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J •E •M

Journal of Evangelism & Missions

Volume 1 0 • Spring 20
10 11

Issues in
& Missions

Open your eyes

and look
at the fields!
They are ripe
for harvest.
John 4:35
• Evangelistic Methods
That Grow Churches
...p. 1
• SBC Decline
in Baptisms ...p. 25
• Taking Risk in Dangerous
Places – How Much Is
Too Much? ...p. 69
• Finishing the Task ...p. 79
Published annually by Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary,
Cordova, Tennessee, and Schenectady, New York,
Michael R. Spradlin, President.

Journal Committee
Mike Haggard, Assistant Editor
Jeff Brawner, Assistant Editor
Meredith Tipton, Copy Editor
John Charping, Book Review Editor
Betty Bailey, Layout and Design
Cathy Rech, Administrative Assistant
Steve Wilkes, Editor

Journal of Evangelism and Missions is published in the spring of each year at Mid-
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© 2011 Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

ISSN: 1543-4680

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designated branch campuses. Other levels of training are also offered.”
Table of ConTenTs

1. Evangelistic Methods That Grow Churches by Jere Phillips

11. An Analysis of Organic Churches and Their Current Views

on Conversion by Bob Whitesel

25. SBC Decline in Baptisms by Will McRaney

39. Mass-Evangelism and Disciple-Making by Mike McGinnis

49. McGavran, The Great Commission, and Evangelism

by Michael W. Waldrop

59. The Local Church and Mission Volunteers by Stan May

69. Taking Risk in Dangerous Places—How Much is too Much?

by Gordon Fort

79. Finishing the Task by Clyde Meador

87. My Word Will Not Return Void by Matthew Akers

97. Southern Baptist Missions and the Search for the Meaning
of “Church” by Jeff Walters

113. The Believer and Spiritual Warfare by Wade Akins

125. Book Reviews

evangelisTiC MeThods ThaT grow ChurChes

by Jere Phillips

“What are you doing to reach people?” That question

is commonly heard by pastors and staff of growing

With a large percentage of Four Surprises

churches being plateaued or
declining, ministers are con- Interestingly, only two pas-
stantly searching for something tors mentioned a contemporary
that works. However, a study of style of music or informal cloth-
churches who consistently lead ing as being connected to their
in baptisms reveals a diversity of success in reaching people.
methodology. Churches wanting While both factors possibly are
to model their ministries after involved in many of the churches
success stories will not find a studied, when asked “what helps
“one size fits all” cookie-cutter you reach people,” most leaders
mold. did not include either as a direct
The following is a study of help in evangelism.
randomly selected churches from Another curious finding was
various sizes, locations, back- that only three of the churches
grounds, and traditions. Each is studied used a formal evangelis-
in the top fifty churches in bap- tic program (such as Evangelism
tisms (either numerically or, in Explosion or Faith) to any sig-
the case of smaller churches, in nificant degree. This fact does
comparison to membership) in not mean that many successful
the Southern Baptist Convention. churches do not use them. It
merely highlights the emphasis

of these churches on methods tor at Second Baptist Church of
other than formal training pro- Houston (with 2,364 baptisms
grams. in 2009), wants every activity to
The third surprise from have a “hook” to reach people
the study is the diversity of for Jesus. In addition, the corpo-
approaches. A few churches rate culture encourages members
have regular weekly visitation. to share Christ as a lifestyle and
Others emphasize the constant to bring friends to church.
“as you go” impact of believers 2. Pastor initiated—Every
on people in the community. pastor sets the tone for the staff
Overall, every church had its and congregation. From ser-
own methodology for reaching mons, to organizational plans, to
people for Christ. staff agendas, to ministry activi-
A fourth unexpected result ties, these leaders model and
was that while few of these mold evangelism into the corpo-
churches use typical evangelistic rate DNA of the church. While
revivals, all employ evangelis- staff ministers may administrate
tic events to varying degrees. evangelistic efforts, none can
This finding does not support replace the pastor in creating a
the idea of discontinuing reviv- commitment to evangelism. At
als. A recent study of the North First Baptist Church of Orlando,
American Mission Board of the both current pastor, David
SBC showed that churches which Uth, and previous pastor, Jim
have evangelistic revivals using Henry, helped focus the church
vocational evangelists tend to on reaching people for Christ.
baptize more people annually Although each pastor has differ-
than those churches who do not ing personal styles and organiza-
use revivals. tional approaches, the common
What works? This investiga- quality of a focus on reaching
tion reveals two commonalities people started with the senior
and many unique approaches. pastor.

Two Commonalities Varying approaches

1. Intentionality—Every Relationships—Most of the
leader interviewed stressed that congregations surveyed stress the
the church makes an intentional importance of healthy relation-
effort to reach the lost for Christ. ships among members, but also
Every program, ministry, activity, focus on developing relation-
sermon, group has as its goal the ships with friends, family, and
touching of people’s lives with neighbors. Reaching a primarily
the gospel. Dr. Ed Young, pas- Mormon community in Utah,
Pastor Joe Johnston’s North Hills
Community Fellowship works people live out their Christianity
to create a family atmosphere of and demonstrate their love for
people reaching out in love to God, other people are attracted
their friends. to the gospel.
In the more traditional Biblical Preaching—Another
setting of Hendersonville, common focus for evangelis-
Tennessee, Long Hollow Baptist tic pastors is the use of strong
Church also emphasizes lifestyle preaching to influence people
evangelism. Leaders successfully for Christ. Ed Young, David Uth
encourage members to build and other pastors are known for
relationships and to ask people their effective biblical preach-
to come to church with them. ing. At Hillvue Heights church
Similarly, the leaders at in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the
Biltmore Baptist Church in North most likely baptismal candidate
Carolina work constantly to is an adult man over the age of
instill a bridge-building culture 40. Associate Pastor Jamie Ward
into its congregation. A study suggests that the strong com-
by the Barna organization has bination of the members’ wit-
revealed that most unchurched nessing and Pastor Steve Ayers’
people will attend a church when preaching are responsible for
invited by a friend who par- this remarkable result. Hillvue
ticipates with them. Too many Heights does not emphasize
church members invite people specific evangelism programs
to church but have no intention (although it has occasionally
of developing a personal rela- employed training with “Sharing
tionship with them. Successful Jesus Without Fear”). However,
evangelistic relationships are it has grown from 30 to over
genuine—extending outside the 3500 primarily through decisions
church hours—and intentional— at worship services.
designed to bring people to faith Modeled after the Simple
in Christ. Church approach, Sagebrush
Transformational Church in Albuquerque empha-
Testimonies—The testimonies of sizes the weekend, particularly
people who have been dramati- Sunday, activities. Senior Pastor
cally transformed impact friends Todd Cook demonstrates his
who observe believers’ changed heart for evangelism through
lives. The Gathering in Mililani, strongly evangelistic preaching.
Hawaii, has celebrated people
rescued by Christ from back- The Gospel Invitation—
grounds of alcohol, broken mar- Various pastors use a variety
riages, and other life tragedies. of approaches to drawing the
The pastor observes that as the evangelistic net at the conclu-
sion of the sermon. Most have a coupled with multi-day events
typical invitation in which seek- (such as Next Generation stu-
ers are invited to come forward dent camp) and traditional activ-
to receive Christ at the end of ities like Vacation Bible School.
a sermon. On the other hand, Community Ministry—
Pastor David Landrith does not Several churches use community
offer a “come forward” invitation ministry to demonstrate Christ’s
at every service, especially after love and to provide opportuni-
sermons designed for believers. ties to share the gospel. Lapine
However, he regularly offers a Baptist Church in Alabama has
strongly evangelistic message offered health fairs and parish
followed by an intense call for nursing to minister to people
decisions, resulting in healthy and provide an opportunity
responses. for them to hear the gospel.
Raising the Visibility Sagebrush often has up to 1000
of Baptism—Second Baptist volunteers for its “2nd Saturday”
Church, Houston, stresses imme- community ministry—partnering
diate baptism. At many of its with various non-profit minis-
events, helpers are ready with tries to touch human needs.
baptismal clothes for people Technology—One African-
who receive Christ to be bap- American church, New Memorial
tized immediately. First Baptist, Missionary Baptist Church in
Orlando, also elevates baptism as Chicago, uses a tele-ministry sys-
a celebration—both at its regular tem which places 10,000 phone
baptism services and at special calls a week. Teams trained in
services by the lake, at the beach, soul-winning techniques visit
or at times in baptism troughs three days a week, following up
placed on the stage. Romar on people who respond.
Beach Baptist in Orange Beach, Other churches typically
Alabama, often baptizes on the employ well-designed websites
beach, an activity which attracts to share information about the
onlookers who ask for baptism church. Most websites include a
on the spot. gospel presentation, along with
Event Evangelism—Many, the opportunity for seekers to
though not all, of these churches initiate contact with the church
employed attractional events to for follow-up. Technology also
one degree or another. Romar aids outreach, follow-up, and
Beach emphasizes jail and beach assimilation through church
ministries, gospel concerts, and information software systems.
disaster relief benefits to reach Small Groups—Some
people. Long Hollow Baptist churches have traditional Sunday
uses strategic one day events Schools or Connect Groups, but
also include numerous groups • Attract—Employing various
meeting on multiple days/nights events to draw people to a
of the week. Each group is place where they can hear
intentionally evangelistic, built the gospel.
around teaching God’s Word and • Attach—Immediately offer-
reaching people with the gos- ing baptism, Bible study
pel. The Connect Group leaders groups, and discipleship for
at Biltmore Baptist Church in people who respond.
North Carolina understand their • Assimilate—Making a prior-
purpose is to grow and multiply. ity of involving all members,
The church constantly starts new especially new believers, in
classes, some at the church and Bible classes.
others in homes. • Advance—Helping believers
Multi-site approaches— grow through discipleship in
Several larger churches have sat- small groups.
ellite campuses in multiple loca- • Activate—Involving people
tions. Each campus has a site- in various ministries based
pastor and staff, but the Senior on spiritual giftedness.
Pastor of the main campus is • Affirmation—Constantly
seen as the primary pastor of the encouraging believers at each
entire church. Other “global” stage of their spiritual jour-
pastors help lead coordinated ney.
approaches to student ministries
and other activities. By offering Retention rates: With the
opportunities in areas that are various methods of evangelism
experiencing population growth, and the strong emphases on bap-
these churches are able to reach tism, a reasonable question may
more people in younger demo- be asked about retention rates. A
graphics, who typically are more survey of these churches revealed
open to the gospel. With six retention rates from 50-80 per-
services at its main campus and cent. Those churches with the
additional services at its three higher retention rate were more
satellite locations, Sagebrush intentional in follow-up, dis-
Church added 2,000 members in cipleship, and assimilation.
2010, reaching an average atten-
dance of 9100. Three Unusual Case Studies
Providing Follow-up/
The following case stud-
Assimilation—Second Baptist,
ies are not typical of Southern
Houston, uses a six-tier approach
Baptist churches, but are relative-
to assimilation:
ly new congregations. Each has
an unusual approach to ministry
and evangelism. From Hawaii,
to Utah, to Florida, these con- events. Church members do
gregations give us a look at non- not approach neighbors with
traditional approaches church a strong apologetic witness at
plants have taken to reach their the beginning, but seek to build
communities for Christ. friendships. Genuine love dis-
arms the typical Mormon who
North Hills Christian expects to experience judgment
Fellowship, Tremonton, and rejection from evangelicals.
Utah, Joe Johnston, Pastor From the basis of relationships,
believers are taught not to argue
When Pastor Joe Johnston with their Mormon neighbor,
arrived at Tremonton, he found but to focus on the nature of
familiar territory. His family was God, the nature of Jesus, and
multi-generational Mormon. the nature of salvation. Many
Joe had come to Christ after Mormons use the same terminol-
trying to convert his wife to ogy as evangelical Christians, but
Mormonism and discovering the have vastly different meanings,
reality of Jesus Christ in the pro- requiring witnesses to help with
cess. After serving at North Hills definitions.
for six years, he has seen the Pastor Johnston has observed
church grow primarily through several stages that Mormons
the conversion of people out of typically experience when com-
Mormonism. ing to Christ.
North Hills emphasizes the Loving Relationships—As
creation of a loving atmosphere. believers encounter Mormon
By focusing on genuine love, neighbors and family, they offer
authentically Christian life-style, genuine loving relationships.
and willingness to provide a sup- Doubt—Mormons typically
port system for those coming out are not brought to doubt their
of the LDS, North Hills has suc- beliefs through argumentation,
ceeded in an extraordinary way. but by Christians demonstrating
In one six week period in 2010, authentic love and a consistent
34 persons were baptized. Most life-style. As their experience
people are saved in members’ with believers casts doubt on
homes after coming at discreet what they have been taught
hours to avoid pressure from the about non-Mormons, Mormons
will begin to question other
Mormon community.
teachings of the LDS church.
People hear about North
Questioning—The LDS does
Hills primarily through word-
not permit questions. Typically,
of-mouth testimonies, although
a seeking Mormon may come
some people are reached
to discover that what he/she has
through block parties and other
been taught is not accurate.
Conversion—At some point, Pastor Johnston says his
usually in a personal conversa- church seeks to get people to
tion, the seeker will understand love Jesus and to love others. He
the true nature of Christ and attributes the church’s success
come to Him in authentic sal- to feeding the flock with biblical
vation. Such conversions are preaching and teaching, offering
usually very solid because the a family of believers who love
individual understands that he/ each other, and providing a con-
she is choosing between Christ sistency in living out the Christ-
and everything else. People who like life.
leave the LDS for Jesus often lose
family relationships, jobs, and The Gathering, Mililani,
even their homes. The members Hawaii, James Shiroma,
at North Hills try to provide a Pastor
support system for these new
believers—even to the point of This congregation has grown
offering shelter. from 0 to 260 in its brief four
Baptism/Membership— year experience. Founded on
Because of difficulties associated “falling in love with God” and
with baptism and membership “living out Christianity in life,”
in the LDS church, converted The Gathering is very relational
Mormons take time deciding in orientation. Many of its new
to follow Christ in baptism. believers have emerged from
Church membership may take various broken backgrounds in
longer. response to the testimonies of
Anger—Some new believ- Gathering members who share
ers may experience bitterness about how Jesus transformed
toward the LDS as they discover them. Leaders emphasize that
that what they had learned was salvation is “more than a prayer,”
not true. but involves giving one’s life
Discipleship—As believers totally to Christ.
grow in the love of Christ and A Great Commission church,
in understanding the true doc- members are involved in their
trine of Scripture, they gradually community, seeking to build
release their anger and begin to relationships by ministering to
mature. neighbors in non-threatening
Mature Love—As they grow community outreach activi-
in Christ, they begin to express ties and personal friendships.
love for LDS family and friends Occasional events in the fall and
and seek to become effective wit- at Easter attract several hundred
nesses to them. people. Ministry to the home-
less, the elderly, and other needy

people also offer opportunities to The church follows the
share the gospel. Simple Church model with few
Training happens primar- activities during the week other
ily on Sunday as the gospel is than multiple worship services.
shared. The plan of salvation The congregation uses only two
is in each week’s printed bul- or three attraction events dur-
letin. Small group leaders are ing the year, choosing to focus
trained to share their faith and on relational evangelism, Bible
to encourage members to share study, and worship services as
their testimonies with others. means of reaching people. Youth
Follow up begins with the services on Wednesday and
church staff who discuss mem- Sundays, Young Adult services
bers’ growth and needs. A on Thursdays, join adult services
retention rate of 60-70 percent on Saturday and three additional
is aided by the use of a “Life services on Sunday are held.
Journal” which leads new believ- The Crossing has two pri-
ers through a study of God’s mary approaches that combine
Word in a four-stage approach relational evangelism and church
each week: Study, Observe, proclamation are Invest and
Apply, and Pray. Invite. By “invest,” they mean to
intentionally invest themselves
The Crossing, Tampa, in building relationships with
Florida, Greg Dumas, Pastor. non-believers (neighbors, busi-
ness associates, etc.). They then
The Crossing began first as
encourage members to invite
a church plant in 2003 by Greg
these friends to come with them
Dumas. It is called The Pointe.
to church activities where new-
Growing from 0 to 1000 in two
comers will encounter a gospel
years, The Pointe merged with
Crosstown Church which con- message. Pastor Dumas includes
tributed another 1000 people to a strong invitation at every ser-
the new congregation called The vice.
Crossing. Six years later, the Pastor Dumas’ philosophy is
church has 5,000 people on its to insure what the church does is
main campus, 450 in its Spanish done well and remains biblical.
congregation, 400 in its young New Christians are introduced
adult ministry, and over 400 in a to Life Journaling, placed into
satellite site in Orlando. In addi- Life Groups, and encouraged to
tion, over 1000 people access serve. Life Groups are located in
the Crossing’s worship services homes during the week and at
through its website, including the church site on Sunday morn-
200 in New York and others ings.
from locations around the world.
The retention rate of the effectively. This writer’s obser-
Crossing is lower than other vation is that churches lacking
churches studies—about 35%. an effective Sunday morning
However, the church is work- Bible study program—such as
ing on a tracking program to the Sunday School or Connect
monitor members’ growth more Groups—have a more difficult
closely. time assimilating new believers.

Conclusion What can churches take away

from this study?
Some people say that you
can’t argue with success, and • First, recognize that what
each of the churches studied works in one church does
have succeeded in reaching not necessarily work in
people evangelistically in record another. Each congregation
numbers. Their baptismal must seek to incarnate the
records rank among the top fifty gospel in its own culture.
congregations in the nation. At • Second, successful churches
the same time, one might legiti- are committed to biblical
mately ask whether pragmatic consistency. These congrega-
approaches are, at the same time, tions know their methods are
biblically consistent. Each of only ways to support people’s
these churches insist on being encounter with God through
biblical while, at the same time, His Word.
being effective. Their method- • Third, to reach people, the
ologies are extremely varied— pastors must lead the way.
some using formal programs The congregation will follow
such as Evangelism Explosion, what the pastor models. If
while others focus primarily on the pastor’s heart is to win
building evangelistic relation- people to Christ, the people
ships. Events and other attrac- will likely do the same.
tional programs are balanced • Fourth, whatever methods a
with small group and individual church adopts, the congrega-
discipleship emphases. tion must be intentional in
Another legitimate ques- forming its strategy to focus
tion relates to retention. Most on the result—people com-
churches studied showed a ing to faith in Christ in such
50-80% retention rate. A few a way that helps them live
demonstrated a lower rate and the Christ-life consistently in
acknowledged the need to help their daily setting.
assimilate new members more

Dr. Jere Phillips is Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Distance
Education at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He and Glenda
have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

an analysis of organiC ChurChes and Their CurrenT
views on Conversion

by Bob Whitesel

In 2004-2005, I visited and analyzed several dozen

churches which were primarily growing with young
people under the age of 35.

From this sample I chose attendance demarcations were

twelve churches to profile in a utilized for straightforwardness:
book published by Abingdon 401+ large, 225-400 medium,
Press. This book chronicled my 100-225 awkward, less than 100
impressions of these congrega- small (Whitesel, 2006, 29).
tions and sought to identify In the sample two were large
recurring patterns among these churches (10,000+ Mars Hill in
churches as well as transferable Grandville, MI and 1,700+ St.
lessons for similar congregations. Thomas/Philadelphia Church in
The sample contained Sheffield, UK), and the remain-
churches of varying attendance der were divided between medi-
sizes. For simplicity I primar- um congregations (355+, Vintage
ily followed Gary McIntosh’s Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA;
size differentiations (401+ large, 350-400, Scum of the Earth in
201-400 medium) (McIntosh, Denver, CO; 250+, Solomon’s
1999, 17). To this I added Lyle Porch in Minneapolis, MN),
Schaller’s delineations of 50-100 awkward-sized churches (155+,
as a small church and 100-225 The Bridge in Phoenix, AZ;
as a middle-sized/awkward con- 125+, Bluer in Minneapolis, MN)
gregation (Schaller, 1980, 27). and smaller churches (30-55 the
While creating a small degree sole café in Edmonton, AB; 65+
of overlap, the following church Freeway in Baton Rouge, LA;

40-55, Church of the Apostles, tualizes grand truths in termi-
Seattle, WA; 50-75, One Place, nology that a modern culture
Phoenix, AZ; 25-55, The Tribe of can understand, so as to not
LA, Los Angeles, CA). obliterate the modern culture.
This idea of an organic intellec-
ORGANiC ORGANizATiONS tual that does not emasculate a
culture, but sojourns along with
I chose to describe these it to translate grand understand-
congregations as organic in char- ings to it, mirrors the missional
acter. I used the organic termi- attitude of the organic church”
nology, not because of the trendi- (Whitesel, 2006, 26).
ness with which some authors Not surprisingly, organic also
apply the term today, but because provides a fitting metaphor for
of the history in which organic churches because of Scriptural
describes a holistic, interconnect- antecedents and validity, e.g. as
ed and symbiotic organization. 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1,
A brief overview of the term’s Colossians 1, Romans 12, and in
etymology with regard to organi- 1 Corinthians. Although a thor-
zational, and especially ecclesial, ough discussion of the nature
application may be helpful. and validity of the organic appel-
James F. Engel was one of the lation is beyond (and not neces-
first to offer a holistic definition, sarily germane to) this present
stating that the “organic church discussion, I have offered the
model” has five attributes: 1) above overview to introduce the
one body with one leadership, reader to my thinking and to
2) equipped by God with super- explain the term when it does
natural giftings, 3) led by God appear.
through disciplined planning,
4) ministering to one another in MiSSiONAL iMPRESSiONS
community, 5) and ministering
to the world (Engel, 1979, 93).
Howard Snyder emphasized the As a result of my research I
supernatural aspect stating that found four broad attitudes that
a healthy church was a “char- despite denominational affili-
ismatic organism,” which he ation and geographic location,
defined as a congregation that is persisted among the twelve
empowered by God (charismat- youthful congregations I studied.
ic) and where “all of its people I described these over-arching
are ministers” (organic) (Snyder, themes as “melodies,” using the
1975, 157). musical metaphor because these
I have noted elsewhere that melodies reoccurred with differ-
“the organic intellectual contex- ent cadences, in different keys

and even with different personal authenticity was reflected in
interpretation. Still, these four their congregational discussions
melodies occurred in all twelve in small groups (e.g. Sunday
case studies. schools, etc.) and sermons where
For the first melody, I found openness about faults and doubts
that these case study churches were encouraged. One church
embraced a theology that was held their weekly services in
consistent with their denomina- an Internet café, preferring to
tional theology. For example, I conduct their communal life in
found Aaron Norwood’s theology public. The churches seemed to
in word and practice consis- value putting down their masks
tent with his Southern Baptist of perfection for the sake of hon-
Convention affiliation (even esty and growth.
though part of this church meets A third melody I observed
in the very un-Baptist location was these churches worked hard
of a college bar). An induction, to minister to people across the
discussed at length in my earlier spectrum of the evangelistic
work, was that these emerging journey, i.e. before and after the
churches were more the product conversion experience. Since
of new aesthetic expressions than evangelism is a process of
divergent theological expres- unfolding good news whereby
sions (since they did not mirror a person becomes reconnected
denominational methodology, with their Creator (the missio
but they did so in theology). An Dei), then meeting the physical
investigative article in The New needs of a needy individual can
York Times concurred, stating, be good news to that individual.
“Many emerging churches preach In a parallel fashion, helping
the same message as their spon- a Christian discover his spiri-
soring (evangelical) churches, tual gifts can be good news to a
but use different methods” growing Christian. Thus, both
(Leland, 2004). meeting physical needs pre-con-
The second melody I noted version as well as fostering spiri-
was that these congregations tual formation post-conversion
embraced a sense of honesty are both part of an unfolding
and openness, that they often good news to spiritual travel-
referred to as “authenticity.” For ers. Subsequently, I found these
example, their church worship churches rejecting a false dichot-
expressions were more con- omy between social ministry and
cerned about helping attendees spiritual discipleship. Instead
encounter God, rather than they see both of these actions as
attaining excellence and/or creat- part of the good news process,
ing an attractional event. This and hence part of evangelism.
The final melody I observed their views on conversion. Such
was a linking of classic Church an exercise can give the reader
Growth Movement principles insight into the thinking of these
with the terminology and ideol- leaders of youthful churches
ogy of the missional church. I regarding salvation and conver-
have described this as “mis- sion. However, this article is not
sional church growth,” for these written to be the last word (or
congregations often reframed even the definitive first word)
Church Growth Movement prin- on the topic of youth-orientated
ciples in missional terminology. churches and their views on
For example they emphasized conversion. Rather, this is an
classic church growth principles initial exercise (one of many I
such as the importance of cultur- hope) that will explore emerging
al groups/contexts, discipleship leaders and their thoughts about
in small groups, people move- evangelism and conversion.
ments, presence-proclamation-
persuasion, social-webs, planting VARyiNG TyPES OF
internal-external churches- CONVERSiON
venues, and every Christian’s
responsibility to participate in I asked each leader the same
the missio Dei. (I was even sur- questions about conversion and
prised how often the pastors of evangelism. Because churches
these churches cited the classic from varying denominational
Church Growth Movement writ- backgrounds were utilized, I
ers such as Donald A. McGavran, tried to employ a holistic per-
George G. Hunter III, John Eddie spective of conversion, using
Gibbs, etc.). general categories from the writ-
In addition to these over- ings of Scot McKnight, Richard
arching melodies, I observed Peace, Charles Kraft and others.
sixteen reoccurring patterns To compare these different kinds
that expanded lists by Craig Van of conversion, the following
Gelder and Eddie Gibbs (Van chart is adapted from my earlier
Gelder, 10) (Gibbs, 2000, 25). book Spiritual Waypoints: Helping
However, in this initial survey Others Navigate the Journey and
I did not specifically query the is used here with permission.
leaders nor track patterns of
conversion. Therefore, one topic
which might be germane for
this present discussion would
be to resurvey the leaders of
these churches and ask about

Types of Conversion
Personal Decision Socialization Liturgical Acts
Denominational Evangelicals,c e Mainline Roman Catholics, c e

Context Pentecostals c e Protestants c e Orthodox Church c e

Strengths Radical departure Point of Mystery and

from the past. conversion encounter with the
does not require a supernatural.
sordid past.

Weaknesses In some studies The work of con- Liturgy has to be

only 10 percent version can “drift learned, as well as
of these decisions from the center of how to participate
“resulted in long- one's ecclesiastical in it before
term changes in vision.”e conversion.e
personal behavior.d Faith can become a
Mechanical tools matter of duty and
can replace obligation.e

Adage “Conversion is “Belonging before “To arouse the sleep-

an indicidual believing,.”e ing faith in the nomi-
experience that can nal Christian.”e
be dated exactly.”e

Customary Raised in a secular Raised in a Second Generation

participants environment.e Christian home.b Christiansa
First generation Second generation
Christiansa Christiansa

To take advantage of these QuESTiONS ON

categories, I asked the follow- EVANGELiSM AND
ing questions of all church CONVERSiON
leaders from the previous study
who were available and open to Instructions: Thank you
answer my queries. I will list for letting me write about
their responses and then give your congregation in Inside the
my observations based upon my Organic Church: Learning from 12
knowledge of the individual and Emerging Congregations. I am
their churches. writing an article for a scholarly
journal. For this next part of • I was a nominal Christian
my research, it will be helpful but a worship experience
if I can obtain from all previous awakened my sleeping
interviewees their experiences faith.
and views on evangelism. Would • I was raised in a non-
you please answer the following church going home.
questions in one paragraph or • I was raised in a Christian
less per question (except where home.
a number or circled item is Questions 5 - 8: On a Likert
required)? Scale with
1 = strongly negative
Question 1: Please state your 2 = negative
name and current occupa- 3 = no opinion
tion. 4 = positive
Question 2: How do you define 5 = strongly positive
evangelism and how does what are your feelings about the
evangelism take place in following terms?
your congregation?
Question 3: How do you define Question 5: Salvation
conversion and how does Question 6: Born-again
conversion take place in the Question 7: Conversion
congregation? Question 8: Sudden conversion
Question 4: Circle all of the Question 9: Progressive conver-
statements below that sion
described what you have Question 10: What is your
experienced: denominational affiliation?
If none, please designate a
• My conversion was an denomination that might be
experience that I can date similar.
• I was converted from a sor-
did past.
• My conversion took place
over a period of time and FORMER PASTOR
dating the exact date is dif- OF FREEWAy,
ficult. BATON ROuGE, LA
• I was connected to a
Background: This church aver-
Christian community
aged 65+ attendees and met in
before I was converted.
the sanctuary of a Presbyterian
• My conversion occurred in
Church in Prairieville, LA (a
conjunction with a liturgi-
suburb of Baton Rouge). They
cal or sacramental experi-
employed many of the artifacts
of an emerging church culture, Question 3: How do you define
including interactive worship conversion and how does
stations and multi-media ser- conversion take place in the
mons. The church has since congregation?
ended, and Steve Wallace is As conversion is “the act of
the associate pastor at a nearby turning from sin and self
planted church affiliated with the toward God through Jesus
Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Christ,” a certain sense of
awareness of one’s spiritual
Question 1: Please state your condition is present. That
name and current occupa- level of understanding is
tion. obviously possible through
Steve Wallace, Associate preaching and teaching,
Pastor, River Church but in our congregation has
South (new church plant), taken place more often in
Gonzales LA intimate settings like a small
group, an Alpha class, or
Question 2: How do you define in conversations over cof-
evangelism and how does fee. In answering Questions
evangelism take place in 2 and 3, I found the New
your congregation? Dictionary of Theology—IVP,
1988—helpful in expressing
Defined by the terms used in
my thoughts.
the New Testament, ‘evan-
gelism’ means ‘to share or Question 4: Circle all of the
announce the good news.’ In statements below that
our young church plant, we described what you have
encourage our members and experienced:
regular attenders to evan-
gelize (to share the story of • My conversion was an
Jesus) everywhere—at work, experience that I can date
in their neighborhoods, at exactly.
school and in their families. • I was connected to a
We structure our small group Christian community
ministries and instructional before I was converted.
classes, then, to assist our • My conversion occurred in
members to do that and do conjunction with a liturgi-
it purposefully and well. To cal or sacramental experi-
that end, our worship ser- ence.
vices include evangelistic • I was raised in a Christian
messages too. home.

