Avery Willis and the GCR
Nothing should be closer to the heart of a Christian than the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s Great Commission. This Great Commission is for every believer in every time, culture and place. No one is exempt. We can so easily become distracted with other “good” things that we can be about doing, but nothing should ever take our focus off of taking the Gospel of Jesus to the entire world.
With that said, I felt compelled to share on this blog the contents of a letter sent to my brother in Christ and friend, Dr. Ronnie Floyd. I came into receipt of this letter through missionary channels where the letter is floating freely. Dr. Floyd is chairing the Great Commission Task Force which has as its job to bring a report of recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention when it meets in June in Orlando, Florida. This report will recommend what we as Southern Baptists need to do to re-focus our efforts as a denomination on the Great Commission. The letter is written by the great Avery Willis; a living saint if there ever were one. Bro. Willis has recently been diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia and we should all keep him in our prayers as he is seeking the best treatment our country has to offer.
In another email sent to some missionary friends, Avery Willis commented about his illness:
“In the midst of your concern for me I want you to compare my situation with the four billion oral learners who haven’t heard and don’t understood the Words of Life. At least 1.5 billion people have never heard of Jesus. They are the ones who need our attention and prayers.”
You can see the heart that this man has for the lost. And so please take time to read this very powerful letter sent to Dr. Floyd concerning the Great Commission:
December 7, 2009
The last question you asked on the GCR conference call the other day has continued to haunt me, “What if you were sitting in the audience when the GCR Task Force made their recommendations to the SBC, what would disappoint you if it were not addressed properly?”
The other night I as I went to sleep I asked the Lord to help me dream about Him instead of the random things I usually dream of. He brought the issue back to me again when a man in the dream asked me, “Why should we be so concerned about the lost of the world when there are so many lost persons here?” I answered him and then woke up and realized I had to write you.
My answer is the lostness of the world!
I know that it is foremost on your heart and the hearts of the task force, but it is so easy to get concerned for the lostness nearby that we neglect the utter, total lostness of more than five billion people in the world without Christ. I hear things from NAMB about the US being the fourth largest nation of lostness in the world, by which they mean there are numerically more lost people here than in all but three other countries. And, that is true but it does not factor in the critical element of how much light the lost here have and how many ways they can find Christ in the US with 350,000 churches (44,000+ of them SBC) and with probably more than a hundred million born again believers here whose responsibility it is to reach them. So let me say emphatically, yes, we must address the lostness of North America whom we have been given the responsibility to reach. No question! And our churches and members have to have that laid on their hearts.
However, when I compare that to the task of the Great Commission it in no way compares with the lostness of the world in depth of the darkness or the multitudes of people. The US is 6% of the world’s population and 90% of the world is lost. At least 1.5 billion people in the world have NEVER even heard about Christ and the Good News. How easily that number slides off our lips with little comprehension of what it means!
One of the problems is that we are myopic and see what is close to us. That is why 97.5% of the money in the offering plates stays at home and only 2½ % gets to the rest of the world. That is why less than one tenth of one percent of Southern Baptists become missionaries. This is not right. This is not just. This is sin.
Think of it this way. Suppose there is a disaster in a mine and thousands of people are trapped in darkness facing imminent death. You are among those on the rescue team. Suppose you clear out enough debris for a man who is only 100 feet from the mouth of the mine to get out. You call him numerous times. You shine powerful lights to show him the way out but he ignores you. You increase your efforts and get more on the rescue team to try to persuade him to come out but although he is alert and well he rejects all efforts. However, there are thousands trapped in the mine hundreds of feet below the surface. It will take a lot more effort, people, funds and time to reach them but you know that at most they only have 24 hours to live. They have no light; it is totally dark. They hear no calls; it is silent. They have no hope; there is no escape-unless the people on the outside care enough and determine that these thousands will not die without every effort to save them. And you realize that many of these people will welcome the good news and be saved and many will respond when they see the light and hear the call. The question you face, “Where are you going to put your priority?”
We forget how dark it is without Christ for those who have never heard, who have no hope, who don’t even know that there is a Hope. If the GCR Task Force and the Southern Baptist Convention don’t address the lostness of the world both in depth of darkness and the multitudes lost in the valley of decision I will be broken-hearted.
I am praying that God help you to sound the call and send the light.
Gazing on God’s Glory and Telling His Story,
International Orality Network