“Axioms for a GreatCommission Resurgence”Acts 1:4-8Dr. Danny AkinSoutheastern Baptist Theological SeminaryPresident
Jesus was saying to His followers, “do not get distractedover issues that are secondary and non-essential. Stayfocused on the main thing. Make sure your priorities lineup with the Father‟s. Be my witnesses and advance thegospel until I return.” Like the disciples, Southern Baptists today run the risk ofbeing distracted from the main thing. Many of the issueswe are emphasizing and debating are interesting things, butthey are not the most important things. They don‟t line upwell with the priorities we find revealed in Holy Scripture.The result: we are fractured and factionalizing. We areconfused having lost our spiritual compass.
The Great Commission has been defined for us inMatthew 28:18-20. These principles or axiomsdescribe what the implementation of a GreatCommission Resurgence for Southern Baptist mightlook like. It is hard to imagine the evil one leading us tointensify our involvement with what the bloggingdemon Wormwood calls that “cursed Commission!”I do think all the demons of hell would do all thatthey can to distract us from it.
I. We must commit ourselves to the total andabsolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in every areaof our lives. (Col. 3:16-17, 23-24) Jesus Christ must be our passion and priority. We mustaspire to both know Him and love Him more fully. Southern Baptists need to become more than ever “aJesus intoxicated people,” returning to our first love.(Rev. 2:4-5). We must love Him, worship Him, adoreHim, exult in Him, share Him and exemplify Him. When the world thinks of us, they should think first,“those are the folks in love with Jesus. They are thepeople obsessed with Jesus. There is a people that talkand act and serve and love like Jesus. Southern Baptistsare Jesus people!”
II. We must be gospel centered in all ourendeavors for the glory of God. (Rom. 1:16) The Lordship of Jesus Christ and His gospel is what it isall about. It is why we exist as the people of God. Being “gospel centered” means we are “grace centered.” Being gospel centered means we proclaim His victoryover death, hell, the grave, and sin by His substitutionaryatonement and glorious resurrection. We must begospel centered for our justification, our sanctificationand our glorification.
II. We must be gospel centered in all ourendeavors for the glory of God. (Rom. 1:16) Pursing in all things the “glory of God” means we will betheocentric and not anthropocentric in our worship and work. A radically gospel-centered life will ensure that the bloodycross of a crucified King is the offense to non-believers not ourstyles, traditions, legalisms, moralisms, preferences and sourpussattitudes! A radically gospel-centered life will promote a grace-filledsalvation from beginning to end putting on display the beauty ofthe gospel in all of life‟s aspects. Too many of our pulpits have jettisoned the proclamation ofthe gospel. Too many of our people have lost the meaning andtherefore the wonder of the gospel. No gospel, no GreatCommission Resurgence.
III. We must take our stand on the firmfoundation of the inerrant and infallible Word ofGod affirming it’s sufficiency in all matters.(Matt 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17;2 Peter 1:20-21) The “war for the Bible” is not over and it willnever end until Jesus returns. “The question of biblical inspiration is ultimately aquestion of Christological identity.” – Russ Bush
IV. We must devote ourselves to a radicalpursuit of the Great Commission in thecontext of obeying the Great Commandments.(Matt. 28:16-20; 22:37-40) A devoted follower of Jesus Christ gets excited about 1)reaching the nations for Christ, 2) reaching our nation, theUnited States of America, for Christ and 3) doing so in amanner that is biblically-theologically sound and driven.Why? Because all three are in the DNA of the GreatCommission. However, a real Great Commission Resurgence will notonly possess Great Commission DNA, it will also be alivewith Great Commandment DNA too.
V. We must affirm the Baptist Faith andMessage 2000 as a healthy and sufficient guidefor building a theological consensus forpartnership in the gospel, refusing to besidetracked by theological agendas that distractus from our Lord’s Commission. (1 Tim. 6:3-4) What do we as Southern Baptists agree ondoctrinally and theologically? The answer, praiseGod, is a lot.
What do we as Southern Baptists agree ondoctrinally and theologically? We affirm the inerrancy, infallibility, authority andsufficiency of the Bible. We affirm the Triune God who is omnipotent,omniscient and omnipresent. We affirm God as Creator and reject naturalisticevolution as nonsense. We affirm both the dignity and depravity of man. We affirm the full deity, perfect humanity andsinlessness of Jesus the Son of God.