My conversion took place the story of Jesus) everywhere—
during a Sunday evening at work, in their neighborhoods,
worship service at the United at school and in their families.”
Methodist church my fam- And, Wallace notes that church
ily had attended since I was programs support congregants
two. I was seven at the time. in this mission. He appears to
have experienced a conversion
Question 5: Salvation = 5 experience that is datable. And,
Question 6: Born-again =5 he holds in high regard the terms
Question 7: Conversion = 5 associated with evangelism,
Question 8: Sudden conversion including sudden conversion
=5 which he has experienced but
Question 9: Progressive conver- which appears to be somewhat
sion = 5 foreign to the congregation’s
Note from Wallace: My experience.
conversion experience is just
that—my experience, and AARON NORWOOD
yet I do not believe it to be PASTOR OF THE BRiDGE
an all-inclusive standard for AND RiO ViSTA iN
all followers of Jesus Christ. PHOENix, Az
That is why I have ‘strongly
positive’ feelings about each Background: This is a
of the five terms listed. church plant of 155+ with
Southern Baptist affiliation that
Question 10: What is your formerly met in two nightclubs/
denominational affilia- bars and also in a homeless shel-
tion? If none, please des- ter in downtown Phoenix. The
ignate a denomination that church grew in the nightclubs/
might be similar. bars, but when it had enough
money to purchase a building
Evangelical Presbyterian
chose to purchase a homeless
Church (EPC)
shelter (the Rio Vista Center) in
Notes by Bob Whitesel: downtown Phoenix. They chose
Steve Wallace notes that conver- this location to restore a formerly
sion processes at his church seem struggling ministry to the home-
to be the most active in small less. I observed Aaron stating to
group environments and inner- congregants at the nightclubs/
personal dialogue. As a church bars that the Sunday morning
leader, he also expects what Lois brunch with service to the home-
Barrett calls the “missional voca- less in the Rio Vista Center was
tion” pattern of counting on con- their “real” weekly service (and
gregants to “evangelize (to share not the worship and preaching
services in the nightclubs/bars). Conversion is the process of
Norwood’s strategy was to moti- a person deciding that they
vate young people who might want to change their life and
come out to the familiar envi- follow Jesus. This happens
ronment of a bar to get involved slowly for some, and instant-
in “real service” at a Sunday ly for others.
brunch for hundreds of homeless
people. It is refreshing to see Question 4: Circle all of the
youthful congregations eschew- statements below that
ing a retreat to the suburbs, and described what you have
instead purchasing facilities in experienced:
the inner city to grow ministry to
the urban poor. • My conversion took place
over a period of time and
Question 1: Please state your dating the exact date is dif-
name and current occupa- ficult.
tion. • I was raised in a Christian
Aaron Norwood, Lead Question 5: Salvation = 4
Pastor, the Bridge church
and Commercial Real Estate Question 6: Born-again = 2
Broker Question 7: Conversion = 3
Question 2: How do you define Question 8: Sudden conver-
evangelism and how does sion = 3
evangelism take place in Question 9: Progressive
your congregation? conversion = 3
We define evangelism as Question 10: What is your
sharing the gospel of Jesus denominational affilia-
Christ in word and deed. tion? If none, please desig
This takes place as we serve nate a denomination that
our community’s needs: food, might be similar.
clothing, job resources, navi-
Southern Baptist
gating government issues,
pregnancy resources, biblical Notes by Bob Whitesel:
teaching, and worship. Outreach in “word and deed”
is a phrase I often hear in these
Question 3: How do you define
congregations. There is a net-
conversion and how does
work of parishioners and acade-
conversion take place in the
micians that fosters this, led by
a colleague, Al Tizon, and called
“The Word and Deed Network.”
A part of the Evangelicals for worship encounters the church
Social Action, their goal is “…to still runs about 375-400 in
see every Christian congregation attendance. Though the venue
to be engaged actively in holistic limits their creativity and wor-
ministry—leading people to faith ship expressions, On my two
in Christ, restoring community, recent visits I found the church
and working for social trans- still embracing an innovative and
formation.” This would be a experimental style of worship.
good depiction of the ministry I Of interest to me was if these
observed at The Bridge and their changes in venues, partnerships,
Rio Vista Center. In addition, in and their ongoing experimental
his responses Norwood embraces competency have bearing upon
both sudden and progressive Kimball’s views on evangelism.
conversion though he has expe- Though not addressed directly,
rienced the latter, and finds ‘sal- the following responses from
vation” a more attractive term Kimball indicate that they might.
than conversion (either sudden
or progressive). Question 1: Please state your
name and current
ViNTAGE FAiTH CHuRCH, Dan Kimball, staff member at
SANTA CRuz, CA Vintage Faith Church leading
the teaching and mission of
Background: I have visited the church.
this church three times, with
my initial visit forming the basis Question 2: How do you define
for the description in an earlier evangelism and how does
book. At that time Vintage Faith evangelism take place in
Church had been planted by your congregation?
Santa Cruz Bible Church but was
Evangelism is the proclama-
meeting in the mother church’s
tion and explanation of the
gymnasium. This venue bet-
good news of Jesus—His
ter accommodated the many
teachings, His life, His death
artistic stations, prayer grottos
and resurrection and what
and mood walls than the loca-
was accomplished on the
tion into which they have sub-
cross and how putting faith
sequently moved. The present
in Him is salvation. And
location is a former Presbyterian
then salvation needs defini-
church which seats approxi-
tion. Bottom line, evange-
mately 250 and which barely
lism is about how Jesus has
accommodates the Vintage Faith
saved us and the good news
congregation. With multiple
of salvation that we can be
forgiven, saved, go to heav- and trusting that happens.
en, and join in His mission Eventually, whether it is in a
here on the earth, etc. worship gathering when we
occasionally explain the gos-
Evangelism takes place all pel or when we ask directly
the time. But it happens in if they have ever prayed to
both discreet and very bold trust Jesus—and we lead
ways. Primarily it is through them in a prayer. However,
the lives of the people of the it seems that it often happens
church who are ambassadors that someone learns enough
for Jesus and represent Him and prays on their own.
in the world. Through trust Then they make a decision of
gained in relationships, they faith and believe. Then they
share about their faith with tell us, or we have a baptism
people they know. They class they then tell us their
pray for people and it seems story, and we learn about the
that through time some may decision they made.
be interested in knowing
more. It may eventually Question 4: Circle all of the
lead to them coming to our statements below that
church’s worship gatherings described what you have
or small groups or events. experienced:
And over time they learn
more about Jesus and if the • My conversion took place
Spirit moves them they put over a period of time and
faith in Jesus and make a dating the exact date is dif-
decision to trust Him and ficult.
follow Him. • I was raised in a non-
church going home.
Question 3: How do you define
conversion and how does Question 5: Salvation = 5
conversion take place in the Question 6: Born-again = 4
Question 7: Conversion = 4
I think the process leading to
conversion is so varied. But Question 8: Sudden conversion
I do believe there is a distinct =4
time when the Holy Spirit
Question 9: Progressive conver-
regenerates and becomes part
sion = 4
of a person’s life upon their
faith in Jesus. Conversions Question 10: What is your
in our church happen more denominational affilia-
as a process of learning tion? If none, please des-

ignate a denomination that somewhat libertine community
might be similar. of Santa Cruz, California, has
expanded his appreciation for
We started as an independent the progression that takes place
church which was pretty before conversion. Thus, in
much Baptist in our theol- Kimball we see a quest for equi-
ogy with progressive forms librium between sudden and pro-
of methodology as we are gressive aspects of conversion.
on mission. We have part-
nered with an aging PCUSA
(Presbyterian Church USA)
church, so learning all about
that now. EDMONTON, AB

Notes by Bob Whitesel: It is Background: This congrega-

interesting that Kimball begins tion utilizes an Internet café as
his definition of evangelism on their site for a new church plant
a more soteriological tone, rather of the Christian and Missionary
than a missio Dei one (note too Alliance of Canada. With a
his response to Question 5 in motto, “Come for a coffee and let
relationship to Questions 6-9). God feed your soul,” this congre-
This may be because of Kimball’s gation runs a full feature Internet
salvation history in the Baptist café during the week while
stream. Regardless of genesis, hosting worship encounters on
his perspective demonstrates a Sunday evenings. The Internet
strong commitment to evange- café was leased from previous
lism. For example, I personally proprietors and provides a gath-
observed Kimball talking in an ering place for people in the
amicable yet straightforward community. The church leaders
manner about conversion with a are customarily the baristas and
college professor who attended as such connect with community
Vintage Faith Church, but by residents all week long and not
her own admission, had not just on Sundays. Located on
yet experienced conversion. Whyte Avenue, an urban neigh-
Kimball, along with Norwood, borhood in Edmonton, Alberta,
may be the most forthright in the congregation of the sol café
discussing conversion with spiri- attracts college students, metro-
tual travelers approaching the politan residents, urban artists,
point of conversion (and both immigrant families and blue-
have Baptist backgrounds). Still, collar families. The use of an
it seems that Kimball’s experi- Internet café for their plant also
ence with the populace of the provides a degree of fiscal sup-
port to the planted church.

Question 1: Please state you growth and development, of
name and current occupa- accepting the idea of God’s
tion. gift of redemption through
Winston Pei, Graphic the sacrifice made by Jesus
Design, Communications/ Christ as a foundational
Technology Consultant and a premise, and taking that leap
leader of the sol café. of faith as a basis for moving
forward with your life.
Question 2: How do you define The sol cafe is nominally
evangelism and how does part of the Christian and
evangelism take place in Missionary Alliance, but my
your congregation? personal “affiliation” to the
If I had to define it, and Alliance is peripheral at best,
without giving it nearly the and antagonistic in many
thought it needs, I would instances. I was raised in the
say evangelism is the act of Baptist tradition, but I really
communicating and nurtur- liked the last Anglican ser-
ing an understanding of the vice I attended.
Christian faith in people who
do not consider themselves SuMMATiON
Christian. I think it has
Conclusions for each case
taken place within our group
study along with questions for
through personal relation-
further study were included ear-
ships, through the writing
lier in this article, and thus are
and content of our website,
superfluous here. However, a
and through the personal
few final thoughts are in order.
exploration and practice of
First, this survey was con-
our faith in public spaces
ducted over a six-week period
and places.
and perhaps because of time con-
Question 3: How do you define straints some churches did not
conversion and how does respond. The non-respondents
conversion take place in the tended to be the larger churches.
congregation? Increasing response occurred
as the churches were smaller in
As above, if I had to define size. This may indicate a grow-
it, and with even less than ing administrative focus, rather
the necessary amount of than a theological reflection
consideration required, I among its leaders. Respondents
would say conversion is the are noted below in italics.
act of choosing to pursue Secondly, it appears that
the Christian faith as one’s congregations from my previous
primary path for spiritual
research continue to embrace McIntosh, Gary L. 1999. One
conversion as a spiritual way- Size Doesn’t Fit All: Bringing
point. Though many leaders Out the Best in Any Size
had sudden conversion experi- Church. Grand Rapids:
ences, most found their churches Fleming H. Revell.
experienced a more progressive
conversion process. Another fol- Schaller, Lyle E. 1980. The
low-up study in five years might Multiple Staff and the
throw light on whether conver- Larger Church. Nashville:
sion is trending downward in Abingdon.
importance, if balance between Snyder, Howard. 1975. The
progressive/sudden conversion is Problem of Wineskins
being maintained, and/or if con- Downers Grove: InterVarsity
version is increasingly important Press.
in these emerging congregations.
Van Gelder, Craig.
SOuRCES “Understanding North
America Culture,” Missional
Engel, James. 1979. Church.
Contemporary Christian
Communication: Its Theory Whitesel, Bob. 2006. Inside
and Practice. New York: the Organic Church:
Thomas Nelson. Learning from 12 Emerging
Congregations. Abingdon
Gibbs, Eddie. 2000. Church Press.
Next: Quantum Changes
in How We Do Ministry ------2006. Inside the Organic
Downers Grove: InterVaristy Church: Learning from 12
Press. Emerging Congregations.
Abingdon Press.
Leland, John. 2004. Hip New
Churches Pray to a Different Welcome to the Word & Deed
Drummer. The New York Network, http://www.evan-
Times. February 18.

Dr. Bob Whitesel holds DMIN and PhD degrees from Fuller Theological
Seminary where he was awarded the Donald A. McGavran Award for out-
standing scholarship in church growth. He is the author of ten books, includ-
ing the award-winning Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce
Change In Your Church (2008), and the series on evangelism: Spiritual
Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010) and Waypoint:
Navigating Your Spiritual Journey (2010). He serves as Professor of
Missional Leadership at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and is a sought-after
speaker and consultant.

sbC deCline in bapTisMs

by Will McRaney

The collective, reported baptisms in the Southern

Baptist Convention have plateaued and moved toward
decline for several decades. This is taking place in the
midst of growing numbers of mega churches and new
church plants. This has and should cause reflection
and evaluation with alarm.

The primary purpose of DELiMiTATiONS

this paper is to explore possible
reasons for the the decline in In writing formal papers
baptisms reported to the SBC for my PhD seminars at New
through the Annual Church Orleans Baptist Theological
Profile reports. This will involve Seminary, I became quite familiar
exploring various contribut- with the term “delimitations”
ing factors and proposing a few and its value in bringing some
paths that could be considered to order to research and to making
help remedy this problem. seemingly unlimited options a
No one book or even extend- little more in focus. I need to
ed article can address the many delineate several items as you
tentacles which are contributing begin moving through this paper.
to the plateau and decline of the First, I will not be intentionally
reported baptisms in the SBC. addressing the value, the role,
But, my hope is that you will see and/or the future of denomina-
a clearer picture into the reali- tions generally or even the SBC
ties we as Southern Baptists are as a whole. Second, I will not be
facing. A bonus would be that extensively covering whether or
you may use whatever insights not counting the reported bap-
you gain to further expand God’s tisms in the SBC is the best mea-
Kingdom in North America and suring tool as to the effectiveness
around the world.
of the SBC and in particular the • Reflections on Southern
evangelistic fruit of our collective Baptist Baptisms” by J.
ministry. Third, I will not seek Clifford Tharp, Jr. June
to address the various ministries 2005.
and ways the SBC is impacting • Reflections on Southern
the world through our denomi- Baptist Membership” by J.
national, church and individual Clifford Tharp, Jr. July 2005.
ministries. Fourth, I recognize • Strategic Planning
that while various factors are Indicators” by Philip B.
involved at various levels, I will Jones, Summer 2000.
not seek to determine exact
cause and effect, or even attempt Current Status of Southern
to provide statistical correlations Baptist Baptisms in the US
on the factors. I am hopeful that
you will not take one isolated The ways to look at baptisms
factor or suggested factor out of in the SBC are not unlimited, but
the context of the collective pic- they are many. In the following
ture of the whole. sections I will seek to provide
some statistical facts, a brief
Research Methods commentary on it for your con-
sideration, and then allow you
I took several roads in to determine which factors you
exploring this significant mat- believe are most significant.
ter with all of its various facets.
However, I certainly would not • For the past 50 plus years,
claim that this particular research the numbers of reported
is exhaustive in nature. The sta- baptisms on the ACP have
tistics and demographic trends basically been plateaued
represent what is happening inside a 10% margin both
in the SBC and do so without up and down and overall
much attention given to pro- trending down a little.
posed solutions or future strate- • For 4 of the last 5 years,
gic implications. The surveys I baptisms have been
conducted with individuals were declining.
wide enough in nature to get • The ratio of baptisms per
both a cross-section of responses resident members has
that provided a broad range of significantly declined in
reasons why the baptisms are the last 60 years: from
declining in the SBC. Some pre- 1 baptism for every 14
vious research papers were par- resident member in 1950
ticularly helpful. to 1 baptism for every 29
resident members in 2004.

This means that it takes Compared to national aver-
more resident members to ages, SB church members have
baptize someone today than an older average age which
it did years ago. means that fewer SB church
members are having babies to be
SELECTED FACTORS reared in homes of SB families.
iNFLuENCiNG BAPTiSM Compiling the numbers of boys
TOTALS connected to a church, the trend
goes significantly downward:
Many factors are influenc-
ing baptism numbers. Some are • Age 6 – 100 boys
more readily observed through • Age 12 – 50 boys
statistics, and others are more • Age 18 – 25 young men
difficult to see under the layers • Age 22 – 7 young men
of factors. • Age 30 – 13 men

Statistically Observable Factors These figures demonstrate

that out of every 100 boys con-
The most obvious positive
nected with our churches at age
correlation is the connection of
6, only 13 will be connected
baptisms to the birth rate. The
at age 30. While every single
baptism totals of the SBC track
child’s soul matters, these num-
in a positive correlation with the
bers beg for some attention and
birth rate of white, non-hispanic
focused efforts to reverse this
children from seven years prior.
very dramatic trend with boys.
God is certainly not limited by
The ramifications of these short-
demographics or the birth rates,
comings in discipling children
but for several decades, as birth
are many.
rates have gone up and down
among white people, so too,
baptisms typically follow several THEOLOGiCAL FACTORS
years later.
Compared to other segments Fewer Churches Requiring
of the US population, white par- Rebaptisms by Immersion
ents are having fewer children For several decades, research
which is impacting the baptism has indicated that between 40
totals. Other peoples are having and 60 percent of adult baptisms
more children per family. While were not initial conversions, but
Southern Baptists are growing rebaptisms. This means that the
more diverse, the denomination church’s ability to reach adults
has historically been predomi- is more difficult than a surface
nately white and non-Hispanic. level glance at the statistics

would reveal. Southern Baptist positions. However, I believe
churches are having trouble Southern Baptists have lost their
communicating their message to edge toward evangelism, because
adults, particularly toward first they operate as if there are many
time conversion. This was not paths to God and that God will
the case with Jesus and the early work it out in the end if a per-
disciples. son is good or sincere. In his
Churches reaching out to Evangelism Handbook, Alvin Reid
adults who do not come from addresses practical universalism
denominational backgrounds and its potential dangers to evan-
which require baptism by immer- gelism which in turn impacts
sion have to wrestle with what baptism rates.
they require for membership.
Some churches have relaxed the Spread of Calvinism
traditional Landmark practice of
requiring persons joining SBC Strongly held beliefs and
churches from other denomina- passions often accompany any
tions to be rebaptized by immer- discussion of this topic. It would
sion. Historically this was a be neglectful not to list this mat-
standard request and probably ter of theology in the discussion
produced a few more baptisms of baptisms because of the grow-
each year. ing amount of conversations
A related factor is the about it across the SBC, even
decrease in the number of people though Calvinism seems to be
migrating to the South from the a negligible factor for now. In
Rust Belt and Snow Belt. Most 2007, LifeWay Research com-
of the migration to the South has pleted a study and reported their
already taken place, so there are findings in “Calvinism and SBC
fewer people to rebaptize should Leadership: Key Findings and
they seek to join a SBC church. Evangelistic Implications.” Four
While these factors may not be conclusions were drawn: (1)
statistically significant, they are Calvinist led churches are a small
impacting the total baptisms minority of the total churches,
reported. (2) Calvinism is on the rise
among SBC seminary graduates,
Practical Universalism (3) churches led by recent gradu-
ates and that hold to Calvinism
Southern Baptists, as a col- are generally smaller in worship
lective people, say they believe in attendance and baptisms, and (4)
the Bible and follow the tenants in annual baptisms, there is little
of the Baptist Faith and Message difference between Calvinist and
in all of its major doctrinal non-Calvinist led churches.

SOCiAL AND CuLTuRAL process reality including
FACTORS matters of faith. There has
been a major shift from
Spiritual Options primarily using logic, rea-
Some parts of the coun- son, and good judgment,
try used to be so saturated to processing life through
with Southern Baptists, that if matters of emotions, feel-
a person belonged to another ings, and relationships. This
denomination, people would applies both to Christians as
almost ask, “How did that hap- they process sermons, Bible
pen?” Today the religious and teachings, and other forms
spiritual options available to of hearing the Christian mes-
people are almost uncountable. sage, and also to lost people
Additionally, people are taking that Christians are trying to
bits and pieces from various reli- communicate the life-giving
gious groups and almost making message of Christ.
their own religion and beliefs. 2. The media and those who
construct its messages have
Impact of Media increasingly undermined
Christian doctrine and teach-
The number of notice- ings as a basis for thought
able and hidden impacts of the and practice of life.
media on the minds and hearts 3. The media has often pro-
of Christians as potential gospel jected all religious groups
carriers and those we are trying as the same in spite of the
to reach for Christ cannot be significant differences. This
overstated or even adequately impacts evangelism in sever-
addressed in a paper of this al ways, but it also speeds up
nature. The messages of the the process in which people
media are making it more dif- choose to not hold to their
ficult for pastors to motivate denominational ties.
their congregations to share the 4. The media has propagated
message of Christ. The prevail- the idea that religious beliefs
ing media messages are also are a private matter, and that
making it more difficult for those someone who has a belief
without Christ to be receptive to that they share with others is
Christians and their message. acting with ignorance, arro-
gance, or aggression, not act-
Several impacts are worth ing as a person of conviction
noting: and love for others.
1. The media has significantly
contributed to how people
Breakdown of Cultural natural bent is toward process-
Supports (Schools & ing reality through the lenses of
Government) Postmodernity.
People process a proposed
In past decades, the church truth/idea (including the gospel)
has been able to count on the through three filters: (1) reason,
support systems of the schools (2) pragmatism, and (3) feelings.
and of government to make For most of the history of the
many decisions that were fairly SBC, our evangelism tools have
consistent with Judeo-Christian been designed to speak the clear
teachings. These entities were truth of the gospel to the person
providing either support for deci- processing reality through the fil-
sions to follow Christ or laying ters in the order shown above of
a foundation for the gospel to be 1, then 2, and then 3. An exam-
received when it was spoken to ple to illustrate this would be Bill
them. Bright’s 4 Spiritual Laws gospel
Like the media, these institu- tract. However, today, growing
tions have been promoting that numbers of people are processing
all religions are the same and new proposed truths in a reverse
promoting new forms and defini- order (3, then 2, and then 1).
tions of tolerance of both beliefs The implications for sermons
and practices of life. So, in many and for personal witnessing are
ways, these entities have eroded many. In my book on personal
the foundation on which the evangelism, I addressed this
gospel was laid in the minds and topic more extensively.
hearts of those who are signifi-
cantly impacted by them. Starting Point Is Farther Away

COMMuNiCATiON While more people are con-

CHALLENGES sidering themselves spiritual
people, they are often spiritually
Postmodernism confused about the true gospel
Christianity neither follows as revealed in the Bible, even if
the thinking of Modernity or they are using the same words.
Postmodernity. However, the There is less common ground
approaches to communicat- from which to start a conversa-
ing the gospel with a person tion about Christ. People have
who is more influenced by widely different views on what
Modernity is significantly differ- it means to sin, who is God or
ent than communicating with god, the truthfulness of the Bible,
a person who’s culturalized and what it means to be a Christian,
and several other matters which
are involved in a person surren-
dering their life to Christ. Most OTHER POSSiBLE FACTORS
gospel tracts assume much more
than meets the eye of those who Some Churches Have
also hold those beliefs. For a Disconnected from the SBC
culture where people are often For a variety of reasons,
determining their own truth and some churches are no longer
almost making God into their tied to the SBC. There is less
image, the starting point for negative stigma in America
spiritual conversations and/or toward churches that are inde-
our gospel tracts are much more pendent or inter-denominational.
toward Genesis 1 than John 3. A Individualism was a mark of
factor in the decline in baptisms modernity, and has now grown
involves our inability or our lim- additional roots into the systems
itations to connect people to the of our churches. While Baptists
one true living God and Jesus in have always practiced the local
our communications with them autonomy of the local church,
when they have such diverse it seems in recent years to have
starting points. Even when been taken to new heights as
churches are successfully reach- churches are less connected to
ing people who are postmodern their denomination.
in their thinking, baptism num-
bers may lag behind. Some Pastors Who Grew Up
in SB Churches and/or the
Spiritual Factors Children of SB Pastors
Another factor in the decline Are No Longer Connected to
of baptisms is the lack of recog- the SBC
nition that we as Christians are There are some churches
in a spiritual battle with a living (some more high profile and cer-
and active enemy who seeks to tainly those with lower profiles)
destroy. Satan and the demonic that are no longer connected to
beings which follow him are the SBC and are being led by
seeking to thwart the work of pastors who grew up in homes
God and those who follow Him of SB families and pastors. This
in Jesus Christ. We are not in would reduce the numbers
a spiritually neutral environ- of baptisms reported by SBC
ment. With the world becoming churches.
smaller in many ways and as the
religions of the world spread in Churches Not Submitting ACPs
the US, the lies and the author of
those lies spread in their influ- For several different reasons,
ence. increasing numbers of churches
are not completing their Annual
Church Profiles, which contain in the area of opinion, not truth,
all types of information, includ- so the views they hold are equal-
ing baptisms. This does not ly valid as anyone else, which is
automatically mean that there are why some can say with a straight
fewer actual baptisms, but fewer face, “I am a Catholic Atheist.”
churches reporting baptisms.
Currently about 10,000 churches Age of Congregation
are not turning in the ACP, but
that does not mean that all of Not only does the age of the
those 10,000 churches are not members of the church appear to
baptizing even one person. correlate to baptisms, the actual
length of time that a church is in
Heavy Emphasis on existence impacts evangelism as
Individualism well. As churches age, the mem-
bership to baptisms ratios grow
Many people believe they wider. Newer churches baptize
can determine absolute truth for more based on their membership
themselves in an individual way. than older churches. However,
In some ways, postmodernity is based on research I did for the
just an extreme form of moder- North American Mission Board
nity, where the value of the indi- in 2002, the best figures to use
vidual is placed on steroids. As for a more representative com-
such, people are often creating parison are either baptisms to
what they think about God from average worship attendance
a wide variety of sources and ratios or baptisms to average
the collective whole may actu- Sunday School attendance.
ally have no bases and similari-
ties to God who reveals Himself Single System & Evangelism
through the Bible and ultimately Approaches in Isolation from
through Christ. Disciplemaking
Some of our evangelistic
efforts and subsequent baptisms There is much to say for hav-
are being negatively impacted by ing a simple faith that moves a
sharing our message with more person through life in a Christ-
and more people who believe honoring manner by living with
they can determine their own consistent patterns of obedi-
truth in their own minds and ence in thousands of little ways.
that they are not subject to the However, for too, too long we
standards and revelation of God have isolated and segmented
in the Bible. This is also in keep- evangelism from helping people
ing with the growing and preva- become the type of disciples that
lent belief that all religion is now imitate the life, values and pri-
orities of Christ and honor God
with their relationships and little through harvesting efforts, as
act of obedience that grow in vital as they are to the evange-
depth over time. lism system, churches struggle
Without going too deep in many times because another part
discussing modernity, Christians of the system is either unseen or
could, not should, say to a lost neglected.
person, “It does not matter how
I live or about your experiences POSSiBLE iMPLiCATiONS —
with Christian churches; what RESPONSES
matters is that the Gospel is true
and you must believe it.” This I recognize that facing the
context for proclaiming and many varied factors which are
evangelizing others no longer impacting our baptism totals and
exists as the majority view. It is more importantly our fruitful-
absolutely essential for churches, ness in expanding God’s fame
in the midst of the cultural col- and glory around the US does
lapse of Judeo-Christian teach- not lead us to a simple solution.
ings and values, to produce/assist In the following section, I will
people in looking more like Jesus seek to offer some items for your
than they do other people who consideration. I know the list is
do not say they follow Christ. not exhaustive, but maybe it will
Chuck Kelley, President of New be a starter for future conversa-
Orleans Baptist Seminary, stated tions, thinking, and hopefully
in a presentation to the NOBTS promoting by the Holy Spirit
seminary family, “Aggressive who sustains life and gives us
evangelism without aggressive direction.
discipleship will eventually undo In no particular order and
itself.” only with limited explanation, I
Too often Christians seek offer some ideas for your consid-
to do evangelism that results in eration as we collectively address
baptisms, as if it were a single the decline in baptisms we are
system matter, or at most a experiencing:
dual system: evangelism train-
ing and conducting harvesting Give Attention to Follow-
events. Church evangelism is through
more like the systems of a body Whether it be a child or
or a car. They are many, and it adult conversion, I would
only takes one being down to propose that churches pay sig-
keep the body or the car from nificantly more attention to the
running. So, in spite of efforts new babes in Christ. They see
to do evangelism through per- the absolutely imperative role
sonal evangelism training and of doing God-pleasing follow-
through in helping new believ- help expand the gospel to future
ers in Christ live in such a way generations of Americans.
that others would accuse them
of being Christians. We seem Give Attention to What It
to put the vast majority of our Takes for a Child, Particularly
energies in getting to conversion Boys, to Follow Christ into
and extraordinarily low thought Adulthood
and energy to helping those new
believers grow in the faith as a The statistics regarding the
part of the local expression of percentages of boys who drop
the bride of Christ, the church. out of the church and who fol-
With more and more Americans low Christ closely is alarming.
processing truth through wheth- It is not enough for churches
er or not it is working practically to baptize children, we must
in someone’s life, our individual assume greater responsibility
and corporate testimony will to understand how children
have significant ramifications develop in their faith in today’s
on our ability to evangelize and challenging culture. The answer
baptize. is not to baptize them at younger
and younger ages, because we
Plant Additional Churches, cannot reach and/or keep them if
Particularly among Those we don’t get them while they are
Cultural Peoples Who young and naïve. We absolutely
Have Higher Birth Rates and must build on our VBS and other
Are Growing in Population in evangelism efforts and expand
the US our limited Sunday School type
efforts to grow them. The future
Newer church plants and will demand that churches,
younger churches tend to, not through their human, financial,
automatically, be somewhat and spiritual resources, move
more effective in their baptism toward assisting parents in dis-
to attender ratios. Every single cipling their children in the face
person is God created and as of the contrary messages of the
such, are precious in the sight of media and the challenges cre-
God, which means we should try ated by the forms of education
to get them to Christ. However, they are receiving. Churches will
planting new churches among have to care more about what
segments of society who are is happening in the home, than
having higher birth rates and/or what is happening in the one
lower church per person ratios to two hours the children are
seems to have the potential to involved in church activities.

