Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
If Second Baptist is to become for Jesus the great church we desire to be, we must make a great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. The Great Commandment requires us to love God first (MT 22:37). Holiness matters most. Our response to this demand is worship.
The Great Commandment also requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves (MT 22:39). We exist for others. Our response to this demand is serve.
The Great Commission, given five times by Jesus, requires us to extend His kingdom. Elsewhere is the key word here. Our response to this demand is go.
Worship. Serve. Go. These three indispensable ingredients for spiritual greatness must henceforth be our mission statement at Second Baptist.
Our focus on “Worship. Serve. Go.” began with God’s call of Abram (GN 12:1). The Lord started Reclamation War by calling a true worshiper, and giving him a land to begin retrieving all the earth. God sought one whose life would be worth reproducing. Why would the Lord want to reproduce spiritual mediocrity?
God was to hold first place in Abram’s life, and even in the second place, it still wasn’t about Abram. Once our worship is satisfactory–this always has to come first–the second concern is not us, but others. We are to serve people.
In verse 4 Abram, who has learned he must worship and serve, now has to go. For the rest of his life, elsewhere will be the operative word of his existence.
Gen. 12:4a “So Abram departed,. . .”
The Lord told Abram to leave home. Fortunately, Abram obeyed. He was not the last believer required to go. Jesus gave the Great Commission five times. Each of the five is unique, adding its own special nuances to our overall task.
Our local to global enterprise is multifaceted, having many shades and faces, but each aspect is premised on the command to go. All else is ancillary.
An important word of clarification. Don’t misinterpret the command to go. “Go” is not the same as “go and stay.” The normal life for Christians is going, not staying. Some believers have a special, specific call to go and stay. All believers have a call to spend their whole lives going, across town, around the world.
Go is the most discussed aspect of our call to reach unbelievers, but does not stand alone. Go must find its rightful blend in the triplet “worship, serve, go.”
We are to go, not primarily for the thrill or out of duty, but as a joyful act of worship and serve. We are to go because, first of all, we love God. Holiness matters most. All going must rise from a heart right with God. This is dealt with in the first recorded Great Commission (MT 28:19-20). “Go” there is literally “As you go.” In other words our lives are to be at all times an expression of our going to spread the Kingdom. We are ever on duty, going as much to our hometown in our everyday circles, as we are to the other side of the world on rarer occasions.
We are on mission every instant we are in contact with a prechristian. What we do “out there,” beyond our church walls, whether in Springfield or in the uttermost, is going, and constitutes the real ground-level work of kingdom growth.
Frederick Sampson spent a summer on his uncle’s farm. The first morning, his uncle woke him at 4 a.m., and set him to work around the barn. He cleaned stalls, fed horses, and carried water. He finished four hours later, was exhausted, and started climbing back up to his bed in the hayloft. His uncle asked, “Where are you going?” “To bed.” “Why?” “I’ve finished my work.” Frederick never forgot what happened next. His uncle leaned over, put his finger in his nephew’s face, and said, “Son, I’m going to tell you something I don’t want you ever to forget. What you do around the barn is chores, what you do in the fields is work.”
Churches excel in chores. We perform well inside our spiritual barns, our church houses. Knowing how to take care of ourselves, we do chores efficiently.
The Great Commission applies to the fields, to everywhere else, to work in the harvest fields. In our chores we minister to each other as believers, in our “work” we perform an act of worship to God by trying to reach for Him the lost.
Go begins as worship, and continues as serve. We go because others have infinite value. They matter. Carey’s heart burned for others. He wrote his father, “The thought of a fellow creature perishing forever should rouse all our activity and engage all our powers.” People count, urgency to go in their behalf is needed.
Long ago The Danmark, a ship loaded with immigrants, was disabled while crossing the Atlantic. A nearby cargo ship’s captain decided to help. He could have looked the other way and kept going–he had a schedule to keep, a cargo to deliver, immigrants have no influence–but chose to take The Danmark in tow. As it began to sink he transferred the hundreds of emigrants to his own ship. The weight was too much. Overboard went the cargo! Schedule, cargo, and every other consideration were cast to the wind in behalf of people lost and adrift at sea.
Can we do less? Do we have activities we can throw overboard? Souls are sinking, dying near us and all over the world without Jesus, a death lasting forever.
This tragedy has no end. Its consequences are eternal. We need to release some calendar-cargo in behalf of unbelievers. Requiring time, go can not be an afterthought, an add-on. We can not keep living as we are now, and reach the lost.
It’s time to shake off indifference, deny self, sacrifice consciously, perform an act of worship, lay some activity on the altar, in order to serve others by going.
Elbert Smith tells a recent story from his missionary work in Mexico City. A new believer, a young lady named Reina, asked him what happens after we die. Elbert spoke of Heaven, but Reina interrupted, “What happens when people who don’t know Jesus die?” Elbert gently explained, there’s no purgatory, no second chance after death. He could tell the conversation was turning toward Reina’s ancestors. In cultures where ancestors are revered, this is a somber matter, a huge issue for new believers. Reina pressed the point, “What happened to my grandmother who died before she heard about Jesus?” Elbert replied as softly as he could, “I’m sorry, Reina, Jesus is the only way.” Reina took a moment to take it all in, and to collect herself, and then asked, “Who was supposed to come and tell my grandmother?” Elbert says he mumbled something, but didn’t have an answer.
I too don’t have an answer. A thought haunts me. Our missions revival began six years ago. What if it had started ten years ago? Due to our friendship with Elbert, we might have been partnering with him then in Mexico. “Who was supposed to come and tell my grandmother?” The answer may be in this room.
In 1997, when our missions revival began, a startling realization came over us. We quit seeing the Great Commission as given to the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Missouri Baptist Convention, and Greene County Baptist Association. We realized the Great Commission is given to our church. Mission agencies exist to help us, Second Baptist, fulfill our obligation.
Two years into the revival, Elizabeth Page, our Minister of International Missions, told me, “Pastor, we’re going to kill this revival. We the staff have become a bottleneck. We can’t plan trips fast enough to keep up with everyone needing to go.” We began to release the revival, turning it over to small groups, asking them to take the lead. We ask every small group to do a major ministry project yearly in a secular venue in Springfield, to undertake a Missouri mission project, a USA trip, and an international partnership. That shift was a quantum leap forward in our missions enterprise. We saw the Great Commission as given to Sunday School classes with the church and mission agencies existing to help.
Two years ago, the ultimate “Aha!” moment arrived. The truth finally dawned on us. The Great Commission is not given to mission agencies, not given to local churches, not given to small groups. The Great Commission is given to each believer. Every Christian, as an act of worship and serve, is commanded to go to their city, their state, their country, their world. This responsibility rests on each individual. Small groups, a local church, and mission boards existing to help.
“Who was supposed to come and tell my grandmother?” Do our chores, Second Baptist, but don’t let them keep us from the real work, out in the fields.