April 23, 2014
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EMBRACE the ends of the earth
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Don't miss 'great movement,' Wright urges
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--What God began during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix could become "a great movement of the Lord" across North America and around the world, SBC President Bryant Wright said in a video at www.pray4sbc.com.
EMBRACE: Southern Baptists begin engaging 3,800 people groups
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--"Let's get to it already. We're ready to roll." Micah Fries'sentiment echoed throughout the crowd as IMB President Tom Elliff gave an invitation during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting June 14-15 in Phoenix.
Elliff told messengers he felt like he was "holding back a dam" of Southern Baptists ready to walk forward and "embrace" the remaining 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups around the globe.
A CALL TO SACRIFICE: World's unreached gain Southern Baptists' 'embrace'
PHOENIX (BP)--Southern Baptist pastors and leaders respond to the challenge to "embrace" the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups during the SBC's annual meeting in Phoenix. "To the best of our knowledge nobody has them on the radar screen," IMB President Tom Elliff told the convention.
WRAP-UP: SBC spotlights ethnicity, unity, unengaged
PHOENIX (BP)--Southern Baptist Convention messengers meeting in Phoenix June 14-15 adopted an historic report encouraging ethnic diversity, witnessed dozens of leaders standing together in support of a landmark unity pledge, and saw hundreds of pastors and laypeople volunteer to lead their churches to embrace one of the world's 3,800 unengaged people groups.
It was the lowest-attended annual meeting in 67 years, with just over 4,800 in attendance, but the substance of the meeting led plenty who attended to argue it shouldn't be judged on numbers.
"I do believe it could prove to be the most spiritually significant convention over the last 50 years," Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright, who was re-elected to another one-year term, told Baptist Press after the Phoenix gathering. Wright pointed to the sluggish economy and to the travel time from most SBC churches as possible reasons for the low attendance. From beginning to end, messengers heard biblical pleas for Southern Baptists to join the church planting movement in North America and to adopt an unengaged people group around the world. And messengers responded. More than 1,000 pastors and their wives packed a North American Mission Board luncheon to learn about the entity's new Send North America church planting strategy. On the final night of the convention, hundreds of messengers flooded the front of the convention hall at the end of the International Mission Board report, having signed cards pledging to lead their church to embrace an unengaged people group. An IMB representative will contact them later. Each mission board report also featured a commissioning service, with Southern Baptists meeting their newest missionaries. "Coming back to the authority of Scripture was a correcting point that had to take place [in the SBC], but the mission is to fulfill the Great Commission," Wright said. "I think this was the most unified convention around the Great Commission that I have experienced. People came here with anticipation of that unity." Wright practiced that unity during his press conference, inviting the presidents of NAMB, Kevin Ezell, IMB, Tom Elliff, and the Executive Committee, Frank Page, to sit on the platform with him and participate. It was the first convention as president for all four men, and each one had a unique emphasis during his respective report to messengers. Ezell highlighted church planting and Elliff emphasized the unengaged, while Page introduced an "Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation" pledge that was signed by entity leaders, state executives and ethnic fellowship leaders. The document had five core points, with the heart of it a pledge to "walk in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ." During the Executive Committee report, the leaders stood on stage together.
Wright urges adoption of 3,800 unengaged peoples
PHOENIX (BP)--The starting point for Southern Baptists is not the Great Commission, but "falling in love with Jesus once again," Bryant Wright told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14. Wright, president of the SBC and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., likened Southern Baptists to the New Testament church of Ephesus that Jesus rebuked for having abandoned its first love. Taking his text from Revelation 2:1-7, Wright noted that Christ began his message to the Ephesian church with words of commendation -- and Wright acknowledged that Southern Baptists are doing thousands of good things at home and around the world. "Ephesus had existed for 40 years and endured hardship in the midst of a pagan culture," Wright said. "The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 in Augusta, Ga., has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, the recent years of economic recession and years of abundance and great prosperity. In the past 50 years our convention has persevered in the midst of the most rapid moral and social change in the history of the American culture." Like the church at Ephesus, Southern Baptists have resisted and exposed false doctrine, Wright said. "Unlike other mainline denominations that have chosen to take one pro-sin position after another, Southern Baptists have stood unapologetically upon the Word of God," he declared. Wright continued: "Southern Baptists years ago decided that we must be faithful to the perfectly true written Word of God. In our seminaries, it is unbelievable what has happened in the last 30 years. Seeing the sound doctrine and the passion for Christ, for missions and church planting among our faculty and students, is an absolute miracle." After Christ affirmed the church at Ephesus, Wright noted, He offered a word of rebuke because the church had lost its first love. "We leave our first love when other priorities begin to be bigger priorities in our lives than our relationship with Jesus," Wright said. "I believe the No. 1 idol within the lives of our people and in the lives of our churches is materialism. "Studies have shown that less than 2.5 percent of every dollar is given by evangelical Christians in America today [to missions causes]. What it clearly says to us is that no matter how much our people profess that they love Jesus, they love their money more," Wright said. "There is no way that when a person is continuing to steal from God, they can claim they love Jesus Christ." America's hedonistic culture influences today's church, and pornography is sapping the spiritual life from men in congregations, Wright asserted. "There is also an incredible lust for the latest, up-to-date technology," the Georgia pastor said. "To stay connected through the latest social network technology becomes the dominant focus of the lives of many people. "We can even let good things cause us to leave our first love -- our families, our work, even our ministry," Wright continued. "I believe the major temptation for anyone who serves in Christian ministry is to begin to confuse their ministry with their relationship to Jesus Christ. Not our family, our work or our ministry is to come before Jesus Christ." Wright pointed out that Christ told the church at Ephesus to do three things to reclaim their first love: remember, repent and then repeat what they did in their "honeymoon" days.

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