Mission & Ministry Summit

Take the Land

by Clint Cook, Executive Director

Clint Cook - Summit Keynote Speaker - possessIn 1994, I was privileged to speak at the General Association held in Nashville, Tennessee. My scripture portion was from Joshua 1. “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: You are old, advanced in years and there remains much land yet to be possessed.”

This passage is very similar to the key scripture chosen for the 2017 Summit theme: Take the Land. Deuteronomy 1:8 says, “See I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore to your fathers….”

These two passages have some interesting similarities: they both deal with the Promised Land, and they are both statements to Joshua. The difference between the two passages is Joshua’s age.

In Deuteronomy, we see a younger Joshua who was following a senior leader. Later we have a seasoned, mature Joshua who had encountered many ups and downs over a 40-year span of time. Joshua 1 shows us a man who had weathered the death of Moses, navigated his growth from warrior to national leader, and saw the result of disobedience. It was under Joshua’s leadership that the people of God finally conquered and possessed the Promised Land.

Then, in Joshua 13, the Lord gives a very clear analysis: “There remains yet very much land to possess.”

Like Joshua and the nation of Israel, each of us is given a similar directive by God to Take the Land. Disciples of Jesus are commanded in the Great Commission to go and make disciples. I see a direct correlation between God’s directive to Joshua and the Great Commission to the church.

As a 32-year-old pastor at that G.A., I was a lot like Joshua: young, impetuous, and intimidated. I knew the Great Commission commanded me to share the gospel and make disciples. I also knew of many older General Baptist pastors and preachers who had been blessed with fruitful ministries and growing churches. I recall that I reminded the 1994 audience that the General Baptist movement needs young, middle-aged, and older disciple makers, because, “There remains very much land yet to be possessed.”

Our movement has made wonderful progress for the Kingdom through souls saved, thousands of disciples trained, new churches organized and new international fields opened. Yet, have we run out of communities to change? Has every person we know been won to faith in Christ? No!

Just because General Baptists have had some successes, our assignment is not finished. In the midst of our praise to the Lord for these blessings, we must never lose sight of God’s mandate that remains unfulfilled: “There remains very much land yet to be possessed.”

So what can we learn from these passages?

First, whatever the age of your church, the age of your members, or the age of your pastor, we will give an account one day not only for what we have accomplished, but for what still needs to be done.

Second, the Great Commission is an ongoing, never-ending, retirement-free directive to the church. Church member, leader, pastor: our assignment is not complete. There is more land yet to possess!

Third, let us remember that making disciples is like fighting those Old Testament Canaanites. Sharing our faith is a spiritual battle that is full of obstacles, obstructions, and strongholds. But it is a battle we must continue to fight. The children of Israel dwelt on the obstacles. They asked, “Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts saying the people are greater and taller than we are. The cities are great and fortified up to the heaven.” (Deuteronomy 1:28)

We’re in this fight together. When we Stay Connected, we Stay Strong. Let’s hold fast to God’s response to the nay-sayers in verse 29: “Do not be terrified or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you, He will fight for you.”

My prayer is that 2017 will be the year every General Baptist church renews its commitment and obligation to Take the Land for, “There remains very much land yet to be possessed.” Join us at the 2017 Summit where we will challenged even more to Take the Land!

Turnaround 2020

Turnaround 2020 – A Challenge from Clint Cook

2016 marks the first year of a five-year General Baptist initiative called TURNAROUND 2020. Turnaround 2020 will assist General Baptist churches to discover and to achieve their full redemptive potential by the year 2020. What if…

  • What if more of our General Baptist churches would double or triple in worship attendance over the next five years?
  • What if our General Baptist churches experienced the largest number of conversions and baptisms ever in our history? Would we be a healthier church? A healthier movement?
  • What would happen in the communities where our General Baptist churches are located if we went outside the walls of our buildings and ministered to the hurting, the needy, and the underprivileged, just like Jesus did when he walked the dusty streets of his hometown?
  • What if, as church leaders and members, we started praying intentionally for the lost and unchurched people of our communities to come and visit our churches for the first time?
  • What would happen in our General Baptist churches if we wept and prayed over our communities as Jesus did over Jerusalem?
  • What would happen to all of our General Baptist churches if we once again relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and bring a fresh wind of revival and renewal to every General Baptist member’s heart?

