Perhaps the best known parable of Jesus is the Good Samaritan. Jesus gave this teaching in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29*).
In 2011, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted the Ethnic Study Committee Report that contained a series of recommendations designed to increase participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in Southern Baptist life. The report was designed in part to help Southern Baptists answer Jesus’ question in light of the changing demographics in our nation and across the SBC.
Since then, SBC Executive Committee president Frank S. Page, in concert with the North American Mission Board, has appointed four ethnic and racial advisory groups. Their purpose is to provide information, insight and counsel to NAMB and EC staff relative to the special needs and concerns of ethnic churches and church leaders in the Southern Baptist network of churches. The advisory councils are Hispanic, appointed in 2011; African American, appointed in 2012; Asian American, appointed in 2013, and Multi-Ethnic, appointed this year.
Researchers have projected that within the next few years there will be no majority ethnic or racial population in the U.S. In light of these changing demographics, our Lord’s Great Commission becomes even more urgent as we seek to engage all peoples (translated from the Greek phrase ta ethne) with the gospel, beginning in our own neighborhoods (Matthew 28:18–20).
How, then, should we pray?
To see with the eyes of Jesus
On more than one occasion, Jesus urged His disciples to see with a vision refined by the Spirit of God – to really see that “the fields are ready unto harvest!” (John 4:35). We have no alternative; we must see with the eyes of Jesus.
To feel with the heart of Jesus
Matthew used a strong phrase to express Jesus’ deep-seated compassion for the scattered multitudes. Matthew wrote, “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Our neighborhoods are changing. We must pray that the deep-seated love that drove the heart of Jesus will likewise drive our hearts, that we will love our neighbors as ourselves.
To hear the words commanded by Jesus
Luke told the story of 35 soul-winning teams Jesus sent to evangelize the cities He was about to visit. Jesus gave them a specific command: “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). NAMB’s TenTwo initiative, based on this text, is designed to remind Southern Baptists to pray for additional laborers to participate in the harvest.
To hear God’s general call as a specific calling
Isaiah heard a general missionary call from the Lord (Isaiah 6:8, “Who will go for us?”). When he heard it, he responded immediately with a specific reply, “Here am I. Send me.” Can we be content to pray the TenTwo prayer without simultaneously hearing the Spirit of God call our own hearts to the harvest fields? May the Lord break our hearts for the things that break His!
To hear the perspectives of our brothers and sisters in Christ
As the advisory groups have met with Page and other EC staff, one common denominator has been a broken heart for the lostness of their own peoples. An illustrative question posed by one of the councils asked, “Are there sufficient ethnic church leaders in empowered positions at every level of SBC life (churches, associations, state conventions and SBC entities) to provide input needed to have culturally informed strategies to reach” the rapidly expanding people groups living in our own neighborhoods?
In Romans 10, the Apostle Paul asked a series of questions:
- But how can they call on Him they have not believed in?
- And how can they believe without hearing about Him?
- And how can they hear without a preacher?
- And how can they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15)
Paul answered his questions by drawing from an Isaiah 52:7 visual image: “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!’” (Romans 10:15).
Who, then, is my neighbor? In the last church I served as pastor, a godly lady named Nancy was dying with cancer. She had a passion to reach women from non-Anglo families in our community. Days before her death, she called me to visit her home. When I arrived, she was surrounded by several young adults with whom she had been sharing the gospel. Too weak to speak, she asked me to share the gospel with them once again. A few moments later, one of these dear ladies prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
After she confessed her faith in Jesus, I asked what motivated her to leave her nominal religious background to trust in Jesus Christ as the living Savior. Her answer lingers in my mind. Pointing to Nancy, she said, “Love built a bridge from her heart to mine, and Jesus walked across.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – All Scripture references are HCSB. Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee.)