1,000-plus churches commit to Acts 1:8 Challenge in first year
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--More than 1,000 Southern Baptist churches have committed to a new SBC missions initiative designed to help them implement a comprehensive missions strategy involving their community, region, continent and the world.
Launched in May 2004, the Acts 1:8 Challenge is a simple call for SBC churches to move to a new level of missions commitment by cooperating with their local Baptist association, their state convention, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and International Mission Board (IMB).
Churches accepting the challenge commit to eight “Kingdom-growing” responses as they work to intentionally carry out Acts 1:8: to prepare, learn, pray, give, go, tell, send and multiply.
Among the 1,087 churches registering their commitment to the Acts 1:8 Challenge are the eight-member Deering Baptist Church in North Dakota and the 14,000-member Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., demonstrating that Jesus’ Great Commission challenge can be embraced by churches of any size and location.
“It has been an eye-opener. Acts 1:8 helps us to focus on what we’re supposed to be doing for Christ,” said Barbara Lanctot, missions leader at Calvary Baptist Church in Wilmington, Ohio. “It has really ignited a fire of involvement here. We’re more mission-active than we’ve ever been.”
Stephen P. Davis, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, said Acts 1:8 clearly communicates the local church’s call to missions.
“We are excited that Southern Baptist leaders and entities are uniting around a clear, harmonious commitment to carry out our Lord’s last challenge -– to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” Davis said.
Nate Adams, author of the 2005 Baptist doctrine study focusing on Acts 1:8, said the strength of the challenge is that it provides structure for a church’s missions efforts.
“The Acts 1:8 Challenge is becoming what many of us hoped it would -– a single, simplified missions message that every church can understand, and a strategic, biblical missions model that every church can embrace,” said Adams, vice president of the mission mobilization group at NAMB.
(Acts 1:8 is the New Testament passage in which Christ instructs His followers to carry the Gospel to "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth." In the Acts 1:8 Challenge, the four realms correspond to the local community, the state, the nation and the world.)
The Acts 1:8 Challenge is strategically linked with the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis. Many churches offering the study, “EKG: The Heartbeat of God” by Ken Hemphill, have followed with the doctrine study by Adams, titled “The Acts 1:8 Challenge: Empowering the Church to Be On Mission.”
"I see the [SBC’s] Acts 1:8 Challenge as the mission component of the convention-wide Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative," Hemphill said.
When a church commits to the Acts 1:8 Challenge, it receives a packet of resources to help develop a more comprehensive and intentional missions strategy. Resources include a sermon outline, bulletin insert, video clips on CD-ROM, PowerPoint presentations and a 60-page leadership guide. Additionally, churches receive specialized ongoing communications and updates from Acts 1:8 partners.
While the leadership guide helps a church evaluate its current effectiveness and implement a plan for the future, other resources such as the sermon outline, videos and PowerPoint presentations are designed to motivate and inspire the congregation to action.
The International Mission Board sees the Acts 1:8 Challenge as a way to inspire churches to take the Gospel throughout the world.
“This expansion of leadership structure allows people to focus on the area of missions that stirs their hearts and passion,” said Jerry Daniel, leader of IMB's church and partner services group. “God is awakening the church and people are finding significant ministry opportunities through the Acts 1:8 Challenge.”
State conventions likewise are looking to the potential for churches increasing their level of commitment to Christ’s mission, said David Michel, associate executive director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
“Mississippi Baptists first responded to Acts 1:8 by saying, ‘We've always been mission-minded.... What's new about that?’” Michel said. “But as the Pentecostal potential of adherence to an Acts 1:8 model became more apparent, sensitive church leaders are deepening their intentions to become more missional in every aspect of church life. Acts 1:8 encourages an interactive church experience in both the local and global arenas.”
In Mississippi, 65 churches have accepted the Acts 1:8 Challenge, as have 66 in South Carolina, where convention leaders point to the importance of helping churches think strategically about their missions efforts.
“The united focus on Acts 1:8 as the missions strategy of Empowering Kingdom Growth has been a good point of challenge for our churches to look at how they are strategically and intentionally living out the Great Commission,” said Debbie McDowell, director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s missions mobilization group. “Many are responding with a renewed desire and intentional strategy to reach people in their own community, state, nation and to the ends of the earth.”
Norm Howell, partnership missions specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said the Acts 1:8 Challenge is helping revitalize churches across the state, which has 51 churches that have accepted the challenge.
"Churches that were dry and showing very little signs of life have been refreshed,” while “congregations that are intentionally and personally involved in missions in the state, outside our state and around the world [have been excited by] the Acts 1:8 Challenge," Howell said.
Pastors and missions leaders interested in more information about the Acts 1:8 Challenge or who want to register their church may visit www.ActsOne8.com or call 1-800-4ACTS18 (1-800-422-8718). Following is a list of the number of churches accepting the Acts 1:8 Challenge in each state. 1,087 churches have registered their commitment as of July 26, 2005.
Alaska –- 2
Alabama –- 74
Arkansas –- 28
Arizona –- 16
California –- 34
Colorado -– 8
Connecticut -– 1
Florida –- 74
Georgia –- 102
Hawaii –- 1
Iowa –- 3
Idaho –- 3
Illinois –- 16
Indiana –- 26
Kansas –- 11
Kentucky –- 45
Louisiana –- 44
Massachusetts –- 2
Maryland –- 9
Maine –- 1
Michigan –- 6
Minnesota –- 3
Missouri –- 51
Mississippi –- 65
Montana –- 1
North Carolina –- 71
North Dakota –- 5
New Hampshire –- 2
New Jersey –- 2
New Mexico –- 7
Nevada -- 6
New York -– 6
Ohio -– 25
Oklahoma -– 23
Oregon –- 2
Pennsylvania -– 8
Puerto Rico -– 1
South Carolina -- 66
South Dakota –- 1
Tennessee –- 59
Texas –- 87
Utah –- 5
Virginia –- 40
Washington –- 8
West Virginia -– 30
Wyoming –- 2
Canada -- 1