If this initiative called “TURNAROUND 2020” is going to happen, please allow me to challenge our pastors and church leaders in a few areas.

First

I want to challenge our pastors and preachers to remember God’s call. Go back in your mind and recall what it was like when you first heard His voice, as Samuel did, or as Isaiah did. Do you remember specifically what you felt and how you answered? Can you feel the heavy burden He placed upon your heart? Church leaders, do you realize we only have a limited amount of time to share the gospel?

We must remember that when God called us to preach, or to pastor, or to teach, or to minister, or to start a local church, it was not an afterthought – it was for a specific reason. God does not call a person or start a church without a specific reason for doing so. Continue reading

Turnaround 20/20

A Five-Year Plan Helping Every General Baptist Church Reach Its Full Redemptive Potential

Turnaround 2020Beginning in the summer of 2016 General Baptist Ministries will begin a five-year initiative leading up to the year 2020. Turnaround 2020 intends to capture a renewed emphasis on evangelism and church growth so that every General Baptist church may reach its full redemptive potential. Because General Baptists believe in a general atonement—that Christ tasted death for all so that whosoever will may be saved—no General Baptist church reaches its full redemptive potential until everyone in its sphere of influence has heard, understood and responded to the gospel message.

Our strategy will be to produce and distribute turnaround resources for all, to present coaching opportunities to those groups who commit to in-person and/or video venue sessions, and to help mentoring for one-on-one intensive connections.

A Program and A Process

Turnaround 2020 will offer programming content readily adaptable in a variety of local church settings. At the same time Turnaround 2020 will start a process that, over time, will assist participating churches in their turnaround.

Why Turnaround?

Church growth experts continue to remind us that approximately 80% of local churches in the United States are either plateauing or declining in their attendance. A church plateaus when there is no change in the overall participation in its ministries. Plateau sometimes occurs when a group becomes closed to new members much like a private membership club that blackballs all new applicants. Plateau most often occurs when a church only reaches enough new members to replace those lost to death, drop-out or relocation.

If plateau continues for any appreciable length of time, decline becomes inevitable. A declining church counts fewer participants in the current year than were present in the prior year.

Plateau and decline are sometimes rationalized as the result of strict faithfulness to the gospel that discourages half-hearted followers. In many churches plateau or decline have become the new normal. No one seems to remember anything else!

Plateau and decline, however, most often results from the loss of connection to the community and the failure to communicate the Good News in understandable, meaningful ways.

Programming Overview

Beginning in 2016 the annual Mission & Ministry Summit will provide a platform for the distribution of Turnaround 2020 materials. Annually a planning notebook will be released at the Summit for free download or for hard copy purchase. Continue reading

Staying Connected, Staying Strong

Staying Connected, Staying StrongStaying Connected, Staying Strong

Those four words say a lot to me not only as Pastor, but also as Executive Director.

As a pastor, I am reminded of the parable Jesus told:  “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?” [Matthew 18:12 NKJV]

Jesus used a simple illustration to communicate a directive to every pastor-shepherd. In order to truly disciple Christians into fully devoted, mature followers of Christ, helping them stay connected to the body of Christ is essential. Jesus made it clear that shepherds keep their sheep connected to the fold. For the local church this means we are to seek for straying sheep and help them reconnect to the fold of the church. Jesus made it clear that shepherds keep their sheep connected to the fold. For the local church this means we are to seek for straying sheep and help them reconnect to the fold of the church. Click To Tweet

As Pastor, I’ve always viewed this shepherding task as a very important and serious responsibility. The spiritual lives of my sheep are dependent upon their connection to the church. A shepherding pastor must also strive to help members stay in the fold of the church. If they stay connected they are better protected from tragic pitfalls and hidden obstacles that await outside the church. A church is always stronger with 100% of its sheep in the fold than it is when even a few are missing.

As Executive Director, the words, Staying Connected, Staying Strong, also have a sobering effect on me. I am reminded that as General Baptists strive to advance the Kingdom, every mission field is crucially important to us. For we “are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). We can never forget the sacrifices of missionary families who travel to different states or countries to spread the gospel. We can never forget the sacrificial giving of individuals and churches that help develop new ministries in the U.S. and around the globe.