Reposition Evangelism as a Adapt Our Methods of
Loving Act Communicating to Give People
the Best Opportunity
The media and other reli- to Hear and Respond to Christ
gions have convinced followers
of Christ that to share their faith The objective in communi-
is to act with ignorance, arro- cation at its simplest form is to
gance, or aggression. The love accurately relay a message in the
of Christ compelled the early best possible form so that the
church. The love of Christ today person receiving it can under-
demands that we love people stand what the sender is trying
in the highest possible ways, to communicate. Churches col-
including sharing the Life-giver lectively and Christians individu-
with them, Christ. Love is not ally are carriers of the message
complete without sharing Christ. of Christ. We need to sharpen
There are 6 expressions our skills in communicating and
(maybe systems) of evangelism give attention to both the verbal
and love. Those 6 essential and non-verbal messages we are
systems are (1) prayer for the sending. The peoples of the US,
lost, (2) enjoying and serving with their great, great diversity,
lost people, (3) evangelism train- are dependent upon us to be
ing, (4) friendly-up the church clear in our communications of
both internally and externally, the greatest story ever lived and
(5) bridging and harvesting told. How we communicate
efforts, and (6) celebrating, personally and publically really
connecting, and deploying dis- matters. They cannot respond
ciples. These six systems can if they do not understand our
be reduced by putting the above message in the midst of the all
systems in pairs to get: (1) the confusing messages around
Engagement—God and People, them.
(2) Preparation—Personal and
Church, (3) Connecting— CONTiNuE TO …
Christians, Church, Christ, and
their Mission. More informa- Place a Significant Value on
tion can be found through the Church Planting
ministry of the Florida Baptist Newer church plants and
Convention and the website younger churches tend to, not automatically, be somewhat
bor. Jesus said you will know more effective in their baptism
My disciples by their love. to attender ratios. Planting new
churches must continue to be
Diversify Our Congregations, The most apparent way to get
Both Existing Churches and the church to move toward lost
New Church Plants people is to ask them to do acts
of love toward the people around
The certainty is undeniable, them. As the church moves in
America is becoming more and obedience in this way, hearts
more diverse, with many dif- of the lost are opened and the
ferent ethnic groups outpacing capacity for compassion for the
the growth of Anglo Americans. lost expands in the life of the fol-
If the SBC is to be vital in the lower of Christ.
future, it will do so because
those who exist today made sac- See Church Evangelism and
rifices and preparations for peo- Personal Evangelism as a
ple whom they would never see Process that Involves Several
and for those who are radically Key Parts and a System, not
different from them. Baptisms Just as a Finishing Touch of
will be stronger as we plant Facts
healthy churches to minister to
all people groups in our country. Isolated acts of love by indi-
viduals and churches will prob-
Love by Serving One Another ably go more and more unheard
and Lost People to Both by the peoples of the US. They
Validate Our Message and will need a consistent and steady
to Open the Hearts of Lost flow of Christians and churches,
People to Us, and More both living and telling the mes-
Importantly, to Christ sage of Christ to them as they
wrestle with the increasing
It is painfully apparent religious confusion all around
that (1) increasing numbers them. It will take a church
of Americans are either choos- both to reach a lost person and
ing no religion or are becoming raise a spiritual baby into matu-
increasingly closed to the witness rity and spiritual reproduction.
of Christians and our churches, Evangelism cannot continue to
and (2) increasing numbers of be a segmented part of the life
Christians and churches are of the church. All aspects of the
leaning away from the mission church have to support the mes-
of Christ to reach and disciple sage of Christ by how we relate
those who could care less that to one another and how we
He exists. The most apparent relate to those who are spiritually
way to open the heart of a lost searching.
person is to do acts of love in
the name of Christ toward them.

The factors impacting the Jones, Phillip B. 2000. Baptisms.
collective total baptisms are Strategic Planning Indicators:
diverse and complicated. It is Baptisms. North American
comforting to realize that, while Mission Board.
God has used the Southern
Baptist Convention to impact McRaney, Will. 2009. Approaches
many parts of the U.S. and the to a Great Commission
world, He is not dependent upon Church. Will appear as chap-
the SBC as the sole carrier of ter in Mobilizing a Great
His message. God is at work, Commission Church for
both where we can see Him and Harvest, compiled by Tom
where we cannot. He is working Johnston May 2011.
out His plan for His universe.
The question is how do we posi- ------2002. Church Planting as a
tion ourselves in such a manner Growth Strategy in the Face
to both please God and be used of Church Decline. Research
by Him to expand His Kingdom. paper for the North
May the SBC serve God col- American Mission Board.
lectively and His purposes above
all. And, may God raise up oth- Tharp, J. Clifford, Jr. 2005.
ers individuals, groups of follow- Reflections on Southern
ers, and denominations to serve Baptist Baptisms.
Him and His purposes above all
others. ------. 2005. Reflections on
Southern Baptist Membership.

Stetzer, Ed. 2007. Calvinism and

the SBC Church Leadership:
Key Findings and Evangelistic
Implications. Lifeway

Dr. Will McRaney serves as the Director of Evangelism Strategy for the
Florida Baptist Convention. Prior to beginning his ministry in 2007 in
Florida, McRaney was the Associate Professor of Evangelism at New
Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, serving since 1996. He was the
founding church pastor of NorthPoint Community Church in Mandeville, LA
and Daybreak Community Church in Littleton, CO. He authored The Art of
Personal Evangelism, Broadman and Holman, 2003.

Mass-evangelisM and disCiple-Making

by Mike McGinnis

A New Paradigm
Three decades ago, seven men sat around an oblong
table at the headquarters of a major evangelistic min-
istry. This ministry had been the most prominent
mass-cooperative-evangelistic ministry in the world
for thirty-five years.

They had conducted evangelis- evangelistic ministry, as well as

tic crusades in virtually every others. The professor intended
part of the world, registering no disrespect. Contrariwise,
decisions for Christ in the mil- he held this particular minis-
lions. Five of the men sitting try in high regard, believing it
around the oblong table were had made a great impact on the
key figures in this ministry. The world for the cause of Christ.
two others seated at the table He did not, however, defense,
were a professor, whose writ- because they cared deeply about
ing on a particular subject had their ministry and their mission.
occasioned the meeting, and This was profoundly important,
his colleague, a fellow professor for millions of people had given
there mostly for moral support. multi-millions of dollars because
The two professors were from they believed in this ministry,
a well-respected and influential and they cared passionately
West Coast seminary. The meet- about what they believed this
ing was held at the behest of the ministry accomplished. The
leader of the evangelistic minis- professor made his case care-
try due to an article written by fully and courteously. When
the seminary professor. In the he finished, one of the men
article the professor had ques- representing the evangelistic
tioned the effectiveness of this ministry pushed his chair away
from the table and stood up. cooperative evangelism ever pro-
“This is it,” he stated matter- vide the means and the method
of-factly. Everyone around the of helping the church fulfill its
table searched his face for a clue purpose? Yes, for a limited time,
as to what his declaration might in a few areas, and for a limited
signify. The professor felt a rush number of churches, mass-coop-
of anxiety. The standing man erative evangelism was a relative-
continued, “This is what we ly effective tool. Many decisions
must do.” There was determina- have been made in response to
tion in his voice that changed a mass-cooperative-evangelistic
to enthusiasm as he asked the effort. However, according to the
professor and his colleague if standard of Scripture, if a deci-
they could help incorporate sion maker fails to manifest the
what had just been explained to characteristics of a disciple, the
them into their mass-coopera- means by which that decision
tive-evangelistic ministry. The was made cannot be deemed suc-
other four men representing cessful.
the evangelistic ministry agreed For several decades, crusade
and the professors accepted the evangelism was considered the
request with excitement and, paramount method of evange-
as one might expect, a certain lism in the United States. It
amount of reserve. “This could was the gold standard. Crusade
be monumental,” the professor evangelism is the best known
remembers thinking believe the form of mass-cooperative
ministry accomplished its stated evangelism. Its roots can be
purpose. And therein was the traced to John Wesley and
concern. George Whitefield in England.
The audience of five intend- Whitefield transplanted it to
ed to listen to what the professor America, where it soon became
had to say. They planned no to a natural part of the life of the
himself. church. Since 1950, the name
Mass-cooperative evange- most frequently associated with
lism is a means and a method of crusade evangelism has been
accomplishing the purpose given Billy Graham. However, crusade
to the church by Jesus Christ. evangelism is only one form of
Like any other method, it is not mass-corporative-evangelism.
the purpose itself. This state- Mass-cooperative evangelism
ment may seem trite; however, I can be defined as an evangelistic
propose the church spends most effort which includes the partici-
of its time and energy on means pation of two or more Christian
and methods, but few churches bodies involved in the united
fulfill their purpose. Did mass- purpose of reaching a targeted
segment of society. Although “baptizing,” and “teaching.” All
some forms of mass-cooperative- of these contribute to the central
evangelism exist today in the task of disciple making; how-
United States, crusade evange- ever, disciple making is the exact
lism died a slow death beginning command. Therefore, making
in the early 1980s. Churches disciples is the expressed goal of
tend to cling to what appears evangelism.
to be working long after it is no In light of the clear directive
longer working. of the Great Commission, it is
Could it be the demise of important to understand the con-
mass-cooperative-evangelism if cept of disciple-making. Many
most of its forms came about believe evangelism is the effort to
because it never actually accom- bring people into a relationship
plished what it proposed to with Jesus Christ. Once this is
accomplish? Credible evange- accomplished, the process of
lism must incorporate both the discipling takes place. Scripture
correct means and the correct makes no such distinction.
end. A simplistic misinterpreta- Rather, discipling is both the
tion of the Great Commission process of bringing a person into
allows for the ideology that a relationship with Jesus Christ
Christ commanded His follow- and, then, bringing the new
ers to take the gospel message disciple into the stature of the
to the ends of the earth. In the fullness of Christ. We disciple
1970s, one evangelist stated that people to Christ—carefully and
the Great Commission could be patiently teaching the individual
digested into two words: go; tell. what it means to be a disciple of
This misinterpretation makes the Christ. This may demand more
proclamation of the message the than one conversation, because
goal in itself. it is very important that each
Careful exegetes have point- potential disciple understands
ed out that the single impera- what is involved in the deci-
tive in the Great Commission sion to be a disciple of the Lord
(Matthew 28:19-20) is make dis- Jesus Christ. Once this person
ciples. This verb is poorly trans- has become a disciple, we dis-
lated “teach” in the Authorized ciple them in Christ: equipping
Version. Later translations have them for the work of service, to
corrected this mistake. In the the building up of the body of
original language there are three Christ; until they attain to the
participles in the Matthew pas- unity of the faith, and of the
sage that could easily be mis- knowledge of the Son of God,
taken for verbs in the Authorized to a mature man, to the measure
Version. The words are” going,” of the stature which belongs to
the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians Robison. For about two decades
4:12-13) Robison’s primary ministry was
The goal of evangelism is crusade evangelism. He was
constant: to make disciples. The considered one of the best. In
means of evangelism should August 1982 James Robison held
remain in constant flux. If the an area-wide-evangelistic crusade
means of evangelism does not in Gadsden, Alabama. In 1984,
result in the goal of evangelism, I did an extensive survey of this
it is time to check our bearings Robison crusade. Doing the
and, wherever necessary, make survey two years after the actual
some needed mid-course correc- event was partially in respect to a
tions. The goal of evangelism statement made by Peter Wagner,
must always trump the means of then Professor of Missions at
evangelism. Fuller Theological Seminary, in
The New Testament concept Pasadena, California. Professor
of discipleship demands both Wagner had said to me, “The
the qualitative and the quantita- success of an evangelistic effort
tive growth of the church. This should not be judged immedi-
is possible because quality and ately after the effort. Rather,
quantity are two aspects of the the success of the effort should
same reality. This means the be judged by the number of
number of disciples must be genuine disciples serving in a
increased and, at the same time, local church two years after the
the spiritual depth of the disciple effort.”
must be increased. To neglect to The emphasis of the evan-
do both is to fail. gelistic crusade in Gadsden,
Generally, with few excep- Alabama, was to bring lost men
tions, mass-evangelism has and women into a personal rela-
not been found to result in the tionship with Jesus Christ. One
numerical increase of the church. pastor challenged his fellow pas-
Many decisions are made tors to participate in this effort
through such efforts; however, because they had “the opportuni-
few disciples are made. The ty to be involved in a great soul-
New Testament judges the effec- winning revival.” Toward this
tiveness of evangelism by the end, sixty-one churches joined
fact that the number of disciples the effort.
increased. The twenty-first-cen- The crusade was considered
tury church should do no less. to be one of the most successful
An example of the effective- for the Robison evangelistic-team
ness of mass-cooperative evan- in years. Because of its impact,
gelism can be seen in an evan- the scheduled one week crusade
gelistic crusade held by James was extended for an additional
week. There were 343 recorded keep an active record of the
professions of faith plus multiple number of baptisms occurring in
hundreds of additional decisions. each local congregation, it is easy
A questionnaire prepared to examine the overall effect the
and mailed to the participating crusade had on the participating
pastors resulted in some disap- Baptist churches during 1982.
pointing information. Fifty-four In 1981, these Baptist churches
of the sixty-one participating baptized 697 converts. In 1982,
pastors replied to the question- they decreased in baptisms to
naire. Of the fifty-four churches 631.
represented by these pastors, What happened to the 324
eleven of the churches received people who walked to the plat-
members into their congrega- form during the evangelistic
tions as a direct result of the crusade, registered a profession-
crusade, accounting for nineteen of-faith, and then disappeared?
of the 343 professions of faith Most were simply decisions that
recorded. The two churches that never became disciples.
received the highest number of Was the 1982 James Robison
new members from the crusade evangelistic crusade an aberra-
effort (three in one and four in tion in respect to what happens
the other) brought these people to individuals who make a spiri-
with them to the crusade. As a tual decision at a mass-coopera-
matter of fact, every church had tive-evangelistic effort? Research
a direct influence, prior to the of every significant mass-cooper-
crusade, upon those who eventu- ative-evangelistic effort, in all its
ally became a part of their par- forms occurring in the twentieth-
ticular congregation. century, reveals the 1982 James
Further investigation Robison evangelistic crusade to
revealed that eight of the eleven be the norm. In a broad-based
churches that received new survey of ten-thousand par-
members into their congrega- ticipants, Win Arn found that
tions were growing churches, mass-cooperative evangelism
displaying the outward signs of all types accounted for only
of church health, prior to the one-tenth of one-percent of those
crusade. However, an ominous involved in local churches.
revelation was that seven of these As early as 1970, the Billy
eleven churches decreased in Graham Evangelistic Association
baptisms from the year 1981 to (BGEA) considered that mass
the year 1982—the year of the evangelism merely sets the stage
crusade. Seventy-seven percent for personal evangelism. The
of the participating churches BGEA concluded that all evange-
were Baptists. Because Baptists lism must become personal if it
is to be effective. They discov- saying, “Beware lest your success
ered that many people who come becomes your failure.” As previ-
forward at a crusade are not ously noted, churches tend to
finders; rather, most of them are stick with what works after it no
still seekers. This is an insightful longer works.
assessment; however, it does not A new paradigm should be
remedy an obvious problem in based on the question: How do
mass-evangelism. Most converts we, as the disciples of Christ in
are not incorporated into a local this generation, fulfill the Great
church and, in the vast majority Commission in this day? We
of cases, people do not display must be radical in our determi-
the characteristics of disciple- nation to be both biblical and
ship as a result of their decision. pragmatic in our response to
There are individual success sto- this question. And it is vital
ries to the contrary; yet, these do that every generation revisits
not contradict the overwhelm- this question. In respect to this
ing evidence. Most, by far, who topic, there are a number of
make decisions for Christ on important considerations.
neutral ground do not afterward First, among the many good
go into the church as respon- things God expects His church
sible, productive members. to do in the world, the primary
Research reveals, few continue task is to bring men and women
in the Christian life that are into a personal relationship with
converted outside of the church Jesus Christ and incorporate
unless they become members of them into a local body of believ-
the church and are active in it ers. When true disciples are
after they are converted. made, there is success.
In a day when few, if any, Second, ultimately, evange-
mass-cooperative-evangelism listic effectiveness must be mea-
efforts are held in the United sured in terms of disciples made
States, this information may and not decisions made. For this
seem archaic. However, the reason, a very high dependence
death of mass-cooperative evan- on the work of the Holy Spirit
gelism in the United States came must be maintained. Men can
about for the very reasons much manufacture decisions, but only
of our evangelism is ineffective the Holy Spirit can make a dis-
today. Therefore, it is beneficial ciple. This does not excuse the
to learn from the past, lest we responsibility of man. On the
change the method, but fail to contrary, it greatly increases his
accomplish the goal. What is responsibility to be available to
needed in our day is a new para- the work of the Holy Spirit in the
digm. Bill Gates is quoted as process of disciple-making.
Third, clear objectives are who do not have a clear under-
necessary if the church is to standing of what it means to be
fulfill its mission in the world. a disciple of Christ. In this day,
These goals can be discerned we have substituted the word
from Scripture. The Great Christian for the word disciple.
Commission summarizes the In the Bible, the term Christian
goal of the church. Simply is used only three times; and it
stated, it is to make disciples. A is never used by Jesus. Jesus
decision made is not necessar- called those who followed Him
ily a disciple made. A biblical disciples and those who followed
understanding of what consti- Him called themselves disciples.
tutes being a disciple is essential. This is not a matter of semantics.
Fourth, disciple-making is Neither is it an effort to convince
te clear objective of the New people to substitute the term
Testament. Objectives that disciple for the term Christian.
deviate from or fall short of the Rather, it is an effort to make
ultimate objective of making certain that we clearly under-
disciples are, to the degree which stand who we are if we claim to
they do so, inferior, and in need be a Christian and that we clear-
of correction. Is there room for ly communicate to those who
absolute pragmatism in evan- express an interest in becoming
gelism of all forms? Of course! a Christian, what Jesus calls each
There must be. The Christian of His disciples to be. Regardless
community should insist on of what term we may use, the
measuring the results of evange- question is: are we truly follow-
listic efforts, not on degrees of ers of Jesus Christ? A disciple is
enthusiasm, not on the pieces not a higher form of Christianity.
of literature distributed, not on Scripture reveals a disciple, sim-
the quality of the proclamation, ply stated, is a follower of Jesus
not on the number of individuals Christ. Following implies leav-
who come forward in response ing some things behind and, in
to a given invitation, not on the the course of following, learn-
number of people who attend a ing what it means to be a fully
certain event, but on the measur- devoted follower. Any form of
able growth, both qualitatively evangelism which does not result
and quantitatively, of fully devot- in genuine disciples is not evan-
ed followers of Christ who serve gelism at all.
Him and serve others in the I would argue that the
church for which Christ died. number of fully devoted follow-
Fifth, evangelism must result ers of Christ, or disciples, in a
in the discipling of the millions particular church, is the single
of people in the United States most important factor, by far,
that will determine that church’s be required to lead someone
ability to be a disciple-making to Christ. The disciple maker
church. Disciples tend to make cannot move faster than the
disciples. Many of our forms of potential disciple is capable of
outreach result in the increase of understanding the gravity of his
church attendees. Increasing the decision to be a fully devoted fol-
number of people who attend a lower of Christ. A wise disciple
particular church is an unwor- maker will move at the pace of
thy goal. The goal is to make the Holy Spirit.
disciples and only a church that Some assume that relational
consists primarily of disciples evangelism implies having a
can effectively and consistently relationship with a non-believer
accomplish that goal. The body in which the message of Jesus
of Christ, rightly related, is God’s Christ is not shared verbally.
primary tool used to make disci- This could not be further from
ples. Therefore, body evangelism the truth. The relational evan-
should be viewed as the overall gelist takes seriously his respon-
evangelistic strategy of the mod- sibility to share the message in a
ern church. This form of evan- manner that can be understood
gelism recognizes the body of and received by the potential dis-
Christ, the local church, as God’s ciple. The relational evangelist
disciple-making unit. A healthy also recognizes that some people
church, comprised primarily of are initially resistant to the
genuine disciples, can develop an gospel and, therefore, through
effective, natural form of evan- patience and kindness the rela-
gelism. James McKinnell refers tional evangelist moves the
to this methodology as relational potential disciple through that
evangelism. resistance. This is consistent
Relational evangelism takes with Scripture. In Romans 2:4,
into account that the average Paul reminds his readers, “Don’t
person in the United States you see how wonderfully kind,
lacks a basic understanding of tolerant, and patient God is with
the gospel message. Therefore, you?” The relational evangelist
it is essential that we disciple is aware that he has a message
these individuals to Christ. This and a mission. His mission is to
approach demands more time make disciples, and he is always
and energy on the part of the on mission.
disciple maker. The disciple Body evangelism follows
maker must depend upon the several tenets that result in its
Holy Spirit to reveal truths to effectiveness. These tenets are
the seeker. Therefore, days, the result of careful research and
weeks, months, or years, may a rigid respect for biblical prin-
ciples. First, body evangelism Every evangelistic program
recognizes the primary necessity or effort should, therefore, be
of a healthy local congregation placed under constant scrutiny.
that consists primarily of fully Proper results are vitally impor-
devoted followers of Christ—dis- tant. It is acceptable to adopt,
ciples. adapt, or discard a particular
Second, body evangelism method. The failure to increase
emphasizes the importance of the number of genuine disciples
new disciples being incorpo- of Christ is not acceptable.
rated into a local body of believ- Fifth, body evangelism is not
ers—the church. It is essential pulpit centered. The disciple of
that the church operate as the today must assume an evangelis-
body of Christ according to tic responsibility as did his first-
what is clearly communicated in century brother. In a culture
Scripture. This means we follow where the average person lacks
the biblical model, rather than a rudimentary understanding
a business-model. When the of the gospel, does not respect
church is operating as the body preachers, and sees no need to
of Christ, there is both account- attend a church, body evange-
ability and responsibility among lism is essential if the church
the members. is to succeed in its mandate to
Third, body evangelism make disciples. Various methods
focuses on the audience of evan- of evangelism may be used, to
gelism, rather than the method the extent of their effectiveness;
of evangelism. It is a strategy however, body evangelism is
based on research. It involves foundational. Therefore, what-
discovering the resistance or ever evangelistic method might
receptivity of the targeted seg- be used, it should function from
ment of society that needs to be the basis of body evangelism.
reached with the gospel. It takes The church is God’s pri-
into account the importance of mary agent in fulfilling the Great
understanding the world-view Commission. The goal of the
of the targeted audience and, in Great Commission is to make
some cases, the cultural distinc- disciples. Toward that end we
tives. This should result in more must be biblical in our approach,
realistic application of evange- bold in our efforts, gracious in
listic methods. Fourth, body our manner, faithful in our call-
evangelism recognizes that no ing, pragmatic in our methods,
evangelistic method is applicable and determined in our mission.
universally to all churches in all And this brings us to the conclu-
situations. For this reason, body sion of the story that began this
evangelism is fiercely pragmatic. article. Several months after the
meeting at the headquarters of
the evangelistic ministry, the pro-
fessor received a phone call. In
a brief telephone conversation,
the evangelistic-ministry leader,
who had spoken with great
determination, told the professor
why it was impossible to make
the changes to the ministry they
had previously discussed. In
part, it was explained that the
great majority of the ministry’s
financial supporters would not
understand the changes. The
task of educating these support-
ers was monumental and it was
agreed the ministry would most
likely face a significant financial
shortfall they could not weather.
The evangelistic-ministry leader
concluded the telephone conver-
sation with an apology.

Dr. Mike McGinnis has a PhD from Mid-America Baptist Theological

Seminary. He has been an evangelist, a missionary and a pastor during his
forty-one years in the ministry. Dr. McGinnis has been the senior pastor of
Eastwood Church in Ooltewah, Tennessee, for the past seventeen years. He
and his wife, Sondra, have four adult children.