What do we as Southern Baptists agree ondoctrinally and theologically? We affirm the penal substitutionary nature of theatonement as foundational for understanding the crosswork of our Savior. We affirm the good news of the gospel as theexclusive and only means whereby any person isreconciled to God. We affirm the biblical nature of a regenerate churchwitnessed in believer‟s baptism by immersion. We affirm salvation by grace alone thru faith alone inChrist alone for the glory of God alone.
What do we as Southern Baptists agree ondoctrinally and theologically? We affirm the reception of the Holy Spirit at themoment of regeneration/conversion and the blessingof spiritual gifts for the building up of the body ofChrist. We affirm the literal, visible and historical return ofJesus Christ to this earth when He will manifest fullyHis kingdom. We affirm the reality of an eternal heaven and aneternal hell with Jesus as the only difference.
What do we as Southern Baptists agree ondoctrinally and theologically? We affirm a “sanctity of life” ethic fromconception to natural death. We affirm the sanctity of heterosexual marriage,the goodness of sex in marriage and the gift ofchildren, lots of them. We affirm the complementary nature ofmale/female relationships rejoicing in the divineordering of them for the home and the church; andthe list could go on.
Now there are also some things we do notagree on doctrinally and theologically. Forexample: The exact nature of human depravity andtransmission of the sin nature. The precise constitution of the human person. The issue of whether or not Christ could havesinned. (We all agree He didn‟t!) The ordo salutis (“order of salvation”). The number of elders and the precise nature ofcongregational governance.
Now there are also some things we do notagree on doctrinally and theologically. The continuance of certain spiritual gifts and theirnature. Does baptism require only right member (bornagain), right meaning (believer‟s) and right mode(immersion) or does it also require the rightadministrator (ever how that is defined). The time of the rapture (pre, mid, post, partialrapture or pre-wrath rapture). The nature of the millennium (pre, amill or post) And, saving the best for last in our current context,we are not in full agreement about Calvinism and howmany points one should affirm or redefine and affirm!
Theological Triage1.2.3.First-order doctrines are those that arefundamental and essential to the Christian faith.Second-order doctrines are those that areessential to church life and necessary for theordering of the local church but that, inthemselves, do not define the gospel.Third-order doctrines are those that may be theground for fruitful theological discussion anddebate but that do not threaten the fellowshipof the local congregation or the denomination.
“Our agreement on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is anasset, not a weakness. It is a plus and not a minus. If Iwere to pen my own confession it would not look exactlylike the BF&M 2000. But then I do not want nor do Ineed people exactly like me in order to work together forthe proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and thebuilding of His church. Our confession is a solidfoundation for a sound theology that avoids the pitfalls andquicksand of a straightjacket theology. Do we want orneed a theology that rules out of bounds open theism,universalism and inclusivism, faulty perspectives on theatonement, gender-role confusion, works salvation,apostasy of true believers, infant baptism and noncongregational ecclesiology‟s just to name a few?
Yes, we do. These theological errors have nevercharacterized who we are as Southern Baptists and theyhave no place in our denomination today. Inerrancy is notup for debate. The deity of Jesus and His sinless life arenot up for debate. The triune nature of God as Father,Son and Holy Spirit is not up for debate. The perfectatoning work of Christ as a penal substitute for sinners isnut up for debate. Salvation by grace alone through faithalone in Christ alone is not up for debate. A regeneratechurch is not up for debate. Believers‟ baptism byimmersion is not up for debate. The glorious historical andpersonal return of Jesus Christ is not up for debate. Thereality of an eternal heaven and an eternal hell is not up fordebate.
There is nothing soft about this kind of theology,and we must avoid a soft theology at all cost.Because of our passionate commitments to theglory of God, the Lordship of Christ, biblicalauthority, salvation by grace through faith, and theGreat Commission, we should be able to work inwonderful harmony with each other. We have asound theology.”
