Ministry Vision 2004
February 01, 2004 | Andy Davis
Glory of God, Church Vision
Presentation of the Church Vision for 2004 with a focus on individual and family devotions, personal witnessing, and being part of a ministry for the Glory of God.
I. Introduction: Understanding the Four Diagnostic Questions
The Goal: Accessing Last Year’s Work and the Work for this Year
I hope you all have one of these attractive-looking vision plans for the aqua cover. Did you all get one? Does anyone need one? I have a few down here in front. Would a deacon be willing or somebody be willing to come up? And if you didn't get one, if you didn't get one raise your hand and Eric will get one or Bob Meter in the back. Raise your hand if you didn't get one, you all have them in the back. Good, I see it. Good. Fantastic, but if you don't have one, raise your hand and we'll get one to you.
Our goal tonight, I'm not going be able to go through all the details in this. That's why we put it in paper, so that you could look at it. But our desire is to set a clear vision for ministry for the church as we feel God leading us, and ultimately a congregational church, and you individually, you're going to follow as you feel like you should, but we feel that this lines up very well with what God is doing in us and around us. And we feel that we're going to be responsible for these mission fields, whether we own up to that responsibility or not, so the idea is that we're going try to be faithful as best we can on the leadership of God, and so we're venturing forth in the year 2004 in these various ways. Now, what I want to do tonight is I want to begin by just giving you an overview of the booklet, and then I'm going to spend a little time looking backward at the year 2003 at our top 10 ministry initiatives, what happened, what was good and what we could still use some growth in. And then we're going to go through this vision plan with the time that we have left. Okay, and anything we don't get to, you're just going to have to read on your own and come with questions and just -we're excited, we really. We're grateful for God's leadership. And we're excited to be here tonight, and I hope you are as well. If you want to just look at the front cover there, and it says a vision for ministry in the year 2004, starting with the basics, and I think we, in the ministerial staff, felt that we needed to emphasize basic walking with Christ above all things.
This year now, this is just based on my assessment of just through counseling, through just being pastor here, and not just me, but the other pastors on the staff feel that unless these things that are related and these four questions are happening, nothing else will really happen or be of any eternal consequence. So we're going to focus on these and we're going to be asking these questions until you probably may get weird of hearing it. But I'm going to try to be interesting, in the way I'm asking them, but we're going to ask them again and again in private counseling in the halls, in Sunday School classes, in sermons, again and again, these things are going to be in front of you. And they're in front of you. Anyway, they really are. It's not like we're inventing something new, and these are things that God is calling us to do as people, but we're trying to hone and focus on our vision and concentrate on these things, and what are they? They are the area of personal quiet times and devotional life with the Lord. That we'll be faithful, each of us to have a devotional every day that we would be in the Word and in prayer every day. Secondly, that we would be faithful in our roles in family devotions, and I'm going to explain more about what that means. I know that not everyone here sitting tonight is at the same place in life, but we all do have a role to play in family ministry, and then specifically in the area of the family devotion, we're going to talk about that. Thirdly, personal witnessing, that each one of you’d lead someone to Christ this year would be just wonderful. But even more, that we would just be faithful to what God's calling us to do, that we would be witnesses, because you know actually we're not called to lead anyone to Christ, we're going to talk more about…, that's not our job. We can't do that, that's the Holy Spirit's work. But we are called to witness, aren't we? That's what Acts 1:8 says and many other places, and that I want us to do, and I don't think it's a regular part of everyone's life in this church, and we want to help people grow in that area. And the fourth area is, Do you have a ministry? What is your ministry here? And we're going to talk more about that, but that's the overall focus that we're going to be giving.
We are Here for God’s Glory
Now we do have some areas of initiative and we're going to talk about that, that we're going to focus on in terms of moving out and energetically giving effort in those seven areas. But this is, the focus is going to be on the basics in the Christian life. Now, I want to remind you of what our vision statement is, again, on the front page, we exist, it says, “To delight in display and declare the glory of God equipping His people to spread that delight to all nations through Jesus Christ.” That's why we're here, we have a reason for existing, and that's what we sense the Lord leading us to say about that reason, we're here for His glory, and we're here for His glory in the way that's described there.
Now take that booklet and open to the very back page, and you'll find a very homely little cartoon there that was in the booklet last year. And I think it's a good visual representation. You know, I did it because I can call it homely, if somebody else did it, they'll call it beautiful or artistic or creative, but because I did it, I'm going to call it homely, but it looks a little bit like a cartoon, but the idea is, I'm trying to get on one page, just kind of the big picture. The central thing I hope that grabs your eye is the glory of God. Now, I was talking to somebody earlier today, and somebody said that phrase is in danger of going the way of what would Jesus do? We just talk about the glory of God all the time. Well, it's not so much that we talk about the glory of God, is that the scripture makes the glory of God's central, and we are acknowledging that we're seeing it. What do I mean by that? It's the way that God displays or reveals his nature and his plans for the world, whenever God shows himself, whenever he reveals his attributes, his nature, what his qualities are, that is his glory. It's the kind of outward emanation of his nature, and we see it in the scripture, we see it in creation, we see it in each other as we're following God, we see it all around us. And that is really why God created the world. It is the end for which he created the world, that he would display his glory. Anything we do that's off that point, we've missed it, we really have, and so the center of everything we're doing, we want God to be displayed, we want people to see our good deeds that they may glorify God in heaven. That's it. I mean, that he would be central and exalted, so there it is in a kind of a glory cloud there, and from that, we have God moving out through the cross of Jesus Christ into the local church, energetically taking the initiative with us. We're not inventing ways to glorify God, he's glorifying himself through us, he's got the initiative, he moves, we follow, he initiates we respond, that's the way it is. I wouldn't want it any other way, I don't want to initiate and he respond. God has always thought of everything eternally before I ever was born, and his wisdom is of the Ancient of Days, we're following him, but he is moving energetically and we through the cross of Jesus Christ, we are going to be busy in house.
