On Nov. 15, Oklahoma Baptists gathered to do something historic. We confirmed Todd Fisher as the 10th executive director-treasurer of our convention.
That night, he walked us through Eph. 4:1-6 and called us to be one in Christ. It was an exceptional call to unify around Christ and the advancement of His kingdom.
While I’m certain every person in the room readily accepted the challenge, I’m just as certain that most went back to churches which were divided by a multitude of issues that were keeping them from being “one.” It’s not that the members weren’t willing to accept the challenge; they just hadn’t heard the call. The harsh reality is that many things give opportunity for divisions in the local church. A clear call for unity is needed today.
Most churches are not intentionally walking away from Christ or His call to make disciples; they have just allowed things to jar them out of focus. You and I can easily allow our lives to lose focus, just as a whole congregation can lose focus. We lose focus when peripheral things become larger than the main thing.
Have you ever tried to take a picture with an auto focus camera and gotten a distorted image because the camera focused on something other than the item that you really were trying to photograph? This usually happens because something was closer to the camera than the item you were trying to photograph.
COVID, vaccines, masks and mandates have demanded space in our church discussions, and often they have become so divisive that they take all the energy of the church away from advancing the Gospel because we are trying to find unity amid the immediate crisis.
Unity seldom comes when we focus on peripheral issues. Unity only comes when we focus on Christ and His mission.
Pastors from across Oklahoma have expressed a need for their churches to unify. Therefore, Oklahoma Baptists have designed a five-week emphasis called “ONE” that pastors can use to call their church to unify around Christ and to make disciples. The emphasis is intentionally undated, so a church can use it at any time that best fits their schedule.
Just as the messengers at our annual meeting were called to unify, each pastor can use this emphasis to call his church to unify in Christ to make disciples using the Eph. 4:1-6 passage that was used by Dr. Fisher when he challenged the messengers. The emphasis will bring your church together for the purpose of re-focusing on Christ and our mission. This begins by prayerfully walking your church through five focal themes: Repentance (1 John 1:9), Harmony (Phil. 2:1-4), Partnership (Rom. 12:1-8), Rejoicing (Rom. 12:12) and Reliance (Prov. 3:5-7).
Pastors, you will be given a five-week sermon series from Philippians 4 in an outline format with presentation slides and a worship set list. You will be given five small group lessons from Ephesians 3-4. These lesson plans will be age specific for children through adults.
Each lesson will have discussion questions as well. Plus, you will receive 25 daily devotions for your families to use at home. The outcome will be a church renewed around Christ and our mission.
The materials will be available during the Advance Conference at Moore, First on Jan. 24-25. There will be a breakout on Tuesday the 25th to outline the material and how it could be used in your church. The material will also be available online at the Oklahoma Baptists web page after the Advance Conference.
Let’s all pray together that God will remove the peripheral issues and re-focus His church on Christ and the mission!