St. Louis, Mo.—Highlighting the partnership between Southern Baptists across North America and around the world to spread the gospel and plant churches, the Southern Baptist Convention’s two mission entities held a “Sending Celebration” at the conclusion of the SBC’s annual meeting.
International Mission Board President David Platt and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell called Southern Baptists to join in celebrating the sent—those missionaries who have gone out into the near and far places of the world to bring the hope of Jesus Christ; the sending—those churches who are equipping, encouraging and coming alongside church planters and missionaries; and the lives transformed by the gospel because of Southern Baptists’ sending.
The celebration specifically featured the ways Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville; Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa; Candeo Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Anthem Church in Columbia, Mo., equip and send missionaries from their churches.
Celebrating “sending” churches includes the thousands of Southern Baptist churches giving through the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, the leaders noted. And it includes the cooperative effort of Southern Baptists to spread the gospel to those who’ve never heard it. The presentation also recognized pastors and the role they play in shepherding and mobilizing local churches on mission.
“We have so much to celebrate, but there is still more to be done,” Ezell said.
Platt talked on stage with John Kimbell, pastor of preaching and discipleship, and Shawn Wright, pastor of leadership development at Clifton Baptist Church, noting their role as a sending church is not just about sending missionaries. It’s about making disciple makers, he noted. The pastors said they saw healthy growth and value in their church as they related to members sent out as missionaries.
“As people engage in a cause much bigger than themselves—which is what we’re made for—there is a joy in that,” Kimbell said. “And then we begin to experientially recognize the greater value of Christ and of the gospel, and that infiltrates every part of their lives as they are living as members of our congregation.”
Ezell introduced messengers to leaders of a church (Cornerstone) that planted a church (Candeo) that planted a church (Anthem): Troy Nesbitt, founding pastor of Cornerstone Church; Jeff Dodge, lead pastor, Cornerstone Church; Paul Sabino, lead pastor, Candeo Church; and Stan Hayak, church planter, Anthem Church. Cornerstone is committed to planting 20 churches near colleges in the next five years.
The most difficult thing to do in church planting is to send your best staff, the church leaders said, noting that when churches send their best, they take people with them. But that is where fear and faith come together, they contended.
“Don’t send the guys you don’t want,” Nesbitt said. “Send the guys you don’t want to lose, because then your heart goes, and then God will replace them.”
“As God has raised up new leaders to plant churches, we’re amazed at all that He has done,” he said.
Platt read Romans 16:1-15 and challenged the messengers to consider the cooperation displayed in the Scripture.
“Here we sit, 2000 years later, a group of 40,000 churches with millions of church members … all across the Southern Baptist Convention, every one of them important, and together, we’re all cooperating on mission,” Platt said, noting the roles of both NAMB and IMB. “So let’s do this: let’s mobilize them to pray, and to give, and to go in North America, to start right where they live to make disciples.”
The Great Commission is not a “comfortable” call for any Christian to come, be baptized and sit in one location, he said, but rather it is a clear command for every follower of Christ to go, baptize and make disciples of the nations.
“This is why we exist: to bring together millions of men and women who are gathered together in tens of thousands of churches under the banner of the Bible for the spread of the gospel to the nations of the Earth,” he said. “Every member of your church has a part to play in this mission.” (BP)