In here, we're going to be busy at 414 Cleveland Street in this place, in this church, we're going to be energetic and active, but there's a purpose, the purpose is spiritual maturity. You see that in the center of the church, a little box there, spiritual maturity, we want to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and we're going to see that happen as we're doing these kind of other ministries and ministry of the word, of worship, of discipleship, prayer. The Deacon ministry, support ministries, comforting ministries, all the ministries of the church, whatever they may be, they're focused on that we might come up into full maturity in Christ as a body. That's our desire to be like Jesus, to think like he does, to feel like he does, to move and be energetic in serving his father as he was. Now, it's so easy for a church to stay there, isn't it, but there's got to be a river of blessing that flows out of the church into the surrounding community and to the ends of the earth, and if it just stays in-house, we've missed it again, we have to grow. But there has to be - there has to be fruits, there has to be a river of blessing flowing out, and so we see that streams of living water, John 7:38 flowing in various channels, those channels I think have remained the same, I don't mind if some get added and others. But this is the idea is that there's going to be specific ways that we're going to see us reaching out through local outreach and urban ministry, global missions, pro-life ministry, prison ministry, student ministry, and internationals, and if there's any others that are sub parts of that, they're in there too, and if there are other major channels we've missed, we want to hear about them, but the idea is still the same, there's going to be kind of predictable and patterns of channels of blessing that are going to go out. It's not going to be disarrayed or hodge-podge, but there's going to be an arrangement of ministry that's going out into a specific field that God's assigned to us to minister.
We're not assigned the universe and everything in it. That's not for us, we're a church of about between 375 and 425 people, that's my estimation. So there's a limit to what we're called to do, the idea of working a field or an assigned field is biblical, it comes in Corinthians, Paul talks about how his assigned field included you Corinthians, our field reached you, and so there's a scope of ministry and we're called to do that ministry and to be faithful. Now in prayer, we can touch the world, we can reach out through prayer and be involved, in financial and giving, we can touch many other things too, although not the world, but still. We can reach out, but still we're going to be working our field, we're going to work and what comes out of that growth, "God causes the growth," 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. And the kingdom in heaven is growing both internally in this church, as we grow up more and more maturity, that's kingdom growth, and as we reach out and see people coming to Christ and they're growing, that's kingdom growth. And all of that ds toward what? The glory of God. That's my kind of picture of what's happening here. Do you get it? The little cartoon in there, okay. Same as last year. And it would probably be the same next year too, but anyway, that's kind of what we're thinking about.
Accessing Last Year – 10 Ministry Initiatives
Now, if you go back one page from there, just back one page, we're going to see Top 10 Ministry initiatives a year 2003. And this was in front of us for the year, and we prayed over it, thought about it, made efforts and strove toward these things, and saw in some areas some really wonderful growth and other areas not as much. And so it was a good time for us to assess what happened, the quarterly corporate prayer ministry started. We had four quarterly corporate prayer meetings, they were, I think wonderful. They were Spirit filled, they were good times. They were not as well attended as we would have liked, so we're considering, and I think we've made the decision probably, to move them to Sunday evening once a quarter. And so we're going to be probably having quarterly corporate prayer for two hours on a Sunday evening in lieu of Sunday evening worship. And I'm excited about that. Where we're going to meet, I don't know. I don't like the kind of pew arrangement here for prayer, but we may do it in here if it's really well-attended, that would be exciting, we'll just make due, we'll kind of face each other around the pews and we'll just pray and that'll be great. But that's - I'm already oozing over into the future, and I do that, I do that, I just, it's hard to keep category straight - but looking backward, I think it was a good ministry.
And I feel that God worked in some wonderful ways, the deacon family ministry plan is off and running. Again, we saw some good progress in that area, we have deacons taking very seriously they're shepherding responsibilities, they're making phone calls, they're keeping up with people, they're initiating with the people that are assigned to their care, again, there's more that could be done, just a matter really of faithfulness are the deacons being faithful. And you need to pray for your deacon that he would be faithful to the ministry that God's called them to do. We really need lots of layers of mutual shepherding in this church, don't we?
In Sunday School, that needs to be there. We're just individually supposed to watch over one another in brotherly love, but the deacons have a very, very important burden in this, and that is to pray for and initiate with and keep up with people and just be out there and be caring for people. And I think we've started. But we just need to continue to see that progress. New Member assimilation, there was a very detailed plan that I think Scott Markley especially put together, and we've seen a lot of that come to pass. I know that the new member assimilation team has worked very hard to get new members involved in the life of the church, and I think it's been a good effort and I'm glad about it. I think again, there's still more that we can do, we want to do a better job of getting new members active in ministry and the church, and that's not the new member assimilation team's job per se, they're kind of match makers, just as we are a ministerial staff are match makers between individuals and ministries. But more than anything, we want people to take ownership of ministry and to find ways that they can minister, we'll talk more about that later on. But I think they've done a great job. And we want to see that continue.
Short-term global mission trips, I think really went well this year, we had three of them, two to Haiti and one to China, all three were very successful. It was just encouraging to see the reports of people trusting Christ, praying to receive Christ, of progress in a church building that we felt the Lord leading us to build of medical missions there in Haiti, of basketball and English Camp in China, and so many other things are in the work that we were called to do. So we're very excited by the ministry that God led us to do, as we look forward to the year 2004, I want to see more good things happening and I'm excited about that. I think we should be excited. To me, I just feel like you had to pray about going on a short-term mission trip sometime in the next five years, there's something about actually being there and actually going, that just opens up your vistas, your horizons to the needs of the world and to what you can do and be involved. So that was, I think, a very successful element of our ministry.