MCgavran, The greaT CoMMission, and evangelisM

by Michael W. Waldrop

The impact of the Church Growth Movement (CGM)

and the mission theory of Donald A. McGavran
(1897-1990) in the field of missiology since the mid-
dle of the 20th century is demonstrated by the volume
of literature dedicated to its constituent elements.

iNTRODuCTiON understanding of this passage

as it relates to evangelism: the
An on-line “Google” search priority of evangelism in the mis-
conducted on March 24, 2011 sion of the Church and the dif-
for the phrase “church growth ference between what McGavran
movement” turned up 3,512 labeled, respectively, discipling
“hits.” Much is being written and perfecting.
about the CGM.
The missiological principles
espoused by McGavran, espe-
cially beginning with the pub-
lication of The Bridges of God iN THE GREAT
in 1955, gave rise to the CGM. COMMiSSiON
At the core of McGavran’s mis- A foundational principle
sion theory is a commitment to for the CGM is the priority of
the Bible as the Word of God, evangelism as the mission of
including an emphasis on obe- the church in the world over
dience to Jesus’ command to other areas of church work
“make disciples of all nations” such as service, social work,
in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV), and other benevolent enter-
a passage known as the Great prises. McGavran argued that
Commission. This article inves- the Christian “mission” should
tigates two areas of McGavran’s
be understood as “an enterprise does say is, “Therefore
devoted to proclaiming the good matheteusate panta ta ethne.”
news of Jesus Christ, and to Matheteusate is a verb in the
persuading men and women to imperative. It means enroll
become disciples and respon- in my school or enlist in my
sible members of his church” army or incorporate in my
(McGavran, 1990, 24). He body. Panta means all, and
further explained, “Even after ta ethne means the peoples,
establishing the priorities among the tribes, the castes, the
social service, social action, and segments of society every-
evangelism, the church still has where. All are to be dis-
many baffling alternatives, and cipled.
this definition is necessary if we . . . [A]ll those who believe
are to discover among them the that the Bible is the inspired,
path desired by the God who authoritative, true, and
finds.” (Ibid.) utterly dependable Word
The reason for this prior- of God still hear it as our
ity of evangelism in the mis- Lord spoke it—disciple all
sion of the Church is found in the peoples of planet earth.
God’s Word. In his 1988 book, This command sends them
Effective Evangelism, McGavran to multiply churches in
said that the growth of the the towns and cities where
Church is not only God’s will but they live and among the
His command. He specifically unreached billions in the
cited Matthew 28:18-20, along whole earth. It is important
with other passages, as biblical to realize that the Lord Jesus
proof. In this text Jesus claimed is not here giving a sugges-
for Himself all authority in heav- tion to His followers. He is
not making a recommenda-
en and earth. McGavran wrote:
tion. He is not saying, “Do
What is this ultimate this if you find time or if
Authority going to say? Is it is financially feasible.”
He going to say, “Love the He is not saying to divin-
Lord your God and your ity schools, “Please squeeze
neighbor as yourself?” That this in as an elective.” He
certainly is an important is issuing a command—dis-
command, but He doesn’t ciple all the peoples of earth
say it here. Is He going (Ibid., 17-8).
to say, “Go to church and
worship God?” That also While McGavran found bibli-
is important, but it is not cal justification for the prior-
what He says. What He ity of evangelism throughout
Scripture, he found in the Great
Commission a clear and specific churches to apply CGM prin-
imperative for evangelism and ciples toward enlargement of
church growth. individual local churches rather
From the perspective than the growth of the Church
of conservative Christianity, through church multiplication.
McGavran’s insistence on a lit- Payne explained:
eral understanding of the Great
Commission has had a positive In light of this distorted
effect in the field of missiology. understanding of church
This put McGavran at odds with growth missiology, we must
liberal Christianity and its mis- remember the movement
sion focus on the “social gos- originated in the mis-
pel” of service and good deeds. sion field outside of North
(McGavran, Understanding, 18) America with an emphasis
Evangelism and church planting on multiplying congrega-
have been aided by this emphasis tions in the various people
on the priority of evangelism as groups throughout the
the chief task of God’s churches. world. Donald McGavran,
The primary aim of the the father of the movement
CGM has been misunderstood once wrote, “Thus today’s
by some. Church growth in paramount task, opportu-
some circles has become some- nity, and imperative in mis-
thing like “how to have a big- sions is to multiply churches
ger church,” removed from its in the increasing numbers
missionary foundation. David of receptive peoples of the
Michel, Associate Executive earth.” The Church needs
Director of the Mission Strategy to return to its roots and
Division of the Mississippi recapture the vision for
Baptist Convention Board, church multiplication in
observed that some Southern North America and beyond
Baptists have missed the global, (Payne, 2009, 63).
missiological applications which
drove McGavran’s thoughts. In Payne’s citation of McGavran’s
a 2006 interview by the author, statement regarding the priority
he commented, “They read him- of evangelism and church plant-
looking for techniques of enlarg- ing demonstrates the missiologi-
ing their own congregations and cal contribution of McGavran
they failed to appreciate his mis- and the original principles of the
siological and evangelistic inten- CGM to God’s people as they
tions.” engage in His mission.
Church planter and missiolo- McGavran clearly empha-
gist J. D. Payne noted the trend sized evangelism as the pri-
among many North American mary task in the mission of the
Church. It should be noted that MCGAVRAN AND
he and the other early leaders DiSCiPLiNG/PERFECTiNG
of the CGM considered involve- iN THE GREAT
ment in this mission to be an COMMiSSiON
inherent element of biblical
Christianity. In the process of In an effort to develop
defending and promoting the a Bible-based, reproducible
claims of the CGM, McGavran strategy for Church Growth,
claimed that Church Growth McGavran identified a clear dis-
leaders “are not pursuing the tinction between what he saw as
latest fad. They are empha- two stages in the implementa-
sizing essential Christianity” tion of the Great Commission:
(McGavran, 1988, 108). David discipling and perfecting. In The
Platt, in his 2010 bestseller Bridges of God, he introduced
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith this idea. He explained:
from the American Dream, seemed
Two separate stages in the
to make the same assertion,
establishment of a Christian
namely that normal, biblical
civilization must be defined.
Christianity involves “making
Although they are closely
disciples of all nations” as a fun-
inter-related it will help to
damental element. He wrote,
call each stage by a separate
“He [God] has created each of
name. For our terms we go
us to take the gospel to the ends
directly to the Bible, where,
of the earth, and I propose that
in Matthew xxviii 19, 20,
anything less than radical devo-
we are commanded firstly
tion to this purpose is unbiblical
to “make disciples of all
Christianity” (Platt, 2010, 64).
nations,” and secondly to
The priority of evangelism
“teach them to observe all
in the mission of the Church
things.” The Greek word is
represents basic and biblical
really “disciple,” so through-
Christianity. In his emphasis on
out this book we shall use
reaching the lost with the gospel
the verb “disciple” as a tech-
as the principal task within the
nical term. . . .
mission of the Church until the
return of Christ, McGavran ben-
As a first step, then,
efited and edified the Church by
according to the Great
insisting on the normal and liter-
Commission, the peoples
al understanding of Jesus’ Great
are to be discipled. . . .
Commission to His Church:
“make disciples of all nations.”
The second stage in the
establishment of a Christian
civilization is “teaching
them all things.” For the acknowledging, “Unnecessary
sake of convenience we confusion is arising among
shall condense these words Christian leaders over the new
into another term and say verb ‘to disciple’” (McGavran,
that the second state is that 1979, 265).
of Perfecting the People The tone of the article seems
(McGavran, 1955, 13). to indicate that McGavran felt
that criticism of his distinction of
McGavran argued that disci- discipling and perfecting mostly
pling and perfecting should be arose due to misunderstand-
considered two inter-related but ings concerning his views. He
necessarily separate stages in appealed to the fact that his
the Christianization of a people. views were developed within the
He described the distinction context of groups of formerly
as “essential” for evangelistic pagan people coming to Christ
mission work. (Ibid., 16) It is in multi-individual decisions
important to understand that rather than the more common
McGavran considered the “dis- Western way of individuals com-
cipling” of a people group to ing to faith in Christ one by one
be the original and one-time (Ibid.).
occurrence of that group mov- Though McGavran felt that
ing by multi-individual decision some of the confusion had arisen
from false gods to loyalty to because of new uses of the verb
Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior “disciple,” the aim here is to
(McGavran, 1990, 123). This focus on the criticism of his
was the original context for interpretation of Matthew 28:18-
McGavran’s use of the verb “dis- 20 that McGavran used to but-
ciple.” tress his teaching on discipling
Though McGavran appears and perfecting (McGavran, 267
to have considered this and 123). Most writers interact-
understanding of the Great ing with McGavran’s treatment of
Commission to be based upon Matthew 28:18-20 have agreed
faithful exegesis of the text, that the passage includes a com-
not all responses to his propos- mand issued by the Lord Jesus
als regarding discipling and to “make disciples” (Bosch,
perfecting were positive. The 1983, 218). That there is a dis-
disagreement was sufficient that tinction between a lost person
McGavran found it necessary entering the community of faith
to attempt to clarify and defend by becoming a follower of Jesus
his thinking. In a May 1979 and that same person growing
Church Growth Bulletin article, in the faith is also not disputed.
“How About That New Verb ‘To Theologians consider it virtually
Disciple?’” McGavran began by
axiomatic that there are differ- with McGavran’s claim that this
ent aspects of salvation such approach is simply the result
as regeneration, justification, of faithful exegesis of Matthew
sanctification, and glorification. 28:19-20. In other words,
By definition there is a chronol- McGavran claimed that the Bible
ogy involved in these different teaches that the Christianization
aspects. Justification before of a people group is done in two
God occurs simultaneous with stages, discipling and perfecting,
regeneration, but sanctification and Bosch disagreed. He argued
is a process that continues until that McGavran’s “building of
the believer passes from this his case on Matthew 28:19 is
life into the presence of God. untenable,” among other reasons
Glorification defines the ultimate because “it is impossible to read
condition for the believer in the the text as describing discipling
eternal state. Virtually every sys- and perfecting as two successive
tematic theology with an evan- activities (the participle “teach-
gelical perspective includes this ing” qualifies the main verb “to
view of the aspects of salvation make disciples” and is not a
(Lewis & Demerest, 1996). separate enterprise).” (Ibid)
David J. Bosch explored In his commentary on
McGavran’s approach to Matthew Matthew, Craig L. Blomberg
28:18-20 in his 1983 contribu- described the relationship of
tion to Exploring Church Growth, the participles “baptizing” and
edited by Wilbert R. Shenk. “teaching” to “make disciples”
After stating McGavran’s view in Matthew 28:19-20. He
of the Great Commission to be explained:
that of two stages, namely, “make
disciples” (discipling) followed The verb “make disciples”
by “baptizing” and “teaching” also commands a kind of
(perfecting), Bosch observed that evangelism that does not
McGavran held a bias toward stop after someone makes
discipling. Bosch noted that a profession of faith. The
this emphasis was to counter an truly subordinate participles
imbalance in which McGavran in v. 19 explain what mak-
perceived that existing churches ing disciples involves: “bap-
heavily favored perfecting over tizing” them and “teaching”
discipling (Bosch, 1983, 231). them obedience to all of
Bosch exemplified the Jesus’ commandments. The
concern of many critics of first of these will be a once-
McGavran’s discipling and per- for-all, decisive initiation
fecting paradigm by taking issue into Christian community.
The second proves a peren-

nially incomplete, life-long Wallace’s understanding
task (Blomberg, 1992, 431). allows the difference between the
moment of becoming a disciple
Blomberg’s explanation of the and the process of growing as a
relationship of the participles disciple. This is what McGavran
“baptizing” and “teaching” to attempted to emphasize in his
the main imperative verb in theory regarding discipling and
this passage, “make disciples,” perfecting. What McGavran
demonstrates the problem with failed to include in his inter-
McGavran’s interpretation of pretation of Matthew 28:19-20
the text. McGavran has made was the fact that what he labels
a division where none exists. “perfecting” is not a separate
Blomberg and Bosch have stage that comes after making
shown that there is no gram- disciples, but rather is part of
matical basis within Jesus’ Great the process of making disciples.
Commission as recorded in This process is not complete
Matthew 28:18-20 for viewing until a person has both been
the task of bringing people to baptized and is living a life of
Christ as a two stage-process. observing all that Jesus com-
Matthew 28:19-20 contains manded. McGavran clearly
the imperative verb “make dis- desired to stress the importance
ciples” along with three parti- of reaching the lost with the
ciples which must be properly gospel. He also explained his
related to the main verb. The understanding that growth in the
first participle is translated “go,” faith was crucial for all believers.
and according to Blomberg is “an His effort to promote his convic-
introductory circumstantial par- tion was hampered by a less than
ticiple that is rightly translated precise interpretation of Matthew
as coordinate to the main verb— 28:19-20.
here “Go and make.” (Wallace, John H. Yoder questioned
645) The relationship of the the implications for this division
other two participles, “baptiz- of the Christian experience into
ing” and “teaching,” to the main two stages. After noting a lack of
verb is crucial in the analysis of precision in the CGM literature
McGavran’s theory of discipling over discipling and perfecting, he
and perfecting. In consideration wrote:
of these two participles, Daniel B.
Wallace stated, “they obviously But the significant issue
make good sense as participles of related to the distinction
means; i.e., the means by which between “discipling” and
the disciples were to make dis- “perfecting” is not simply
ciples were to baptize and then one of clear verbal usage
to teach.”
nor the tactical gumming-up McGavran’s arguments con-
of conversation by redefin- cerning the Great Commission.
ing terms, but rather its Wilkins suggested:
meaning for the theology
of Christian experience and Matthew intends for his
the practice of pastoral care. readers to understand that
What implications do we the Christian life is
predispose ourselves toward, equivalent to being with
or to what kind of presup- Jesus as his disciple. This
positions have we already means that conversion—not
committed ourselves, if we a later point of commitment
divide the experiences of or a process of spiritual
becoming a Christian into growth—marks the begin-
two distinct segments, one ning point of discipleship.
of which is minimal while Degrees of maturity will be
the other moves on toward realized as one traverses the
perfection? (Yoder, 1973, discipleship path, but all
32). true believers are disciples
on that path. Therefore,
While Yoder acknowledged evangelism is the starting
that McGavran in some plac- point for making disciples
es recognized the continuity (Wilkins, 1992, 191).
that exists between discipling The view of discipleship pre-
and perfecting, he here ques- sented here is not far from
tioned the theological sound- McGavran’s. However, the differ-
ness of maintaining a strict ence is that Wilkins’ view lacks
separation—a separation that the strict division into two stages
McGavran seems to be call- of becoming a Christian and
ing for—within the experi- growing as a Christian.
ence of becoming and being
a Christian. (Ibid., 31). CONCLuSiON
In his 1992 study of dis- McGavran’s insistence on
cipleship entitled, Following the priority of evangelism within
the Master: Discipleship in the mission of the Church in
the Steps of Jesus, Michael J. the world is faithful to bibli-
Wilkins discussed discipleship cal teaching, specifically the
from the context of Matthew Great Commission as recorded
28:18-20. His understanding of in Matthew 28:18-20. In this
discipleship and its relationship emphasis, McGavran and the
to evangelism could be helpful CGM have aided the Church in
in resolving the problems with obeying the Lord’s command.
Though there is a wide range The Great Commission, as
of service and benevolence recorded in Matthew 28:18-20,
ministries that should be done, makes clear the priority of evan-
evangelism must remain the top gelism, i.e., making disciples,
priority. and the means for doing so. A
In the interaction with believer has not fully obeyed
McGavran cited here, two areas the Great Commission by mak-
of criticism regarding McGavran’s ing a disciple until an unsaved
conclusion that Matthew 28:19- person moves from spiritual
20 calls for discipling and per- darkness to faith in Christ, has
fecting as two distinct stages entered the faith community
in Christianizing a people have through baptism, and is living
been identified: that of the a life of observing all the com-
exegesis of the text and that of mands of the Lord Jesus, includ-
the theological implications. In ing the Great Commission. The
the case of the exegesis of the proper understanding of the
text, McGavran has failed to Great Commission will yield
properly relate the participles more disciples to obey the Great
in the passage to the main verb. Commission. More disciples
He thus wrongly cited Matthew obeying the Great Commission
28:19-20 as support for his is a result with which McGavran
understanding of perfecting new would have been pleased!
believers as a separate stage in
the Christianization of people SOuRCES
groups. In the case of the theo-
logical implications, the defini- Blomberg, Craig L. 1992.
tion of “disciple” can become Matthew. Vol. 22 in The
less precise due to the questions New American Commentary.
raised by an understanding of Nashville: Broadman.
discipling and perfecting as dis-
tinct stages in the task of bring- Bosch, David J. 1983. “The
ing people groups to Christ. Structure of Mission: An
While it is important to Exposition of Matthew
note the exegetical shortcom- 28:16-20.” In Exploring
ings of McGavran’s interpreta- Church Growth. Edited by
tion of Matthew 28:19-20, his Wilbert R. Shenk. Grand
basic emphasis should be noted. Rapids: Eerdmans.
McGavran simply did not want
churches to become so involved Lewis, Gordon R. and Bruce A.
with perfecting new believ- Demerest. 1996. Integrative
ers that reaching the lost was Theology. Vol. 3 Grand
neglected. Rapids: Zondervan.

McGavran, Donald A. 1955. Payne, J. D. 2009. Discovering
The Bridges of God: A Study Church Planting: An
in the Strategy of Missions. Introduction to the Whats,
New York: Friendship. Whys, and Hows of Global
Church Planting. Foreword
------. 1979. “How About That by David Hesselgrave.
New Verb ‘To Disciple.” Colorado Springs:
Church Growth Bulletin 15, Paternoster.
no. 5: 265-270.
Platt, David. 2010. Radical:
------. 1990. Understanding Taking Back Your Faith
Church Growth, 3rd edi- from the American Dream.
tion. Revised and edited Colorado Springs:
by C. Peter Wagner. Grand Multnomah.
Rapids: Eerdmans.
Wallace, Daniel B. 1996. Greek
------1988. Effective Evangelism. Grammar Beyond the Basics:
A Theological mandate. An Exegetical Syntax of
Phillipsburg, NJ: the New Testament. Grand
Presbyterian and Reformed Rapids: Zondervan.
Publishing Co.
Wilkins, Michael J. 1992.
Michel, David, 2006. Following the Master:
Associate Executive Discipleship in the Steps
Director, Mission Strategy of Jesus. Grand Rapids:
Division, Mississippi Zondervan.
Baptist Convention Board.
Interview by author. Yoder, John H. 1973. “Church
Jackson, MS. Growth Issues in
Theological Perspective.”
In The Challenge of Church
Growth: A Symposium.
Edited by Wilbert R. Shenk.
Scottdale: Herald.

Michael W. Waldrop (PhD, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary) began

serving as a church planter in St. George, UT for the Color Country Baptist
Association in April 2011. His previous ministry experience includes service
as a pastor, various church staff positions, associational missions director for
the Calhoun Baptist Association (MS), and instructor for the north Mississippi
MABTS Extension.

The loCal ChurCh and Mission volunTeers

by Stan May

One of the most significant movements to affect local

churches has been the rise of the short-term volunteer
mission trip.

Involvement in these trips in this enterprise; therefore, pas-

has breathed new life into many tors of local churches are well
local churches; indeed, some served to study ways to make
churches have embraced this such short-term trips effective
movement with such passion for the kingdom. This article
that a significant portion of their examines the local church’s
budget now supports short term role in the short-term volunteer
trips. Ralph Winter suggested trip, focusing specifically on the
that 2 million people engage selection of candidates for the
in these trips annually. At an trip, selection of overseas part-
average cost of about $2000, ners, preparation and training
the short-term volunteer trips of short-termers, accountability
become big business—about $4 of short-termers, and long-term
billion dollars a year. As long investment in the short-term
as the US economy holds up, process. As a pastor, a professor
short-term trips will continue of missions, a former mission-
to consume significant financial ary, and a participant/leader of
resources and human involve- numerous short-term mission
ment. trips, I am personally involved in
God holds local churches this subject.
and pastors accountable for their
physical and financial investment
SELECTiON OF pastors, can they really
CANDiDATES FOR SHORT- offer anything useful in
TERM MiSSiONS pastoral training? Will they
function well on a medical
Local churches send out team without any medical
volunteer teams for a variety of knowledge or training?
reasons. Some volunteers go
because they like travel (I actu- • Can these potential
ally had one couple tell me that volunteers teach or preach
they were on their forty-eighth the Bible effectively in a
mission trip when they came to cross-cultural setting? Are
Zimbabwe). Some seem to go they skilled in training oral
because they view the trip as a learners? Do they truly
vacation, and some go with gen- know the Word, live in it
uine hearts for God and a desire (John 15), and live it out
to win people to Jesus. The first before the watching world?
step local churches should take Or are they hoping that
is to ensure that every volunteer crossing the ocean suddenly
goes with the right motives and will make them spiritual?
for the right reasons. Churches
should ask the following ques- • Are these potential
tions of potential volunteers volunteers persons of
before they ever get to the first prayer? Will they be a
meeting as a team: benefit to the team or a
spiritual liability?
• Do these potential
volunteers practice
• Are these potential
missional living at home?
volunteers physically
Are they involved in regular
prepared for the rigors of
evangelism; are they faithful
the trip before them? Can
attendees in the church;
they handle extremes of
do they give sacrificially to
climate and inconveniences?
missions? Are they faithful
Are they flexible, or are they
in service to the church, or
do they only come when
they are required to come? When the couple who had
made forty-eight trips arrived in
• Do these potential Zimbabwe, I met with their team
volunteers have the and explained the schedule for
requisite gifts and skill set each day. I would pick up the
required for the upcoming team at 9:00 a.m., we would go
trip? If they’ve never been out to the area where we would

be evangelizing, and we would of them could easily fit Duane
work until about 1:30. We Elmer’s illustration of the mon-
would then go home and rest key and the fish; they come hop-
until about 5:00, when we would ing to do good, but end up caus-
head out for the showing of the ing harm instead of the good that
“Jesus” film each evening. Her they hope to do. Here is Elmer’s
response was, “That’s a waste story:
of time; we don’t need rest.” I
explained to her that I would be A typhoon had tempo-
involved in the morning before I rarily stranded a monkey on
picked them up, taking children an island. In a secure, pro-
to school and leading early stud- tected place on the shore,
ies. After I dropped them off, while waiting for the raging
I would pack the trailer for the waters to recede, he spotted
evening and walk several miles a fish swimming against the
with my wife so that we could current. It seemed obvious
pray together. I also told her, to the monkey that the fish
“You are not accustomed to this was struggling and in need
climate. I’m used to it, so I can of assistance. Being of kind
go for these hours; your team heart, the monkey resolved
will need rest.” By the middle to help the fish.
of the week, she told me after A tree precariously dan-
lunch, “I’m exhausted.” I replied, gled over the spot where the
“That’s why I’ve planned this fish seemed to be struggling.
schedule; this country saps the At considerable risk to him-
life out of people, and you are self, the monkey moved
not used to it.” Volunteers who far out on a limb, reached
are not physically fit and are not down and snatched the fish
prepared for the rigors of a trip from the threatening waters.
may end up hurting themselves Immediately scurrying back
or the effectiveness of the entire to the safety of his shelter,
team. he carefully laid the fish
These questions matter on dry ground. For a few
because volunteers are a true moments the fish showed
expression of the church’s com- excitement, but soon settled
mitment to good stewardship into a peaceful rest.
of resources. Churches ought Joy and satisfaction
to send out volunteers who will swelled inside the monkey.
do the most good; this desire He had successfully helped
does not always find fulfillment another creature.
in practice. While volunteers Volunteers, like the monkey,
come with good motives, many generally mean well; their lack
of training, cross-cultural sensi- SELECTiON OF OVERSEAS
tivity, and understanding of the PARTNERS
host worldview, however, subvert
their good intentions. Sadly, Churches that send out effec-
some missionaries who work tive volunteer teams strive as
regularly with volunteers say that well to send them to the right
they seek to place them “where places. Missionaries and nation-
they will do the least damage” als around the world are looking
(Byrd, 2008). for volunteer teams; the best
Local churches should seek churches determine their gifts,
to send the most qualified and skills, abilities, and calling, and
called people overseas because then partner with missionaries
they will give an account to and nationals with whom they
God for the stewardship of their can fulfill that calling. Such
volunteer resources. These partnerships require prayer, prac-
resources include the people tical considerations, and com-
investment of the church as well mitment both on the part of the
as the financial investment of the church and the hosts. Church
church. Finances are no little leaders must pray seriously
concern, as Ralph Winter noted, before entering into partnerships;
“It costs at least five times more if the church is evangelistic and
overall to send a short-timer than the missionary is not, the proj-
a long-term missionary–financial ect is open to conflict before the
support that . . . would be better work even begins. If the church
invested in a long-term mission- insists on using money and the
ary.” missionary uses indigenous
These concerns do not mean methods, the church can cripple
that churches should not send the work before it ever gains a
teams; rather, they should strive lasting foothold.
to ensure that the right people Churches with volunteer
go for the right reasons. Pastors teams who have medical back-
and missions leaders who send grounds may be used of God
out volunteers want to send to open doors in many coun-
godly people who are used by tries; those teams should find
God to bless nationals, assist missionaries and partners who
missionaries, and bring glory to know how to utilize such teams,
God in their service. develop a long-term commit-
ment to the work, and harness
the team’s skills for God’s glory.
Other teams ought to use busi-
ness acumen to train locals so
that their expertise opens doors

for the gospel. Some teams may church and the mission organiza-
know how to witness effectively tion communicated poorly with
in cross-cultural settings; these the missionary on the field.
teams should partner with mis- Some teams may build build-
sionaries and nationals who seek ings, but churches must be care-
to spread the gospel in areas of ful as they enter the construc-
the world where gospel procla- tion arena; in most places of the
mation opens doors. All teams world, the monies a team spends
should witness, but some teams on the trip to build a building
may enter security-conscious would pay the cost of building
areas of the world where open the building several times over.
evangelism is forbidden, and Further, constructing buildings
some platforms volunteers can for nationals may create unnec-
offer open doors more effectively. essary dependency on foreign
Effective partnering and funds and rob the nationals of
planning by teams and mis- learning the joy of giving and the
sionaries can minimize false power of God to answer prayers
expectations on both sides of of faith.
the water. One volunteer came
to Zimbabwe years ago with the PREPARATiON AND
idea that he would preach to TRAiNiNG OF SHORT-TERM
crowds of thousands, that thou- TEAMS
sands would be saved, and that
he would return to his church Once the church has assem-
a “hero.” While in country, he bled a team and matched that
assisted in a church start, but team to a place overseas, the
was so disillusioned that he church must prepare and train
missed the joy of that experi- the team for the trip. Effective
ence because the new church preparation and training fulfills
was planted in a small village four functions: cast vision, cover
with less than 200 people. His the trip in prayer, create unity,
frustration so permeated his time and cover the details of the trip.
in the country that he refused Local church pastors and
to participate in several train- mission leaders cast vision for
ing sessions for national lead- the trip by emphasizing the goals
ers, even though his training and purpose of the trip. Teams
could have helped them as new who know their assignments and
pastors. He was the victim of what they hope to see happening
unrealistic expectations. On the when they finish go with expec-
other hand, missionaries have tation and faith in their hearts.
often received teams at the last They look forward to the trip not
minute because the sending merely as a sightseeing venture,

but as fulfilling a definite agenda vehicle. My prayer partner, a
that enhances God’s work in that dentist, laughed out loud and
field. then caught himself. When we
A second critical step in were actually in country, we were
preparation is the prayer focus of driving in a van with poor tires
the team. Effective teams pray and no spare, and we were laying
together regularly with focused down barbed wire in order to go
prayer. Good team leaders call into a rock-strewn field where
the team to prayer on a schedule the new group was meeting. The
and give the team specific prayer dentist said out loud, “Now I
requests that cover every aspect understand why you were pray-
of the trip. My basic rule for ing about the tires!”
praying about trips is this: any- Preparation done effectively
thing you want the devil to handle, fulfills the third goal; good prep-
do not pray about; if you want aration and prayer create unity
God to take care of it, however, in the team. The Bible testifies
pray about it! This simple rule to the effectiveness of unified
energizes mission teams as they teams (Ps. 133; Eph. 4:3); Jesus
pray for the finances before the Himself prayed that His fol-
trip, the flights and travel on the lowers “may be one in us, that
trip, the food and accommoda- the world may believe that You
tions on the trip, the work each sent Me” (John 17:21). (Unless
day during the trip, their health noted otherwise, all Scripture
and safety on the trip, and fruit quotations are from the Holy
for their labors from the trip. Bible, NKJV.) Unity testifies to
The more informed the team, the the world of Christ’s reality, but
more specific and effective the unity also transforms the team
prayer. Paul called for prayer from an aggregate of individuals
often on his trips (Col. 4:1-3; 2 to a band of believers who will
Thess. 3:1-3; Eph. 6:19-20, etc.); serve one another, pray for one
if Paul needed prayer for his another, and love one another for
trips (and prayed while he went the sake of the kingdom. Teams
on his trips), how much more do that develop unity experience
teams today need prayer! greater effectiveness and joy in
When we were taking a team their trips (I’ve seen both kinds
to Zimbabwe one year, we met of teams!).
regularly and prayed in groups Finally, preparation and
of two or three. Every person training ensure that the team
on the team eventually prayed knows all the details of the
with every other team mem- trip. The effective team leader
ber. During one prayer time, I organizes meetings, develops a
was praying for the tires on the timeline for the trip (from the
first interest meeting to the post- give an account to the Lord on
trip debriefing), and cares for the the Day, to the church on their
details of the trip, both mundane return, and to the missionaries
and sublime. Helpful leaders and nationals during their stay.
plan meetings on a schedule that Each of these areas of account-
increase the frequency of meet- ability drives effective teams.
ings as the trip grows closer and Accountability before the
communicate the times of the Lord is a primary motivation in
meetings well in advance so that all ministry. Paul was motivated
entire team participates. by the “terror of the Lord,” which
Effective leaders develop a he defined as the realization that
timeline to guarantee that team “we must all appear before the
members order passports, pur- judgment seat of Christ, that each
chase tickets, get immunizations one may receive the things done
(if necessary), fill out paperwork, in the body, according to what he
change currency, pack luggage, has done, whether good or bad” (2
and purchase all needed sup- Cor. 5:10; cf. v. 11). This moti-
plies well in advance. Far-seeing vation arose from his realization
leaders plan in advance and that all his work would be tested
try to leave nothing to chance. by “fire,” and that it could be
Efficient leaders plan with people “burned up” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
in the host country to anticipate He himself felt this motivation
all needs, order all materials, buy in his life because he did not
tickets at the cheapest rate, and want to preach to others and end
make certain that the team has up “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).
all needed supplies before leav- Team members who realize that
ing. Caring team members think their work will be evaluated on
about their hosts (especially mis- the only Day that matters by the
sionaries) and bring them “good- only One who matters will seek
ies” from the States that may not to honor the Lord in all their
be available in the host country. doings.
Preparation turns good trips into Accountability to the church
memorable ones. reminds members that they are
part of the larger body and go
Accountability of short-term out as representatives of that
teams body. They are not “missionar-
ies” in the strictest sense of the
Local churches need to term, but rather they are ambas-
send teams out with a sense of sadors for Christ and their local
accountability. Accountability church. They go with the bless-
functions most effectively when ing of the church, in the name of
members realize that they will the church, and usually by the
help of funds from the church. CONCLuSiON
They are not “lone rangers” but
rather part of a larger body— Churches are sending out
members of a local body serv- teams to be on mission with
ing Christ together. They will God. Pastors and mission
give an account because of their leaders have a responsibility
stewardship and because of the before God, their church, and
church’s reputation. their teams to ensure that the
Teams are accountable to teams they send are capable, are
missionaries because the mis- matched to the right places, are
sionaries have to follow in the prepared, and are accountable.
footsteps of the team and build The best churches send the best
on their work. Good teams rec- teams to the best locations to
ognize that they work with the harvest the best results so that
missionary or national partner to God will be glorified, the team
fulfill purposes most important will be unashamed on the Day,
to the work in that area of the and the nationals and missionar-
world. Team members are not ies will rejoice in the work the
building a name for themselves team leaves behind. This is the
but serving the kingdom of God task of the local church as they
and advancing the work in the select and send volunteer teams.
host country. Pastors would
not appreciate missionaries SOuRCES
who called them from the field, Byrd, Marc. 2008. Former
told the pastor that they were Strategy Associate for
coming, and then proceeded to Central and Eastern Europe,
take over all aspects of the host International Mission Board,
church without considering interview by author in
the pastor’s plan or vision. In Cordova, TN, handwritten
the same way, teams that keep notes.
accountability come to make the
missionary or national partner Kane, J. Herbert. 1978.
successful for the glory of God Understanding Christian
and the furtherance of the king- Missions, rev. ed. Grand
dom. Rapids: Baker.

