As you will read in this edition of the Messenger, the Board of Directors of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) made several very important decisions during their last meeting. We approved Joe Ligon to become the senior associate executive director. We set a bold Cooperative Program goal for 2020 and committed to sharing $1 million more with our Southern Baptist partners—International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and our seminaries.
We also set the broad parameters for our work over the next few years; you will be hearing more about Advance 2020 in the coming days and months. I believe these decisions will impact our cooperative work for years to come.
A simple mission statement drives Advance 2020—We encourage one another to advance the Gospel. Let me break that down.
“Encourage” is a strong New Testament word. Encourage combines the ideas of support and challenge. Sometimes encouragement comes like a tender arm around the shoulder—sympathy, comfort, consolation. The work of the local church can be discouraging. Our enemy schemes against us and our headwinds of the culture gale in our faces. We need the comforting presence and kind words from partners in the work. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).
Sometimes encouragement comes like a firm hand in the back. At times, we hesitate. The work overwhelms us, or fear keeps us from pushing forward in the Lord’s work. Self-pity becomes an excuse for passivity. We need to be challenged. Encouragement is exhortation. “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:9). Sometimes I need a brother to come put a hand on my back, maybe even a kick in the pants, to compel me back into the field.
“Gospel Advance” is the way the Apostle Paul described our mission. Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Paul pursued that mission and taught the churches that he planted to join him in the work. When he wrote to the church at Philippi, he cautioned them against being discouraged by his imprisonment. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Circumstances can distract us from the heart of our calling. With so many voices offering suggestions about what our churches should do, we must challenge one another to keep our focus on making disciples of our neighbors and the nations.
Notice also the key words “We” and “One Another.” The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma sounds institutional. In truth, we are a family of churches. The work of the BGCO is not work that paid professionals do for paying churches. Ours is a work of mutual support—pastors helping pastors, leaders supporting leaders, churches partnering with sister churches to help each other reach our state with the Gospel. Trained people help untrained people, strong churches help feeble churches, and churches with many resources help those with few. As Oklahoma Baptists, we should always be asking, “How can we encourage one another to advance the Gospel?”
I believe that is a mission our Lord will bless.