By Shannon Baker, Network Correspondent
OCEAN CITY, Md.—“We stand on the edge of unprecedented opportunity,” said Michael Crawford, North American Mission Board State Director of Missions, in his Monday evening address during the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network‘s Annual Celebration on Nov. 9. “We’re not here absent-minded; we’re not here without Bibles; we’re not here without the Holy Spirit; we’re not here without each other….We are, in the language of Mordecai, born ‘for such a time as this.’”
Crawford said, in his message to the messengers, “God has strategically put us in the generation of Caitlyn Jenners … where autism is on the rise … when the city of Baltimore is burning, and the people are killing each other. We are the generation that must own Ferguson, … that serves under President Obama, … that answers the cries of North Korea, because we were born for ‘such a time as this, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.”
Crawford detailed historical and biblical people—Esther, Jesus, Zacchaeus, the Apostle Paul and the many listed throughout Hebrews—who did whatever it took to accomplish their assigned missions.
“In Scripture, we see a ‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’ God, Crawford explained.
“God, throughout redemptive history, has chosen so many different ways to speak to us. God is willing to do whatever it takes to reach you!”“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
“Was the Gospel a tithe? No! He gave everything!” Crawford stressed. People, on the other hand, face several enemies that prevent them from doing whatever it takes, including: having a wrong view of God, having an undefined or worthless mission, narcissism, suffering, division or the simple fact they’ve never experienced the grace of God.
“When you realize how committed God is to saving your soul when He says, ‘I will never leave you and never forsake you,’” he said. “When you experience that grace, ‘WHATEVER IT TAKES” is ‘Yeah! Of course!’”
He challenged, “We serve in, if not one of, the most strategic areas in all of America. What an incredible opportunity we have!…What if by 2020, we have 750 Southern Baptist churches doing whatever it takes?”
With that backdrop, Crawford identified several new initiatives the Network will undertake to help churches do “whatever it takes” to “love their neighbors” with the Gospel.
“We started with the Brick Tour and have continued with prayer. We’ll continue to pursue consistent contact and support with you,” he said.
“We know as a Network and as a Network staff, there are times when we’ve failed. There are seasons when we are not competent. On behalf of all of the staff, we apologize… some of you have been hurt and offended by us. We haven’t strengthened your church. We haven’t helped you. We ask for your forgiveness. We ask for your understanding. You need to know that we are people, too.”
He shared how Randy Millwood and the church-strengthening team has worked on several initiatives designed to help churches be healthier.
He shared about Joel Rainey and the Engagement team’s efforts to work with Open Door America to work on the systemic issues that spawned the Baltimore riots.
He pointed to the over-the-top outreach being done by the Network’s team of collegiate ministers.
He also shared about current plans to assist churches in adopting and praying for congressmen and senators in our Nation’s Capital.
And then he shared about church planting, which will focus a large part of its budget on reaching various people groups: African Americans, Jewish people, Muslims, and families with special needs. (Visit online at www.bcmd.org/annual-recap to see videos of each of these initiatives.)
“We are going forward. We are going to do whatever it takes to reach people with the Gospel,” Crawford said. “We can do it.”
Focusing on the second part of a three-year theme of “Gofwd, Loving Neighbors, Sharing Christ,” guest speakers for the 2015 Annual Celebration also addressed “loving our neighbors.”
In his remarks, Steve Davis noted there is one SBC church for every 1,385 people in Mississippi. Davis is vice president for convention relations, East region, for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Conversely, in Delaware, there is one SBC church for every 26,973 people. In Maryland, there is one for every 10,622 people.
“We want to do whatever it takes to penetrate lost-ness, and conserve the harvest by planting churches,” he said, challenging others to do whatever it takes. Doing so will require three things, he stressed: a fresh conviction about the lost-ness of people (Romans 10:1); a genuine expression of the love of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:14); and an understanding about the lateness of the times (Romans 13:11). Will you do whatever it takes?
Dennis Manpoong Kim, senior pastor of Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Md., challenged listeners to live like the Old Testament Joseph, who had every reason to be discouraged by what was happening to him. And yet, he still loved his neighbors.
“Loving our neighbors means to care for them, to heal their wounds, to provide their needs, and to share the Gospel for their salvation,” he said.
How did Joseph love his neighbors? He relied on God who was always with him—under all circumstances (Gen. 39:1-3), Kim said. “Because he solely loved God, he was able to love the unlovely—his master and even his fellow servants in Egypt,” he said.
“Yes, we can fall into despair when we look at our own situation and circumstances, but if we turn our eyes to God who is always with us and helps us in times of need, we can love even the unlovely, even our neighbors.”
Ed Litton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile, Ala. (now known as Redemption Church), acknowledged that today’s church is living in a time of great change. Many wonder how to be authentic.
“We either embrace the culture, or we withdraw from the culture bound by our traditions,” he said, adding, “The Gospel is the only thing that can change culture.”
Pointing to Jeremiah 29:4-8, he challenged his listeners to heed God’s call to fearlessly love the city where He has placed them because God loves the city where He has placed them.
He explained, the key is family engagement for the Gospel, noting through the Prophet Jeremiah, God’s people were told to build houses, settle down, plant gardens, marry, increase their number, and to “seek peace and prosperity” where they were sent.
Our goal is to be the Gospel in this culture, he said.
“We have a choice to be Lot’s wife, to be Jonah, or be like Jesus who wept over the city,” he said.