelmed not with our words, but with God’s word.  We are to saturate ourselves with a fresh word from God, lose our own personal goals, and preach to empower others to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Then and only then will we be prepared to guide the newborn in Christ to an understanding of how to live that holy life.

Third, we must keep our ears tuned to the ministries God would have us undertake to witness to the power of God to answer prayer and shine light where there is darkness.  Will Hall, vice president for news services at the Executive Committee, is a deacon and spiritual leader in his local church.  Last month, God gave the pastor of the church, the College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, an inspired idea to post a message on the sign in front of the church.  The message asked people to text their prayer requests to a cell phone number.  When the church listed the number on the sign, the phone was flooded with text messages from all ages of individuals requesting prayer.  And they keep coming.  The local television station did a newscast on it and even more made requests.  I want to read one of the text messages which I believe is representative of millions of people who are outside the doors of our church. 

Can you please pray for me?  And she gives her name.  My 37-year-old son attempted to commit suicide last June.  He lived for 12 hours on a machine and I had to make the decision to take him off life support.  Now I feel like I have murdered my son.  He left behind a daughter and a son.  My mother passed away 9 weeks later.  My father lives in my home now and is on hospice, suffering from congestive heart failure.  My husband is looking at the possibility of closing his business due to the economy and health reasons.  We have bills piling up.  We have a home in a nearby town that we are trying to sell to pay off our debt.  And in capital letters which means to shout or to cry out PLEASE PRAY!! 

That message captures the desperation of the world.  God bless this church that used a very modern technology that gave the people of that community an opportunity to respond to ask for prayer.  The church seized the moment for delivering a message of hope through the latest technology.  We are experiencing an open door for ministry in our country that may not occur again in our lifetime.  Whatever you do, take advantage of this crisis by hanging out a sign – “Open for Business.”  Start a prayer hot line, restock your clothes and food closet, offer financial counseling, and share the Gospel with boldness and abandon. 

Fourth, we must focus on the Acts 1:8 imperative.  We all should have a spending plan that prevents us from spending money we do not have.  We should budget our resources on the basis of our solemn commitment to accomplish the Acts 1:8 mandate.  Can you imagine sitting down as a Christian and preparing the personal budget, the family’s budget based upon Acts 1 mandate?  Incredible in its thought.  Recently seminary students were being taught by Ken Hemphill, national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth.  They became upset during the discussion to hear about a church that had drastically cut its mission spending around the world.  Ken responded by saying, “Had the church taken a bold stand in support of our missionaries who were pushing back the veil of darkness around the world, the church would have given with sacrificial generosity regardless of the tough times.”  He later raised the question, “Can you imagine what would occur if multiple churches adopted such severe cuts in supporting our missionaries who go to the ends of the earth.”  The financial cost of having to bring missionaries home from the field would only be exceeded by the loss of opportunity to see the Great Commission completed in our generation.

Maybe you are wondering what your church could do now.  Here are a few suggestions.

  • Replace fear with faith.  Don’t miss this opportunity.  Pray with expectancy.  Allow God to demonstrate His power to provide.
  •  Base your budget on your mission.  Make every line item of the budget essential to the mission purpose and vision of your church. 
  • Have a spending plan in the event that there will be a lengthy recession.  The integrity and wisdom with which the church handles its resources will be a testimony to the people of the world.
  • Call on everyone to give.  If data is accurate, the church doesn’t have a spending problem.  It has a giving problem.  Twenty-five percent of the church attendees give 85% of its resources.  Too much is at stake in today’s kingdom opportunity to fail to call everyone, every Christian, every born-again believer, everyone who names the name of Christ.  How committed are we in this world where we have absorbed all things about us.  Southern Baptists, beginning with our founders, have a clear call to missions that our success in missions will not exceed the extent to which we surrender all of self, not part, but all to Christ.
  • Challenge people to exercise “grace giving.”  The churches of Macedonia begged for the privilege of giving an offering to the saints of Jerusalem.  We are experiencing a “financial famine” not unlike that of the first century.  I pray that it will be said of us all, --“in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part, for they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means”.  That’s God call to the church in this hour.  For many of our people it would be an entirely new concept to be sacrificially generous when we have little of the world’s goods as compared to being generous when there is an overflow of material things.
  • Exercise boldness when it comes to critical components of our cooperative work.  If we believe we need more missionaries and not less, we must remain the missions-minded, Christ-centered people our forefathers led us to become.  For over a period of nearly 30 years, we have discussed practically every nuance of Southern Baptist doctrine.  Now we must be forever vigilant in standing upon the word of God, but it is time for Southern Baptists to stop doctrinal knit-picking among ourselves.  It is time for every leader in the Southern Baptist Convention to talk of Christ and Christ alone.  We stand on the steadfastness of the word of God and we stoutheartedly affirm our biblical convictions, nevertheless, we cannot continue to be led to be more inward when it is time to look at the world and the fields that are white unto harvest.  Our belief in the authority of God’s word is settled.  While I have great appreciation for those who are called to debate the nuances of doctrine I tell you, Southern Baptists in the pew and on the streets need to hear from our prophetic leaders a word of God that reverberates throughout the nation and around the world.  We need God to raise up prophets in this nation.  We need prophets in this convention, we need men who will stand and point the way to those who are in lostness and darkness and have no light in their souls. 

I’m afraid we have squandered the bountiful resources that God gave us during the last two decades of prosperity.  We spend more on ourselves than we did on missions.  We consumed God’s blessing rather than conveying it to others.  The crisis of a lifetime is here.  One final question we need to ask ourselves.  Are we willing to miss the opportunity to model what it means to be a child of the King and a citizen of the Kingdom?  Let us pray.

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