And number five targeted neighborhood outreach. I think this is probably one of the biggest successes of these 10 in that we started our monthly Sunday afternoon outreach, we've realized that there will be no organized outreach to the area without sacrifice. It's not possible. There's going to be some sacrifice. The question is, when is the sacrifice going to result in the greatest fruit. When are people, un-church people, most likely to be home, when can we minister to them? And so we hit on Sunday afternoon once a month. And we've seen many, many church members go out, we've seen church members taking steps of faith, they didn't want to be there, and they were there, and they stepped out and they did things that they had never done before. And it's a great avenue for more mature folks to take, people who feel more comfortable witnessing to take along those that are just getting going into it, to observe how to do it. And unless something better comes along, I think it's here to stay. That we're going to be continuing to do that ministry on Sunday afternoon. We've had some good meals that have been provided. It's been great to see the body of Christ come around that. And we're looking forward to seeing more. There were some aspects of that neighborhood outreach that we didn't do. One is that we had hoped to have kind of a host family, host a four-week investigative Bible study to which we would invite people in that neighborhood to go, and it was hard to get host families. And so we just said, “Well, let's put that on the shelf, and let's just go door to door.” And we've done that, but we want to look back again at that, I think it's a great way to get to know people and really study the Bible much better than a quick encounter at the door. So if we could say “There's a home two streets over or just next block, that's going to be having a Bible study starting in a month or in three weeks, four weeks study in the Gospel of John. Would you be interested?” I think we'd probably get five or six people that might come, and we're going to look at doing that again in the summer. I'll talk more about that in a bit, but I think number five was really good targeted neighborhood outreach, and we've seen some good things.
International Ministry Team has done some excellent work, some hard work. Scott Markley has led that up and just worked hard in it, and we have a varied approach to international, so there's a lot of things going on, and Scott and Brad Brown and so many others, Steve Carell, I don't want to name names because I'm going to leave somebody out. And that's the problem you get into, but a lot of people have worked hard in International Ministry; we've seen some good organization that we'd like to see it continue, but the international ministry team is up and running and they meet regularly, and they're thinking about internationals, and we're seeing good things happen there.
Number seven, great commission giving, I believe that last year was probably the best year ever of giving in our church, and this is across the board, if you really just look at how much money was given, the budget was increased the previous year, and we came within $6,000 of meeting it, and that's okay, that's fine. I actually think it was a good thing, you know that we came a little short, we were doing fine financially, we didn't spend to our budget at all, so that was fine. But then if you add into that - what happened with Lottie Moon and what happened with Anne Armstrong, what happened, especially with the Global Priority Mission Fund - it was a phenomenal year forgiving, phenomenal. And I think it's really just the tip of the iceberg. I just feel that there's more and more that we could be doing financially, and I'm excited about that looking forward to what God's going to do next year.
Urban ministry growth, I think is of the 10, the weakest area. I'd be very honest with you, I feel that the Wagners have just stepped out in faith and done some great ministry, and I just feel we could support him better, I feel that there's more people out there that could step up and do mentoring on Wednesday, and we could branch out into other areas. We didn't do anything really with C.E.F. and Adopting a Block, even though John Blake was here and talked about that, and I just feel that it became kind of priority one, if you'll see on our top seven for this upcoming year. I want to see us embrace the urban ministry, I want to see us reach out better. So the other areas, I think we've been really good in, this one I want to see us do better, I just think that there's a whole bunch of folks out there that need the Lord, and they're right near us and we need to reach out to them. So I'm excited about that, I'm looking forward to what God's going to do, and I'm so grateful for those that have worked hard in urban ministry in our church, especially the Wagners, have been there very faithfully and others as well, and it's just been a great ministry, but I just like to see it developed.
Pro-life ministry. I think, again, there's more that we could be doing in that and we need to get specific, it's hard to know, that's a little bit different than some of the other ministries, because there's this, “What do we do?”, and I think it's a matter of, kind of embracing ministries like the pregnancy support services. There was a baby shower for them, and I think it's a great idea. We would like to see that happen again, but with more publicity, a lot of more people knowing about it and getting involved in us embracing it, ministerial staff better, and talking more about pro-life and just having people thinking about what we're doing. We're going to talk more about that in a minute, so, good start, I think, I write a pro-life thing in the Beacon every time now, which I didn't do before, just trying to keep the issue in front of us, but there's more we can do.
And the men's mentoring ministry as such didn't really happen, but it wasn't really that we were looking for. We really wanted to just have a men's retreat, and we did that in the fall. Really, you want to take the word mentoring out and just say, we're looking at just men's ministry, and there are going to be some that want to pair up as the women have with heart to heart. But there are others that just going to want to meet periodically on Saturday morning, breakfast or do some other things, and we're looking forward to that. But looking back, we did meet the goal of what it is we wanted to do, we wanted to have a men's retreat in which we are focused on men's roles in the church and in the family, especially focused especially on the family. And we've seen some good things happen, a number of men have testified how that has really changed their family lives, and we're excited about that. And we're looking forward to this upcoming year. So that's a real quick overview of the top 10 from last year.
The Four Questions
And I'm encouraged and I'm looking forward to what's going to go next. Now, if you turn the front of the book, we've already seen the front page, but if you turn inside the front page, we're going to look at back to the basics, we're going to look at four questions. And these questions, like I said, we're going to use to just minister to you folks and to encourage you to be faithful in these basic areas. This is what we'd like to see people do.
