Page: We are not alone
COLUMBUS (BP) -- Southern Baptists must take the Gospel to the ends of the earth to let hurting people know they are not alone, Frank S. Page told messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Southern Baptist churches are not alone in that task.
Baptism rates in the SBC have declined below the 1948 level, Page said, in part because "we have adopted society's lie that people won't talk to you about Christ anymore."
"That's a lie. People are open to the Gospel if you approach them with a motive of Christ-like love and compassion. We need to increase our evangelism like we never have before," Page said, urging believers to hold each other accountable in sharing Christ.
Toward that goal, churches need to train people to be good stewards of the resources God has given them so they will give the funds needed to help take the Gospel to those who haven't heard.
The Cooperative Program allows every church, "no matter its size and every group no matter its ethnicity" to be involved on a powerful level in fueling the missions task. No church is alone, Page said.
Page proposed a Great Commission Advance, a 10-year strategy beginning this year and leading to the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program in 2025. Part of that strategy is a 1% Challenge in baptisms and a 1% Challenge in stewardship -- encouraging church members to increase their giving through the local church.
Recently the convention has seen an uptick in Cooperative Program giving from churches after Page challenged them to increase their CP gifts by 1 percentage point.
Also in his report to messengers, Page said the work of the Hispanic Advisory Council, African American Advisory Council, Asian American Advisory Council and Mental Health Advisory Group has been completed, and he continues to meet with the Multiethnic Advisory Council and a council comprised of leaders from small membership and bivocational churches.
Page announced the addition of a Women's Ministries Advisory Council and said all of the advisory groups are an effort toward removing obstacles that have kept Southern Baptists from partnering with maximum effectiveness in the Gospel task.
Kelvin Cochran, a former Atlanta fire chief fired for writing a pro-family book, was Page's guest during the EC report as a demonstration that religious liberty challenges are real. In the book, Cochran calls homosexual behavior immoral.
Cochran, a messenger from Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, said he has learned in this trial there are worldly consequences for standing for Christ and for biblical truth.
"There are also Kingdom consequences for standing for Christ and standing for biblical truth," Cochran said, "and the Kingdom consequences are always, always greater than the worldly consequences."
Cooperative Program in action
To show the Cooperative Program in action, Page invited three couples to the platform to tell how they are using CP funds to share Christ.
Robbie and Gail Nutter have reaped a harvest of thousands entering national and international missions through their collegiate ministry at Kansas State University, the couple told messengers.
The two are themselves products of the Baptist Student Union they now lead.
"At the BSU, we weren't just confronted by an inspiring vision, we were seized by one and we still haven't gotten over it," Robbie Nutter said. "The vision of investing our lives in a few and seeing them multiply is really the fastest way to reach the world."
The couple encouraged Southern Baptists to support the Cooperative Program because it enables their collegiate ministry to thrive.
"Your giving has enabled these former students and thousands more like them to be reached for Christ," Gail Nutter said. "Your giving to the Cooperative Program fuels this discipling culture, and this culture is really impacting the globe."
Muche Ukegbu and his wife Diamone learned the power of the Cooperative Program while helping plant a church in Atlanta five years ago.
"A year into our church plant, God introduced us to tremendous grace through the North American Mission Board and their farm system," he told messengers. "What the North American Mission Board provided in abundance, in abundance, was space to process, to wrestle, to grow, to be developed, to be poured into ... all because of your giving. I just want to say thank you for that."
CP also enabled the couple to move to Miami with their three young children and a ministry team 10 months ago, and they have planted a church and seen lives changed by the Gospel. More than 140 adults attended the church launch on Easter, Ukegbu said, and sinners have confessed and repented.
"We represent a lot of church planters with various stories who are benefitting tremendously from the Cooperative Program and your faithful giving," Ukegbu said. "So I just want to commend to you what Paul commended to the Galatians, that you would not grow weary in doing good, for you will reap in due season, and I just want to say thank you again."
But because Kizziah was a Southern Baptist pastor in Kentucky, Southern Baptists' monetary gifts allowed their son to get the care he needed without delay, and he no longer tests on the autism scale, his mother told messengers.
The couple, who was later commissioned in the IMB Sending Celebration June 17, thanked Southern Baptists for their financial support.
"We cannot do this without your faithful partnership. We are so grateful to you, our Southern Baptist pastors, for your giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering," he said. "It is indeed in the strength of this partnership that we go.
"And without this partnership, we never would have been here in the first place. We owe a debt to you, our SBC family, not only for sending us now, but for discipling us, for educating us, nurturing us, caring for our family, and most importantly, for leading us to Jesus in the first place," Kizziah said.