God’s plan for reaching the world involves raising up and sending out “ordinary people” in the power of the Holy Spirit, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear said at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 13.
Photo by Chandler McCall, NOBTS
SBC President J.D. Greear preaches from Acts at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 13.
“The measure of success for any church ought not be its seating capacity” but “its sending capacity,” Greear said during a chapel sermon drawn from Acts 7.
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and church leaders emphasize the sending out of “ordinary people” as an essential aspect of the call to follow Jesus. As a result, the church has sent out 1,016 people to 248 Summit-sponsored church plants and to other ministries.
Greear said Summit reaches a high percentage of college students, millennials and young professionals, leveraging their enthusiasm, skill and mobility for the gospel. Summit challenges students to consider serving for two years in one of its church plants after graduation.
“We tell them unashamedly, ‘Give us two years and we will transform the world with you,’” Greear said.
Greear challenged believers to adjust their understanding of the call to ministry. Rather than “something a few sacred people experience in some kind of mystical moment,” the call to ministry is embedded in the call to follow Christ.
“Jesus said, ‘Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men,’ which means when you accepted the call to follow Jesus – your salvation – it means you also accepted the call to missions,” Greear said. “The question is no longer if you are called, the question now is simply where and how are you called.”
Sending out so many leaders has not been easy, Greear said. Those who leave often are among Summit’s most committed members. However, the practice has been strategic for the Kingdom of God, he said, citing a recent study that for each person sent out to a Summit church plant in North America, worship attendance there grows by 20 people.
Turning to Acts 7:54-8:4, Greear illustrated God’s use of ordinary people in the story of Stephen’s martyrdom. This tragic injustice, followed by a wave of persecution, jolted the church and led to the spread of the gospel.
Believers should draw four convictions from the passage, Greear said: God wants to use me; the Holy Spirit fills me; I must be like Jesus to others; and Jesus is worth it.
Greear pointed to Acts 8:1 as the most important verse in the account because it tells who was involved in the gospel advance. While the disciples remained in Jerusalem, the believers who were scattered by the persecution were used to carry the gospel to new places.
A turning point in the early church, Luke makes it clear that the disciples were not involved, Greear said. “From that point on, it is ordinary people who are going to be at the forefront of the gospel movement.”
“Ordinary believers have always been the tip of the gospel spear,” he said.
Greear said he encourages believers to see their skills as a tool for the spread of the gospel. The knowledge and skill believers use for their livelihood can create opportunities for gospel witness even in difficult places around the world.
“To follow Jesus means whatever you do well, do it well to the glory of God,” Greear said. “And then, do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”
Before the sermon, Greear acknowledged the challenges facing the Southern Baptist Convention and referenced NOBTS President Chuck Kelley’s “Baptist Blues” sermon earlier in the semester.
“I understand that there is a lot of reason for discouragement, or potential discouragement,” Greear said. “In fact, Dr. Kelley, I listened to your message a few weeks ago. There are a lot of things he was talking about that I resonate with – my concerns with declines in baptisms, my concerns with lots of things that are going on.”
In spite of such challenges, Greear pointed to the hope and power available through Christ. Speaking of Jesus’ impact on the disciples, Greear said, “He managed out of that group to build the greatest movement the world has ever seen. That same God is alive and at work in our churches, and by the grace of God, in the Southern Baptist Convention today.”
To view the entire sermon, visit nobts.edu/chapel and click on the archives link.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)