Question number one personal devotions. Have you spent time in the Scriptures and prayer today? Have you done that today, personally? And we're going to keep that in front of you, we're going to be asking that question. Question number two, family devotions, have you been fulfilling your role in family devotions? I'm going to talk more about what I mean by that in a moment, but have you been filling the role? Have you understood what your role is, and have you been filling it? Fulfilling it. Thirdly, evangelism, have you shared the Gospel lately with anyone? And that's something that I just, I think that we as a church can help each other in this area. I think we need to own up to our responsibility and we need to say, "Hey, if it's been five years since I've said anything to anybody about Christ, so that's too long, but I want to change and I want to grow. I want to find out how to overcome any fears I might have, to know how to witness, I just want to witness, I just want to be a witness." And if you witnessed 10 times last year to double that, and then once you've hit that goal 20 times in the first four months, then you'll say, "Okay, I need to adjust my goal again, but I want to become a regular faithful witness to Christ." Have you shared the Gospel lately? And then the fourth question is ministry. Have you committed yourself or have you committed to a pattern of ministry at First Baptist Church? Again, I'm going to explain what that means, but I guess I'd like you to ask yourself the question, What is your ministry? What is your ministry? We're going to see I've written some things on each of these questions. But the one that sticks out is, if you were to ask yourself, “How many hours have I served First Baptist Church, not counting times in which I came to Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening worship or Wednesday evening teaching times?” Not counting those, if we just take those and remove them, and then you say beyond that, “What have I done? What was my ministry?” That's where I'm getting, that's what I'm zeroing in on. What is the ministry? And is it lining up the ministry you have, is it lining up with your spiritual gifts? How are things going with that? Those are the four questions, and we're going to just keep asking, we're going to keep urging people to think about them, we're going to keep saying, Are you in the word? Are you praying? How is it going in your family life? Are you centered on Christ and on his word? Have you witnessed anybody? Are you taking faith steps? Are you embracing your responsibility to be a witness and fourthly, “What is your ministry here at this local church?”. Okay, let's look a little more deeply at these questions. If you turn the page.
II. Personal Devotions: Have You Spent Time in The Scriptures and Prayer Today?
Personal Devotionals Vital for Growth and Fruitfulness
Question number one is, Have you spent time in the Scriptures and prayer today? Personal devotionals are vital for growth and fruitfulness, it is impossible to grow in grace and to be eternally fruitful apart from dwelling moment by moment in Christ. Jesus made this clear when he said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing." To remain in Christ means to walk with him, to be conscious of his presence, to talk with him and to listen to him, it means to obey his commands and worship him in spirit and in truth. The key to this is the simple discipline of the quiet time or personal devotions. This is un-hurry time totally focused on two basic things, hearing from God through the Scriptures and talking to God through prayer. May I say boldly that if you are not doing this on a daily basis your ability to grow and bear fruit will be severely impaired. Some might say that's not really bold. Alright, that is just true. If you're not in the word and in prayer, if you're not having your daily time with the Lord, you're not going to be fruitful. You're going to be more of a problem than a solution. Jesus said, "Anyone who does not gather with me is scattering." So you're going to be a scatterer that day if you're not really walking with the Lord. I've found that to be the case for me. I've scattered some days more than gathered, and I want to be in the word and in prayer.
Top Priority: Hearing God Speak Today by Scripture
Second section, top priority is that you hear God speak today by Scripture. Nowadays people complain of the pace of life, saying they don't have time for quiet time. To realize how shocking this is, you need only to understand what time was given for. There's a magnificent passage in Hebrews 3 that puts this all in perspective, quoting, "So as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Hebrews 3:7 and 8, the author to Hebrews is quoting an Old Testament Scripture, Psalm 95, and using its strong message to warn people of rebelling against God, of drifting away, Hebrews 2:1, turning away, Hebrews 3:12 or falling away, Hebrews 6:6 from God. That it is a quotation is clear from the "Today, if you hear His voice," and from the way most English Bible set this quotation apart in special font or a special paragraph arrangement. It is Psalm 95 verses 7 through 11 that the author to Hebrews is quoting. King David wrote that Psalm, as the author readily acknowledges in Hebrews 4:7, but in Hebrews 3:7, the author says, "As the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear His voice…'" Whenever we are reading Scripture, we are hearing the speech of the Holy Spirit, he's speaking directly to us. Note that the verb tense is present; he doesn't say as the Holy Spirit said, but as the Holy Spirit says, this present speaking by the spirit is also emphasized by the quotation itself. "Today, if you hear His voice…" Every time we read Scripture, we are hearing the very voice of God himself. And that should happen today or, "…as long as it is called today," Hebrews 3:13. Your life is made up of a series of things called today, you can't obey God yesterday, and you can't obey God tomorrow. You can only ever obey God today, and the key to walking with him is to hear his voice and obey him today. And when we hear him speak to us today, we must obey, we must not harden our hearts as they did in the rebellion. Therefore, a healthy Christian life, must center every day on hearing God speak to our hearts by reading Scripture.
How should we read? Deeply, carefully, thoughtfully with meditation and memorization, not quickly, lightly, thoughtlessly as if to check a box on a to-do list. Read that your heart may be renewed and transformed, Roman 12:2, by what you read. So our first priority as Christians, as we're going to hear from God today. Jesus said in John 10, "My sheep hear my voice. They listen to me and they follow me." How are you hearing Christ speak to you? I'm just urging you, be in the word. Be in the word. Let Him speak to you. Say, "Lord, please speak to me today, talk to me, tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it." And he speaks clearly through Scripture.