HELPFuL BOOKS ON *Lanier, Sarah A. 2000. Foreign
SHORT-TERM MiSSiONS to Familiar: A Guide to
Understanding Hot and
(Books Marked With Cold Climate Cultures.
an Asterisk* Should Be Hagerstown, MD: McDougal
Required for Teams) Publishing.
Backholer, Mathew. 2010. Muller, Roland. 2000. Honor &
How to Plan, Prepare and Shame: Unlocking the Door.
Successfully Complete Xlibris Corporation.
Your Short-Term Mission:
The Ultimate Guide to *Terry, J. O. 2008. Bible Storying
Missions. UK: Faith Media. Handbook for Short-Term
Mission Teams and Mission
*Brock, Charles. A Manual Volunteers. Fort Worth:
for Volunteers. Neosho, Church Starting Network.
MO: Church Growth
International, n.d. *VanCise, Martha. 2004.
Successful Mission Teams:
Fortunak, Laurie A. and A. Scott A Guide for Volunteers.
Moreau, eds. 2008. Engaging Birmingham, AL: New Hope
the Church: Analyzing Publishers.
the Canvas of Short-term
Missions. Wheaton Il:
Evangelism and Missions
Information Service.

Ippolito, Natalia. 2007. I Might

As Well Be Naked! How to
Survive Airport Screening
with Your Clothes On. Enka,
NC: Divine Island Books.

Dr. Stan May serves as professor and chairman of the Missions Department
at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife served in
Zimbabwe with the International Mission Board, SBC. They have 3 grown
children. He has served as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Olive
Branch, MS, since 2000.

Taking risk in dangerous plaCes—how MuCh is Too

by Gordon Fort

David and Carrie McDonnall spent several adventure-

packed years as single workers in the Middle East,
where they met in Bethlehem at the turn of the mil-

They had returned to the Even with all their skill and
region together as a young mar- experience, all their energetic
ried couple, called by God to willingness to serve came to
love Arabs, eager to help Iraqis an abrupt end March 15, 2004,
rebuild their lives. on a road near Mosul, Iraq.
Larry and Jean Elliott had They were tired but enthusiastic
given a quarter century serving after a day of surveying poten-
the poor of Honduras through tial water purification projects.
relief and development minis- Iraqis, thirsty for clean water,
tries, church starting, and one- had welcomed them warmly and
by-one love and compassion. asked them to return soon. As
They had come to Iraq only they drove near the city, they
weeks before, excited to put their were attacked by nameless kill-
long experience to full use for ers who pulled alongside their
needy Iraqis. truck and riddled it with gunfire.
Karen Watson had come The Elliotts and Karen Watson
to Iraq among the first wave of died almost immediately. David
relief workers, toiling long and McDonnall, wounded but still
hard to get Southern Baptist aid mobile, got help for his critically
projects going in a dangerous, injured wife. He, too, later died
chaotic environment. After sev- (Bridges and Rankin, 2005 127-
eral months in a nearby country, 28).
she had just returned; ready to
continue her courageous work.
“He is no fool who gives what “If Jesus Christ be God and
he cannot keep to gain what he died for me, then no sacrifice
cannot lose.” can be too great for me to
- Jim Elliot make for Him.”
- C.T. Studd
In the days following this
incident, the IMB was bombard- In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul
ed with numerous requests for wrote Timothy, and he warned
interviews and comment from him that every Christian who
various news outlets. It seemed seeks to live a godly life will
that the general consensus of the suffer persecution. He encour-
secular public was that the IMB aged him to “Endure affliction”
was foolish to take such risks (2 Tim. 4:5). Paul states that
and that this was a tragic waste “it is given in the behalf of Christ,
of human life. Even in Christian not only to believe on him, but
circles, the debate raged as to also to suffer for his sake” (Phil.
whether this was an acceptable 1:29). In 1 Peter 4:12, Peter
sacrifice and risk in response to wrote concerning the response
the Great Commission. There a believer should have towards
was a call by some to bring all suffering. It was Peter’s expecta-
our missionaries home. tion that Christians would face
Somewhere between those what he termed ‘fiery trials.’ In
who would actually say they this suffering we should not be
would relish the opportunity “ashamed, but him glorify God” (1
for martyrdom and those who Pet. 4:16). James supports this
believe that known dangerous expectation of suffering when he
places should be avoided is what encouragers followers of Christ
I would term ‘calculated risk.’ to “count it all joy when you
On what basis can a reasonable encounter various trials’” (James
decision be made of the factors 1:2).
that constitute an acceptable risk I will never forget a con-
for the sake of the gospel, and at versation I had with Ms Bertha
what point do we cross over into Smith, former missionary to
foolish presumption upon God? China, and a woman greatly used
One of the key issues for the cur- by God in revival. She expressed
rent practice of Christian faith in her amazement at believers
‘free’ America is a clear under- who thought they should never
standing of the biblical teaching have to endure suffering as an
on suffering. expectation of walking with
God, when God Himself allowed
His only beloved Son to endure
unspeakable pain and suffering
at the hands of sinners. “Why,”
she asked “would we expect save one. Thrice was I beaten
less?” with rods, once was I stoned,
This is exactly what the thrice suffered shipwreck, a
writer of Hebrews expressed night and a day I have been
when he wrote “Looking unto in the deep. In journeying
Jesus the author and finisher of often, in perils of waters, in
our faith; who for the joy that perils of robbers, in perils by
was set before him endured the my own countrymen, in perils
cross, despising the shame, and is by the heathen in perils in the
set down at the right hand of the city, in perils in the wilder-
throne of God. For consider Him ness, in perils in the sea, in
that endured such contradiction perils among false brethren;
of sinners against Himself, . . . so in weariness and painfulness,
that you may not grow weary or in watchings often, in hunger
faint hearted.” (Hebrews 12:3 and thirst, in fastings often, in
KJV) Jesus gave us the power of cold and nakedness (2 Cor.
His example. It was an expecta- 11:23-27).
tion that those who follow Him
would like-wise suffer. Does this sound like it was
In Christ, God demonstrated safe! Nate Saint reflects: “And
His willingness to go to great people who do not know the
lengths for the salvation and Lord ask why in the world we
reconciliation of His creation, waste our lives as missionaries.
but was it really His intention They forget that they too are
that followers of Christ also suf- expending their lives . . . and
fer and take risk for the sake of when the bubble has burst they
extending the gospel? I have will have nothing of eternal sig-
often heard the statement “the nificance to show for the years
safest place to be is in the center they have wasted.”
of God’s will.” By “safe” some On one stateside assignment
who use this mantra are imply- from our work in Botswana,
ing that nothing “bad” will hap- we were being praised for the
pen to them. This is absolutely great sacrifice we were making
untrue. Read the litany of Paul’s in living overseas and facing
experiences when he was abso- what some thought were great
lutely in the center of God’s will: dangers. I was driving home
from Fort Worth back to the city
In labors more abundant, of Grapevine, when just three
in stripes above measure, blocks from our home, I encoun-
in prisons more frequent, in tered a road block. About fifty
deaths oft. Of the Jews five yards ahead, I could see a van
times received I forty stripes with the words “Bomb Squad”

emblazoned across the side. life, and for those who are saved
A young man upset over his to be discipled in new testament
breakup with his girlfriend, had churches that multiply.
loaded his trunk with explosives,
parked it next to a Piggly Wiggly “It will not do to say that you
grocery store, and was threaten- have no special call to go to
ing to blow it up. I thought to China. With these facts before
myself, “Get me back to Africa you and with the command of
where it’s safe!” the Lord Jesus to go and preach
There is no “safe” place in the gospel to every creature,
the world. For a believer, there you need rather to ascertain
is only the question of where the whether you have a special call
place of obedience is. On one to stay at home.”
occasion when Paul knew his life - J. Hudson Taylor
was threatened, he was lowered In recent days among
in a basket from a window and Southern Baptists, much
escaped from the city. In another has been made of the Great
instance he was warned by the Commission. Intense study
prophet Agabus of impending and focus has been given to a
danger and imprisonment should “Great Commission Resurgence.”
he continue on his journey to Great effort has been made to
Jerusalem, but he insisted on remind Southern Baptists that
going anyway. I believe that in our denominational coopera-
each of these situations, Paul tive operations were founded
took a calculated risk based on on a vision for taking the gospel
what he believed to be God’s to a lost world. We point to a
will. clarion call of Scripture to “go to
Christian missionary leaders the entire world and preach the
have a responsibility to take the gospel to every language, people,
information available, the best tribe and nation.” We trumpet
training possible, and equip per- the promise of Acts 1:8 “But you
sonnel to use the most current will receive power when the Holy
technology in order to take the Spirit is come on you and you will
gospel to the “panta ta ethne” be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and
of this generation. However, I in all Judea, and Samaria and to
believe it must be done in the the end of the earth.” (ESV) We
context of calculated risk. The hearken back to the picture of
goal is the extension of the gos- Isaiah, in Isaiah 6:8, where he
pel to all who are lost so that heard the voice of the Lord call-
all may hear and be given the ing out “whom shall I send, and
opportunity to respond in faith who will go for us?.” We preach
to the claim of Christ on their on the implications of Isaiah’s
response when he said, “here am I visited the hospital site and
I, send me.” Where in any of our the graves of Bill and Dr. Martha
rhetoric is an understanding that on the back side of the hospital
this is all predicated upon our complex. Sometime later I was
safety and security? Consider preaching in a chapel service at
the implications of the following Mid-Western Baptist Theological
story: Seminary and happened to be
On the morning of there during the dedication of
December 30th, 2002, a Muslim new facilities in honor of these
man in Yemen, enraged by the three missionaries. Dr. Martha’s
influence of Christian ministry dad, a prominent doctor from
on his wife after a visit to Jibla Alabama, was in attendance. I
Baptist Hospital, shot and killed asked him why he chose to
Southern Baptist medical mis- bury his daughter in Yemen. He
sionaries Bill Koehn, Martha replied, “When Martha went to
Myers and Kathy Gariety and Yemen, we knew it was a dan-
seriously wounded pharma- gerous place. She told me that
cist Don Caswell. Abed Abdul should anything ever happen
Razak Kamel arrived early that to her, she wanted to be buried
morning. He held a “pink slip” in Yemen—that if I brought her
pass for return patients which body back to the States to be
allowed him past hospital secu- buried, her grave would just be
rity guards into the outpatient another grave—but if I buried
waiting area. At 8:15, Martha her in Yemen, her grave would
Myers walked past him into be a witness.”
Bill Koehn’s office where Kathy In subsequent months and
Gariety was already sitting. years, many Yemenis have come
Kamel followed her, pulled out a to faith in Christ. They have
faced persecution and imprison-
pistol hidden under his coat and
ment for their faith. Their tes-
opened fire on the three workers
timony of why they have with-
at point-blank range. As hospital
stood the onslaught of these fiery
workers screamed and scattered,
trials is this statement: “We saw
Kamel emerged from the office,
these missionaries live for Christ
walked to the pharmacy and shot
and now we have seen them
Don Caswell three times. Two
die for Christ. How can we do
Yemeni soldiers at the front gate
anything less?” Dr. Martha went
heard the shots and commotion,
to Yemen on the basis of a calcu-
ran into the courtyard and con-
lated risk. That risk led to the
fronted Kamel. He calmly laid opening of hearts to the gospel.
his gun on the ground and raised The seed of the gospel has now
his hands (Bridges and Rankin, taken root in the soil of Yemeni
2005, 23). hearts.
The command has been to “go,” I attended Jeremiah’s funeral
but we have stayed in—body, service in the Royal Palms
gifts, prayer and influence. He Baptist Church in Phoenix.
has asked us to be witnesses There was a standing room only
unto the uttermost parts of the crowd. The news of Jeremiah’s
earth… but 99% of Christians tragic death had deeply touched
have kept puttering around in the community. It was incredible
the homeland.” to hear his Dad, David Johnson,
- Robert Savage share about his son’s testimony.
E-mails from Jeremiah were read
On another occasion in that told of his growing love for
early 2010, twenty-one-year-old the Mozambican people and the
Jeremiah Johnson left Phoenix, opportunity he had to share the
Arizona, to head to Quelimane, good news of the gospel with
Mozambique, to serve a term in the Moniga tribe. I made the
the IMB’s “Hands On” Program statement during the service, “I
for college students. He was pray that the Johnson family will
assigned the responsibility to never forget the high price you
begin researching the Moniga have invested for the sake of the
tribe that lived along the coastal gospel among the Monigan tribe
region of the Indian Ocean of Mozambique.”
Island. Some three months later
As Jeremiah traveled out into David and Diana Johnson and
the bush by motorcycle, he was their pastor and his wife made
accompanied by a local pastor the trip to Quelimane. They
named Sobrinho who helped wanted to see the villages and
him with translation and making meet the people that their son
connections with the tribal peo- had worked with. In the course
ples. Out on the sandy beaches, of their journey, David had
Jeremiah would play soccer with the privilege of helping in a
the young people and begin shar- Baptismal service of seventeen
ing the gospel with them. In vil- Monigan believers who had
lage after village, this young man come to faith in Christ since the
became known as “The Sower death of Jeremiah. Is this gospel
of God’s Word.” One evening, tree that is growing among the
as Jeremiah made his way back Monigan worth the risk and the
to Quelimane, he was struck young life of Jeremiah Johnson?
by a truck and died instantly. In thinking about the loss of his
Sobrinho, though knocked off son, David Johnson said at his
the motorcycle, survived the funeral, “I would not change one
accident (Portraits, 2010, 3-5). thing about what Jeremiah did—
he was right where he was sup-
posed to be.” Jeremiah’s death the missionary call. The com-
was as a result of a tragic acci- mand of the master is to go and
dent, but his life will bear fruit preach the gospel. The Greek
in the generations of believers to word “Kerusso” is translated
come from the Monigan. by the English word “preach.”
When we deploy person- When the Greek athletes would
nel around the world, all are prepare to enter the arena to
faced with the possibility of such compete in the games, as they
accidents. Many are placed in would enter the stadium through
situations where there is inad- an archway, a group of trumpet-
equate health care, others where ers would begin to blow their
kidnapping by criminal elements trumpets. They were loudly
for ransom is a possibility. Some announcing the arrival of the
may face kidnapping by rebel athletes. They were heralding
forces so that they can get expo- the start of the games. They
sure to their cause through the were “preaching.” The ambu-
subsequent press their actions lance and the fire truck on
will garner. These are circum- their way to an accident loudly
stances for which leadership announce their progress. There
must calculate the risks involved is an emergency. Lives are at
and must prepare for the even- stake.
tuality of what to do should the This modern example illus-
danger be realized. However, trates the meaning of the word
we can never forget that the dis- “kerusso.” It is a loud word.
tance and the danger in taking The command is not to go
the gospel to the lost is nothing into the world and be a “pres-
when compared to the distance, ence.” The command is to go
and the risk, that Jesus took in and preach. The command is
going to the cross. NASA spent not “Go into all the world as
billions in getting a man to the long as you are safe and secure.”
moon, what should we be willing The command is to obedience.
to risk for the sake of the gospel? However, obedience can be exer-
In my view, the key issue to cised within the context of “Be
consider is not whether there is ye therefore wise as serpents, and
risk and danger. If we were only harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
to deploy personnel to the coun- When missionaries cannot
tries that the State Department “herald” the gospel because of
considers “safe,” we would go the local circumstances, then the
few places in the world! The risk is not acceptable. If we can-
key question is whether the gos- not encounter the lost and share
pel can be extended to the lost. the good news of the gospel with
Mere presence is not the goal of them, then we must find a dif-
ferent strategy for giving access medical personnel would travel
to the gospel. In some situa- to the hospital to attend to the
tions, the presence of those who urgent and critical needs of the
can be identified as Westerners patients. Sometimes they would
makes the plight of local believ- go by road and sometimes by
ers worse. We risk endangering light aircraft. Nationals would
our national Christian brethren inform missionaries when it was
by our presence. This is an un- safe to come. Sometimes mis-
acceptable risk in my view. Such sionaries were told not to come
was the situation in Zimbabwe in because of threats to the local
the late 1970s. population if they did. At other
Citizens of Britain in the col- times, their lives were spared
ony of Rhodesia declared unilat- by nationals who would warn
eral independence. They refused them in advance where land
to follow the path of nation- mines were buried in the road.
alization, believing that more Missionary personnel followed
time was needed to transition to this principle of not going when
independence. A war ensued. they knew that their presence
The Sanyati Baptist Mission would cause more suffering for
had been in existence since the the nationals. These decisions
early 1950’s extending medical were based on taking calculated
care and education to the Shona risk.
people. During the war, mission-
ary Archie Dunaway drove to the “We talk of the second coming,
hospital one evening to pick up half the world has never heard
his wife Martha, a nurse. Later, of the first.”
Martha came outside to find the - Oswald J. Smith
car running and their German There is something worse
shepherd dog inside—but no than taking a calculated risk
Archie. She immediately went for the sake of the gospel and
to the other missionaries on the expending our lives in obedi-
station to alert them. It was not ence to the command of Christ.
until the next morning that they When one missionary was told
found his body behind the hos- that the IMB would not pay the
pital. He had been bayoneted to demand for ransom should they
death. be kidnapped, he left the session
Most of the missionaries feeling deeply concerned. He
were evacuated and redeployed understood that if other criminal
to other countries leaving a elements believed they could get
few essential medical personnel funds for missionary captives it
in Gatooma, the closest town. would endanger all missionary
Until the end of the war, the personnel. The words of an old
hymn came to his mind: “When In Luke 14:27, 28 the Living
with the ransomed in glory His New Testament says: “And you
face at last I shall see, I’ll sing His cannot be my disciple if you do
praise through the ages and sing not carry your own cross and fol-
of His love for me.” It occurred low me. But don’t begin until you
to him—his ransom had already count the cost. For who would
been paid! Believers who keep begin construction of a building
an eternal view know that their without first getting estimates and
future is secure. Jesus has prom- then checking to see if there is
ised that He is preparing a place enough money to pay the bills?”
for us. The Holy Spirit given There is a race to be run and
as a gift to believers is evidence a mission to be accomplished.
of God’s down payment for our Let’s consider the risk and let’s
eternity in paradise. count the cost, but let’s expend
Those who are lost do not our lives for the sake of the com-
have this luxury. They are mand to take the gospel to every
bound for a Christless eternity language, every people, every
in a place called Hell. There tribe, and every nation.
is no other avenue of salvation
and reconciliation with God SOuRCES
other than through faith in Jesus
Christ. This fact, if we truly Baptist Hymnal. 2008. LifeWay,
believe it, should be an impetus Nashville.
for the believer to take an honest
look at the world and consider Bridges, Eric and Jerry Rankin.
where the gospel has never been 2005. Lives Given, Not
proclaimed. Once those Peoples Taken. International Mission
have been identified, we should Board, SBC.
do whatever it takes to ensure
that each person has an oppor- Portraits, Images of Faith
tunity at least once in their life in Action. A publica-
to hear the good news of Jesus tion of Arizona Baptists.
Christ and respond in faith to November-December 2010.
Him. Vol. 14 Number 6.

Dr. Gordon Fort has spent his life in international missions—literally. He

was born in Zimbabwe to missionary parents and grew up there with his four
brothers. After receiving degrees from Texas A&M and SWBTS, he returned
to Africa with his wife, LeighAnn to serve in Botswana as a church planter,
and then in Zimbabwe in leadership positions for Southern Africa before mov-
ing back to Richmond in 2004 as the Vice President for Office of Overseas
Operations (later changed to Office of Global Strategy).

finishing The Task

by Clyde Meador

“Finishing the Task” has become a frequent refrain in

evangelical missions circles in recent years. What is
the task to which this emphasis refers?

What is involved in com- and make your name great, so that

pleting that exercise? What are you will be a blessing. . . . and in
other related tasks, or aspects you all the families of the earth
of the task, that may remain shall be blessed.” (All Scripture
even after the initial task is com- references are ESV.) This crucial
pleted? This article looks at promise is repeated to Abraham
questions such as these, in order in Genesis 18:18 and again in
to understand more fully the job Genesis 22:18. This promise,
before us. which lays the foundation for the
The essence of the task to task, is passed on to Isaac when
which this emphasis refers is God says to him in Genesis
that every ethnolinguistic people 26:4, “. . . in your offspring all
group in the world will have the nations of the earth shall be
meaningful access to the gospel blessed.” It continues with Jacob,
of Jesus Christ. This overall when God says in Genesis 28:14,
understanding of the task of the “. . . in you and your offspring
church is based on pervasive tes- shall all the families of the earth
timony throughout Scripture. be blessed.”
The first major allusion to The promise of blessing
the task is found in Genesis given to the patriarchs car-
12:2-3, when God says to ried with it the clear word that
Abraham, “And I will make of you they were to be intermediaries
a great nation, and I will bless you
of blessing to all families, all understand that Gentiles can be
nations, and all peoples of the saved without first becoming
earth. Like those who have Jews, he already grasps that the
come after them in the ensu- patriarchal promise and its inher-
ing millennia, the patriarchs ent task is the responsibility of
focused more on the blessing followers of Jesus. He says in
they received, rather than on Acts 3:25-26, “You are the sons of
the blessing they were to be to the prophets and of the covenant
others. Yet God’s promise has that God made with your fathers,
always included His intention to saying to Abraham, ‘And in your
bless every people, through those offspring shall all the families of
whom He has called to be in the earth be blessed.’ God, having
covenant relationship with Him. raised up his servant, sent him to
Repeatedly we see that King you first, to bless you by turning
David grasped the responsibil- every one of you from your wick-
ity of God’s people to spread edness.”
the truth of God to the nations. The last time our Lord met
David also shows his under- with the disciples, He charged
standing of the task in Psalm them (and therefore us) to take
67:1-2: “May God be gracious to the news of His provision of
us and bless us and make his face salvation to every people. This
to shine upon us, that your way declaration is found in Matthew
may be known on earth, your sav- 28:19-20, Where He proclaims
ing power among all nations.” “Go therefore and make disciples
Isaiah remembers and of all nations, baptizing them in
emphasizes the task in passages the name of the Father and of the
like Isaiah 12:4-5, where he says, Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach-
“. . . make known his deeds among ing them to observe all that I have
the peoples . . .let this be made commanded you. . . .” Certainly
known in all the earth.” God there are varying understandings
speaks through Isaiah reminding of elements of that charge, and
all that the task is His task alone, some of those points of varia-
when He calls to the nations in tion are mentioned later in this
passages such as Isaiah 45:22, article. Nevertheless, the pointed
“Turn to me and be saved, all the reference to panta ta eqnh, all
ends of the earth! For I am God peoples, is unavoidable.
and there is no other.” We have seen that the task of
In the New Testament, the Christ’s followers is to be a bless-
task of carrying the gospel to ing to all people by sharing the
all peoples is often reflected in gospel with them. In addition,
the words and actions of the it is essential that we understand
apostles. Before Peter begins to that Scripture promises time after
time that the task will be accom- pel will reach all peoples. That
plished. An early expression focus is clearly repeated in Mark
of that promise is Psalm 22:27, 13:10, “And the gospel must first
“All the ends of the earth shall be proclaimed to all nations.” Our
remember and turn to the Lord, Lord repeats the promise that
and all the families of the nations the task will be accomplished,
shall worship before you.” The coupling it with the fact of His
certain success of the task of the resurrection, when He says in
suffering servant is reflected in Luke 24:45-47, “Then He opened
Isaiah 49:6, “. . . I will make you their minds to understand the
as a light for the nations, that my Scriptures, and said to them,
salvation may reach to the end of ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ
the earth.” should suffer and on the third
When Paul applies Isaiah day rise from the dead, and that
49:6 to himself and to all fol- repentance and forgiveness of sins
lowers of Christ, we see that the should be proclaimed in His name
task and the promise are clearly to all nations, beginning from
related together. He says in Acts Jerusalem.’”
13:47, “For so the Lord has com- It is important to acknowl-
manded us, saying, ‘I have made edge that this is not referring to
you a light for the Gentiles, that the judgment day, when for a
you may bring salvation to the time all people shall bow, even
ends of the earth.’” non-believers on their way to
The words of our Lord in eternity in Hell. Rather, this
Matthew 24:14 convey a very promise of the completion of the
clear promise that all peoples task refers to the picture seen in
will hear, when He says, “And passages such as Revelation 5:9
this gospel of the kingdom will be and Revelation 7:9, when those
proclaimed throughout the whole from every nation, tribe, people
world as a testimony to all nations, and language gather around
and then the end will come.” The the throne, clearly as believers.
eschatological element of this Since there are believers from
verse has engendered some con- every people group worshipping
troversy, because we cannot be around the throne, the gospel
certain what “then” means, or has been been proclaimed to
what the causative relationship every people group.
of the testimony and the coming Carrying the gospel to every
of the end might be. people group is a crucial task
However, our focus must be given to the church, and God
on the very clear promise that promises that it will happen.
the task will be accomplished, Paul’s logical set of questions in
that the proclamation of the gos- Romans 10:14-15 expresses how
this successful task is accom- The scope of the task is
plished. He asks, “How then will global in the greatest sense of the
they call on Him in whom they word, for it includes all peoples,
have not believed? And how are all tribes, all languages, all
they to believe in Him of whom nations. Determining the details
they have never heard? And how of the task can be challenging,
are they to hear without someone yet agreeing on the details is not
preaching? And how are they to a necessary prerequisite to obedi-
preach unless they are sent?” ently carrying out the task.
The task is laid out: Saving There are questions related
faith grows from belief, which to the task that often sideline
comes from hearing the truth, the church from involvement
which comes from someone pro- in the task. One frequent ques-
claiming the truth, which can tion is related to the definition
happen when the proclaimer is of a people group. What is a
sent. The promise that someone people, a nation, or a tribe?
from every people group will There are many definitions of a
hear can be fulfilled only when people group, and those varying
someone has proclaimed the definitions lead to differences in
truth to every people group, so determining how many people
that it is possible for someone groups there are and who must
from each people to believe. be reached. Nevertheless, the
Paul saw that Jesus’ com- focus of the church must remain
mandment that all peoples on the commandment that the
should hear the gospel carried gospel must be made available to
major implications for his min- every people, regardless of how a
istry, as he states in Romans people group is defined.
15:20-21, “And thus I make it There are also questions
my ambition to preach the gos- regarding how to determine
pel, not where Christ has already sufficient proclamation of the
been named, lest I build on some- gospel has been made among a
one else’s foundation, but as it is people group. Is the provision
written, ‘Those who have never of Christian television and/or
been told of him will see, and radio broadcasts in the language
those who have never heard will of a people group sufficient? Is
understand.’” The consistent printed Scripture in the language
testimony of Scripture is clearly of the people group necessary?
that not all will believe; but it is Are accurate Bible stories in the
equally clear that every people language of the people group
must have opportunity to hear, what is needed? Is individual
for some from every people will personal witness required?
A more appropriate evalua- Romans 10:14-15, must focus
tion of whether there is meaning- upon providing the good news of
ful access to the gospel among a salvation, and helping converts
people is whether there are any begin the path of discipleship.
believers. If there are not any There must be a clear focus upon
believers, clearly the task has enabling all to hear, in order to
not been completed among that obediently be about the first task
people group. A good indica- of giving access to the gospel.
tor regarding whether the task The point is that there is a
is being accomplished among a task to be accomplished. The
people group is whether there definition issues may make it
are churches within the culture difficult for us to know when or
of that people group. This indi- if the task has been completed
cates whether there is access that among a certain people group, or
enables those within the people to agree that the overall, global
group not only to hear, but also task has been completed. We
to understand and to respond. have seen that God has promised
Real access will eventually be that this will be completed, and
demonstrated by churches, that means that in and through
New Testament communities of His power it is a doable task.
believers covenanted together, If we believe the gospel is
and seeking to share the gospel clearly accessible to a certain
with others. people group, we will seek to
There are also differences of make it available to the next
understanding concerning what people group. No matter what
is meant by the command “make we think about the overall task,
disciples” in Matthew 28:19, as even if we think we have made
well as “teaching them to obey all the gospel accessible to all
things which I have commanded
peoples, we will keep working.
you” in Matthew 28:20. Is the
Regardless of what we think has
level of discipleship which Paul
or has not yet been accomplished
and others were able to provide
we will continue evangelizing,
in their often itinerant, short-
discipling, teaching to obey, and
term ministries a responsible
planting new churches. We must
obedience to Christ’s command?
not let disagreements about defi-
Did they misunderstand and
nitions or other matters keep us
rely too heavily on the converts’
from moving forward.
dependence upon the Holy
Where do we seem to be at
this point? The website www.
Certainly a part of the, a ministry of
church’s task is the ministry of
the Global Research Department
continued discipleship of all
believers. Yet, the believers of
of the International Mission than the basic task of providing
Board, gathers information from access to the gospel for every
and in cooperation with many nation, tribe, people and lan-
evangelical organizations. This guage. We must remember and
website provides probably the act upon the ultimate realization
most up-to-date information that people groups are made
available regarding the progress up of individuals. The gospel
of the task. There are more than is made accessible to a people
11,500 people groups listed on group in order that individuals
the website. Of those 11,500 within that people group might
peoples, more than 700 are clas- have opportunity to hear, to
sified as having essentially no believe, and to call on the Lord
access to the gospel. For almost that they might be saved.
5,000 additional groups, there Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:3-
is no evidence that the gospel is 4, “This is good, and it is pleasing
truly accessible to that people in the sight of God our Savior, who
group, for there are few, if any desires all people to be saved and
believers, and there are not to come to the knowledge of the
vibrant, reproducing churches. truth.” Paul is speaking of God
Certainly we do not desiring individuals to be saved,
have complete information as is Peter when he writes in 2
about every people group. Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow
Nevertheless, we can be confi- to fulfill his promise as some count
dent that we do know enough slowness, but is patient toward
to realize that the task in ques- you, not wishing that any should
tion—making the gospel acces- perish, but that all should reach
sible to every people in the repentance.”
earth—has not been completed. God’s emphasis on the indi-
Also, the information that we vidual is an emphasis that must
do have helps us to prioritize characterize our ministry also.
the use of resources in order to Yes, we have the task to make
take the good news of salvation the gospel accessible to every
in Jesus Christ to those people people group on earth. If we
groups who would otherwise come to the point that we are
have no opportunity to hear. convinced we have accomplished
“How are they to believe in him that task, and if the Lord has not
of whom they have never heard? yet returned, there are still criti-
And how are they to hear without cal tasks that lie before us. As
someone preaching?” (Romans long as there is a single person
10:14) who has not yet heard the good
We must neither forget, nor news of salvation made avail-
neglect, that there are jobs other able in Jesus, our work will not
be finished. May we see that Our focus must be on the
task as the next and continu- task that remains—the untold
ing task, even when the gospel millions of people and thousands
has become accessible to every of people groups to whom we
nation, people, tribe and lan- have yet to take the words of
guage. life. They now live a hopeless
Our focus must not be on life, lost in their sin on their way
the multitudes of people who to an eternity in hell. They are
have come to the Lord in recent desperately waiting for the truth
years, or on the thousands of that gives an opportunity to
new churches started, or even on believe and to experience abun-
the hundreds of people groups dant life here and for eternity.
who have received the gospel for We are not there yet. In His
the first time. Rather, like Paul, strength, we must press forward,
we must forget what lies behind so that all may know.
and strain forward to what lies

Dr. Clyde Meador and his wife Elaine were appointed as International
Mission Board missionaries in October 1974, and served 27 years in Asia,
in church planting, seminary teaching, and various leadership responsibili-
ties. He came to IMB Richmond staff in 2001, and has served as executive
vice president since 2003. He earned a B.A. from Grand Canyon University,
an MDIV from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a DMIN from
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Clyde and Elaine have two
married daughters, and four grandchildren.