I always feel a burden when I visit our mission fields. I want to make sure that our missionaries and national workers know that they have a larger General Baptist family in the United States who love them and want to stay connected with them. As a network of churches called General Baptist, we must stay connected to the ministries God has provided to us. As a network of churches called General Baptist, we must stay connected to the ministries God has provided to us. Click To Tweet

We try to maintain this connection by having our missionaries, and now some national workers as well, travel to the United States to attend the Summit. I want this to continue each year so the ability to meet with, pray with, worship with, and laugh with their greater General Baptist family will breathe encouragement into the lives of our missionaries, national workers and the mission fields they represent.

I believe Jesus is pleased with our General Baptist family when we seek to stay connected at the local, national, and international levels.

Local pastor, I know how tough ministry life can be. One weapon in Satan’s arsenal is isolation and separation. Pastors, we don’t want you to be disconnected, struggling to do ministry alone. We have designed conferences to equip you to do the work more creatively, efficiently, and meaningfully than ever before. Our Barnabas Project attempts to make personal connection to you. We offer services to help personal networking and maintain current communications.

Local church, regardless of your size, location, or budget, we value your connection to General Baptist Ministries. In light of the troubled state of our culture and the recent ruling by our U.S. Supreme Court regarding marriage and family, the time to stand strong together upon the Word of God is now.

Missionaries and national workers, we believe in your sacrifice and mission. We are dedicated to giving you our prayers as well as our financial support.

Staying Connected, Staying Strong. May these words stir every General Baptist. No Pastor can be left behind. No mission field can be forgotten. No local church can be cast aside. No General Baptist can be overlooked. You belong to a larger body of believers committed to helping you do more together than you could ever do alone.

Clint Cook – Executive Director
General Baptist Ministries

Life in Those Old Denominations: 3 Reasons for Belonging AND Participating

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

Having just completed our annual Mission & Ministry Summit I have been reminded not only of the history of our own denomination but also the value of belonging and participating in a denominational network. Hundreds of General Baptist leaders gathered in Collinsville, Illinois for Powerful Worship, Practical Training and Personal Missionary Connections.

Powerful Worship was made possible by a Collective Worship Team of musicians and vocalists from several churches. The main sessions were completed by powerful preaching from both General Baptist and guest preachers who obviously had a message to share. Each preacher (Mark Powell, Darren Patrick, Alex Himaya, and Clint Cook) shared passionately and effectively. (Note: DVD copies of the main sessions are available for purchase from Congregational Ministries.)

Practical Training came from workshop sessions offered throughout the week. Workshop tracks allowed participants options to build a series of connected workshops or to enjoy highlights from several workshop tracks. Along with missionary connections, special training came from our own Church Planting Team and guests assisted with rural church, discipleship, personal enrichment, church systems and other topics. To conserve the learning, audio recordings were made of most workshops and access to those downloadable recordings is available through a drop card system that may be purchased from Congregational Ministries.

Missionary Connections were not only available in the workshops but were also part of the main stage event, a featured element of the exhibit hall, and an important part of two very powerful group prayers. On Tuesday evening Executive Director Clint Cook presided over a very moving commissioning service as the assembled leaders laid hands on newly appointed International Missions Director Mark Powell and newly appointed church planter Steve Gill to commission them to their new tasks. On Wednesday evening all the current missionaries, church planters and ethnic ministries were grouped together for a special joint prayer of blessing on their lives and service.

Looking back over the week I was reminded of three very important reasons for being part of a denominational network.

First, we do together what we cannot do alone. No one church can accomplish individually what we accomplish collectively. What one church can supervise the gathering of 42 churches in India? What one church can undertake the management of an orphanage in Honduras? What one church can plant a series of fast-growing, high-impact churches to reach thousands with the gospel? What one church can set the stage for revitalization of hundreds of existing churches? While no one church can undertake these ministries, when we work together they are rather easily accomplished!