Speaking to God in Prayer
Secondly, you need to speak to him in prayer. There needs to be a conversation, he's speaking to you through Scripture and you're speaking back to him in prayer. You need to speak to God in prayer. Prayer is the language of the soul, and the soul that breathes no prayer to God is dead. There are so many commands to pray in the Bible that there is no need to list them here, but let me encourage you not to substitute moment by moment, quick situational praying which is a good thing, by the way, like Nehemiah did before the king. In Nehemiah 2:4 for the totally focused on your knees, doing nothing but prayer time that I have in mind. Both are vital to a healthy walk with God, but here I am advocating a quiet time, a time in which you concentrate your mind totally on prayer. Let your worship flow in prayer. Let your complaints and requests be laid before the throne with faith, let your heartfelt confession of sin cleanse your soul, 1 John 1:9 and Hebrews 4:16, spend more and more time in prayer in 2004, intercede for others as you were commanded in Ephesians 6:18, always "…keep on praying for all the saints” and wrestle for them in prayer.
Prayer is the language of the soul, and the soul that breathes no prayer to God is dead.
You've got to pray. This church isn't going to go any further than it goes on its knees; we've got to be faithful in prayer, you need to pray for this church, we need to pray for each other. It says that we're to watch over one another in brotherly love. You can't do that any better than by praying for them. Pray for each other. Be faithful in prayer.
Morning: the Best Time for a Quiet Time
Now, it gets controversial here, morning is the best time. I'm not going to be dogmatic, I know there are some people that are just not morning people, but I think those that are just not morning people can honor and glorify God even more than those that are morning people. By having a morning quiet time. It is a sacrifice. It is a challenge. Jesus set the pattern for us in Mark 1:35, it says, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he prayed to His father." The Psalmist also display the same pattern, "In the morning, oh Lord, you hear my voice, in the morning oh lord when I lay my request before you and wait in expectation." Also Psalm 80:13 and 143:8 and others. Now, if you can't have a morning quiet time, I'll understand. I think an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure, and if at the end of a day of not really walking well with the Lord, you can kind of clean it all up with a good quiet time, that's wonderful. But I just think every day is a new and fresh day. "His mercies are new every morning," and I think it's good to begin a day fresh with a time in the Lord, a time in prayer and in reading Scripture. So the closing exhortation is, make it your top priority in the year 2004 for to grow in your consistency, depth, fervency and love and devotions to God. It is the foundation of everything else you'll try to do. Turn the page.
III. Family Devotions: Have You Been Fulfilling Your Role in Family Devotions?
The Stewardship of the Family: Souls Are At Stake
Question number two. Have you been fulfilling your role in family devotions? Now, I'm not going to read through every word of this like I did the quiet time. I wanted to get a clear emphasis on a quiet time, so I read that. Let me summarize what it is I'm going to say in here. Basically, the family is God's central and first human institution; the family is what God first set up before the church, the church therefore is made up of what the family has produced, not just biologically folks, but in terms of our character, who we are as people, it's a vital and important role. Baptists are right, I think, to emphasize evangelism and witnessing and to think about Damascus Road conversion experiences, but the fact is, even in Baptist Churches most people were raised in Christian homes.
The Christian home is a powerful tool for witnessing and for discipleship, isn't it? And so I think it should be a central concern of our church, how healthy are the families in this church, and that's where I want to get into the idea of roles. I'm well aware that not everybody who is listening to me tonight or who will get this document and read it with interest, is in the place in life where they have school-aged children or they're able to have a family ultra-time, I know that. I know that there're widows and widowers. I know there are some that have never married. I know that there are some that are hoping some day to marry but aren't married yet. I know that there are college students. There are youth, there are children, everybody is kind of at a different place in life, and yet I believe we all have a role to play in this issue of family devotions.
Everyone Has a Role
What do I mean? Well, certainly, if you're the father of a house full of children with a wife, your responsibility is to gather the family regularly around what I call the family altar, and if that terminology isn't beneficial to you, just family devotions in which you're opening the Scripture and reading the Scripture and praying and leading your family spiritually. If you are a wife in that family, you have a role to support and respect your husband's leadership, to pray for him, that he be faithful in that and to set a good example for your children. And during the actual time of devotions to be the co-disciple along with the husband of the children, sharing and talking and leading by example. If you're a child, your responsibility is to look forward to those times to be excited about them, to say, "I can't wait for family devotions," to contribute as your parents allow and as the Lord leads for you to be a positive force for that and to talk to your friends about how much you love family devotions, and to really be encouraging. And fathers to exhort other fathers to do that.
Now, if you're a widow or a widower, or if you're in one of those other situations, you can at least do this: you can be praying for the families that have children that are growing, that they would be faithful. Older women can disciple and mentor, and set example for younger women, older men can do the same for younger men as is laid out for us so beautifully in Titus chapter 2. We can set examples, we can encourage each other in the halls, we can exhort them, we can say, "I'm praying for you and for your family that you be faithful in family devotions. How is it going?" We all have a role to play, and if you're a grandparent you can in a creative way with your children, encourage them in that area, I know it takes a light touch and figure out how best to do that, but just be praying that they would be faithful in this matter of the spiritual life of the family. And so this is what I'm urging you to do. Have you been faithful in fulfilling your role in family devotions? Turn to the next issue.
IV. Evangelism: Have You Shared the Gospel Lately?
The Great Commission Five Times Over
Three, evangelism. Have you shared the Gospel lately? The Great Commission was given to us at least five times. It actually was given to us far more than that. If you look at Matthew 28, and Mark 16, as it's listed there, Luke 24, John 20 and Acts 1:8, these are all various forms of the Great Commission. Before Christ left, before he ascended up to heaven, he gave us a job to do. I like what it says in John 20, "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." Well, how did the Father send him? Specifically why did the father send him? I think the father sent him to seek and to save what was lost. If our church is not seeking and saving the lost, we are missing it, we're sick spiritually, we are not healthy, we're not engrafted into the vine, we're not compassionate the way Jesus was who wept over Jerusalem, we are not linked in with what he's doing in the world. He is saving lost people, and so we have to be active in evangelism.