My word will noT reTurn void

by Matthew Akers

In addition to the Isaiah passages that prophesy Jesus’

death, burial, and resurrection, many believers instant-
ly recognize the quotation from Isaiah 55:11:

iNTRODuCTiON that believers and unbelievers

alike take out of context more
“So will My word be which goes frequently than Isaiah 55:11 is
forth from My mouth; It will Philippians 4:13.
not return to Me empty, without In order to understand the
accomplishing what I desire, And intended meaning of Isaiah
without succeeding in the matter 55:11, one must observe the
for which I sent it.” (All biblical verse in its proper context. For
quotations are from the NASB.) this reason, we will consider a
As a result of the verse’s popular- couple of examples of the verse’s
ity, believers often apply it to any misinterpretation before examin-
number of situations. Examples ing the content of Isaiah 52:12-
of the verse’s implementation 55:10. Next, we will focus
include the proclamation that an on the true meaning of Isaiah
unbeliever will come to Christ 55:11. Finally, we will move on
after hearing the gospel, or that to proper biblical applications of
a situation’s outcome will be the verse.
the one that the believer desires
merely because he quoted Isaiah
55:11. In reality, the prophet
intended neither of these mean-
ings, and perhaps the only verse

ExAMPLES OF than not, these websites provide
MiSiNTERPRETATiONS OF no background for the contents
iSAiAH 55:11 of Isaiah 55. A significant per-
centage of the sites consist of ser-
Decades ago before the rise mon notes and videos of teach-
of computer generated graphics, ers and preachers who promise
Lon Chaney, Sr. held the title wealth or who hold healing ser-
“the man of a thousand faces.” vices in order to remove people’s
Chaney was a talented actor who illnesses. As one might expect,
also became an expert at makeup many of the individuals who
application. For his roles in the champion this interpretation of
classic movies The Hunchback of Isaiah 55:11 also line their pock-
Notre Dame and The Phantom of ets with the money of their faith-
the Opera, he created the now ful followers.
famous appearances of the lead-
ing characters Quasimodo and A Guarantee of a Positive
Erik. Unfortunately, believers Response to the Gospel
often treat Isaiah 55:11 as the
verse with a thousand faces, forc- Football enthusiasts who
ing the text to mean whatever watched sports on television dur-
they wish it to say. These misin- ing the 1980s may never have
terpretations may be summarized heard the name Rollen Stewart,
into two general categories. but they most likely observed
him in the stadiums’ crowds.
A Guarantee of Prosperity For years, Stewart scouted out
and Health strategic locations near the end
zone so that he could flash a spe-
In many circles, those who cific message to the cameras with
quote Isaiah 55:11 do so in order the intention that it be broad-
to assure their hearers that they cast across the United States.
will obtain whatever their hearts Usually,the message that he pro-
desire. As proof of this inter- moted on his T-shirts and signs,
pretation of the verse, adherents while wearing a rainbow colored
often utter the oft-misquoted wig, read “John 3:16.” Stewart’s
Philippians 4:13 in the next premise was that the Scripture
breath. For this reason, Isaiah reference would prompt people
55:11 tends to be popular with to open their Bibles, read about
the “health and wealth” move- God’s free gift of salvation, and
ment. subsequently become His follow-
An internet search of Isaiah ers.
55:11 displays over 700,000 ref- Stewart appears to have been
erences to the verse. More often driven by the premise that verses

such as Isaiah 55:11 guaranteed victory over all kingdoms and
the observers’ en masse conver- all false gods. The people had
sion because God’s Word does nothing to fear, because God
not return void. Ultimately, he would go before them and serve
became so disillusioned by a lack as their rear guard as well. This
of results that he lit several stink act of deliverance would result in
bombs near prominent churches all nations seeing His salvation
and took three people hostage in (52:7-12).
a hotel room. Presently, Stewart The highlight of this por-
is serving three life sentences for tion of the book of Isaiah is the
his criminal antics. fourth Servant Song (52:13-
53:12). This powerful passage
AN OVERViEW OF iSAiAH describes both the source of
52:1-56:8 forgiveness from sin as well as
the means by which spiritual sal-
With all of the competing vation is possible. The Servant
interpretations of Isaiah 55:11 in of Isaiah is Jesus, and the song
circulation, how are we to deter- foretells the suffering and ulti-
mine the true significance of the mate vindication of the Son of
verse? In order to retrieve its God that would occur over seven
proper meaning, we must con- centuries after Isaiah prophesied
sider the context of Isaiah 55:11. these events.
Just as God promised to
isaiah 52:1-54:17 Noah that He never again would
flood the entire earth, one day
The focus of Isaiah 52:1-
He never again would punish the
54:17 is the nation of Israel. In
Israelites for their wickedness
the past, God’s covenant people
because of the Messiah’s sacrifice.
had been humiliated for centu-
When Israel’s enemies assailed
ries as slaves in Egypt. In more
the nation, God would ensure
recent history, the Assyrians had
that neither weapon nor false
oppressed them without cause.
accusation would be effective.
God promised to deliver His
The Lord would be the source of
people from those who invaded
His peoples’ vindication (54:1-
Jerusalem, and as a result, these
foreigners would know His name
In summary, the focus of
Isaiah 52:1-54:17 is God’s deal-
As a result of the messen-
ings with the nation of Israel.
ger’s announcement that the
Even though the nation had for-
people were freed from servi-
saken Him in the past, because
tude, they rejoiced. God bared
of His love and faithfulness He
His holy arm in the sight of all
would bring about both their
the nations, demonstrating His
physical and spiritual deliver- forward to an everlasting name
ance through His Messiah. God’s that never would be cut off,
mighty, matchless arm prevented as well as access to God’s holy
the enemies of the sons of Israel mountain. In fact, their sacrific-
from triumphing over them, es would be just as acceptable on
because they were His covenant His holy altar as those of Israel.
people. Ultimately, the Lord would gath-
er dispersed Israel to Himself as
isaiah 55:1-56:8 well as the Gentiles who placed
their faith in Him (56:1-8).
Whereas the focus of Isaiah
52:1-54:17 primarily is Israel, THE CONTExT OF iSAiAH
the emphasis of 55:1-56:8 broad-
ens out to include the Gentiles.
Jesus did not die only for the An invitation to the LORD’s
sins of the Israelites, but also for Banquet (55:1-2)
the sins of the entire world (John
1:29). The dual emphasis on the God used food imagery to
spiritual deliverance of both Jews depict His mercy. Although the
and Gentiles in Isaiah 52-56 pro- people figuratively spent their
vides the foundation for discov- money on things that did not
ering the true context of Isaiah nourish or satisfy, there was
55:11. another option. God offered
The offer of salvation is them water, wine, milk, and
available not only to Israel, but food that would cost them noth-
to the entire human race: Ho! ing. These important items
Every one who thirsts, come to were staples in the ancient Near
the waters; and you who have no East, so God made reference to
money come, buy and eat. Come, them in order to help His hear-
buy wine and milk without money ers understand that He desired to
and without cost (55:1). The give them free mercy in place of
invitation is threefold in nature: the misery that was the result of
“come (Isa. 55:1–5), seek (vv. their rebellion against the Him.
6–13), and worship (56:1–8)” The Lord declared that His gift of
(Wiersbe, 1996, 144). The result spiritual nourishment was avail-
of receiving the Lord’s salvation able to all who desired to have
is joy, peace, and an everlasting their thirst quenched.
covenant with Him (56:9-16).
God assured faithful non-Israel- Listen to the LORD (55:3-5)
ites that they would receive the
In order to enjoy the Lord’s
same treatment as Abraham’s
mercy, the Israelites were direct-
descendants. They could look
ed to obey Him. This obedience
would result in the preservation The Loftiness of God’s
of their lives as well as participa- Thoughts (55:8-9)
tion in an everlasting covenant
“according to the faithful mercies God reminds His hearers that
shown to David” (55:3b). As a He does not think as humans
result of their faithfulness, the think, nor are His ways like
covenant nation would become those of mortals. Rather, His
a witness to all of the peoples of ways are so much higher than
the earth. Paul Hanson wisely ours that the only comparison
noted that “The connection with between the two is the loftiness
the Servant Song is evident here, of the heavens in relation to the
for the covenant people ‘shall call earth. Just as the sky towers
nations that you do not know’ 0” over the land, God’s ways are
(55:5a) (Hanson 179). In other higher than those of mankind
words, Israel’s submission to God (Motyer, 457).
would be a testimony to all other
people groups. Gentiles who An illustration of Rain and
sought out the Lord would par- Snow (55:10)
ticipate in His offer of mercy in
In order to demonstrate the
the same capacity as Abraham’s
highness of His ways, God devel-
flesh and blood descendants.
oped an extended illustration
that focuses on the usefulness
Seek the Lord (55:6-7) of rain and snow. Both forms
Isaiah calls His listeners to of precipitation descend from
seek the Lord while He may the heavens and are essential to
be found, because His offer of the continuance of life. John N.
forgiveness will not last forever. Oswalt explained the significance
They must acknowledge the of this illustration to Isaiah’s
shamefulness of their sin, and original hearers:
this recognition will prompt
In the ancient Near East
them to forsake not only their
rain spelled the difference
evil ways, but also the unclean
between life and death. If
thoughts of which no one else
the rains came at the appro-
is aware. Once this rejection
priate times one could
of wickedness occurs and the
hope for good crops, which
people return to the Lord, He
means enough food (bread)
promises to show compassion
for the coming year, and, of
and abundantly pardon those
at least equal importance,
who are truly repentant of their
seed for the following year’s
rebellious ways.
crop. If the rains did not
come, not only was the crop
lost but also the seed, and ground beside the road, the
famine stared one in the rocky soil, the ground among the
face. In a powerful com- thorns, and fertile soil. Although
parison, Isaiah says that every seed was identical, only
God’s word is just like the the seeds that fell on the good
rain. In particular, he com- ground sprouted. For this
pares the effectiveness of reason, the sown seed accom-
the two. Each one achieves plishes the sower’s purpose even
the purposes of blessing and though not every individual
life-giving for which it was seed develops and produces a
intended (Oswalt, 1998, crop. Interestingly, the seed in
446). this parable is an illustration of
God’s Word (cf. Mark 4:14) like
In other words, the Lord sends the rain and the snow of Isaiah
His rain and snow to provide 55:10.
sustenance, and this liquid nour- Both the Old Testament and
ishment perfectly accomplishes the New Testament, therefore,
its purpose. demonstrate that the distribution
An important observa- of God’s Word is not a guarantee
tion must be made about the that every person who hears it
effectiveness of rain and snow. will respond favorably. Those
Heavenly precipitation does not who share the gospel should not
cause every single seed in the expect every hearer to forsake
ground to sprout or every blade sin and trust in the resurrected
of grass to stretch skyward. The Lord. Furthermore, Isaiah 55:11
addition of water does not guar- is not the biblical equivalent of a
antee the growth of any indi- blank check from God that guar-
vidual plant, but this fact does antees the claimant anything that
not diminish or negate the effec- his or her heart desires. What,
tiveness of the life-giving proper- then, is the biblical meaning of
ties of water. One of the main Isaiah 55:11?
purposes of rain and snow is to
irrigate the ground and cause
crops to grow, and this objective
is accomplished every time that
God causes the clouds to pour God’s Word: The Means by
their contents on the earth. Which He Works
A New Testament analogue
of this principle appears in Jesus’ Because God is omnipotent,
parable of the sower. In Mark He possesses the power to com-
4:3-8, the sower’s seed fell upon municate with us in any way
four types of ground: the hard that He desires. In Exodus 3,

for example, God got Moses’ Another important point is
attention by means of speaking that the word that will not return
through a burning bush. God void is God’s word and not
opened the mouth of a don- the word of humans. In other
key in Numbers 22:28 in order words, people cannot make their
to express His will to Balaam. desires a reality merely by apply-
Isaiah 6 records Isaiah’s heavenly ing Isaiah 55:11 to whatever situ-
vision and subsequent call to ation they desire. The only word
serve as a prophet of the Lord. that God guarantees is the word
These events and others like that proceeds from His mouth.
them are spectacular manifesta- Any other word from any other
tions of God’s power, but they do source does not carry this type of
not represent the most important authority.
way that God has communi- The LORD also indicated
cated with mankind. Hebrew that His word will not return
1:1-2 explains that “God, after “empty.” The reader must under-
He spoke long ago to the fathers in stand the meaning of this term
the prophets in many portions and to understand exactly what God’s
in many ways, in these last days promise entails. As an adverb,
has spoken to us in His Son, whom “empty” often carries the idea of
He appointed heir of all things, “not fulfilled” or “unsuccessful”
through whom also He made the (Harris, Archer & Waltke, 1980.
world.” As magnificent and as 846). A helpful example of this
miraculous as the above Old usage appears in 2 Samuel 1:22
Testament interactions with the in the song that David composed
Lord were, they do not compare to lament the deaths of Jonathan
with the revelation of His Son, and Saul. The new king depicts
who is known as the Word (John his predecessor to the throne as
1:1). a mighty warrior whose sword
Additionally, God has pro- did not return empty. The pur-
vided mankind with a written pose of Saul’s sword was to make
Word that we know as the Bible. war against his enemies, and his
The written Word is the means weapon fulfilled this purpose.
by which God communicates To say, then, that God’s word
with believers today, and the does not return to Him empty
New Testament speaks of the is a strong declaration of His
Bible’s importance numerous sovereignty. So certain is this
times. In Isaiah 55:11, the word assertion that the Lord employs
that will not return void is none parallelism in Isaiah 55:11 to
other than that which the human make the point that His word is
biblical authors have recorded in effective:
It (the word) will not return to Me people in Egypt and call for Him
empty, (declaration) to work in such a way once more
Without accomplishing what I (e.g., Pss. 44, 77, 98).
desire, (first parallel statement)
And without succeeding in the The concept of physical
matter for which I sent it deliverance from hostile oppo-
(second parallel statement). nents became a powerful illustra-
tion by which to refer to spiri-
Therefore no one, not even tual salvation. Just as the sons
Satan himself, can frustrate the of Israel were slaves in Egypt,
purposes of God’s Word, which humans are slaves to sin. The
is the means by which He has Israelites could not escape from
determined to work. Isaiah their bondage, nor can sinners
55:11, then, contains a general set themselves free from the sin
principle that affirms that God is that entangles them. Only God
all-powerful. could deliver the people from
Egypt and lead them to Canaan,
God’s Word: The Means and only Jesus can deliver us
by Which He Announces from sin and provide us with a
Salvation heavenly home.
Since both physical and
Contextually, the declaration
spiritual deliverance figure so
of God’s omnipotence in Isaiah
heavily in the Old Testament,
55:11 relates to the concept of
which is in mind in Isaiah
salvation. Typically, the word
55:11? Historically speaking,
salvation carries two primary
God’s chosen people faced peril-
definitions in the Old Testament:
ous times during Isaiah’s lifetime.
physical deliverance and spiritual
They needed assurance that God
salvation. We must consider
would not forsake them during
both of these meanings in order
their time of trouble, so physi-
to determine which one fits the
cal salvation certainly is a factor
context of Isaiah 55:11.
in Isaiah 55:11 (cf. Isa. 56:1).
Throughout Israel’s history,
However, the verse also antici-
the Lord was responsible for
pates the spiritual deliverance
rescuing the nation during trou-
not only of Abraham’s descen-
bling times. The deliverance of
dants, but also all Gentiles who
the sons of Israel from Egypt is
seek the Lord’s mercy (cf. Isa.
the foundation for this concept.
56:6, 8). In short, both types of
In later times, when the Israelites
deliverance are present in Isaiah
faced seemingly invincible
enemies, they would recall God’s
The significance of Isaiah
miraculous intervention for His
55:11, therefore, is twofold.
First, by means of His unfail- before His crucifixion: “yet not
ing word, God announced that as I will, but as You will” (Matt.
He would deliver Israel from its 26:39b). We will find that when
overbearing oppressors, and this our will aligns with His will
purpose could not be thwarted. instead of our own yearnings
Second, He determined to make that God will give us the desires
forgiveness for sin, transgression, of our heart (Ps. 37:4).
and iniquity (cf. Exod. 34:7) Second, God is all-powerful
available to any person who and unconquerable. It is easy
trusts in Jesus, and no person or for us to despair when we see
force could frustrate or impede that many nations and people
His desire to make redemption are hostile toward Christ and
possible through His Son’s sacri- His gospel. We must remember,
fice. though, that nothing happens in
the universe without God’s per-
iMPLiCATiONS mission, and He is triumphant
over Satan, sin, and death. He
When one considers all of graciously has provided us with
these factors, a vivid, powerful a glimpse of the consummation
image appears in Isaiah 55:11. of Christ’s kingdom in the book
The almighty God has no equal, of Revelation, so we have noth-
so His plans never fail. His pur- ing to fear. When we look at
poses always find fruition, so things from this perspective, we
He never is forced to resort to a can echo David’s often quoted
“Plan B.” Because of His omnipo- words of confidence: “The LORD
tence, believers can find assur- is my light and my salvation;
ance in the fact that the Lord’s Whom shall I fear? The LORD is
will always will be done on earth the defense of my life; Whom shall
as it is in Heaven. I dread?” (Ps. 27:1).
Third, Isaiah 55:11 is tied
CONCLuSiON inextricably to the concepts of
This examination of Isaiah evangelism and missions. God
55:11 reveals to us several inter- the Father purposed to send
esting ideas. First, it is God’s His Son to pay the price for
purpose that will not return sin, and this sacrifice makes
empty, not ours. We cannot salvation possible not only to
legitimately use the verse to Jews, but also to the rest of the
proclaim that God will cause earth’s population: “For there is
our desires to become a reality. no distinction between Jew and
For this reason, we must learn Greek; for the same Lord is Lord
to pray as Jesus prayed in the of all, abounding in riches for all
Garden of Gethsemane the night who call on Him” (Rom. 10:12).
When we share the gospel with SOuRCES
others, some will reject this
word just as some of the seed in Hanson, Paul D. 1995. Isaiah
Jesus’ parable fell on unproduc- 40-66. In Interpretation:
tive ground and failed to sprout. A Bible Commentary for
Isaiah 55:11 does not guarantee Teaching and Preaching. Ed.
us that any one individual, with James Luther. Louisville:
whom we share the gospel, will John Knox.
become a Christian. We may,
however, state with certainty Harris, R. Laird. Gleason L.
that many who hear the gospel Archer, Jr., and Bruce
will respond to it favorably and K. Waltke, eds. 1980.
become followers of Christ, Theological Wordbook of
because God’s Word is powerful. the Old Testament. Vol. 2.
The Lord has purposed to save Chicago: Moody.
all who confess their sins and
follow the risen Lord Jesus, and Motyer, J. Alec. 1993. The
His Word will succeed in bring- Prophecy of Isaiah:
ing them to Himself! An Introduction and
Commentary. Downers
Grove: InterVarsity.

Oswalt, John N. 1998. The Book

of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
Wiersbe, Warren W. 1996. Be
Comforted. Wheaton, IL:
Victor Books.

Dr. Matt Akers is Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Hebrew, New

Testament, Greek, and Theology at Mid-America Baptist Theological
Seminary. He serves as the pastor of La Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida, a
Hispanic church plant in Memphis. He resides in Cordova, TN, with his wife
Glenda and his three children Josiah, Jenny, and Katie.

souThern bapTisT Missions and The searCh for The
Meaning of “ChurCh”

by Jeff Walters

My family and I arrived in Paris on August 13, 2003,

during the worst heat wave to hit France in decades.

We had come to plant our field, but believed wholeheart-

lives in that city, because we edly in my sending agency’s
agreed with C. Peter Wagner strategy.
when he wrote, “The single most As I began to engage my new
effective evangelistic methodol- neighbors and friends, however,
ogy under heaven is planting I discovered that I had not asked
new churches (Wagner, 1990, the most important question of
11). My training had prepared all: What is a church? I vis-
me well, I believed, for the task ited established churches and
of planting churches in the secu- successful (at least by French
lar and postmodern society of standards) church plants, but
the Ile-de-France. During our none of them looked like the
six-week orientation, I studied models I had studied. I began to
the rationale and methodology of search for a model that was both
Church Planting Movements and biblically faithful and culturally
house churches. We devoured appropriate, a search that con-
Wolfgang Simson’s Houses That tinually led me back to that key
Change the World and its some- question.
times caustic critique of tradi- During this same period,
tional churches. I recognized many Southern Baptists con-
the necessity of contextualizing fronted the task of defining
methodologies on the mission “church” in the face of emerg-

ing church paradigms at home planting, resulting in great dif-
and missions questions abroad. ficulty for the church, its spon-
Controversies related to North sors, and the planter. Within a
American church planting denomination like the Southern
methodology and disagreement Baptist Convention, the problem
over appropriate partnerships occasionally becomes one of
and church expression overseas accountability as the church or
forced trustees of the North agency supporting a new work
American Mission Board and the is surprised by its structure or
International Mission Board to leadership. Because of prob-
issue official “definitions” of the lems arising from ecclesiological
church in 2004 and 2005 respec- issues, Southern Baptists have
tively. The purpose of this article made efforts to define “church”
is to consider these efforts at out- in a way that allows for doctri-
lining key elements of a Baptist nal accountability and adequate
ecclesiology for missions. While church planting strategy.
I will conclude with reflection Payne defines church plant-
on such an ecclesiology, it is ing as evangelism that results in
outside the scope of this paper congregations. This emphasis on
to develop an in-depth statement evangelism as the starting point
on the nature and purpose of the of church planting cannot be
Christian Church. understated; new churches are
formed with new believers. The
The “Irreducible process of biblical church plant-
Ecclesiological Minimum” ing is “to translate the gospel and
and Church Planting the irreducible ecclesiological
minimum into any given social
Without using the exact context.” That process makes
phrase, Southern Baptists two important assumptions.
have been searching for what First, it assumes an irreducible
J. D. Payne calls the “irreduc- minimum, a “basic essence of
ible ecclesiological minimum.” the church” found in Scripture
Payne argues that “the most and suitable as a guideline for
critical issue in church planting church planting. Second, Payne’s
today is an ecclesiological issue” definition assumes that such an
(Payne, 2008, 2). He adds, “the essence is, in fact, translatable
way we respond to the ques- to other cultures. Missiological
tion, ‘What is a church?’ affects principles teach that a planter’s
the entire missionary strategy” cultural traditions should not
(Payne 18). This foundational be imposed on the target cul-
question is often ignored in the ture. The IEM provides leaders
early planning stages of church with a framework for discerning
cultural trappings and planting planters of the potential dangers
the church appropriately (Payne of inflexibility and uniformity
115-16). (Murray 81). Murray reminds
The Southern Baptist readers that the IEM is just
Convention is not alone in this that—a minimum. Just as the
quest. Some missionaries have early churches were planted in
long recognized the need for an particular contexts and reflected
adequate description of “church.” those cultures, modern church
The search for the IEM arose plants must be founded on bibli-
from a growing desire for contex- cal standards, but their structures
tualization. Although that term and practices should also reflect
itself is a relatively new creation, the believers that make up the
the missionary effort to develop body. Just because churches are
theologies appropriate for diverse “New Testament” does not mean
cultures has developed over that they will all look exactly
the last century. John Nevius, alike. Such is the motivation
writing before the turn of the behind the search for the IEM.
twentieth century, addressed Recent works by Southern
ecclesiological issues related Baptist authors have emphasized
to mission strategy and church the importance of ecclesiology in
planting. Nevius believed that general and for church planting.
the early church exhibited a Daniel Akin pleads for “a vision
simple form that developed over for a faithful and authentic bibli-
time and that modern missionar- cal ecclesiology” as one of ten
ies must consider the impact of mandates for Baptist churches
their own culture on their view (Akin, 2007, 15). Reacting
of ecclesiology. Charles Brock, a to controversies over church
strong advocate of contextualized planting on mission fields, John
reproducible churches, wrote, “I
Hammett says, “if planting
believe a perverted and tarnished
churches is at the heart of the
view of a church constitutes one
task of missions, then issues of
of the greatest hurdles faced by
ecclesiology deserve more care-
church planters” (Brock, 1994,
ful consideration than is often
49). He pointed out that mis-
given.” Contextualization is
sionary church planters, no
important, he contends, but the
matter their context, must often
doctrinal foundations of the
re-orient their own views of the
church must remain constant.
church and its trappings before
In Planting Missional
effectively starting a new work.
European church planter Churches, Ed Stetzer argues
Stuart Murray argues for the that ecclesiology comes from
necessity of a New Testament Scripture rather than from a
ecclesiology while cautioning target culture, an important dis-
tinction within the discussion on The Southern Baptist Search
contextualization. “Ecclesiology for the IEM
is not a blank slate to draw out
of the cultural situation,” he Theologian R. Stanton
contends, but rather “the Bible Norman has argued that Baptist
tells us that certain things need distinctives are essentially
to exist for a biblical church to (though not exclusively) related
exist” (159). Stetzer provides to ecclesiology. Whether it be
another helpful distinction the Baptist understanding of the
between “contending” and “con- ordinance of believer’s baptism
textualizing.” Scripture defines or local church autonomy and
certain elements of theology on government, “the distinctive doc-
which Christians must stand trines of Baptists are actually the
strong. Other aspects of ecclesi- theological traits that define and
ology might change with culture shape our churches” (Norman,
and time. There exists, however, 2005, 6-7). From the Southern
an irreducible minimum by Baptist Convention’s basic con-
which all contextualization and fession of faith, the Baptist Faith
innovation is measured (Towns, and Message, to more detailed
2007, 18). studies and, finally, church
Most missionaries and planting guidelines in Southern
church planters today recognize Baptist missions agencies, one
the importance of contextual- finds a steady development of
ization. Unfortunately, many the Baptist understanding of
of the same people neglect the “church.”
careful and discerning search
for a biblical ecclesiology. The The Baptist Faith and Message
result is a need for statements
The guiding doctrinal state-
of an irreducible ecclesiologi-
ment for Southern Baptist mis-
cal minimum as an affirmation
sions agencies is the Baptist Faith
of theological conviction useful
and Message. Initially adopted in
for accountability and guidance.
1925 as a response to modern-
For the last century, Southern
ism and theological liberalism,
Baptists have developed such a
the Baptist Faith and Message has
statement, beginning with broad
been revised twice, reflecting a
doctrinal confessions and end-
continuing desire to outline basic
ing with organizational guide-
Baptist beliefs. Two sections of
lines for church planting. In the
the doctrinal statement that have
Southern Baptist movement to
undergone significant revision
start churches, these guidelines
are the articles on the church
become the “checklists” for iden-
and, to a lesser degree, the ordi-
tifying valid congregations.
nances of baptism and the Lord’s
Supper. The 1925 Baptist Faith adopted a revised statement that
and Message provided a concise expanded the older document.
outline of a Baptist ecclesiology. The new guideline emphasized
Essentially, the church was that the church is a local body
described as a body of baptized and completely autonomous.
believers, covenanted together It also added a statement that
for ministry and led by “bishops” churches should operate by
or “elders.” Article XII of the “democratic processes.” Another
original Baptist Faith and Message interesting change in the 1963
(1925), titled, “The Gospel version is the replacement of the
Church,” emphasized five basic office of “bishop” or “elder” with
elements of Baptist ecclesiology. “pastor.”
First, a church is defined as a An understanding of the
“congregation of baptized believ- Baptist Faith and Message is
ers.” Second, those believers are vital to a study of later doctrinal
associated together by covenant. guidelines on church planting
The act that joins believers because they are firmly based
into a church is their recogni- on that confession of faith. The
tion that they are accountable statement is intended to pro-
to one another by a covenant vide a “witness to the world” by
of common belief. The third declaring that which Southern
basic element of a local church is Baptists believe to be the funda-
that those believers observe the mentals of the Christian faith.
“ordinances of Christ.” Though In addition, the Baptist Faith
this article does not name those and Message is a document of
ordinances, Article XIII identifies doctrinal accountability. While
them as baptism and the Lord’s Southern Baptist churches are
Supper. A fourth mark of the completely autonomous, includ-
church is the ministry of believ- ing new churches, there is a stan-
ers. The article states clearly that dard to which all are held for the
church members are “governed” sake of cooperation. The Baptist
by the law of Christ and exercise Faith and Message provides a
“the gifts, rights, and privileges foundation for churches to build
invested in them by his word.” upon.
The mission of the church, the
article continues, is “to extend The North American Mission
the gospel to the ends of the Board’s “Ecclesiological
earth.” Finally, the 1925 Baptist Guidelines”
Faith and Message identifies the
biblical offices of the church as Southern Baptists have long
“bishops, or elders, and dea- treasured the principle of the
cons.” In 1963, the Convention autonomy of the local church.

