“Broken enough to care, healed enough to dare” was the theme of the 2015 North Carolina Baptist Missions conference, sponsored by the North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM; also known as Baptists on Mission). Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem hosted the conference on April 10-11.
Three plenary speakers encouraged approximately 1,400 participants to reflect on the grace God has shown them despite their own brokenness, and then to consider how they might reach out to others with the gospel.
Dana Brown, NCBM advisory team leader for the Roma Gypsy partnership, shared the complex, emotional story of how she and her husband have sought adopt a young girl from the Roma people. After three years of legal successes and setbacks, they continue to look for ways to complete the adoption and reach out to Elza and her family in Ukraine, according to Brown.
Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky. and author of Not a Fan, preached in the Friday evening session.
BSC photo by K Brown
Richard Brunson, right, presents Jack and Cathy Ollis, members of First Baptist Church in Black Mountain, with the Volunteer Lay Couple of the Year award.
“How was your mission trip?” is the question Idleman posed to conference attendees. He said that most people answer that question by referencing projects and tasks. Idleman imagined asking Jesus the same question. Jesus would respond by telling stories of broken people who had experienced the grace of God, he said.
He dubbed such stories of redemption – where God’s grace intersected with human sinfulness – “beautiful collisions.” Idleman urged listeners to become collectors of beautiful collision stories, because those are what make up the Gospels.
He told stories from ministry experience of how God’s grace had impacted the lives of people in painful, and sometimes tragic, situations.
“Unless we experience brokenness, and God’s redeeming power in our lives, we really won’t understand grace,” he added.
Bryan Lorritts, pastor of Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tenn. and future pastor of preaching and mission for Trinity Grace Church in New York City, spoke during the Saturday morning session. Teaching out of Ephesians 2, Lorritts urged listeners toward more diverse congregations, if their community warrants it. “I do not believe every church should be multi-ethnic,” He stated. “If your community has black and white and Asian and Latino [people], and you believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world … can we at least hear what God has to say on the matter?”
He called Southern Baptists’ efforts in missions “unparalleled” and praised their election of an African-American president, Fred Luter, who led the convention after his election in 2012 and re-election in 2013.
Lorritts chastised many conservative evangelicals for reading Ephesians 2 only until verse 10, when the epistle begins to address horizontal reconciliation.
“Horizontal reconciliation only works when I point week after week to Jesus on the cross,” he said.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Bryan Lorritts, a Memphis pastor soon to move to a New York City church, challenged N.C. Baptists to move toward multi-ethnic churches.
What does Paul do with new believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds? He forms one church, said Lorritts.
“The church in America has resurrected the walls that Jesus worked to demolish,” he said, referring to how the Jewish synagogue was divided into parts where others could not go.
Not much has changed since Martin Luther King Jr. declared the 11 o’clock hour as the most segregated in America, Lorritts said. With 300,000 worshiping communities (including all religions) in the United States, only 7.5 percent are considered multi-ethnic. Among churches who claim Jesus as Lord, he said that number drops to 2.5 percent.
The church and the university Greek organizations are the “last two bastions of segregation,” Lorritts said.
“What this world needs is a church that preaches the gospel in all of its dimensions, a church that preaches all of Ephesians 2,” he said.
Lorritts encouraged churches to be intentional about reaching everyone. “Racism didn’t just happen,” he said, there were “intentional, organized steps” to keep races apart.
“Never get so grown in your theological development that ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ fails to move you. God didn’t wait for me to clean up my act. He knew I couldn’t clean up my act at all. You are in the Kingdom because of God’s grace and God’s grace alone.”
Lorritts emphasized the need to share that grace with others.
David Nasser, popular speaker and senior vice president for spiritual development at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., gave the Saturday afternoon message.
He called attention to the two parts of mission that Jesus exemplifies in John 6: message and method.
“Jesus shows us not just his words,” Nasser said, “but the very way that He delivers them. And it’s costly.”
“Fightin’ words” is the label David Nasser gave to Jesus’ statement in John 6:35. “I am everything, and without me you have nothing” is what Jesus was communicating, and that is offensive to some people, according to Nasser.
Nevertheless, Nasser said, that is the message Christians proclaim no matter the kind of mission work they’re doing – whether it’s medical missions, food distribution, English-as-a-second-language, education or construction work. “Different methods, one message.”
Nasser also used the story of Jesus feeding the multitude – after a child offered to share his fish and loaves – to show how God lets people join His ministry. “The best part of the story is not that a kid decides to share,” said Nasser, “it’s that Jesus lets him.
“He could have fed them without the kid’s involvement,” he added, “but isn’t it great when God decides to use you to do the miracle?”
Nasser explained how Jesus’ method is important, along with His message. Jesus used the physical hunger of the crowd to talk about the spiritual famine they were experiencing, according to Nasser. “He meets their momentary need, and the next day, they come looking for more,” he said, “That’s when they run into the undeniable, loving, honest gospel.”
Grammy-winning artist and author, Laura Story, led musical worship for each of the general sessions.
Breakout sessions took place mid-morning to early afternoon on Saturday, covering various aspects of NCBM ministries: agriculture missions, aviation missions, Baptist educators, disaster relief and recovery, food outreach, medical and dental ministries, food outreach, sports ministry, international ministry and others.
Hands-on breakouts were also available where participants could engage in activities that included prison ministry, expectant mothers ministry, homeless ministry, senior adult ministry and evangelism.
A dinner was held on Friday evening for volunteers either involved in or interested in any of the NCBM ministries.
The 2016 missions conference is scheduled for April 15-16 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
See photos from event here.