Our Personal Responsibility: Evangelize the Lost
Is it just for the trained professionals? Not at all. Church history bears out that the most effective witnesses are everybody, not just the trained folks, but those that it says in Book of Acts, in effect kind of gossip the Gospel, they just chattered it and talked to their neighbors and friends at the marketplace, and they just shared. It was common people, it was the slaves, it was the low man and woman, it was the child, it was anybody and everybody who was called to be a witness. And I want us to embrace this. In the end it's a joy. I know it's a little scary, but frankly, I think that's a good thing. It's good because it causes to let go of some things that are not really that vital anyway, namely praise of man and woman to be concerned what people think. To be thinking too much about your earthly reputation.
I didn't say much about it here in this section, but the workplace is a phenomenal place for witnessing, it really is, it's maybe one of the best places where you can get to know non-Christians and be faithful in witnessing. More than anything, the whole focus or burden of this section is that you would embrace your personal responsibility to evangelize the lost. That you would ask yourself, “Have I been faithful in witnessing?”
Wherever You Are, Take the Next Step
And if you look in the next page C, it says, wherever you are, take the next step, look at this with me. Acknowledge that you have a personal responsibility to be a witness for Christ, if appropriate, confess your sins to God, say something like this, "I've failed in my personal responsibility to witness for Christ, it's been such and such days, months, weeks, years, since I opened my mouth and said anything to anybody I didn't know about Jesus." And that's fine, the Lord knows anyway, but just speak it to him and tell him what it's been. Repent from the sin and resolve to make this upcoming year the richest and best year of personal witnessing you've ever had. Assess your level of maturity and ask God to show your next step. If it is simply to invite someone to church, then do it. If it is to get a good gospel track and to give 10 of them out in the next month, do it.
If you need additional training, then get it, but beware sitting in the classroom is not enough to discharge your responsibility to witness. We're kind of good studiers, and that's fine, but the best place to learn how to witness is go out and do it, and then they ask those questions that you have no answer for, and then you come and say, "Oh no, what do I say when they say such and such?" Etcetera. You get all excited and you're highly motivated when you're out there doing it. The thing I'm excited about Sunday afternoon outreach once a month, is that you have a regular ongoing vehicle to go out and try. To go out and go door to door and let the Lord be there, and frankly, it's a great entry point for you. You could say, "Look, I am at such and such a place in witnessing, I'd like to just go and observe." I guarantee there will be somebody who will take you along and say, "Just come and watch. Let's do it together." It's a great setup, and I'm urging people more and more be involved in those Sunday afternoon outreaches, if you're afraid to witness, confess your fear and ask the Lord to help you.
Number seven, if you haven't witnessed in years, witness once to someone in the first three months of the year. Invite someone to church. Give them a track. Speak the name of Christ. Say something like, "He's a wonderful savior," or something. I knew a guy that used to do that. He'd be playing basketball and somebody would take the name of the Lord in vain, and he'd say, "May the name of the Lord be praised," that's what he'd say every time he'd hear Jesus or Christ, he'd say, "May his holy name be praised," something like that, and they'd always kind of stop and look at him. That's a good opportunity, kind of an odd one, to turn it around like that, but to use it as a witnessing opportunity. Number eight, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. And number nine, make a commitment to come to our monthly neighborhood outreach, and there you can learn by watching and eventually become more and more experienced yourself.
A Key Daily Prayer for the Year
Now listen to this, D, a key daily prayer for you, central recommendation challenge here every day, pray the following prayer to God, "O Lord, please give me a chance to witness to someone today, I will trust you for the chance and with your help, make the most of it." I have found that when I pray that prayer, I am much more active in witnessing. Someone said, "Yes, that's why I'm not going to pray that prayer." So at least they're honest. And I appreciate that, I really do, but I think it's a good prayer to pray, say, "Lord, it's a Monday, give me a chance to witness today. Just bring somebody across my path and then when it happens, just tug on me inside and say, 'This is it,' and then tell me what to say." I'll know what to say.
V. Ministry: Have You Committed to a Pattern of Ministry at First Baptist Church?
Do You Have a Ministry?
Okay, fourth question, Have you committed to a pattern of ministry at First Baptist Church? Do you have a ministry? Alright, here, I'm going to urge you more than anything to make the most of your time, I think of giving money and giving time. It's harder to give time. I do, I just, I think money is a sacrifice, but time's a bigger sacrifice, and so for you to be faithful in giving of yourself of your time is a sacrifice. It's a commitment.
Two Patterns of Ministry in a Local Church: Spiritual Gifts & General Servant Ministries
There are two patterns of spiritual ministry in a church, one of them is spiritual gift ministry and the other is just general loving service type ministry, and we're called to do both, I just think we're called to do both. First spiritual gift is you have to find out what your spiritual gift package is. It's not just one gift, but it's always an arrangement of special abilities that God gives you that enables you to minister very effectively, consistently in a certain area, whether it's administration or giving or prayer, or witnessing or teaching, or any one of a combination of those and others, that's your spiritual gift ministry. You need to maximize your ministry hours in the church doing that. But there still should be a chunk of the pie left for the second type of pattern of ministry and that is just willing to pick up a mop or to clear a table, or to drive somebody somewhere, or to come to a workday, shovel snow, whatever. Willing to serve in any way, just as Jesus was willing to wash feet, we're willing to do anything. And the question is thinking differently about the church.
