After a full Sunday, Jeana and I flew to Boston to meet with Pastors and their wives about their involvement with SEND North America. Last year, we worked in partnership with the North American Mission Board in this same capacity, mobilizing Pastors and hosting meetings in New York City and San Francisco.
Our goal in SEND North America
Our goal in SEND North America is to mobilize churches to 32 targeted, strategic cities in North America that are in need of gospel churches. We are mobilizing Pastors and churches to be Lead Partners in one or more of these cities over a five-year period of time. We want them to lead, strategize, and mobilize an additional five churches to target that city in church planting efforts during these five years.
While churches that give through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention and/or to the Annie Armstrong Mission Offering for North America are involved in church planting through their giving, in reality, only an estimated 4% of all Southern Baptist churches are directly involved in church planting.
If we are going to see the gospel penetrate the lostness of North America, we must plant vibrant gospel churches in the major cities of North America.
Eighty percent of North America lives in cities. Three out of four people in all of North America are in need of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The 2010 Southern Baptist Convention adopted the motions and recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. After one full year of giving our lives to studying our convention’s needs relating to the Great Commission, this group of twenty-one people I had the privilege of leading determined that we must prioritize church planting in our convention. We felt it was urgent. Our convention adopted these motions and recommendations, and together we moved into a new day of doing what we can to penetrate the lostness of North America and the world. Dr. Kevin Ezell has just completed his third year leading the North American Mission Board. He and his team are doing a splendid job working with churches and state conventions to mobilize all of us to this strategic, God-sized vision of planting churches all across North America, but especially targeting the large metropolitan regions. We are all working together in partnership and cooperation: churches, state conventions, and the North American Mission Board, along with the entire Southern Baptist Convention, to penetrate the lostness of North America and the World. We cannot do it alone. We must work together.
Confession: We don’t have it all figured out
We don’t have it all figured out. Changing strategies, adjusting monies and personnel is never easy, from the smallest church to a large convention of churches like the Southern Baptist Convention. Variance of opinion occurs, but the vision is so believed in and needed, we are all trying to work together to try to make a difference for Christ. We cannot get lost in the details of “how,” but we must be compelled with the vision of “why.” People are lost without Christ. We must tell people about Jesus. We must win them to Christ. We must plant gospel churches to see people evangelized, discipled, and sent out to reach a lost world.
The Apostle Paul went to the major cities, not because he did not believe people in smaller towns did not need Jesus, but because he believed going to the cities would result in the gospel being taken exponentially everywhere. Cities are the crossroads for large populations of all kinds of people, where cultures are often created and experienced, where financial strength is usually realized, and where movements are usually born. Paul was convinced that gospel churches planted in these cities would expand the gospel exponentially.
While we may vary along the way with the “how,” as gospel people who are engaged in a gospel church, we should all realize its need and value. We must plant more churches to help evangelize the people of the world. The people called Southern Baptists are committed to turning this around, and pastors and churches believe in the vision. Recent gatherings and commitments made towards church planting is spelling a day of hope in our convention and I am grateful for what God is doing.
Your church can be involved
Partnering with other churches makes church planting a hands-on possibility for all 50,000 Southern Baptist churches and congregations. Whether we help plant a church in one of these thirty-two major cities or in an under-served area somewhere in the north, west, east, or south, let’s all do something about forwarding the gospel through church planting. Call your local association, state convention, or the North American Mission Board and determine how you can be involved directly. If your church determines all you can do is give financially, then give more through the Cooperative Program, our special North American Mission Board’s Annie Armstrong Offering, or the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions for the purpose of penetrating lostness.
The need is urgent, so do something
Listen friends, we can all do something. We can all do more. Both church planting and evangelism are critical in reaching North America and the World. People are in need of knowing Christ. We have the gospel. We have the answer. Let’s do something.
Yes, it is true, and much more than a cliché: We can do more together than we can do apart. Let’s change the trajectory together. Let’s join together to reach America, North America, and the World for Christ. The need is urgent. Let’s do something.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Many churches are no longer extending a public invitation at the conclusion of the Pastor’s message. By no means do I believe this is the only way to give people an opportunity to respond to what God is saying to them through the message. It is one way, and a very important way. Why do I believe this?
Each pastor, evangelist, and missionary should preach for decision.
As we expound the Word of God and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are moving people towards an encounter with God. In some way, we should call for a response to God. Preaching is not intellectual gymnastics or emotional hype. Preaching is the experience of communicating God’s Word through human personality for the purpose of leading people to encounter God. Preachers preach for decision. Preaching calls people to respond to God.