Congregations are free to deter- Stan Norman and the Council of
mine their own covenants, Seminary Deans (Norman 34).
structures, leadership, and polity. Referring to this board action,
In order to be a “cooperating” then-President Robert Reccord
Southern Baptist church, how- said, “It is important that the
ever, autonomous congregations North American Mission Board
should subscribe to the Baptist have a very clear statement
Faith and Message. In addition, of what we see to be a Baptist
agencies of the Southern Baptist Church. We are not plant-
Convention are expected to ing ‘baptistic’ churches . . . we
adhere to the doctrinal frame- are planting Southern Baptist
work outlined in the confes- churches that reflect what a bib-
sion. In recent years, the North lical New Testament church is”
American Mission Board and the (King, Baptist Press). Richard
International Mission Board have Harris, who once led the board’s
stressed the necessity of plant- church planting efforts, agreed,
ing new churches as a key to adding that the guidelines
fulfilling the Great Commission were intended “to ensure that
(Matt. 28:19-20). As missionar- churches we help start through-
ies planted new churches, con- out North America are Southern
cerns arose over the ecclesiology Baptist” (Norman, 2005, 34).
and doctrinal fidelity of those The NAMB guidelines out-
congregations. The result was line ten points that identify a
two statements adopted by the Baptist church and are, therefore,
mission boards and intended to necessary for a church planted
guide church planters as they through that agency. In essence,
start Southern Baptist Churches. these points are, the IEM for
The goal of these guidelines is to Southern Baptist churches plant-
provide an IEM on which church ed in North America. Norman
planters can build. A brief analy- writes,
sis will determine whether or not
that goal was achieved. A Baptist church is defined by
The first agency to adopt the following traits:
ecclesiological guidelines for • Committed to the authority
church planters was the North of Scripture for faith and
American Mission Board practice while recognizing
(NAMB), which is responsible that all Scripture is God-
for evangelism and church plant- breathed
ing efforts in the United States • Submitted to the Lordship
and Canada. In October 2004, of Jesus Christ
trustees adopted a set of ecclesio-
logical guidelines developed by
• Visible, local body that American cultural forms. When
is independent and compared with the International
autonomous Mission Board definition of a
• Composed of members who biblical church, these elements
are regenerated by the Holy become more clear.
• Members covenanted The International Mission
together voluntarily for Board Definition of Church
worship of and service to
God Reacting to many of the
• Observes the two ordinances same issues as the North
of Christ American Mission Board, the
° Baptism of believers by trustees of Southern Baptists’
immersion as profession international missions sending
of faith in Christ as agency, the International Mission
initiatory rite for Board (IMB) adopted their own
membership ecclesiological guidelines on
° Lord’s Supper regularly January 25, 2005. In a letter the
observed by members following year, board Chairman
in good standing as Tom Hatley explained the rea-
commemoration of the soning behind the new policy.
sacrifice of Christ A growing concern about doc-
• Practices congregational trinal integrity on the field had
polity arisen following the adoption
• Practices church discipline of “Strategic Directions for the
• Scriptural officers are men Twenty-first Century,” a plan for
who serve as pastors and evangelism and church starting
deacons developed in 1997. “The con-
• Invisible, universal body cerns were varied,” wrote Hatley,
that includes all the “but the three greatest doctrinal
redeemed of all the ages concerns were the need for a
(Norman, 2005, 33). consistent definition of a local
church, a poor understanding of
One can see clearly that the the importance of scriptural bap-
minimum “essence” of a church tism, and charismatic problems
under this definition is in actu- that would intrude into some of
ality quite extensive. While our mission work” (Hatley, imb.
this summary outline aligns org). While there is some ques-
closely with the Baptist Faith and tion whether doctrinal problems
Message, the explanations within were real or perceived, the trust-
the remainder of the document, ees decided that a clear defini-
also part of the guidelines, sug- tion of “church” was necessary
gest the imposition of some
to guide missionaries supported 3. A church practices the bap-
by Southern Baptists. tism of believers only by
The IMB definition of church immersing them in water.
is much simpler than that of the 4. A church observes the Lord’s
North American Mission Board. Supper on a regular basis.
It also identifies ten elements of 5. Under the authority of the
a biblical church, but without local church and its lead-
the extensive explanation and ership, members may be
expansion seen in the NAMB assigned to carry out the
document. The framers of this ordinances.
definition explain clearly the 6. A church submits to the
rationale behind its creation, say- inerrant word of God as the
ing, “in our church planting and ultimate authority for all that
teaching ministries, we will seek it believes and does.
to lay a foundation of beliefs and 7. A church meets regularly for
practices that are consistent with worship, prayer, the study of
the Baptist Faith and Message God’s Word, and fellowship.
2000, although local churches Members of the church min-
overseas may express those ister to one another’s needs,
beliefs and practices in different hold each other accountable,
ways according to the needs of and exercise church disci-
their cultural settings” ( pline as needed. Members
This recognition of the diversity encourage one another and
of cultural forms is unique to the build each other up in holi-
IMB definition and emphasizes ness, maturity in Christ, and
the search for the IEM. The love.
International Mission Board defi- 8. A church embraces its
nition emphasizes, responsibility to fulfill the
Great Commission, both
1. A church is intentional about locally and globally, from the
being a church. Members beginning of its existence as
think of themselves as a a church.
church. They are committed 9. A church is autonomous
to one another and to God and self-governing under the
(associated by covenant) in Lordship of Jesus Christ and
pursuing all that Scripture the authority of His Word.
requires of a church. 10 A church has identifiable
2. A church has an identifi- leaders, who are scrutinized
able membership of baptized and set apart according to
believers in Jesus Christ. the qualifications set forth in
Scripture. A church recog-
nizes two biblical offices of
church leadership: pastors/ the universal church, Hammett
elders/overseers and deacons. emphasizes the local congrega-
While both men and women tion as the visible expression of
are gifted for service in the the church.
church, the office of pastor/ Ed Stetzer lists six “essen-
elder/overseer is limited to tials” that must be present in a
men as qualified by Scripture church but may be applied in
( different ways. Beginning on the
foundation of biblical authority,
Other Contemporary Southern churches are identified by bibli-
Baptist Voices cal leadership (overseers and
deacons), the presence of preach-
Writing at the same time ing and teaching ministries, the
as the development of these practice of the two biblical ordi-
ecclesiological guidelines, theo- nances, the existence of a cov-
logians and church planters have enant community, and the call to
addressed the same issues, seek- mission. “These are at least the
ing in one form or another the minimalist essentials,” he writes,
irreducible minimum. Although “and they must be applied in the
it is an oversimplification of his church’s context” (Towns, 2007,
excellent book on the topic, John 20, 267-68). For Stetzer, the
Hammett’s description of the church matters and “the biblical
“essence” of the church is one idea and model of church does
valuable contribution. He first matter,” as well (Stetzer, 2006,
argues that the church is “God’s 2).
organized, purposeful assembly.” Surprisingly, J. D. Payne,
The essence of the church is though he argues for the neces-
that it is an assembly of believ- sity of finding the IEM, does
ers gathered under the authority not delineate that minimum in
of God and the Scriptures and any straightforward fashion in
empowered by the Holy Spirit. his writings. In Missional House
Hammett adds that this assembly Churches, he does define the
is organized under biblical forms local church along the lines of
of leadership for specific bibli- the Baptist Faith and Message,
cal purposes. These ministries saying that,
include teaching, fellowship,
worship, service and evange- a local church is comprised
lism. Closely related to this last of regenerate and baptized
purpose is the truth that the membership. In its cov-
church must be gospel-centered; enant identity, essence, and
a church must consider doctrinal practice, these believers are
orthodoxy important. While he an autonomous local body
does not discount the reality of
of Christ. Under the guid- the ordinances and share the
ance of the Holy Spirit and gospel. This definition serves to
God’s Word, they are self- identify Payne’s understanding
supporting, self-governing, of the IEM and will be impor-
and self-propagating. They tant as one considers the various
are kingdom citizens liv- versions of that minimum in
ing according to a kingdom Southern Baptist church plant-
ethic in covenant communi- ing.
ty with one another (Payne,
2008, 8). A Comparison of the Various
Payne describes the biblical
Southern Baptist
nature of the church as a new Expressions of the
community formed by Christ Irreducible Ecclesiological
and identified by its “love for Minimum
the King,” “love for kingdom
The first thing one notices
citizens,” and “love for non-
in a comparison of these various
kingdom citizens” (Payne,
expressions of the IEM is their
2008, 26-28). He adds that “the
similarities. The guidelines from
church is primarily to be under-
NAMB and the IMB are based on
stood in simple relational terms”
the Baptist Faith and Message,
so their basic outline is similar.
the definition, function, Hammett, Stetzer, and Payne are
and vitality of the church all Southern Baptists and teach
does not come from money, (or, in Stetzer’s case, have taught)
sophisticated organization in Southern Baptist institutions.
and bureaucracy, numbers, It is no surprise that all five
or even a great preacher, affirm the authority of Scripture,
but rather from the citizens the autonomy of the local
of the kingdom, indwelled church, regenerate church mem-
and empowered by God bership, the necessity of the two
Himself, living according to biblical ordinances of the Lord’s
a kingdom ethic that clearly Supper and believer’s baptism by
establishes their relationship immersion, and the importance
with God, each other, and of local church involvement in
the world (Payne, 2008, 37). Great Commission mission.
More telling than the simi-
It is important to note that larities, are the differences, how-
Payne, within the context of ever subtle, between the five
“love for the King,” affirms the statements, especially the mis-
importance of obedience to sions agencies’ definitions. It is
Christ’s commands to observe impossible to determine motiva-
tion behind the differences, but the mark of this identification
a careful analysis of both state- in the former statement. Stan
ments shows that, in terms of an Norman, in his book expand-
irreducible minimum, one defini- ing on the NAMB guidelines,
tion surpasses the other. confirms that “Baptists regard
baptism as the initiatory rite
Intentionality into membership of the church,”
while Hammett calls the ordi-
The International Mission nance the “rite of commit-
Board definition of church ment” to Christ and the church
declares in its first article that “a (Norman, 2005, 131). This pub-
church is intentional about being lic identification with the Body
a church” and that “members of Christ is an important mark of
think of themselves as a church,” the church.
a notion unique among the
Baptist ecclesiological statements Lay Administration of the
(IMB, “Definition of Church”). Ordinances
The trustees believe that unless
a group understands and identi- All Baptist statements of faith
fies itself as a church (as opposed affirm the celebration of the two
to a Bible study, a mission point, ordinances of believer’s baptism
or the like), it is not a church. and the Lord’s Supper. The
While the NAMB statement IMB definition of church adds
affirms the covenant relationship an interesting criterion by free-
between members, it does not ing the laity to administer those
focus on this self-identification. ordinances under the authority
It is possible that the two are of the local church. The NAMB
closely related, but the IMB defi- guidelines do not address the
nition recognizes that a church is administration of the ordinances,
not a church just because a mis- though Norman does write else-
sionary calls it a church. This where that the ordinances are
element precludes a group of local church practices as opposed
Christians gathered, for example, to individual Christian responsi-
at a Promise Keepers confer- bilities (Norman, 2005, 153-55).
ence from calling themselves a Both statements agree on this
church. local church authority over the
Closely related to the inten- administration of baptism and
tionality and self-identification the Lord’s Supper.
of a church is the IMB statement One possible reason for the
declaring that a church has an explicit statement on this issue
“identifiable” membership. The in the IMB definition is the role
NAMB statement sets no such of missionaries on the inter-
criteria. Baptism appears to be
national field. Many men and structure, but it is significant
women serve in places where nonetheless. Norman insists on
there is not yet any church in democratic processes as the pur-
existence, so when the need est form of congregationalism,
for baptism arises, there is no while Hammett is slightly less
pastor or local church avail- stringent. The key to under-
able to administer the baptism. standing both statements, how-
Missionaries may, under the ever, is that they equally support
authority of their local church, congregational self-government,
perform baptisms until a local however that may look in each
church exists on the field. This particular context. The NAMB
situation may be less than ideal, guideline on “democratic pro-
but it is necessary to address. cesses” is probably the most
Hammett affirms that the ideal of culturally specific of any of the
proper church order prescribes statements studied in this paper.
that church officers administer
the ordinances, “the church can Other Differences
designate whomever it chooses
. . ., whether that person is Other differences in the IMB
ordained or not” (Hammett 261). and NAMB statements are gen-
In his recent treatment of eccle- erally semantic or differences
siology, Mark Dever emphasizes in emphasis. For example, the
the proper recipient of the ordi- NAMB guideline refers to “pas-
nances, but not the administrator tors,” while the IMB definition
(Dever, 2007, 783-91). speaks of “pastors/elders/over-
seers.” One would be reading
“Self-Governing” versus too much into the statements to
“Congregational Polity” see a significant distinction here.
Also, the NAMB “summary” of
On the issue of polity, the its guidelines, which serves as
IMB statement is more broad something of a “checklist” for
than the NAMB guidelines. In the characteristics of a bibli-
the guidelines, Norman clarifies cal church excludes a mention
that the polity of a church “must of the purposes or mission of
embody democratic processes,” the church, though Norman
a statement that lines up more refers to both in the body of the
closely with the Baptist Faith and document. Finally, the NAMB
Message than the IMB definition summary does include a state-
(Norman, 2005, 17). The differ- ment on the universal church
ence may be subtle, in that the while the IMB definition does
IMB definition does not deny not. Such a statement does seem
the possibility of such a church somewhat out of place consid-

ering that both documents are These are not simple ques-
essentially addressing the marks tions, and adequate answers will
of the local church. require much theological and
missiological reflection. Current
Conclusions: The debates in Southern Baptist
Continuing Search for the circles related to the structure
IEM of biblical leadership are one
example. The question is what
This comparison of the is essential and what is applica-
North American Mission Board tion.
and International Mission Board Perhaps Stetzer’s six essen-
guidelines for defining “church” tials outlined above are the best
shows one thing: the Southern available outline of the IEM.
Baptist search for the irreduc- I might also suggest that the
ible ecclesiological minimum IEM is embodied in the Great
is engaged but not yet com- Commission of Matthew 28:19-
plete. If, as Payne seems to 20. There, Jesus commanded
argue, simplicity is an important the Apostles (and the church),
characteristic of the IEM, then to make disciples, teach, bap-
the IMB definition is the best tize, and obey all that He taught,
attempt thus far, as it allows the ultimately under His authority
most room for contextualization. and power. The remainder of
Even then it seems that much of the New Testament teaching on
the IMB definition is a reaction the marks of the church reflects
to particular situations rather the historical application and
than a statement of a true mini- development of those principles
mum. under the guidance of the Holy
Still, this study raises as Spirit. The only significant
many questions as it poten- aspect of biblical ecclesiology not
tially answers. What is the true explicitly mentioned in the Great
minimum? Are the elements Commission is leadership. But
unique to Baptist doctrine truly Jesus’ example in His call and
necessary for a church to be a preparation of the apostles, when
church? At what point does a coupled with the Acts account of
church become a church, or the the earliest days of the church,
converse, at what point does a makes Jesus’ call to “teach all
church cease being a church? that I have commanded you” an
Must all elements of the defini- adequate and flexible delineation
tion be present at all times, or of leadership.
can some, such as the presence If the greatest challenge to
of biblical officers, be missing church planting today is a prob-
and the church remain a church? lem of ecclesiology, then the
attempts at finding the irreduc- Towns, Elmer L., Ed Stetzer, and
ible ecclesiological minimum Warren Bird. 2007. Eleven
described in this paper are an Innovations in the Local
encouraging start. As God-called Church: How Today’s Leaders
church planters and strategists Can Learn, Discern and Move
contextualize the gospel in all into the Future. Ventura:
cultures and among all peoples, Regal Books.
faithfulness to the gospel and the
inspired Scriptures will demand Wagner, C. Peter. 1990. Church
that they start congregations that Planting for a Greater
reflect God’s plan for Christ’s Harvest. Ventura: Regal
body. Only then will Southern Books.
Baptists and believers of all back-
grounds truly fulfill the call to Articles
make disciples.
Akin, Daniel L. 2007. “Ten
SOuRCES Mandates for Southern
Baptists.” In The Mission
Books of Today’s Church: Baptist
Leaders Look at Modern
Brock, Charles. 1994. Indigenous Faith Issues, ed. R. Stanton
Church Planting: A Practical Norman. Nashville: B&H
Journey. Neosho: Church Academic.
Growth International.
Dever, Mark. 2007. “The
Norman, R. Stanton. 2005. The Church.” In A Theology
Baptist Way: Distinctives of for the Church, ed. Daniel
a Baptist Church. Nashville: L. Akin. Nashville: B & H
Broadman and Holman Academic.
Publishing Group.
Hatley, Tom and the Board
Payne, J. D. 2008. Missional of Trustees of the
House Churches: Reaching International Mission Board
Our Communities with the of the Southern Baptist
Gospel. Colorado Springs: Convention to the Pastors
Paternoster. of the Southern Baptist
Convention. 7 March 2006
Stetzer, Ed. 2006. Planting [on-line]. Available at http://
Missional Churches.
Nashville: B&H Publishing details.asp?LanguageID=170
Group. 9&StoryID=3847; Internet.

International Mission Board,
SBC. “International Mission
Board Definition of a
Church” [on-line]. Available
news/ details.asp?Languag

King, Martin. 2004. “NAMB

Trustees Meet, Approve
Guidelines for Church
Starts.” Baptist Press, 7 [on-
line]. Available at http:// bpnews.
asp?id=19308; Internet.

Jeff Walters is a PhD candidate and Instructor of Missions at The Southern

Baptist Theological Seminary where he also works with the Center for Urban
Ministry Training. Prior to serving at Southern, Walters was a church plant-
ing strategist in Western Europe with the International Mission Board.

The believer and spiriTual warfare

by Wade Akins

Spiritual warfare has leapt to the forefront as an area

of religious interest in this millennium; this revival of
interest matters because spiritual warfare is both a bib-
lical truth and an ongoing struggle for Christians.

I was teaching on spiritual The Christian life is a battle.

warfare and temptation during Paul describes it as a war for
a Lordship Revival Conference which believers need to be pre-
(a term I use in my preaching pared, “Put on the full armor of
ministry), and I commented God so that you can take your
that Satan will establish a sin- stand against the devil’s schemes”
ful stronghold in one’s life little (Eph. 6:11-All Scripture is taken
by little—one step at a time. from the NIV). This battle
Afterwards, a father approached takes place in the mind—in our
me and shared his story. He said thought life.
that his son became involved First Thessalonians 5:23-24
in Internet pornography, which teaches that man is composed of
later led to child molestation, spirit, soul, and body. Each of
and eventually to prison. The these pertains to spiritual war-
father said that when his son gets fare.
out of prison, he will no longer
be able to visit his home, because 1. The Body
he still has younger children. In The body houses our soul
addition, he will be forced to live and spirit. Upon salvation, the
in a certain area of the city. The body becomes a temple of God.
consequences of his sin dem- We have the following five sens-
onstrate that the wages of sin is es: sight, hearing, smell, touch,
truly death.
and taste. Satan often attacks in Brazil: temptation is seek-
us through these five senses: It ing to fulfill a God given desire
smells good, so let’s over-eat; she in a God forbidden way. For
looks good, so let’s lust, etc. example, sex is a God given
desire, but adultery is fulfilling
2. The Soul this desire in a God-forbidden
The soul is comprised of our way. God has given us all a will.
mind, will, and emotions. All Thus, we have the ability to
temptation happens in our mind. choose right from wrong.
Whoever controls our mind con- In 1 Corinthians 10:13, God
trols us. We are in a spiritual promises that we will not face
war. The battle takes place in any temptation that we are not
the mind, and is all about our able to bear, and He will provide
thought life. a way out so that we can stand
up under it. James says, “When
3. The Spirit tempted, no one should say, “God
The Spirit is that part that is tempting me.” For God cannot
communicates with God. It be tempted by evil, nor does he
will live for eternity. Of course, tempt anyone; but each person is
a demon cannot be in the tempted when they are dragged
spirit of a Christian when Jesus away by their own evil desire and
resides. Some debate whether enticed.” (James 1:13-14).
a demon can be in another part Once I was doing some
—the body or the soul—of a church planting training in
Christian. Merrill Unger argued Mexico. In Mexico, they have
that a demon could reside in genuine bullfights. Bullfights
a Christian. The jury is still have four key components: the
out on this issue. We do know Matador, the bull, the red cape,
and the sword. These compo-
that Satan is powerful even in
nents can easily portray man’s
a believer’s life. The first two
battle against Satan and tempta-
chapters of Job show what the
tion. Within this context, the
devil might do in a Christian’s
bull represents mankind, the
life, but they also reveal that the
matador stands for Satan, and
devil can only do what he does
the red cape represents tempta-
with God’s permission.
tion. When the matador waves
the red cape, he is tempting the
TEMPTATiON bull to charge. This is what hap-
What is temptation? Pastor pens when Satan tempts us to
Peter Lord of Titusville, Florida, sin. We can choose to turn away
gave the following definition- by an act of our own free will or
while speaking to missionaries charge the red cape.

Satan may wave it several the Great or Napoleon, they
times. Then if we, on our own generally went to the area where
volition, decide to charge the red the battle was actually fought.
cape, we commit a sin. However, General Wedemeyer wrote,
behind the red cape is a sword. “The military history instructor
The Bible says, “The wages of reviewed the situation, analyzed
sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). All dispositions and tactical deci-
sin (unless repented of) leads to sions, and injected interesting
the death of something. It may anecdotes.”
be the death of one’s joy, peace, If we are to understand the
assurance of eternal security, or warfare we are in, we must know
eternal death for an unbeliever. the area where battles are being
fought. There are three basic
STRONGHOLDS battlefields.

