PERSPECTIVE: GC people
Perhaps the operative phrase among Southern Baptists in 2009 was “Great Commission.” During the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, a Great Commission Task Force was formed to seek ways to focus the whole SBC and all of its organizational life on fulfilling the Great Commission. As the sun set on 2009, I took some time to consider how seriously Oklahoma Baptists take the Great Commission. I think the results are impressive.
During the 2008-09 reporting period, Oklahoma Baptists gave more than $10 million to International Missions through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Together, we partnered to provide Jesus DVDs for distribution in Armenia by the Singing Churchmen. We joined together with the Guerrero Convention in Mexico to begin nearly 25 new churches as well as strengthen the work of the seminary that serves southwestern Mexico. This work is being done in an area where the International Mission Board has no missionaries.
In fall 2009, we took the first steps toward a new partnership with the Land of Lottie. In December, a group of students involved in BGCO’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries saw 121 students on two university campuses in our partnership area come to faith in Christ. Many churches across the state have already made commitments to participate in this partnership. I have a sense that this may well supersede the Malawi partnership in impacting lives. Add to this other partnerships and mission trips that many of our associations and churches are involved in, and the Great Commission impact of Oklahoma Baptists reaches to the ends of the Earth.
This past summer, a GO Students team of 251 students and adults from 156 different churches served beside our missionaries in Wales and London, reaching out with the love of Christ to refugees as well as to Brits. When I visited to observe their work there, missionaries told me that Oklahoma Baptists could never realize how impactful these students were. One stated their work was being set forward perhaps as much as 10 years.
For years, Jerry Rankin, retiring president of the IMB, has said that he knows of no single place on Earth where more missionaries have been called than Falls Creek. Each summer, hundreds of young people make commitments to lifetime involvement in missions. Some will serve in the local church, while many will end up on the international mission field.
It was announced in 2009 that, once again, Oklahoma Baptist University produced more people serving under appointment of the International Mission Board than any other school. The Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach, which opened on the OBU campus in 2005, helps Christians develop their ability to take the Gospel throughout the world. The new dean of OBU’s School of Christian Service is a former IMB missionary. OBU and the convention continue to dream of greater unity in placing Great Commission ministry at the forefront of our work among the churches and on the university campus.
Add to these international efforts more than $4 million given through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. Oklahoma Baptists are now partnering with Utah-Idaho Baptists to take the Gospel to this very lost part of our nation.
A couple of years ago, Oklahoma Baptists developed and implemented a strategy called Across Oklahoma, which aimed at praying for families and delivering a local church anchored gospel presentation to their homes in our state. Our churches touched more than 60 percent of the households in Oklahoma. The North American Mission Board has adopted that approach, and in 2010, the whole SBC will be involved in an Across North America ministry.
As I contemplated our many efforts to share the Good News, I was overcome with thanksgiving and joy because of the Great Commission heart of Oklahoma Baptists. While we can do better—and we will certainly endeavor to do so in the years ahead—I think we are already a people focused on the Great Commission.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.