“What Has the Church Done for Me Lately???”
Look on at C there, the question, “What has the church done for me lately???” That's an interesting question, isn't it? Especially with three question marks. What has the church done for me lately? Deadly consumerism has crept into the American church, in which people look on the church as a place in which they pay for services received, and in which they are able to assess constantly the performance of the church in meeting their needs. It's like we're kind of a company where you kind of buy services by giving it to either offering and then you expect those services to be performed well, and so there's a whole reversal here. It's not, “How can I serve, how can I love?” but “What have you done for me and my family lately?”
I think this church needs to not have any part of that attitude, I think we need to get rid of it. We need to not think that way, this reverses everything and it's deadly for the individual Christian and for the local church, and yet I have seen this kind of attitude again and again even in our church, sometimes. Christ instead has given us a different pattern of sacrificial service to others for the glory of God. First Baptist Church will succeed or fail in this mission in Durham based on the sacrificial service of its members.
First Baptist Church will succeed or fail in this mission in Durham based on the sacrificial service of its members.
Questions for Personal Examination
Now, on the next page, I give a series of questions for personal examination. I'm not going to read a single one of them, but I'd like you to read them. I'd like you to take them before the Lord in prayer in your quiet time, and just allow the Lord to probe you in each of these areas, hold on to this booklet, use it throughout the upcoming year. I'm going to use it in counseling and encouraging people, just asking these kinds of questions, which will kind of get at how these areas are going for you.
VI. Initiatives for 2004
Overview: Top 7 Areas of Initiative
Back to the basics folks, I feel that if we're faithful in these four areas, the next areas will come really just naturally. I think they're going to come. Turn the page after the questions and you're going to see top seven areas of initiative in 2004 and we can go through this relatively quickly. On the one facing page, it tells you what they are: urban ministry growth, great commission giving, local outreach, corporate prayer life, pro-life ministry, shepherding and accountability and international ministry team. Now, if you were to compare this with the top 10, you'll say, well, what happened to this, what happened to that? Nothing's missing, but I think that it's more consolidation and kind of focus. We're going to zero in. You can say, where is the Deacon Family Ministry Plan? Well, you can easily find that in the shepherding an accountability aspect, it's there, but just defined this way.
Now let's look at what we're hoping to see happen in these areas. I would love to see 10 times more than this happen, but what we put on this, on these pages, we feel are reasonable goals for our church, they're going to stretch us in some areas, but they're reasonable. We didn't put down that we want to see 3000 people baptized this upcoming year. That would be exciting, with some caveats there, I think it'd be exciting and tremendous upheaval, but it'd be thrilling and I would love it, but we didn't set that as a goal, frankly, that's not really for us to do. Rather, we set some other goals that I think are reasonable. Urban ministry growth, this initiative is coming right from those that are involved in this ministry, they need seven people to be involved in their once a night mentoring program. Is that an attainable goal in this church, do you think? I think so. And frankly, you're going to keep hearing about it until we have the seven people, and if we end up with 14, that's great, but we're going to get those seven folks. And it may be you, whoever you are, but God may be speaking to you saying, "I can do that, I can do once a night mentoring, I can take an inner city child and work with them in their school work and also lead them to Christ. I can be a spiritual figure to them, and I can do that."
Initiatives #1 & #2: Urban Ministry Growth & Great Commission Giving
So urban ministry growth. And if we see much more than that happen, I will be thrilled. Second, great commission giving, we're setting these goals. Annie Armstrong, $7500, Lottie Moon, $50,000, that's an increase of 50% over our goal, but we keep making this anyway, so let's set at this the goal and see it go up to $75,000 or even more. Frankly, we're praying through the idea of keeping Lottie Moon in front of you 12 months a year, so that we could see this goal really greatly exceeded.
Now, you could say, what's the difference between Lottie Moon and the Global Priority Mission Fund? Well, Lottie Moon is our denominational missions, that's people that we know and others that we don't know who have gone out as Southern Baptist missionaries around the world, that is our commitment to support them, and we're thrilled about that. We are a Southern Baptist Church and we want to help. The Global Priority Mission Fund is for everything else that this church would like to do in terms of short-term missions, anything. We want to be involved in that, and the goal of $150,000 may seem ambitious, but frankly, we've seen that much come in this past year, and I'd like to see it happen again. Wouldn't you? I think it's exciting. So let's pray that God would. And out of that we're going to be ministering to parachurch groups, we're going to be ministering to many other missionaries that come, people that are involved in our church now that are going to be raising funds for their ministries, and you, as you go on short-term mission trips and need financial assistance.
Initiative #3: Local Outreach
Okay, third, local outreach initiatives, we want to continue targeted neighborhood outreach and we want to average 75 laborers for Sunday, so we're going to keep a record of how many people show up on Sunday afternoon, and not of names, that's between you and the Lord, and we know that you're not necessarily going to make every outreach. I am just not at all about guilt manipulation when it comes to evangelism, I'm just not. I want to keep speaking very positively about what God's going to do, to do this church, but I'm going to be praying and trusting that 75 laborers will show up on average over this upcoming year on Sunday afternoon outreach. Again, that's reasonable, we've seen that number once or twice, but that's not been a regular number, so that's going to stretch us a bit. And that we would have two targeted neighborhood Bible studies. That's what we'd like to see happening. And then as Stephen mentioned, we want to visit everybody that visits our church and fills out a visitor card, we want to call them on the phone Sunday night and visit them within the next 10 days, after they visited our church. That gives us two Wednesdays and a full week and another Wednesday beyond it, to visit them to set it up and go and just get to know them, perhaps lead him to Christ or talk to them about the church, whatever, that's a dual commitment. We're initiating with those that have no interest in our church, we're going to go reach out to them, and then we're going to be reaching out to those that have shown interest in our church by coming. That's outreach.
