SHAWNEE—More than 200 pastors, staff and lay leaders were led to focus on “The Gospel Centered Church” at the Missional Ministry Conference (MMC), March 24-25 at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Speakers, including keynote guest Micah Fries, senior pastor of St. Joseph, Mo., Frederick Boulevard, drew from the theme Scripture of 2 Tim. 1: 8-12: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, Who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Fries opened the conference Thursday morning asking, “What do genuine, gospel-shaped people look like?”
He bemoaned the fact that of the 16.5 million people on the membership rolls of Southern Baptist churches across America, only 6 million show up for worship on Sundays.

Taking a close look at what Jesus had to say in Luke 9: 23-27, Fries said the Lord said four things about the Gospel: it creates humble disciples; it creates submissive disciples; it creates transformed disciples, and it creates sacrificial disciples.

“Heaven is not the purpose of the Gospel,” Fries contended, “Heaven is a benefit of the Gospel. Man must deny himself and give up what is core to himself to follow Jesus.

“That means to take up your cross daily. The heart of the Gospel is death to self.”

Further, the Gospel means we must follow Jesus.

“Christ’s expectation is transformation,” Fries exclaimed. “There is no such thing as a static Christian. We are to pack up and go with Him, and as we go, we are to become more like Him.”

He stressed, “If there is no transformation, there is no salvation. Mark it down.”

Finally, Fries said “we must give up everything for the Gospel.”

He told those in attendance to examine their checkbooks.

“That will tell you what place the Gospel has in your life,” he said.

Alan Bandy, Rowena R. Strickland Assistant Professor of New Testament at OBU, spoke on “The Gospel Unhindered: Recovering the Missional Power of the Gospel.”

Bandy said a three-year decline in attendance at Southern Baptist churches is “indicative of the spiritual climate in America as a whole,” where there appears to be a major increase in interest in spirituality, while that has not translated into greater church involvement, and at the present rates of change, Islam will become the dominant religion in the world before 2050.

As a result, “We must recover the missional power of the Gospel as demonstrated in the Book of Acts,”
Bandy declared, pointing out that between the years of AD 33 and 64, Christianity changed the world.

That is documented in Acts 2:41, where “about three thousand were added to their number that day,” and Acts 4: 3-4, where “the number of men grew to about 5,000.”

Bandy said Paul preached “unhindered.”

“The problem is not that the Gospel has failed, but that we have hindered it,” he said.

Bandy said the characteristics of a Gospel-empowered missional ministry are it is empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and fueled by prayer (Acts 4:23-31) , it is unified in purpose (Acts 1:14; 4:24; 5:12) and it is courageously and sacrificially lived (Acts 9:15-16; 2 Cor. 11:21-28).

Fries wrapped up the conference Friday morning listing “Eight questions we can ask ourselves,” or “eight characteristics of how we engage our own souls.”

They include:

• Am I serious about growth in the Gospel?

“The great danger is coming to believe we are the captain of our soul, our salvation,” Fries said. “Jesus alone is the Captain of our soul.”

• Am I satisfied with God’s plan to grow me in the Gospel?

“God almost always works in uncomfortable ways to conform us into His image. This is where our belief in the sovereignty of God is put to the test.”

• Are my motivations grounded in the Gospel?

• Am I measuring my progress by the Gospel?

• Is my life a picture of the Gospel?

“Is there a distinct difference in your life from those who don’t claim to be a follower of Christ?”

• Is my passion a commitment to the Gospel?

“It’s not simply enough to preach the Gospel, we must live it.”

• Am I committed to the truth of the Gospel?

• Is my joy grounded in the Gospel alone?

“This is very hard. Can you be content where Jesus has placed you?

“One of God’s greatest tools in His toolbox is pain. But I also believe that Jesus is sufficient.”

In addition to the speakers, the MMC also featured breakout sessions, including “The Gospel and the Mission of the Church,” “The Gospel-Centered Home,” “What Does Our Music Tell Us about God?”, “The Mission of God and the People of God,” “Gospel-Centered Student Ministry,” “Sharing the Gospel with Children,” “The Gospel and Small Groups—Teaching for Life Transformation,” “Reconnecting Cause and Christ,” “Missional Transformation: The Conversion and Call of Paul,” “Generation Me,” “The Gospel and Preaching: How to ‘Preach the Gospel,’” “Bringing the Gospel to Our Community,” Enculturation of Kids,” and “Reflections of the Gospel vs. Apatheism.”

Begun in 2006, the MMC has been designed to help equip Oklahoma churches to become the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities. The setting is more like a community where participants can learn and network with the keynote leaders and with other missional leaders in Oklahoma. The conference is subsidized by the contributions of Oklahoma Southern Baptist Churches through the Cooperative Program.

The MMC is being moved in 2012 to October, said organizer Bob Mayfield, BGCO Sunday School/adult discipleship specialist.