A stronghold starts with a 1. The World

thought that leads to a choice. First John 2:15 says, “Do not
A choice leads to an act. An act love the world or anything
repeated leads to a habit. A sin- in the world. If anyone loves
ful habit leads to a stronghold the world, love for the Father
which Satan establishes as a foot- is not in them.” That is the
hold in some area of a person’s world system. Satan has
life. It is that area of his life in invaded our culture with
which a believer will not have anti-Christian ideas and
victory! thoughts. He has done this
through the media, the arts,
THE SOuRCE OF books, and education.
2. The Flesh
General Albert Wedemeyer The term “flesh” comes from
was a top military strategist the Greek word, “sarx.” It
during World War II. He once can mean the skin that cov-
told of attending the German ers our bones. Sometimes
War College in the late 1930s. it is used to speak of the
While there, he learned from entire body, as in Acts 2:26,
the very same men he would “Therefore my heart is glad
later fight against. He said, “The and my tongue rejoices; my
Germans stressed the campaigns body (flesh) also will rest in
of Fredrick the Great, Napoleon, hope.” In the area of spiri-
Caesar, Alexander, and Philip of tual warfare, however, the
Macedon.” word “flesh” refers to our old
He said that when they sinful nature. No one had to
studied a campaign of Frederick
teach us “how to” sin. We Lust—This is an out of control
just grew up and did it. We thought life.
are sinners by nature, and Immorality—From the word
we are sinners by choice. “porneia,” it means all sexual
This sin nature is in rebel- intercourse outside of mar-
lion against God. It is self- riage.
centered and desires to be in Fear—It’s the what if’s of life.
control (Romans 7:14-24 and Fear of death.
8:5-9). Fear of rejection—This is
always feeling you are
3. The Devil being judged.
Satan’s main focus is to exert Fear of failure.
his power against believ- Jealousy, lying, gossip, addic-
ers and unbelievers. The tions, insecurity, idolatry, sorcery,
Apostle John says, “The one drunkenness, envying, doubts,
who does what is sinful is of worry, laziness, greed, are tools
the devil, because the devil has of Satan.
been sinning from the begin- Guilt—not being able to forgive
ning. The reason the Son of yourself of past sins is evidence
God appeared was to destroy of guilt.
the devil’s work.” (1 John Unforgiveness—not being able
3:8). The Bible gives many to let go and forgive someone
names for him: Angel of of what he said or did to you,
light, Accuser, Prince, Ruler even when you want to do so.
of this world, and Satan. Pride—Pride can lock a man or
Satan is the prince of this woman up as though he were
world. Ephesians 2:2a says in a straitjacket; no one can
that before we were saved touch him, and he can touch
we “in which you used to live no one else. It can erect a bar-
rier between people who live
when you followed the ways of
together under the same roof.
this world and of the ruler of
Husbands will not speak to
the kingdom of the air.”
their wives; wives shut their
husbands out of their lives.
TyPES OF STRONGHOLDS They will not communicate
Satan’s strongholds occur in because of an impassable gulf,
many different ways: or chasm, created by pride.
Pride remains in control of
Bitterness—Bitterness is harbor- that individual, and all efforts
ing anger toward someone. to break it down are resisted.
Heb. 12:15 identifies bitterness You cannot destroy it that way.
as a root sin. Parents are isolated from their
children, and children from
parents, by gulfs of non-com- There are several key “lies”
munication. which Satan uses to deceive and
trap people today:
Lie #1: Hinduism
One of the major manifes- Recently, my wife, Barbara,
tations of the flesh is deceit. and I were in West Bengal, India.
Deceit is a major weapon Hinduism acknowledges over
Satan uses in spiritual warfare. 300 million gods. In the state
Jeremiah 17: 9a says, “The heart of West Bengal, the main god is
is deceitful above all things and Cali. Cali is called the destroyer.
beyond cure.” She is out to destroy evil to make
The Hebrew word “‘aqob” space for good. The people live
is deceitful and is translated in in fear of Cali and her demons.
other passages as “stained” (Hos. They give gifts in order to
6:8) and “rough ground” (Isa. appease her so she won’t destroy
40:4). The root word occurs in them. In Calcutta, they sacrifice
Gen. 3:15 in the word for “heel” goats every day, not for sin, but
where Satan would attack Eve’s to appease the god Cali.
messianic offspring (Ps. 41:9; Barbara and I conduct
89:51). Deceitfulness is said to training in evangelism, making
be characteristic of Satan and his disciples, and church plant-
followers (John 8:44). The name ing. Recently during our train-
Jacob, the great deceiver, is also ing in West Bengal, a mother
from this same root word (Gen. and her two daughters were in
25:26, 27:36). attendance. One daughter was
The human heart has an sixteen and the other was about
unlimited capacity for wicked- eight years of age.
ness and deceit (Mark 7:21-23). The mother was of the
The only remedy is a radical Brahmin caste, the highest caste
change, the new birth in Christ in India. She was full of joy as
(John 3:7 and 2 Cor. 5:17). she shared her Christian testimo-
Satan uses religion to bind ny. Just in the last few months,
and deceive mankind in spiritual she was invited to an evangelistic
strongholds, because God cre- Bible study. As she studied the
ated us with a desire to worship Word of God, the Holy Spirit was
someone greater than ourselves. able to reveal to her that Cali
Every religion he has created was not a god, and that Jesus
depends on one’s own good had died to set her free from
works to gain access to heaven. bondage to sin. She shared her
He uses these lies to bind people a powerful testimony, “For nine-
in the darkness of strongholds. teen years I worshipped Cali.”
For nineteen years she walked her. She said, “They all drank
in darkness. How then did she from the same cup, and that was
come to see the truth? Only weird to me.” She continued
through the work of the Holy searching for God in many ways
Spirit was the truth revealed to and studied various religions.
her. She was a seeker.
How do we access the Holy She met a young man who
Spirit to ask for Him to do His was a Christian, and he took
work? We must go to the Father her to a Bible-believing Baptist
in prayer to ask for our eyes to church. The pastor gave her a
be fully opened to the truth. Bible. One day she was reading
Ephesians 4:31-32 which says,
Lie #2: Islam “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and
Recently I was preaching a anger, brawling and slander, along
Lordship Revival Conference in with every form of malice. 32 Be
Virginia. While there my wife kind and compassionate to one
and I met a beautiful young another, forgiving each other, just
lady named Susan (not her real as in Christ God forgave you.”
name). She was raised in a very When she read this, these
strong and committed Muslim were her thoughts, “God forgave
family. Her father and mother me! That was a foreign concept.
said their prayers five times a My concept was that God has a
day. She was not allowed much scale, and He weighs my sin on
of a social life outside her home. it. So, I did good things, because
She was well protected. She was I had to, not because I wanted
taught that she could eat with to. I would get points in my
the Jews but not sleep at their favor by doing good.” She began
house, for they might kill her. attending church and was bap-
She could sleep at the Christians’ tized six months after God illu-
home but not eat with them for minated that verse in her life.
fear they would give her pork. She said, “When I was bap-
Even though she had heard tized it felt like a light shining
about Muhammad and Islam her everywhere. I was excited. I had
entire life, she had her doubts. a pure passion about Christ and
When she went to the uni- a complete joy that has never left
versity, she had a Catholic room- me.”
mate. With this roommate, she What was the key to her
attended a Christian worship ser- conversion? It was the Word of
vice for the first time. Although God. “The Holy Spirit took the
she attended, she did not under- Word of God and applied it to
stand anything going on in that my life,” she said.
service, so it had no meaning to How did she come to see the
truth? The Holy Spirit revealed
truth to her. How do we access Charles Brock with the members
the Holy Spirit to ask for Him to of the local church.
do His work? Prayer. How did she come to see the
truth? The Holy Spirit revealed
Lie #3: Animism truth to her. How do we access
I often do ministry in East the Holy Spirit to ask for Him to
Africa where the principle reli- do His work? Prayer.
gion is Animism. People in
Animism pray to their ancestors Lie #4: Buddhism
hoping that they will intervene Millions are blinded by the
in their lives and bless them. teachings of Buddha, a man who
They also seek out witch doc- lived and died. Buddha taught
tors for healing and advice, and that misery in life comes from
as a result, witch doctors possess unmet desires, so the way to
great power among the people. have peace is simply to remove
During the summer of 2010, all desires. A good Buddhist
we had some volunteers there tries to live by the teachings of
doing leadership training and Buddha, so that one day he or
open air meetings. On the first she will go to Nirvana. Nirvana
day of the first week, forty-one is a place absent of desire, a
people came forward interested place of nothingness. Buddhists
in seeking Christ. After praying live caught in a web of rituals,
to give their lives to Jesus, they constantly praying to idols who
all took off their fetishes and cannot hear, cannot see, cannot
handed them over to the pas- touch, cannot feel, and cannot
tors. The second week, several heal.
demon-possessed people gave Bhutan is a Buddhist country
their lives to Jesus. As a result, where it is absolutely illegal to
they were freed from the rule of share Jesus. If one is caught, he
the demons in their lives. can be put in jail, and he will
The third week, a demon- lose his job. One young man
possessed witch doctor came to shared his conversion story.
the open air meeting. By the He was arrested for being a
grace of God, the Holy Spirit Christian and put in a “hot box”
revealed truth to her, and she till he died. He asked to go to
gave her life to Jesus. The next the toilet. And the guard had
day she came to the open air mercy. Once inside, he crawled
meeting and brought all of her through a large pipe through
fetishes and burned them before filth and sewage for miles until
the entire crowd. She then he fell into the river. He walked
began studying the evangelis- across the mountains until he
tic Bible study, Good News, by reached the nation of Nepal
and was taken in by Christians. their prayers. We visited a man
Today, he is a strong leader train- in his home, and after we shared
ing Bhutanese house church with him he thanked us for com-
leaders. ing. He said, “Thank you for
In our Pioneer Evangelism coming all this way to tell me
Church Planting training, we about Jesus. No one has ever
teach people that the Holy Spirit told me this before.”
is always working in the hearts How did he come to see the
of lost people to draw them to truth? The Holy Spirit revealed
Christ. In Luke 10:7, Jesus told truth to him. How do we access
His disciples to stay in those the Holy Spirit to ask for Him to
homes where they found people do His work? Prayer.
of peace.
So our job is to find those in Lie #5: Materialism/Atheism
whom the Holy Spirit is working Another lie that Satan uses
and present truth, rather than to deceive people is to convince
pushing ourselves on people and them that money and successes
forcing them into a decision. So are the ways to happiness. In a
how do we find those people world where there is so much
seeking peace? We use questions wealth, many become agnostic.
to find them. These are ques- Man believes that he can make it
tions that you can use: on his own, so he does not need
God. I am afraid that Satan lulls
• May I ask you a spiritual the church into complacency.
question? When we become complacent
• What is your understanding we live as though there is no
of Creator God? spiritual war. We live oblivi-
• Would you like to know ous to the fact that Satan and
Creator God personally? his demons are out to kill and
• May I share a story with you destroy. His greatest weapon
about Creator God? against us is complacency.
If we live as if there is no
If they say yes you have an war, we sit on the sidelines, and
open door to teach the Bible to we are not in the battle. Worse
them. In Cambodia, we sent out yet, Satan strips us of using the
students to ask the questions and one weapon we have that can
share the story of Jesus. When overcome him: prayer.
everyone came back, they shared When we do not pray, and
the responses given to the above we do not live under the control
questions. The overwhelming of the Holy Spirit, we are liv-
response was that they were tired ing by our own flesh. Our flesh
of praying to a statue that could is no match for Satan and his
not hear and could not answer demons.
CHRiST iS A GOOD There is no power, or
STRONGHOLD demon on earth or in hell that
has power over Jesus Christ, so
The Bible teaches there is we are not to fear Satan or his
a good stronghold as well: 2 demons. Ephesians 1:22 says
Samuel 22:2-3, “The Lord is my that “And God placed all things
rock, my fortress and my deliv- under his feet.” His death on
erer, my God is my rock, in whom the cross and His resurrection
I take refuge, my shield and the disarmed all the demons of hell.
horn of my salvation, He is my Colossians 2:15 says that Christ
Stronghold, my refuge and my has “disarmed principalities and
savior.” The psalmist tells us in powers. He made a public spec-
Psalm 18:2,“The Lord is my rock, tacle of them, triumphing over
my fortress and my deliverer, my them in it.”
God is my rock, in whom I take In the case of people who
refuge, my shield and the horn of are demon-possessed, casting
my salvation, my stronghold” In out demons is one means of
Psalm 27:1 he says, “The Lord accomplishing His purpose to
is my light and my salvation; demonstrate that Christ truly
whom shall I fear? The Lord is reigns in the Kingdom of God.
my stronghold of my life.” Again Matthew 12:28 says, “But if it is
in Psalm 62:2 he says, “Truly by the Spirit of God that I drive
he is my rock and my salvation; out demons, then the kingdom of
he is my fortress, I will never be God has come upon you.”
shaken.” Hebrews 2:14 says that
through His (Christ’s) death He
JESuS “so that by his death he might
break the power of him who holds
God is an all powerful God.
the power of death—that is, the
He is sovereign and reigns over
devil.” This is what Christ will
the entire universe. He has
do when one’s sinful stronghold
not lost control of His world.
is replaced by the Stronghold
Through Jesus Christ’s death
of Christ. Satan is a defeated
on the cross, He defeated the
enemy-Satan, the powers of
There are GOOD strongholds
darkness, sin, and death. In 1
and there are BAD strongholds.
Peter 3:22 the Bible says that
Christ is the Good Stronghold!
Jesus “who has gone into heaven
Christ can and will deliver you
and is at God’s right hand, with
from the bad strongholds of life.
angels, authorities and powers in
That is great news!
submission to him” Jesus rules
and reigns!

OVERCOMiNG the Deity lives in bodily form,
STRONGHOLDS and in Christ you have been
brought to fullness. He is the
If the person in bondage is head over every power and
not a Christian, the first step is authority.” He lives in you by
to surrender one’s life to Christ means of the Holy Spirit. So,
as Lord. Here are six key steps you place yourself and this
one can take to overcome a stronghold under the author-
stronghold, if one has already ity of the Holy Spirit. Paul
accepted Christ as Lord and says in Romans 8:9 that you
Savior. are not controlled by the sin-
1. Recognize the strong- ful nature but by the Spirit
holds within your life. The (Holy Spirit) if the Spirit of
first step is to be honest with God lives in you. The key is
yourself and God. Ask God to be filled or controlled by
to reveal every stronghold in the Holy Spirit of God.
your life. Then confess to Satan is continually allowed
God that you have allowed to keep men and women
one or more strongholds into in bondage by his lies and
your life. They have you deceit. So, how do we fight
captive. Be very specific, not the war and counter the
general. deceit that Satan has spread
2. Repent—This means “to in so many ways?
change your mind about What can we do to make
these strongholds.” We are to an eternal difference in the lives
ask God for forgiveness, and of the lost? PRAY! Pray that
we should ask him to change the Holy Spirit will work in the
us. You no longer want to hearts of the lost to draw them
live under them and with to Christ. Pray specifically that
them in your life. Turn to the Holy Spirit will bring some-
Christ. He is your deliverer. one into their lives that will
If not, you will be rendered share God’s word. Pray that by
totally useless before God His Word the Holy Spirit will
(Jeremiah 6:9-30). We see a convict them of sin and convince
perfect picture of how a peo- them of truth. Pray the same for
ple of God refused to admit family, friends, and colleagues at
their strongholds and repent. work and be willing to be used
3. Realize your position in by the Holy Spirit to share the
Christ—you are to submit to truth with them. Pray for your
the control of the Holy Spirit. missionaries that you send out
Colossians 2:9-10 says, “For and get information from them
in Christ all the fullness of about praying for their work.
For some we may be the only the devil, and he will flee from
one to stand in the gap for the you.” He says two things in
lost to escape hell and live with this verse: (1) Submit your-
Jesus eternally. self to God. Submit means
to be under the authority
4. Reject sinful thoughts. of Christ, the Lordship of
When Satan pursues you Christ. That means the
with a sinful thought say, “In Holy Spirit who lives in
the name of Jesus, I reject you will be your Guide,
that thought.” your Strength, your Leader.
5. Replace sinful thoughts Ephesians 5:18 says to be
with God’s Word. This is filled or controlled by the
what Jesus did when He was Holy Spirit. (2) Resist the
tempted. He quoted the devil. Keep repeating that
Word of God. Find a verse verse God gave you about
of Scripture that deals with your issue. The stronghold
your issue. When you are will eventually break, and
tempted, repeat it back to you WILL have victory!
Satan (Matt. 4). Genuine
believers who continue to
doubt their salvation should
replace those doubts with Satan is a formidable foe! He
truth. First John 5:12a says, is at work in our lives and in our
“Whoever has the Son has churches in the West just like
life.” Thus, if you have Jesus he is in the Third World. We
in your life you are saved. must become more aware of him
The Word of God is a power- and of his tactics. He is also a
ful weapon against Satan and defeated foe! We have the victory
his fiery darts. over Satan if we will learn how
6. Resist Satan continu- to claim this sure victory.
ally. If you resist Satan, the
stronghold will weaken,
until finally someday, it will
be just gone out of your
life. James 4:7 says, “Submit
yourself, then to God. Resist

Dr. Wade Akins is currently serving with Pioneer Missions based in Jackson,
TN, teaching Pioneer Evangelism Training world wide. He is also an Adjunct
Missions Professor at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova,
TN, and Union University in Jackson, TN.

book reviews

Hesselgrave, David and Ed Stetzer, eds. MissionShift: Global

Mission issues in the Third Millennium. Nashville: B&H
Academic, 2010.

Review by M. David Sills, DMiss, PhD

MissionShift brings multiple perspectives to bear on three of the most cru-

cial missiological issues of our day. Whereas most texts, even edited volumes,
typically advocate a single position or strategic view, MissionShift differs most
notably in its roundtable discussion approach to the topics addressed: global
missions issues in the third millennium. The book, edited by one of the most
respected missiological authorities of our generation, David Hesselgrave, and
one of our most prominent contemporary missiologists, Ed Stetzer, tackles the
core topics of defining mission, contextualization, and the future of evangeli-
cals in mission. The key elements of the text are the three anchor essays that
cover the book’s core topics addressing missions’ past, present, and future.
These essays are written by well-known missiologists within each of these dis-
ciplines, and serve as the springboard for subsequent responses by other mis-
siologists and theologians comprising the remainder of the book.
The first essay, written by Charles Van Engen, tackles the topic of defin-
ing and describing “mission” in the context of the church. Taking a largely
historical perspective, Van Engen’s essay most notably affirms the value in
the missional church movement, which provides much of the fodder for the
respondents. Establishing a format maintained throughout the text, five mis-
siologists and theologians respond to Van Engen’s essay with varying degrees
of support. This examination of the definition and description of mission and
the missional church movement results in a multifaceted examination of the
topic with healthy debate and differing opinions. The second essay follows
in like manner, this time by the late and great Paul Hiebert in one of his final
written works, submitted just before his death. Hiebert tackles a contempo-
rary controversial topic in his examination of contextualization. Hiebert’s
concluding call to critical contextualization is coupled with an articulation
of the call for a contextualized hermeneutic. As with each of the other two
articles, multiple respondents follow Hiebert’s contribution, engaging his essay
with their own perspectives. With responses from scholars as varied as Darrell

Whiteman and Norman Geisler, and issues ranging from insider movements to
orality to apologetics all interact with Hiebert’s essay, resulting in a robust and
complex discussion. Finally, the third topic covered is the future of evangelical
missions. Written by Ralph Winter not long before his death, the essay cap-
tures a historical perspective on missions while offering a strong call to return
to a holistic approach to social ministries. In Winter’s essay, the responses find
distinction from those to the previous essays. The respondents did not feel
Winter addressed the core topic of the future of missions and in response tack-
led the topic themselves. This section includes frank discussion of Winter’s
approach as well as the informed opinion of several missiologists revealing
their varied perspectives on the future of evangelicals in missions. The book
concludes with an essay by David Hesselgrave providing historical insights into
the history and development of evangelical missions, as we know it, providing
key insights for seeing down the missions road we are traveling.
MissionShift is a helpful text that provides a fascinating glimpse into dif-
fering perspectives on some of the most complex issues of our day. While the
discussions centered on defining missions and the future of missions are help-
ful, the examination of approaches to contextualization is especially significant
and provocative. Ed Stetzer’s responses to each section are especially helpful
for providing a sense of resolution and cohesion, preventing the sort of chaos
that could result with this multi-perspective format. One minor criticism of
the text, however, is that the liberties Dr. Winter took with his topic skewed
the content of the final section, resulting in multiple offerings of perspectives
on the future of evangelicals in missions, rather than multiple contributors
engaging with the essayists single perspective. Even so, the contributions on
the future were helpful and insightful.
Ultimately, MissionShift’s key contributions to the discipline of missiology
are two-fold: First, the multi-perspective format allows a helpful overview to
informed opinions on crucial issues rather than an agenda driven approach
that sets up and destroys all differing views. Second, the section on contextu-
alization provides a thoroughly diverse examination of one of the most vigor-
ously debated subjects of our day. The insights offered into the reasoning of
diverse perspectives are beneficial for a thorough understanding of the origin,
legitimacy, and limits of contextualization. Hesselgrave and Stetzer should
be commended for assembling this lineup of essayists and respondents, who
together with the framework the editors created, bring experience and wisdom
to bear on issues of great significance. You will want to read this volume for
its multifaceted presentation of missions’ past, present, and future found in the
arguments and reflections of some of today’s leading missiologists.

Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the
American Dream. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2010.

Reviewed by Rusty Keltner, MDIV and PhD Student

Through the preaching and teaching of David Platt, the Church at Brook
Hills in Birmingham, AL has done some extraordinary work. Radical contains
many of the ideas Platt taught this congregation to move them to a new level
of action. Will the ideas presented in this book work in other churches, espe-
cially the smaller church? What about the rural congregation that I lead which
averages less than one hundred people in attendance? Brook Hills gave away
over $500,000; my congregation’s ten-year budget would barely be this much.
What would the ideas presented in this book look like on a much smaller
level? Thoughts like these filled my head as I read Radical.
Platt confronted the American Church as he examined the negative influ-
ence of culture on church. He attempted to prove that “satisfaction in our
lives and success in the church are not found in what our culture deems most
important but in radical abandonment to Jesus.” For eight chapters, the pas-
tor compared and contrasted self-centered American Christianity to the self-
denying Christianity found in the teachings of Jesus and throughout the New
Testament. In almost every chapter, Platt used at least one story of Christians
in another part of the world and examples from his own faith family to show
how believers were fulfilling Jesus’ command to take up their cross and follow
In order to show what self-abandoning Christianity looks like, the author
began with an examination of the gospel. Platt challenged readers with the
biblical concepts of God, man, and salvation. If this foundation is not cor-
rect, then one’s entire premise of Christianity will be off. One of the greatest
challenges to self-denying Christianity is trusting in God’s power. Chapter
three dealt with this issue as Platt urged believers to be radically dependent
on God. He continued his argument by examining God’s purpose for creation
and asserting God’s desire to be glorified. Throughout this book, the concept
of having a missional mindset was advocated. The idea of making disciples
became an essential part of Platt’s argument, and the last half of the book con-
tinually came back to this theme. He used disciple making as a platform to
address one of the biggest roadblocks to American Christianity; our wealth.
After urging Christians to use their possessions to spread the gospel, Platt
examined the other costs of Great Commission living. He concluded the book
with a one-year challenge called the radical experiment.
The radical experiment contained five major components. The first two
were to pray for the entire world and read the entire Bible. The last three
aspects involved sacrificing money for a specific purpose, spending time in
another context, and committing oneself to a multiplying community for life.
Each of these commitments builds on the other, and the result is a transformed
life lived out through the community of faith.
One of the strengths of this book is Platt’s easy-to-read style. He wrote
so the average person in the average church could read and comprehend what

was being said. The use of Scripture was adequate to back his points, and
the stories that he shared were on point and added to the overall value of the
Christianity by its very nature is radical. In America, it is hard to find
believers who have made the complete transformation that Jesus called for
in the New Testament. Platt never suggested that the radical experiment was
about some new way to live out Christianity; however, to the average American
Christian, the ideas in this book may seem extreme or radical. Radical is an
attempt at a wake up call. The challenge of being believers that mirror the
ideas found throughout Scripture is not just for the people at Brook Hills but
also for all who bear the name Christian. Platt is not just another mega church
pastor selling mega church ideas; he is a pastor teaching ideas that all pastors
should teach. The idea of self-abandoned Christianity is for a smaller church
with limited resources like the one I pastor, it is for the mega church with
abundant resources, and it is for every church in between.

Patrick, Darrin. Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the

Mission. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.

Reviewed by Jim Collier, MDIV and PhD Student

Affiliated with both the Journey Church in St. Louis as lead pastor and the
Acts 29 Church Planting Network as vice president, Darrin Patrick employed
his knowledge of church planting in his first published offering entitled Church
Planter. The mention of both Journey Church and Acts 29 may repel some,
but Patrick’s practice of allowing Scripture to develop his arguments should
keep the most conservative observer engaged.
Not only did the author prove to be a capable student of Scripture, but
he also demonstrated his ability to exegete his culture. Recognizing that the
American culture produces Ban (his hybrid word between boy and man for the
twenty- or thirty-something who refuses to grow up) instead of men, Patrick
challenged the men of his audience to become “God’s man who is being trans-
formed by God’s gospel message and is wholeheartedly pursuing God’s mis-
sion.” This challenge shaped his work as Patrick explored the biblical standard
for the man, the message, and the mission.
Patrick opened with a study of the man God calls to plant a church. He
ensured his readers first understood that the church planter had to be regen-
erate—a “rescued man” in his words. He then discussed the call and the con-
firmations necessary to discern God’s calling. The bulk of his exploration of
the man flowed from his chapter on, “A Qualified Man,” as Patrick dissected 1
Timothy 3 regarding the qualifications of an overseer. This examination was
steady and rooted in a capable handling of the passage. The only questionable
exposition rested in his neglect of the topic of divorce and his allowance for
the possibility of alcohol consumption for God’s man. Even with these two
problematic readings present, the entirety of the section presented a strong
case for the biblical qualifications of the overseer.

The author continued by investigating the message of the church planter.
This section emerged as the strongest of the book. He explained each facet of
the message of the gospel, remaining biblical while exposing its relevance to
the postmodern culture. He demonstrated Christ’s centrality to the Bible and
by extension, to the message of the preacher. Patrick spent two chapters on
sin and the power of the gospel message to expose it. His chapter on idolatry
reminded the reader to allow the Bible to attack the root of sin and not just the
fruit of sin. Patrick saturated each of these facets of the message with grace,
demonstrating that only Christ saves sinners and produces any lasting changes
in them.
Patrick finished his challenge by surveying the mission of the church in
culture. This overview of the mission served to remind the reader of God’s
plan for the church. While not stating anything new or revolutionary, Patrick
joined several concepts together to sharpen the focus on the planter’s purpose.
Driven by compassion, he argued that Jesus’ goal was to seek and to save the
lost, and that the church planter should join Him in that goal. For those who
are suspicious of Patrick’s zeal for the lost in light of his reformed theology,
he added, “We are desperate in our desire to share the gospel with all peoples
so that they may be saved.” This section also contained a defense of contextu-
alization, which seeks to deliver the gospel message to the target culture in a
way that communicates without losing the truth of the message.
In Church Planter, Darrin Patrick accomplished his goal of challenging
the next generation of young men to be diligent about God’s call and purpose.
Neither arrogant nor flippant, his approach proved to be both sobering and
encouraging. The only disappointment encountered by the reviewer was the
specific lack of emphasis on church planting. The book worked well for pas-
tor and missionary alike, but it did not add to the church planting discussion.
Overall, however, Patrick’s overview of the man of God proved to be worth the
effort, and the student of pastoral ministries will find it serves him well.

Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional

Church. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006.

Reviewed by Ray Meadows, MDIV and PhD Student

Across denominations, Christian churches are in a state of decline.

Missiologists, church planters, and erstwhile ministry professionals constantly
debate the cause and cure for the current predicament. Alan Hirsch presented
his take on the issues in the text under review. He argued for the urgent need
of a paradigm shift to a missional ecclesiology. The author used his own per-
sonal experiences as a pastor, church planter, and denominational leader, along
with an examination of the early New Testament church and the modern Jesus
movement found in the underground churches of China to develop his posi-
tion. It is the author’s premise that churches embrace what he termed, “mis-
sional DNA” (mDNA) and “Apostolic Genius” for the purpose of reengaging
and arousing the innate power of the Holy Spirit in the church to reach a new
generation for Christ.
Hirsch wrote his text for the general reader interested in church planting,
missional strategy, and thinking from an emerging church perspective. The
aim of Forgotten Ways is to provoke and challenge the reader to consider a
more radical expression of church in the postmodern, twenty-first century. It
is not an overtly scholarly work, but it includes a number of footnotes and
sources, an addendum with an additional chapter, and a glossary. Though
written for a general audience, the author explored several fields of research
such as organizational theory, biological systems, and chaos theory. This
caused the text to become overly technical at times. More use of footnotes and
sources would have aided the text in this regard.
What exactly is “Apostolic Genius?” It is the author’s term to describe the
built-in life-force and guiding mechanism of God’s people. It is what drives
movements of Jesus throughout the ages. It includes five components: mis-
sional-incarnational impulse, apostolic environment, disciple making, organic
systems, and communitas (a term used to describe the dynamics of a Christian
community which leads to a call to action in common mission) which make
up what he termed “missional DNA” (mDNA). Missional DNA functions
just like DNA in a living organism. It is found in all living organisms (Hirsch
meant Christian communities or churches), it codes genetic information for
transmission to offspring (passed on to the planted churches), is self-replicat-
ing (not dependent on organizational structure), and it carries vital informa-
tion for healthy reproduction. The entire text is focused on explaining and
justifying these propositions. The limits of space constrain a proper analysis at
this time, but the following positives and problems are taken from the text.
There are a number of positions taken by the author in this text in which
a conservative evangelical, missions focused, Bible student can agree. For
instance, he sought a missiology for today’s context; one that could spark
a genuine Jesus movement. The author presented valid arguments against
western churches. They have lost the art of discipleship, have become “con-
sumer oriented,” and are inable to quickly and consistently reproduce the
mega church model. Many writers, including conservative, liberal, as well as
postmodernist/emergent have identified the inward focus of many churches
as problematic. He argued for the centrality of Jesus, especially Jesus as Lord.
Additionally, he noted the problem of consumerism. He stated his belief
emphatically that consumerist lifestyles lead to idolatry. He emphasized the
need for an incarnational lifestyle for all believers. This meant to live Christ
before the lost. Finally, he acknowledged the susceptibility of emergent/post-
modern communities to universalism and relativism.
Conversely, there were several problematic positions taken in the text.
Only a few will be discussed here. First, the author took the position of many
emergent writers in presenting a classic “straw man” argument. His primary
complaint was against “Christendom,” the hierarchal state church which
formed during the time of Constantine. This ecclesiology is indicative of an
Episcopal form of church government, and most conservative evangelicals,
especially Baptists, agree this is bad theology and practice. Yet Hirsch based
most of his criticism against this paradigm and grouped all non-emerging
churches into this same category. Additionally, Hirsch and other emergent
writers often claim the underlying ecclesiological issues of the church come
from the influence of Greek philosophy. However, the author does not supply
the reader any source material for his claim. Baptists and other conservative
evangelicals have always claimed the Bible and what it says in its grammatical
and historical context as a guide and filter for belief and practice. This is why
any change in paradigm is viewed skeptically, unless it is clearly in line with a
biblical ecclesiology. A third issue Bible believing Baptists and other evangeli-
cals will have with the text included the author’s dependence on evolutionary
theory and language. The idea presented: chaos brings change or adaption to
situations, thus the Christian should accept the paradigm shift from modern
thinking to postmodern. From chaos, a new, more relevant Christian commu-
nity will emerge. Is it natural selection for ecclesiology?
Hirsch, like many postmodern, emergent writers should be commended
for his desire to reach the lost, especially those who reject traditional method-
ologies. However, like most emergent writers, Hirsch’s new ecclesiology barely
resembled a biblical, New Testament expression of the church. He sought
models from biology and science, organizational theory, and leadership meth-
ods, with little emphasis on a true biblical model. Those who read this text
should do so with great discernment.

Sills, M David. Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great

Commission Obedience. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010.

Reviewed by Jackson Spungen PhD student and Missionary to East Asia

David M. Sills is Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural

Anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Sills joined
the faculty of Southern Seminary after serving as a missionary in Ecuador. In
addition to Reaching and Teaching, Dr. Sills wrote The Missionary Call and two
books about the Quichua Indians. He holds a PhD and a DMIN in Missions
degrees. Dr. Sills and his wife Mary, have two grown children.
Reaching and Teaching represents both sound scholarship and practical
experience. It is written from the perspective of one who has served cross cul-
turally. The greatest strength of the book is Sills writes from the viewpoint of a
practitioner. The insights within this book are relevant to modern missions.
Sills devoted ten chapters addressing contemporary issues related to evan-
gelism and discipleship. Following each chapter is a suggested reading list for
the topic discussed. Extensive footnotes and bibliographic citations give the
reader further resources for study. The International Mission Board statement
on ecclesiology is located in the appendix.
The premise of Reaching and Teaching is taken from Matthew 28:19-20
where Jesus said to go and make disciples. Disciples are not made until they
are taught “to observe all that He commanded.” Sills wrote, “Discipleship,
leadership training, and pastoral preparation are unfortunately relegated to a
lower level of ministry that is not really considered missions” (12). The work
of missions is incomplete without taking the time to teach new converts the
Bible and train leaders who train leaders. Sills explained that missionaries
must take time to develop leaders not just organize churches. For a mission-
ary to discount this responsibility is to neglect the Great Commission.

Although Sills saw value in theological seminaries he did not believe that
every area must have a seminary. He explained:

There are numerous models of theological education, leadership training,

and pastoral preparation. Some are adaptations of generations-old train-
ing models found in the cultures of the world such as watch and do learn-
ing, the master apprentice model, and on-the-job training. Missionaries
should avoid the trap of thinking that they must train the nationals the
same way in which they received training (168).

He also believed that classroom training was simply not enough.

Ultimately, if pastoral leaders are to be developed they must be involved in
evangelism, discipleship, and planting churches. Classroom instruction alone
is not sufficient. A missionary-professor must be an example to his students
by “modeling, and challenging his students to plant, assist and pastor mission-
impacting churches” (51).
In a day of pragmatism, Reaching and Teaching encourages the reader to
examine missionary practices in light of the Word, particularly, the practice of
evangelizing without adequate discipleship after a person believes. Sills wrote,
“The greater good mentality in evangelism means taking the path of least resis-
tance and using whatever methods result in the most measurable decisions
as quickly as possible” (138). Sills exhorts the reader to not take a pragmatic
approach but rather embrace the scriptural model.
Reaching and Teaching includes insights from Scripture, missiological
research, and individual missionaries. It is comprehensive in its treatment of
training national workers. Sills has sufficiently delineated the issues related
to evangelism and discipleship. While he provides a baseline for discipleship,
Sills expects the practitioner to build on this foundation.
Reaching and Teaching encourages the reader to embrace a biblical
approach to making disciples that expands beyond evangelism and church
planting. The missionary must take the time to establish theological educa-
tion, pastoral preparation, and leadership training among the people they are
called to reach. If these crucial elements are eliminated, then Jesus’ command
to “teach them all things I have commanded” has not been obeyed. This reader
highly recommends Reaching and Teaching to anyone seriously seeking to
establish a maturing and multiplying church.

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