Second, as part of a network of churches we are exposed to the help and encouragement needed to be more effective in our local ministries. One of the amazing things about The Summit is that since the meetings were re-engineered in 2007 a broader connection among and between General Baptists from different parts of the nation and different parts of the world have developed. With these new connections there is a synergy of effort as well as a keen reassurance that we are not alone in the struggle.

Third, as part of a denominational connection I can take advantage of services and programs that are offered to assist and expand my own ministry. Conferences and events offered by the denomination are provided at very modest costs and in convenient locations. If I accessed similar services as a private payee I would spend hundreds of dollars more for the same or similar conferences and events. Consultation services, missionary presence and church planter connections are all designed to assist and expand each local ministry to more effectively reach the world.

Executive Director Clint Cook puts it like this, “General Baptist Ministries exists to maximize Kingdom impact by starting, equipping and inspiring local churches to accomplish the Great Commission.”

Brand name loyalty is not what it once was. Markets for automobiles and dishwashing detergent can no longer depend on a buying public that is motivated by brand name loyalty. Church connections, too, are often driven by factors other than brand name loyalty. For me, however, there are compelling reasons for connecting to those old denominational structures, so I want to do my part to establish and improve my connections.

 

To purchase recordings of the workshops or General Sessions, contact Congregational Ministries at cmofc@generalbaptist or by calling 573-785-7746.

5 Wrongs and 1 Right

By Franklin Dumond

Suppose a convoy of large, over-sized, over-weight transports arrived at a bridge with specifically posted and well known weight limits that made it dangerous to cross. Suppose the drivers of the transport vehicles conferred on the implications of the weight limits by investigating the history of the load limits, the placement of the weight limit sign, along with the stated intention of the drivers to deliver their over-sized, over-weight cargo.

bridge for blogSuppose the nine drivers take a formal poll to determine the course of action with the result that five of them announce their belief that the designers of the bridge never intended to restrict access, the use of the bridge should not be restricted based on the precedent of history and everyone should be able to move whatever cargo they choose to deliver across the bridge. Despite the fact that four of the drivers object, five of them determine to press ahead to deliver their over-sized, over-weight cargo despite the clearly posted, scientifically sound weight limits on the bridge.

The analogy is remarkably like the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding marriage laws in the United States. Their decision that marriage is not to be understood only in traditional terms of union between one man and one woman now applies throughout the land despite the logic of history and the message of a Judeo-Christian worldview.

Several concerns have been raised by leaders and lay members in evangelical churches as they consider the implications of such a decision. In the current legal framework here are some facts that need to be considered.

  1. Can Baptist pastors be compelled to officiate same-sex marriages? NO! Baptist pastors are not agents of the state and thus they cannot be compelled to act for the state. Government officials may be compelled to act for the state as part of their statutory responsibility. Pastors have always been able to determine the conditions under which they will officiate a ceremony. Many pastors require a particular series of pre-marital counseling sessions, others refuse to officiate at second marriages if divorce has been involved while still others choose only to serve the members of their congregations. None of this is changed by the Supreme Court ruling.
  2. Can churches be compelled to allow the use of their facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies? NO! A building use policy that is crafted to tie a General Baptist Church to the Social Principles adopted as policy statements by the General Association of General Baptists will prevent any claim of discrimination or any misunderstanding of the church’s biblical view of marriage. (For more information see the General Baptist Messenger, Winter 2013, pages 34-35 at www.GBMessenger.org)

A church that engages in the rental business, however, may be subject to the restrictions imposed by public accommodation laws. That is if a church’s building use policy offers rental of the facility for stated fees and other terms that make it appear that the church provides a public access service to the community then the church may find itself without important protections.

Similarly a harsh, restrictive facility use policy that defines what the church is against rather than what it is for muddies the water. For example, a building use policy that states “These facilities shall never be used for same sex ceremonies” is very different from a building use policy that states “These facilities shall never be used in a manner inconsistent with the biblical view of marriage stated in the Social Principles of General Baptists.” The General Baptist Social Principles Booklet is downloadable from www.GeneralBaptist.com by going to the Council of Associations page and scrolling down to the We Believe documents.

I noticed with sadness the release of the Supreme Court opinion. The day it was released the sun went down, but the day after the sun came up again.

