I spent three hours this morning in a meeting with five other pastors and our associational missionary. The purpose was to discuss strategy for reaching the River Valley for Jesus Christ. Jesus told the church in Acts 1:8 that we should be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When it comes to missions, our churches do a pretty good job internationally, a decent job in our nation, and a not so good a job reaching our local communities. So this was a “Jerusalem” meeting. We were all Southern Baptists and we recognized that as a denomination we are not the only ones out there calling people to follow Jesus. We also realized and spent time discussing that fact that not all “Christian” churches are interested in anything related to missions. Just because there are lots of churches doesn’t mean those churches are necessarily effective in reaching people for Jesus in our home town. In fact, many of our old mainline denominations have departed from missions and instead opted for social justice work.
We did something that’s not really “politically correct” in the church world. We named names of churches in our area as we tried to discern who is and who isn’t working our local community as a mission field. As we strategized and evaluated possible new works and church plants, we realized that we needed a baseline from which to work off. Exactly how effective are the churches (not just SBC churches) we currently have? And then we had to face another reality. Just because a Southern Baptist church is committed in name to missional work, that does not mean that we are effective in that work. In fact, we had to admit that many of our SBC churches spend more time trying to hold on to what they have internally that they are of no good externally.
We were left with one glaring reality. It is the job of the local church to fulfill the Great Commission using the Acts 1:8 strategy. That strategy includes being light in the darkness right here at home. This is our mandate. Then things got real exciting. We talked about “zones” in our city, “tribes” of people groups, who we are reaching well, who we are not reaching well, who we are not reaching at all, and where they live. It was a good start. And it also reminded me of the power of cooperation. Cooperation within our convention of like-minded churches and cooperation across lines that usually divide us.