Christian leaders face a significant challenge of staying focused on our core mission of making disciples. Doing this requires evangelizing the lost, stabilizing new converts, developing stronger believers and ultimately producing new leaders for our movement. There are so many other distracting agendas – political, social, moral, ethical and even denominational – that demand attention. Staying focused on our core task is harder than ever.
To give us some rallying points, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders are laying out common goals to coordinate our denominational efforts in the next few years. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, along with other entity presidents, will be presenting Vision 2025 at the SBC annual meeting in Nashville in June. This is a concentrated effort to shift our focus from a thousand other things vying for our attention to a few key drivers that will make an eternal difference.
The first of those goals is to increase full-time, fully funded missionaries by a net gain of 500, giving us 4,200 full-time, fully funded missionaries through the International Mission Board. The second goal is to add 5,000 new SBC congregations to our Southern Baptist family, giving us more than 50,000 congregations. The third goal is to increase total workers in the field through a new emphasis on “calling out the called” and then preparing those who are called out by the Lord.
This third goal is in my wheel-house! My first book, Is God Calling Me?, is still my best-selling book. Christians, particularly younger believers trying to chart a life course, take the question in my title seriously. Understanding and answering God’s call is a priority for them. There is no shortage of interest in this important subject.
And yet, many pastors neglect preaching or teaching on this theme. A pastor once asked me, “How’s enrollment at the seminary?” I replied, “I will answer that question if I can first ask you one.” He agreed so I asked, “When is the last time you preached on answering God’s call or even mentioned it publicly? Our enrollment is limited to the people who can articulate a call experience as part of their application. Without you calling out the called, we will have no future enrollment.”
Calling out the called is both a responsibility and a privilege. Western state Baptist convention leaders saw this need years ago and agreed to partner with Gateway on “The Call Project” – a five-year effort to emphasize God’s call at every western state convention event involving teenagers or college students. COVID-19 slowed the progress last year, but in 2019 (the first year of the project) 277 teenagers and young adults indicated God had called them to ministry leadership or they were seriously considering the possibility. God is moving through this project in the West!
We need future leaders. Pray for God to call out more leaders, preach or teach on this important theme and nurture younger leaders as they take their first tentative steps toward leadership. More than future seminary enrollment is at stake. Our future effectiveness in fulfilling our mission hangs in the balance.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary.)