The world has not come to an end because five people made a collective mistake. The court has made mistakes in the past, most notably the Dred Scott decision in 1857. The court will most likely make mistakes in the future-all humans do.

The larger implications of the recent ruling are that the church must be more effective in evangelism and more efficient in discipleship. Real change in a culture does not come from laws and court opinions but it comes when hearts of stone are replaced with new hearts of flesh that are in tune with and guided by the Lord himself.

Despite recent Supreme Court rulings General Baptist Ministries continues to affirm a view of marriage and sexuality as defined by the Scripture and as summarized in the Social Principles of General Baptists:

“We believe in the divine sanctity of the marriage covenant, which is the union between one man and one woman only. This is God’s plan for a continued moral civilization. We reject ‘marriage’ between two parties of the same sex and count such an act in violation of God’s ordained plan for human beings…Marriage is a partnership between husband and wife and accomplishes its full purpose through unity, loyalty, and love.” (page 10)

“We recognize that sexuality is a good gift of God which, in all instances, is to be disciplined in such a manner as to bring two persons to its true fulfillment. We are to be good stewards of this divine gift. We believe that society as a whole has fallen far below God’s standards of sexual morality. We believe the Bible teaches that sexual relations should be practiced only within the marriage bond.” (page 15)

Executive Director Clint Cook has stated, “Neither courts nor legislatures or a secular culture can alter eternal standards revealed by God himself. The recent Supreme Court rulings illustrate the mandate given to the Church to make disciples one at a time so that society at large may be changed. General Baptist Ministries will continue to pursue an aggressive plan for church planting to win more and more people to the faith. We will continue to coach and encourage local General Baptist churches to aggressively pursue evangelism and missions with the goal of life transformation that will in turn lead to social transformation. May God send us another Great Awakening to rescue our lost and dying culture.”

I’ll Do My Best

By Clint Cook

A few weeks ago I joined six other General Baptist pastors on a journey to the Philippine Islands. I had the privilege of leading this team of pastors in the important task of teaching and challenging our Filipino brothers and sisters in leadership and spiritual growth. The team consisted of Chad Hensley, John Brumfiel, Dr. Jim Pratt, Barry Cullen, Jim Rudolph, Clint Pagan and myself. It was a hectic but life-changing trip. Each member of our team had the privilege of preaching in one of our local General Baptist churches during Sunday morning worship and visiting with the members. We traveled to the Matigsalog area to view the General Baptist work there to encourage our teachers and leaders hard at work in this important region at the Matigsalog Bible Institute. We also held a conference at the General Baptist Bible College called the 360º Leadership Forum where we met, taught, trained and encouraged young students determined to win the Philippines for Christ. How uplifting it was to see how God is using them!

While in Davao City we also hosted the first ever American-Filipino Minister’s Retreat. It was a wonderful time of worship and training with our Filipino counterparts. We shared meals with these ministers, listened to the triumphs and struggles of their ministries, and cried and rejoiced with them as they told us stories of rebuilding after Typhoon Pablo in December 2012, a project made possible by the generosity of General Baptists. What a solemn sight it was to see Ground Zero for Typhoon Pablo, a pile of rubble where a thriving community once stood, and where over 1,000 people lost their lives.

It was an awe-inspiring experience to see our work on the island of Mindanao. A special note of thanks and appreciation goes out to Joyce Porcadilla and all of her staff at the General Baptist Bible College and the Matigsalug Bible Institute for making the 360º Leadership Forum and first ever Minister’s Retreat a definite success. Out of the 120 college students that attended the 360º Forum, 90% of them are General Baptist students, and nearly 80% anticipate continuing in ministry as Christian leaders, preachers, and pastors. How bright the future of General Baptists is in the Philippines! How blessed we are to have this Gospel-proclaiming, gates-of-hell-storming work thriving on the other side of the world!

Although the seven members of our team were sent to train and encourage these Filipino students and ministers, each of us left with hearts full of thankfulness, humbleness and excitement for the General Baptist work in the Philippines. The students at the General Baptist Bible College repeatedly displayed their burning desire and passion to serve the local church as Christian leaders. Prepare to be blessed as you watch this short video of 3rd and 4th year students at GBBC telling, through song, their General Baptist brothers and sisters in the U.S. that they will do their best!