by Clint Cook, Executive Director
In 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!