Therefore, I believe it is important for a local church to extend some kind of public invitation to respond to Jesus Christ. The way this is done may be unique to the culture. Here at Cross Church, we still offer people the opportunity to respond publicly to the Lord and His Word that has just been proclaimed. I still believe in the public invitation. Therefore, there are four words I try to keep in mind when I extend a public invitation:
When I prepare the message, from the introduction to the conclusion, I am keeping in mind that I will soon issue a public call for people to respond to God. Through the message and even sometimes during the welcome, I talk about the public invitation. By informing people of the call that I am about to issue at the conclusion of my message, it sets forth the importance and urgency. Preaching issues a call for decision.
It is imperative that the preacher is always clear about what he is asking people to do in their response to God. An unclear public invitation occurs usually due to insufficient preparation. Most pastors prepare their message with a strong desire to be faithful to the text, illustrate it properly, and apply the text to the people. However, most pastors do not take the time to prepare the public invitation. This results in ineffectiveness and lack of clarity.
Consistency in the way you extend the invitation is critical for response. Let me illustrate the way I offer the public invitation. I am usually very consistent in offering four different calls weekly:
- Gospel Call: I believe in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and always issue an opportunity for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. One of the highest commendations I have ever received from one of our active members is: “Pastor, one of the things I always appreciate about you is that regardless of what you are preaching on, before we leave, you will take people to the cross of Jesus Christ, share the gospel, and give them an opportunity to respond in faith towards Christ.” Pastors, the power is in the gospel of Jesus Christ! Issue a gospel call!
- Church Call: I believe in the importance of the local church and will always issue an opportunity for people to come into the Cross Church Family. I believe people need to be given an opportunity to come into partnership with our local church. The local church of Jesus Christ is important. Pastors, preach like it and extend invitations that mirror your conviction. In the gospel call or church call, I always issue a strong appeal relating to baptism. I always challenge people to follow Christ in baptism immediately following conversion, and let them know it is a public testimony to everyone that they have decided to follow Jesus.
- Ministry and Mission Call: I believe each Pastor needs to issue the call for people to surrender their lives to full-time ministry or missions on a weekly basis. Most pastors I know and listen to hardly ever issue a calling like this. Pastors and preachers, God is always issuing a calling to people to enter His Gospel ministry to serve in a local church or on the mission field. Do not be bashful about issuing this call. Be bold and courageous. Sitting underneath your preaching weekly may be the next D. L. Moody, Billy Graham, Lottie Moon, Corrie ten Boom, George Beverly Shea, Hudson Taylor, Albert Mohler, Paige Patterson, John MacArthur, John Maxwell, David Platt, or Nick Floyd. Assume nothing! Believe God enough that He is always issuing an ongoing call to people to enter into the gospel ministry and mission field. For the last two decades, I have issued a call like this weekly. I really believe this is one of the major contributing factors to so many ministers having been called out of Cross Church.
- Response to God’s Call: I believe each Pastor needs to give Christ-followers an opportunity to respond to God regarding the message they have just heard or respond to God about what He is doing in their lives personally. Weekly, I will call people to come to pray or to be prayed for by one of our Pastors. This past Sunday night at our Cross Church Family Night of Worship, I issued a call for anyone who desired to be prayed for to come forward, kneeling or standing, and let me pray for you. Many people came. I surrounded them with our Pastors and their wives and I called upon the Lord passionately for them. I prayed, walked, and touched the people as I prayed. Always give people an opportunity to respond to God. Build a culture in your church where responding to God is normal. It should be!
Conviction is not something you have, but it is something that has you! Therefore, we need to offer the public invitation with a conviction: the gospel is the only answer for the sin problem we all have, the hour is urgent due to the reality that we could die at any moment, that hell is real and eternal, or that our Lord Jesus Christ could soon return. Pastors should preach with conviction and offer an invitation with conviction. Here is the reality: either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not; either Jesus is the Only Savior or He is not; either eternity is existent or it is not; and either people go to heaven or hell when they die or they do not. Well, for this one Pastor let me declare where I am in all of this: I believe the Bible is the Word of God, Jesus is the Only Savior of the world, Eternity is real, and when people die they immediately enter their eternity in heaven or in hell, all depending on how they responded to Jesus Christ while they were alive. Therefore, fellow Pastor, gifted Evangelist, and called-Missionary: with conviction, call people to respond in some way to Jesus Christ every time you preach. It is incumbent on us as stewards of our calling and His gospel.
Dear preacher of the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ: assume nothing about any audience or even about your own length of life. Perhaps we need to return to the words of the English Puritan church leader Richard Baxter when he said,
“I preached…as a dying man to dying men.”
So should we.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd