“Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations” was the cry during the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans. That cry for missions and cooperation encapsulates the heart of Southern Baptists since the days of men like Jesse Mercer and women like Lottie Moon.
It was during that SBC when I heard seminary president Danny Akin say to a group of pastors: Within Southern Baptist life we have different theological ideas. We disagree on different issues but we agree on the gospel and the urgency of missions.
I remember saying to a friend, that’s the kind of spirit and leadership we need in our churches. We want to bring people together rather than divide ourselves over non-gospel issues. The gospel makes us one, and that gospel compels us to go to reach our neighborhood and the nations for King Jesus.
But the reality is, even for redeemed sinners like us, this work of cooperation is challenging.
It requires personal sacrifices and humility; it requires a heart that is slow to be offended and quick to forgive. Cooperation toward missions is like love; it demands intentionality and patience. It can be difficult but we can do it. We love because we have been loved by God. We go because He came. And that saving love compels us to tell others about that divine love.
That’s why we seek to work with those who may disagree with us on non-gospel and non-ecclesiological issues. Together we can accomplish far more than what we can accomplish by ourselves. It can be messy, but it is glorious. It can be painful, but it is rewarding.
We Southern Baptists must keep in mind that the Christian life is a life of repentance. And a spirit of repentance should mark our interactions within our local churches and denominational activities. Let’s love one another because we can. We cooperate for something that is greater than ourselves, the glory of the Triune God among the nations.
Let’s work together knowing that our ministry is not only impacting the next 10 years, but the next 10,000 years and more. (BP)
Edgar Aponte is the International Mission Board’s vice president of mobilization.