Understanding the purpose and practice of missions as well as creating a culture of generous support of missionaries were just a few of the many ways that 551 church leaders were challenged to lead their congregations toward being Great Commission focused at the 2018 9Marks conference, hosted at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Sept. 28-29.
The speaker lineup for this year’s gathering included some new and familiar names alike. Speakers included John Folmar, pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hills Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, D.C.; Andy Johnson, associate pastor of CHBC; Trip Lee, young adult pastor at Dallas Concord Church in Dallas, Texas; Chuck Lawless, dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at SEBTS; and Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C.
Folmar, the conference’s first keynote speaker, taught from Isaiah 2:1-5. Folmar described this as “the divine forecast of the modern missions movement.” He described the kingdom foreshadowed by Isaiah as “one international people of God” and a kingdom of peace, which is fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus, as Folmar noted in Hebrews 12:22-24.
Folmar gave two application points for the passage: that the church is God’s evangelistic plan and that healthy churches are launch pads for further missions outreach.
“Be part of making Christ known through the manifold wisdom of God that is the local church,” said Folmar.
The second keynote speaker was Dever who communicated to attendees on the understanding and practice of missions, noting that a biblical understanding of missions is a key aspect of church health. In regard to understanding missions, Dever explained that pastors need to both model and preach evangelism in creating a missions-minded church.
Dever said pastors need their congregations to understand that evangelism is not an option; it’s a command.
“Missions isn’t something occasional or optional; it’s an essential extension of what God has done to … bring glory to himself through us,” said Dever.
Using the text of 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Johnson pulled three questions that the text addresses: What does a faithful missionary do, how does a faithful missionary work and who does a faithful church support? Johnson helped pastors understand who to support on the mission field, explaining that it takes patience and discernment as churches look for and follow up with the missionaries they send out.
“One of the great truths of scripture is that the work of missions is the work of God, so our faithfulness will never be in vain,” he said.
Friday night’s session concluded with a message from Lee on Romans 10:14-17, noting that “gospel action is driven by gospel agony.”
Lee outlined three ideas in the text regarding lostness: A person cannot call on a savior [he or she has] never heard of, a person can hear the right message and respond the wrong way and faith comes through hearing God’s Word.
Saturday morning began with a message from Lawless on Ephesians 6:18-20 paralleled with Colossians 4:2-4, speaking on the importance of partnering in prayer for missionaries.
Both passages, Lawless noted, begin and end with a call to pray. Paul emphasizes in Ephesians the need for the church to be alert in prayer while also praying specifically for boldness to proclaim the gospel. In Colossians, Lawless noted how Paul calls the church to pray with urgency and persistence while also praying for doors to open for him to share the gospel and that he would proclaim it clearly.
Lawless said Paul is encouraging the church to pray “proactively,” not “reactively.”
“If we send them out, we better send them out with our prayers ongoing,” said Lawless.
The conference concluded with a message by Anyabwile on 3 John 1:5-12, discussing how churches should give and support missionaries in a manner that displays the worthiness of God. Anyabwile taught that churches must exemplify faithful hospitality when missionaries are home and faithful generosity when their missionaries depart.
“Let us beware in ourselves, and let us teach our people to watch in themselves, any tendency toward self-promotion and selfishness that would innervate the gospel mission,” he said.
Before the Saturday morning sessions took place, the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Ministry hosted a Pastor’s Roundtable breakfast in the Ledford Event Room. Jim Shaddix, director for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership, moderated a panel discussion with Lawless, Johnson and Scott Hildreth, director of the Center for Great Commission Studies.
Questions from Shaddix included topics such as how new pastors can lead their congregations to be missions-minded and how the panelists have seen pastors lead in that way. A time of Q&A from the audience concluded the breakfast.
Speakers participated in panel discussions throughout the conference, which were moderated by Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks.
In the 9Marks at Southeastern conference’s 10th year, missions was a continuation of the previous nine conferences, which specifically emphasized a different mark of Dever’s book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Dever announced at this year’s gathering that 9Marks at Southeastern will be emphasizing prayer at the Sept. 27-28 conference in 2019.