VI. We must dedicate ourselves to a passionatepursuit of the Great Commission of the LordJesus across our nation and to all nationsanswering the call to go, disciple, baptize andteach all that the Lord commanded.(Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:5; 15:20)
VII. We must covenant to build gospelsaturated homes that see children as a gift fromGod and as our first and primary mission field.(Deut. 6:1-9; Psalm 127; 128; Eph. 6:4) Southern Baptists have been seduced by the sirens ofmodernity in a very important place. We have beenseduced in how we do family and how many we shouldhave in the home. We have been seduced with respect to the gift ofchildren. We have been seduced with respect to the importanceof motherhood. We have been seduced with respect to the role of dad.
VII. We must covenant to build gospelsaturated homes that see children as a gift fromGod and as our first and primary mission field.(Deut. 6:1-9; Psalm 127; 128; Eph. 6:4) We have been seduced with respect to what a good home isand does. Let me clarify what a good home looks like: It loves Jesus. It honors God. It teaches the Bible. It casts a vision for spiritual greatness. It has fun! It let‟s go so that our children may soar for the glory ofGod!
VIII. We must recognize the need to rethink ourConvention structure and identity so that wemaximize our energy and resources for the fulfillingof the Great Commission.(1 Cor. 10:31) Too much of the Southern Baptist Convention is aimingat a culture that went out of existence years ago. Using mid20th century methods and strategies, we cannot understandwhy they are not working in the 21st century. It is easier to move some things thru the Federalgovernment than the Southern Baptist Convention.Overlap and duplication in our associations, state andnational conventions is strangling us! I want to challenge us to do simple Convention. Let‟sstreamline our structure, clarify our identity and maximizeour resources.
Thoughts on the Future of the SBC:1. Is there not a way to have annual meetings on theNational and State levels that are attractive, inspiringand worth attending?2. Is the name “Southern Baptist Convention” best foridentifying who we are and want to be in the future?3. Do we need all the boards and agencies we currentlyhave or could there be some healthy and wisemergers?4. Do we have a healthy structure and mechanism forplanting churches that will thrive and survive past afew years?
Thoughts on the Future of the SBC:5. Do we have a giving program that fairly andaccurately reflects the gifts many Southern Baptistchurches are making to the work of ourdenomination?6. Are we distracted by doing many good things butnot giving our full attention to the best things?Church planting in the United States, pioneermissions around the world and theological educationthat starts in the seminaries but finds its way to thelocal church is a 3-legged stool I believe mostSouthern Baptists would gladly occupy!
IX. We must see the necessity for pastors to befaithful Bible preachers who teach us both thecontent of the Scriptures and the theologyembedded in the Scriptures.(2 Tim. 4:1-5) We need a new battalion of well trained expositors whopreach the whole Bible book by book, chapter by chapter,verse by verse, phrase by phrase and word by word. “One of the most depressing spectacles in the churchtoday is her lack of power At the heart of this problem isan impotent pulpit.” – Walt Kaiser “The first mark of a healthy church is expositorypreaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away themost important of them all, because if you get this oneright, all of the others should follow” - Mark Dever
The Westminster Dictionary (A.D. 1645) captures wellwhat we are after, “ the true idea of preaching is that thepreacher should become a mouthpiece for his text, openingit up and applying it as a word from God to his hearers, inorder that the text may speak and be heard, making eachpoint from his text in such a manner that [his audience] maydiscern [the voice of God].” Preaching that does not present the gospel and call menand women to repent of sin and place their faith in thedeath and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not gospelpreaching. We are not Jewish rabbis or scribes. Good andfaithful exposition will be Christological in focus. It willcarefully interpret each text in the greater context of thegrand redemptive storyline of Scripture showing Jesus as thehero of the Bible.
Brothers, we are not journey guides, self-help gurus,positive thinkers, entertainers, comedians, or liberal orconservative commentators, parroting the wisdom of theworld. We are gospel preachers, Jesus-intoxicated heralds! Any theology that does not compel you to plead with mento be reconciled with God is a theology not worth having.Any preaching that does expect the living and powerfulWord of God to produce results and usher in conversions ispreaching that should be retired to the graveyard where itrightfully belongs. Bad preaching will sap the life of a church. It will kill itsspirit, dry up its fruit, and eventually empty it. It ispreaching that will torpedo a Great CommissionResurgence.
