It has been quite an eventful week at ABC. Last Sunday we prayed over nearly 100 students and leaders as they loaded up buses for Orange Beach, Alabama. These students and leaders are currently having a big week at Beach Camp, and God is moving in the hearts of our teenagers. In fact, I’m thrilled to report that five students have already made decisions for Jesus Christ this week. Additionally, last Sunday was a milestone in our church family as we welcomed our new Worship Pastor, Dr. Todd Stearns, along with his wonderful wife, Sonya. We should all celebrate God’s goodness and provision as he has sent us a wonderful shepherd to guide our family to the throne of grace each week. Right now, our ABC Kids team is dialed in on VBS prep. We are looking forward to welcoming hundreds of new visitors in the coming days and hosting one of the biggest vacation bible schools we’ve seen in recent years. It’s our hope and prayer that many children will come to Christ through the ministry that will take place inside our church walls.
While all those big things are happening at ABC, we also have some big things happening in Nashville. As many of you know, our church is participating in our annual Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee this week. This meeting is indeed annual, but of course the SBC was not able to come together in person in 2020 due to the pandemic. That missed year helped make this year’s meeting one of the largest gatherings in recent memory, with over 15,000 messengers registered in Nashville. I’m currently writing this week’s article from my hotel room before I head off to the final day of our meeting. There has been much media coverage leading up to this week and I know many in the church, and outside of the church, have been looking to see what would transpire in Nashville. To put the moment into perspective, this year the SBC issued four to five times more media credentials than they have in recent convention years.
That increase was for a purpose. Many outside the faith are hoping to find a headline or controversial sound bite that will spread across our nation. And there has indeed been robust discussion and debate over difficult topics this year, however I am grateful to report that there is also a spirit of unity that is alive and well. Thousands of southern baptists remain steadfast and committed to the inerrancy of scripture, the autonomy of the local church, and the great commission that binds our hearts together. While the SBC has indeed experienced numeric decline in recent years, our convention is alive with 45,000 churches that are committed to Gospel ministry around the world. To put that in context, that is more churches than all Starbucks, McDonalds, and Subways in our country combined. While that is worth celebrating, I also invite you to pray that God will give us more. As part of the SBC’s Vision 2025, our cooperating churches are going to begin praying for God to raise up 5,000 new churches to bring us over that 50,000 mark. Further, we’re praying that God will call 500 new full-time missionaries, giving us 4,200 fully funded missionaries through the IMB. We’re also praying for the baptism waters to be stirred in our churches by children and teenagers. As a convention, we are in agreement that we must each sacrificially do our part to reach the next generation for Jesus Christ.
These are ambitious goals but nothing is impossible for our God (Luke 1:37), and God’s Word actually instructs us to dream big and pray big (Ephesians 3:20). So I ask you to do exactly that. Pray that God will work through Austin Baptist Church to expand the kingdom, and for our church to unite in mission together. During our SBC President’s address, Pastor J.D. Greear, gave an illustration that stuck with me. He mentioned his friend and former SBC President, Pastor Steve Gaines, once told him Baptists are like hunting dogs. When we have a mission, we all unite together and we are a force to be reckoned with. But when we don’t have a mission, like those dogs, we always start to fight with each other. My prayer is that we ABC will be united by one clear mission: to light up our city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is both easy and tempting to sniff out things to fight about. If our mission is to find something to argue about, we will always accomplish that mission in our churches and convention. But it is so much more profitable and edifying to find a mission that unites us and brings glory to the Father. Fortunately, we need not look far for that mission because Jesus Christ already gave it to us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). May this mission burn on our hearts individually and on the heart of our church collectively. I pray that God may pour out his grace on your life, so you can be an effective witness to your neighbors, co-workers, and families for glory of God. Invite a friend to join you this weekend, and I look forward to seeking God’s wisdom with you through worship on Sunday.