Initiative #4: Corporate Prayer Life
Corporate prayer life, two initiatives. We're going to be recruiting 24 people to serve bimonthly to pray through the Sunday morning worship. That's something that Landis Bonn started and others have joined with him. We're going to get a regular schedule and we're trusting God that 24 of you at least will step forward and say, "I'm willing to give up every other month, Sunday morning worship and just pray with a few brothers and sisters." We don't ever want to have less than three there, so that way, we don't ever need to worry about who's praying with whom or anything; gender, males, females, it doesn't matter. If we get three people, at least and more, we'll be fine, and so we're excited about that, and if you're interested in doing that, you can be part of just the power of the Lord through that time.
And I've heard Landis has said, sometimes it's been better to be there than here and that's fine. I can't leave. Wouldn't that be odd if in the middle of sermon, I said, "I just really feel called to go there and join them in prayer, and I'm going to go do that.” But you have that freedom, and I think you ought to take advantage of it the more people we get, the less of a burden it is. And after a while, it's not even an issue of burden, it's that we're going to have eight to 10 more people. After a while, I think there'll be a limit to it, I'm going to urge that more people be here, but - I'm just kidding. But anyway, we want it, we want prayer and just, that's something, and as I mentioned, move quarterly corporate prayer to Sunday evening, 6 to 8. That'd be quarterly. So I think that's it. That's a winner. I think that's going to work well and people will be coming, it'll be one hour longer on the Sunday evening, but it's going to be a great time of prayer.
Initiative #5: Pro-Life Ministry
Pro-life, we're going to seek to take part in the Right to Life Chain. We're going to have, God-willing, a baby shower for pregnancy support services. We did this past year, grateful for those that got that going, but I'd like to see that embraced and really a success this year. We'd also like to see, especially on Sunday evening, bimonthly testimonies or reports focused on how you can get involved in the pro-life movement: Letters to the editor, political activism, counseling, being involved in PSS, whatever God's calling you to do. I want to keep that in front of the church.
Initiative #6: Shepherding & Accountability
Turn the page. Shepherding and accountability, these bullets. Deacon Family Ministry Plan, we're going to urge the deacons to contact all their people quarterly by phone, we're going to have deacons ask the four questions of people when they call. So we just want to keep those four questions in front of people, "I'm going to get tired of those four... " Don't be tired of them, these are good questions and just say, "How's it going for you? This is how it's going for me, we're just going to help each other in this area," this is what I think it means to watch over one another.
New member assimilation: we're going to improve new member assimilation by following the New Member Plan, which is a very good plan, I think. And we just need to give a great assistance, especially to the key people in the New Member Assimilation Team that may feel over-burdened, we want to just help more and more with them, improve team communication. With Sunday school, we wanted to see what we can do to improve or increase oversight in caregiving accountability. Sunday school needs to also be a shepherding arm, and we want to see that more and more, and it is in many cases. I'd like to see that even better. The men's ministry, we want to see three Sunday morning breakfasts.
We want to do another retreat and motivate men to foster discipleship relationships within the church, that's what we're seeking to do with men. And women's ministry, we want to help Heart To Heart be all that it can be. There are a number of women that have been very involved in that, it is a challenge and a burden to keep that going, and it's a joyful one, but we want to continue to see that ministry, which has been one of the big successes the last several years to continue to grow and to be spiritually fruitful.
Initiative #7: International Ministry Team
And then finally, International Ministry Team, the initiatives, establish a unique adult Sunday school department with a blend of international FBC members, committed to a relational ministry with internationals and transition to a more team-based ministry through the active involvement of international team and the ministry members away and form a more individualized ministry. So that's our goal is we want to see the I.M.T. work.
Now, the next few pages, I'm just going to mention, I will not read through them, but I want to give you a sense of what we're already doing. Okay, so you have here, and this is going to be very useful for new members, if you think I'd like to get involved in this and that, we're going to give you as best we can, a contact person within the church. Now, if you're one of the contact people and you wonder why your name was there, please come see us, we really need to talk to you, but we did our best to assess what we think you folks are doing. Internal ministry, administrative church members, we define internal as ministry we do to ourselves, church members. External is ministry to non-church members and whatever, it's just broad definitions.
Internally, we do preaching and teaching, discipleship ministries, corporate worship, corporate prayer, support ministries, comforting ministries and stewardship. Externally, we do local outreach, urban ministries, global missions, pro-life ministry, prison ministry, student ministry, and international ministry. That's a lot, isn't it? It really is, there's a lot going on. Turn the page and you'll see it's even bigger than you thought. There's a lot of things going on here. And it could be as we're praying through these things, we're going to see perhaps some consolidation, it could be that we're doing a lot of things and we need to zero in on some things. I don't know, but you see how every sub-category has a name and a phone number, and a way to contact somebody, almost everyone, I think there's still some missing gaps. And if you feel like God may be leading you to do it – now, look at that and if you have any questions, certainly come. But let me urge you, if you don't have a ministry, if you answer that, frankly, as I look at myself, over the last two months, I have not spent more than an hour or so doing anything for First Baptist other than just coming to worship, well, then pray about how you can have a ministry here. And there's a detailed list in these next few pages of things that we could do and are doing. There's also the initiative things that we just shared, pray about it. We will do the best we can, ministerial staff and the deacons will do the best they can, and the New Member Assimilation Team will do the best they can to marry you together to a good ministry, but ultimately the initiative is with you, find a ministry and do it.