X. We must encourage pastors to see themselves as thehead of a gospel missions agency who will lead the wayin calling out the called for international assignments butalso equip and train all their people to see themselves asmissionaries for Jesus regardless of where they live. (Eph.4:11-16) Missions is not a ministry of the church, it is at the heartof the church‟s identity and essence. The strategic and biblical importance of the local churchin this regard must be recaptured. Our churches do notexist to serve the Southern Baptist Convention. TheSouthern Baptist Convention at all levels exists to serve thechurches, end of discussion!
The local church is to be ground zero for the missiodei. Here is the “spiritual outpost” for the invasion ofenemy territory as we reclaim lost ground for its rightfulowner King Jesus. A new vision that I pray will grip thechurches of the Southern Baptist Convention is, “everychurch a church planting church!” Pastors must be seized by a vision for the strategicimportance of their calling as the head of a gospelmission agency called the local church. This willinvolve:1. Being used by God to call out the called who have anoverseas assignment given by our commander-inchief, the Lord Jesus.
2. Partnering in strategic and vibrant church plantingthat assaults the major population centers of NorthAmerica following closely the pattern of the apostlePaul.3. Working to help revitalize existing localcongregations so that we do not lose a meaningfulpast and squander massive assets built by our parentsand grandparents.4. Training all of our people to see themselves as aGod-called missionary no matter what their vocationor location happens to be.
“The missional church avoids „tribal‟ language, stylized prayerlanguage, unnecessary evangelical pious „jargon‟, and archaiclanguage that seeks to set a „spiritual tone.‟ The missional churchavoids „we-them‟ language, disdainful jokes that mock people ofdifferent politics and beliefs, and dismissive, disrespectfulcomments about those who differ with us. The missional churchavoids sentimental, pompous, „inspirational‟ talk. Instead, weengage the culture with the gentle, self-deprecating, but joyful ironythe gospel creates. Humility joy gospel irony and realism. Themissional church avoids ever talking as if non-believing people arenot present. If you speak and discourse as if your wholeneighborhood is present (not just scattered Christians), eventuallymore and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or beinvited. Unless all of the above is the outflow of a truly humblebold gospel-changed heart, it is all just „marketing‟ and „spin.‟”- Tim Keller, “The Missional Church”
XI. We must pledge ourselves to a renewedcooperation that is gospel centered and built arounda biblical and theological core and notmethodological consensus or agreement.(Phil. 2:1-5; 4:2-9) What will unite Southern Baptist in the future will not bestyle, methodology and preference. The key will be thatwhat we do is filtered through the purifying waters ofScripture so that we honor Jesus and glorify the Father in allthat we do. Different contexts will demand different strategies andmethods. Cultivating the mind of a missionary we will ask,“What is the best way to reach with the gospel the people Ilive amongst?”
Various ethnic believers and social/cultural tribes willworship the same God, adore the same Jesus, believe thesame Bible, and preach the same gospel. However, they maymeet in different kinds of structure, wear different kinds ofclothes, sing different kinds of songs, and engage indifferent kinds of ministries. The point is simply this: wemust treat the United States missiologically and do so withthe same seriousness that our international missionaries treattheir people groups missiologically. As long as it is done forthe glory of God, has biblical warrant, and theologicalintegrity, I say Praise the Lord! So, let‟s stop griping aboutorgans, choirs and choir robes, guitars, drums, coats and ties,and get on with the real issue of the Great Commission!
If we seek to build a consensus around style ormethods we will continue to balkanize, fracture andlose important ground. If we will build a consensusaround Jesus and the gospel, we can, we will, cooperatefor the advancement of God‟s Kingdom and He willbless us. Theology should drive our cooperation not tradition.The message of the gospel will unite us not methods!
XII. We must accept our constant need to humbleourselves and repent of pride, arrogance, jealousy,hatred, contentions, lying, selfish ambitions,laziness, complacency, idolatries and other sins ofthe flesh; pleading with our Lord to do what onlyHe can do in us and through us and all for Hisglory.(Gal. 5:22-26; James 4:1-10)
nature. Does baptism require only right member (born again), right meaning (believer‟s) and right mode (immersion) or does it also require the right administrator (ever how that is defined). The time of the rapture (pre, mid, post, partial rapture or pre-wrath rapture). The nature of the millennium (pre, amill or post)