Southern Baptists have been given a tremendous opportunity to help fulfill the Great Commission in their lifetime, but it will take a radical reassessment of priorities to make it happen, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention told trustees of the SBC Executive Committee on September 21.
"With the passion of the young adult Christians of today, with the modern means of travel, with the modern technology, God has given us an opportunity to fulfill His Great Commission in our lifetime," Bryant Wright said. "The question we have to ask is, even though our denomination will just be one part of His Kingdom enterprise, are we as Southern Baptists going to be willing to pay the price — the radical price — to do what it takes to see that the Gospel is taken to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts in our lifetime?"
The realistic possibility that the Gospel could, in the words of Matthew 24:14, "be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations" in this generation should drive all Southern Baptists to prayer for a "radical reprioritization" in both their giving and going for missions, said Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.
The average evangelical Christian gives about 2.4 percent of his financial resources to "the Lord's work," Wright noted, and local congregations, Baptist state conventions, and national Southern Baptist entities could pass along more financial resources to the cause of taking the Gospel to those who have yet to hear.
"We can profess all day long that we are Christian, but the fact is that we love our money a lot more than we love Jesus," Wright said. "The local church [also] has to be serious about sacrificial giving when it comes to the global mission calling that Christ has given us. We as a denomination need to be as well. It is my hope and prayer that as we think about the Cooperative Program and how it has been central to how we carry out our part of the calling of this Kingdom vision of Jesus Christ, that there can be a radical reprioritization of our funding within the Cooperative Program."
Churches also need to make a radical commitment to go on mission in greater numbers than ever before, Wright said.
"It is my hope that every single church in our Convention will take at least one mission trip, with the pastor being part of that trip, over the next year," Wright said. "There is no way I could adequately describe to you how mission trips have impacted the life of Johnson Ferry.
"The Lord has done a God-thing in the life of Johnson Ferry. What began as one spring-break high school mission trip has just grown to be a God-sized blessing in the life of Johnson Ferry.
"When people are going through weeks of discipleship training, learning how to have a better quiet time, learning how to share their faith with a different people group cross-culturally, they come back better Christians from the experiences they have had.
"I hope that if you're one of those churches that has not taken mission trips, that 2011 will be the time you do so," Wright added.
Noting the Web site he has set up to encourage prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention — www.pray4sbc.com — Wright said he hopes churches also will focus prayer on the "final big decision Southern Baptists are facing this year."
"Two [major decisions] have already been made: God has called Frank Page to lead the Executive Committee, to lead this key part of our Convention work. Most recently, God called Kevin Ezell to lead the North American Mission Board," Wright said. "And yet there is one final decision that is before us and that is the president of the International Mission Board. I can think of no decision that is going to have a more lasting impact on carrying out Christ's Great Commission, especially to the unreached people groups of the world, than what we are seeing in that decision about the president of the IMB."
Praying for God's leadership in that decision, about sacrificial giving for missions, and about going on mission in greater numbers than ever before is crucial if "Baptist Christians are going to do our part in the overall Kingdom vision mindset that Jesus gives us," Wright said.
"It is my hope that there will be a radical reprioritization so we can think about these thousands of people groups who have practically no witness of the Gospel," Wright said. "Then as we think about that global calling that Christ gives us, with our own Jerusalems ..., with our Judeas, with our Samarias, with our uttermost parts, we will have a true global calling of what it means to do our part in Kingdom business.
"God has given us a unique opportunity and a calling we don't want to miss," Wright said. "Let's pray that God would bless us in this Kingdom enterprise."
Mark Kelly is a member of Peace Community Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, and is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.