Prayer Night - Camp/SBC
Last Sunday morning we studied out of Acts 5 and talked about the Threat to Christian Community. The early church was facing many threats. They lived in a country where the predominant powers did not like them - the Jewish leadership had already imprisoned the leaders of the Christian church and the Roman leaders had executed Jesus Christ a few months before this. The threats were intense and as Acts continues to show us, the threats largely get worse. Stephen will be executed in Acts 7. Saul will ravage the church in Acts 8. Many of the disciples of Jesus will die gruesome deaths in the early years of the church and things will pick up throughout the 1st century. We have been reading in the book of Revelation during Sunday School and looking specifically at the letters to the 7 churches at the beginning of this incredible book. Throughout these 3 chapters, we read about churches that are suffering from persecution. They are being told to worship Caesar or false Greek/Roman gods and are being instructed by Christ to remain faithful, to run the good race, to stay hot. There are many different perspectives and ideas regarding the date of Revelation, some speculate that it was written during Nero’s reign as Emperor during the mid 60s AD, some speculate that it was written after 110 AD and many think that it was written right around 95 AD. Let’s role with the 95 date for a moment. Think of all the suffering the church had from 35-95 AD. That’s just 60 years. Some of you all today are 60 years old. Think of living during this time in the history of the church!
Jesus dies. Stephen dies. Paul dies. Peter dies. James dies. John dies. Timothy dies. All of these faithful servants of Christ proclaim the Gospel and they die. They are persecuted. Things are not always easy, yet the church flourishes and grows rapidly because they remained faithful to preaching the Gospel message that says that Jesus and only Jesus saves sinners. This is the only hope that our world has and it is a message that our world desperately needs today!
Whenever we think of Christians suffering to this extent today, we often think of Christians overseas. Christians in underground churches in places like China, the Middle East, Africa, and possibly a few other places. There are Christians facing this level of life/death persecution. With that said, there are Christians all around the world facing other levels of persecution today. While it might not be life/death, it is still persecution. I’ve mentioned this a few times, but did you know that there are churches in Canada that have been unable to officially meet in person for worship for over 15 months? There have been many pastors imprisoned because they have worshipped together with their flock. There are people being persecuted and told that they can go to the grocery store but they can’t come to church. There are people being told that they can be a follower of one religion but the moment that they accept Christ as Lord, they run the risk of losing their job or family. They are being persecuted. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters facing this level of persecution. Our prayer should be that they would receive courage to run the race before them with faithfulness to our Lord and that through their obedience, that others might come to know Christ as Lord as well.
As we pray for the persecuted church, we also should pray for the American church. Though we don’t face some of these same situations, we face many threats today in our neck of the woods and beyond. In Acts 5 the threat to the church wasn’t death or suffering, instead it was hypocrisy and lying. Every church faces these threats. Every church today is being faced to some extent with the threat of religious liberty. We touched on the “equality” act a few months ago and how that would be a devastating piece of legislation if passed as it would impact churches and Christian ministries significantly. We need to pray for Christians around the globe and we also need to pray for Christians in our country.
This past week was the SBC annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. The registration secretary is a good friend of mine and my former boss at FBC Ozark and he reported that there were over 21,000 people present at this meeting - the most in 25 years. Just as there are threats to unity within our individual churches, there are threats to our convention just as there are to other conventions of churches out there. How many of you are familiar with the United Methodist controversy in recent years? Their convention had a massive split back in 2019 due to same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ pastors. Due to COVID-19, they have been in a very awkward and painful stalemate over this issue. I have friends who serve and attend Methodist churches and this is a sad situation for all involved. Our culture says that same-sex attraction and LGBTQ pastors are both permissible and things to be celebrated. Sadly, there are churches who have followed suit with this - to quote Paul in Ephesians
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
We aren’t supposed to just go with the flow of what our world says is right. We are to stand firm on the truth of God’s Word! This brings us to the SBC meeting. By no means is our denomination perfect. We have flaws and leaders make mistakes. There is no perfect pastor, leader, servant, or director. Some in the media world, especially those who are not SBC, have painted our denomination as though we are going the way of the culture. Some have even stated that we elected a progressive, liberal person to be the president for the upcoming year. I don’t claim to have an answer to every question, but I do have trusted pastors that I know who say that this meeting was largely a success. Were there some things that happened that were tough pills to swallow for some? Absolutely. The presidential race was 52/48 % whenever that happens there is bound to be some hard feelings!
