Reaching out to individuals from different backgrounds isn’t an option to be considered. Instead, it’s a command to be obeyed.
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), said reaching out to those people who are overlooked or avoided is key to seeing other come to faith in Christ and grow as disciples.
Photo by Steve Cooke
Milton Hollifield Jr. gives his address to messengers at the 186th BSC Annual Meeting at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
Hollifield’s remarks came during his address to messengers at the 186th BSC Annual Meeting at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The theme of the meeting was “Impact: Compelling the Lost to Come to Life.”
Preaching from the event’s theme verse of Luke 14:23, Hollifield said the servant in this parable issued strong command to his servant – “Go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house might be filled.”
“In this story, the master of the house is burdened about people who are far away from the presence of the master, so he says to his servant, ‘Compel them come,’” Hollifield said.
In applying the passage to present day, Hollifield said Christians should reach out to those in society have been overlooked or avoided. The overlooked may include individuals who regularly attend or are members of churches, but they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“We need to look specifically within the church, to make certain that we do not overlook any person in our midst who has not yet come to genuine faith in Christ,” Hollifield said.
Reaching out to the avoided means engaging individuals who may have different cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds than our own.
“We must get down to the hard work of taking the gospel to each and every resident of North Carolina regardless of their ethnicity, their cultural or religious background or even their sexual orientation,” Hollifield said.
And Hollifield said those opportunities to take the gospel to others are abounding in North Carolina.
Hollifield said convention research has revealed that more than 65 percent of North Carolina’s population are lost. Moreover, the convention has identified at least 150 different people groups from around the world currently living in the state, a number which continues to grow.
Further research has identified 250 concentrated pockets of lostness across the state. Of those, Hollifield said 100 pockets of lostness are found in eight population centers across the state, with the remaining 150 located in smaller cities, towns and communities.
“Because of that reality, no church has an excuse for failing to engage lostness, for lost people live almost everywhere in this state,” Hollifield said.
Hollifield said that when he considers the changing population of North Carolina and the fact that the majority of the state’s population do not know Christ, he is reminded of 2 Peter 3:9 which says that God desires that all people come to repentance and faith.
That’s why Hollifield said he is passionate about helping others understand the state convention’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making.”
“Disciple-making is that beautiful umbrella term under which our evangelistic efforts and our discipleship efforts are brought together in order to keep both focused on the ultimate goal – disciples that make disciples that make disciples,” Hollifield said.
Hollifield said disciples who have made a willful decision to follow Christ will be transformed by the gospel.
“The gospel transforms us completely and thoroughly,” Hollifield said. “It is impossible to submit one’s life to Jesus and remain as you were.”
Being transformed by the gospel means being on mission to reach others for Christ – even those who come from different backgrounds – Hollifield said.
“Jesus has commanded us to go after those who are difficult to reach, and we are to be persistent in our obedience.” Hollifield said. “In this story, the master did not even tell the servant that the invitees would come. He just told him to go.”
Following are other highlights from Hollifield’s executive director-treasurer’s report.
- As of Nov. 9, N.C. Baptist Men reported 11,500 volunteer days, 450,000 meals served in conjunction with the American Red Cross and 536 completed jobs in response to Hurricane Matthew.
- Since adopting a new approach to collegiate ministry, Hollifield said gospel engagement has grown from nine campuses to 45 campuses in the past three years.
- In the past 12 months, N.C. Baptist church plants across the state have reported 6,100 professions of faith.
- N.C. Baptists sent more than $11.4 million from Cooperative Program receipts to support the overall ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2016.
- N.C. Baptists led all 42 state contentions in giving to both the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (more than $14.6 million) and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (more than $6 million) in support of international and national missions.
- Collectively, N.C. Baptist churches gave more than $32 million to SBC causes in its last fiscal year.