PERSPECTIVE: So, yes!
My inbox is a semi-trailer truckload of contradiction. People try to convince me to lead Oklahoma Baptists to do things their way. All are well meaning, and in many cases, passionate, and their number is legend. Let me give you a few examples.
Some suggest we put too much emphasis on missions around the world. “Shouldn’t we put more focus on reaching people in Oklahoma?” Others believe we should stop putting money into our state and nation and just concentrate on world missions. The response to both views is yes.
The overwhelming lostness of our nation and world should push every Christian and every Baptist church to pray, give and go to the ends of the Earth. With 6,426 people groups without a clear witness for Christ in their heart language, every Sunday School class should join the effort to adopt in prayer an unreached people group. Our partnerships in East Asia and Mexico should not lack either in prayer support or people willing to take a week of their lives to go and share the story of Jesus Christ in these gospel-parched places.
At the same time, we must do more to carry the Gospel across the room, across the street and down the road. We must not allow ourselves to go weeks and years without sharing Christ with those around us. Some of our churches baptize no one in a year, and others baptize only a few. But what if you began to pray for just one lost person in your town or sphere of influence? What if every Oklahoma Baptist took responsibility to pray for a friend or family member who is without Christ and found ways to serve them and share with them the truth of Christ? Don’t you think we would see a great evangelistic revival the likes of which Oklahoma has not seen? So, yes! We should reach more people in Oklahoma, and we should give and go to the ends of the Earth to reach people. Read Acts 1:8 and see if there is room to ignore any part of the world.
One constant contradiction comes in the area of church planting. Some suggest we don’t need any more churches in Oklahoma; rather we should strengthen the ones we now have. Others point to places and people groups within our state that are not being reached. In some cases, the need is for a different kind of church to appeal to a different segment of the population. The response to both suggestions is yes.
We do need to strengthen churches across our state. Some of the strengthening is to push them outside their comfort zone to carry the Gospel to the streets of their towns. In other cases, a good dose of repentance from fussing and fighting over triviality in the household of faith would add a spiritual dynamic to a church without firepower. Old churches certainly can learn new ways to touch the lost world around us.
No doubt there is great need to plant churches to reach new areas and segments of our society. The world has come to Oklahoma. We must be ever vigilant to present the Gospel and congregationalize people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Many need the Gospel in their heart language. Some of the fastest- growing church plants are those reaching affinity groups. Cowboy churches are growing rapidly. Skeptics claim they are just taking members from other churches, but the record shows these new congregations are reaching lost people at a significant rate. One of the fastest-growing churches in our state is a biker church. The list of Oklahoma baptism leaders includes the names of many churches that did not exist 10 years ago. So, yes, we need to strengthen our existing churches, but we also need to plant new ones to reach people who do not attend traditional churches.
Much of the communication I receive suggests that only churches should plant churches, while some propose that God calls people to be church planters and directs them to underserved areas. The response to both opinions is yes.
Without a doubt, churches should be planting churches. The need is great. We can help link you with the opportunity for your church to connect with a church planter and help to launch a new church in Oklahoma or another part of our nation or world. The financial and organizational experience of existing churches overseeing and supporting a new church plant is advantageous. Much is to be gained through a sponsoring church from financial support and workers who will come alongside a church planter. Frankly, those who believe that only churches should plant churches need to step up to the plate and put your resources where your belief is. For example, our partners in Guerrero, Mexico are seeking to plant 15 new churches in Acapulco, which has a population approaching four million. We only have 15 Baptist churches there now. If you believe churches plant churches, then become a partner church.
God births into the heart of individual men and women the desire to reach a certain group of people in an area—whether cowboys, bikers, emerging generations, Asian, Native American or Hispanic. When He speaks, we can support these people as they launch into the deep. Planting a church is hard work and demands great sacrifice. So, yes, churches need to plant churches, and God does call people to plant churches.
I have learned to live with contradictions. As long as those apparent contradictions don’t violate Scripture, I can challenge both sides to action. The key is to put action to your convictions. Don’t just criticize others. Do something: witness to your neighbor, go on a mission trip, lead your church to plant a church, become a church planter. Stop talking and do something!
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.