Were same-sex marriages allowed? No. Were LGBTQ clergy allowed? No.
There was disagreement. There were people who viewed things differently. There were people who were passionate about some issues that others weren’t as passionate about. There was also prayer, worship, faithful, expositional preaching of God’s Word. There were celebrations of missionaries who were being commissioned to go all around the globe. There were stories of God’s providence over the past year due to COVID.
We stand firm on the Word of God that our greatest problem is our sin and the only solution to that problem is the cross of Jesus Christ. Any theory or tool out there that says that our problem is anything other than sin, especially whenever they say that the problem is our skin, we reject that firmly. The Bible is clear that there is one mediator between God and man and that mediator is not the pope, president, or a power. Rather it is Jesus Christ!
The Bible is clear that all life is valuable because all humans are created in the image of God and that life is a gift to be protected from the womb to the tomb. Does this include people who do not believe the same as we do? Yes. Does this include people who voted differently than we did? Yes. As has been the case throughout recent years, the SBC messengers resoundingly affirmed the sanctity of human life and the Bible being sufficient and authoritative.
Now, was the meeting perfect? Far from it. There were motions and resolutions that could have been written better. There were things that could have been passed that were not. But, was it the mess that some people are making it out to be? No.
There are nearly 48,000 SBC churches and our membership is over 14,000,000. If every church took the time to pray that God would bring about unity and discernment as we cooperate voluntarily with one another, I truly believe that revival would break out! I’ve been SBC my whole life and the reason I am today is because I am convinced that our beliefs most closely align with God’s Word. I’m convicted by the BFM 2000 that it is a solid confessional document. I am overjoyed by the cooperation that we have as SBC churches and it is completely voluntary. No one is forcing us or any SBC church to do anything. If someone wants to leave, they can do so. But we are stronger together than we are apart. The SBC is made up of 25,000 Morgan Baptist Churches in the sense that the mean attendance of a SBC church is 70 people. Throughout our history, do you know how much money we have raised to go to overseas missionaries? Over 133 years, we have given over $5 billion! We have 6 seminaries as Southern Baptists all throughout the US. Golden Gate, SWBTS, MBTS, SBTS, NOBTS, SEBTS. Did you know that through our convention, if you are a member of a SBC church, your tuition is 50% of what it should be? This is due to faithful giving of nearly 48,000 churches that I am able to attend Midwestern for a few thousand dollars a semester instead of a substantially higher figure. Back to missionaries, did you know that some Christian missionaries have to come back to the states every so many years in order to raise funds from churches/people before they can go back to their mission site overseas? This is a normal thing for many missionaries, but not in SBC life. The Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings are crucial in helping fund our missionaries so that they don’t have to worry about funds but can focus on God’s calling and work in their context.
There are some awesome things going on in our convention that won’t be covered by CNN or Fox News or by your favorite non-SBC pastor or author. It’s easy to focus on the negatives and there are many that we could choose from. There are legitimate threats to churches. But there is one solution - Jesus Christ. We are called to keep our eyes on Him
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Why are we supposed to do this? Because whenever we understand that we are saved to serve and be united through faith in Jesus, we work together, even though we have some disagreements. Paul hits on this in Ephesians 4:1-6 as he talks about the things that we are united in.
1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
We are not to operate like organizations, parties, groups, or powers of this world because we are set apart to be different. Jesus says this about His kingdom to Pilate in John
36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
His kingdom is not of this world, and we shouldn’t act like non-Christians do. We build one another up. We take the high road. We don’t resort to slander or name calling. If we miss, we aim high, not low.
We need to pray for our church and for other churches like ours. We are living in difficult times in many different respects and we need to pray for a few things.
That we would be obedient to God’s Word
That we wouldn’t follow the pattern of our world
That we would love one another as Christ loves us
That we wouldn’t let non-essentials divide us
That we would continue to share the Gospel hope
That we would be united by the Holy Spirit
Over the next few minutes, my hope is that we would simply pray. These 6 things are not the only things to pray for from a convention standpoint. Pray for wisdom for our newly elected president. Pray for our upcoming upcoming association camp. Pray that the Gospel would be preached. We will have some slides that might help guide this time of prayer but feel free to pray however you feel led. We believe in the power of prayer and my prayer is that we would be be united as a body as we pray for one another and for Christians of all shapes and sizes around the globe. Let’s pray!