By / Dec 2

As a young woman, I felt the call to serve God overseas in a Muslim country. Like many students in a thriving college ministry in the early 2000s, the call to take the gospel to the ends of the earth was heard often and taken seriously. I remember being faced, for the first time, with the reality that God did not exist to bless me and make my life better, but that he blessed me so that his name would be glorified among the nations. 

I signed up to spend six weeks in a Central Asian country where my team and I would teach English at universities and build relationships with students outside of class. Our hopes were that God would allow us to share the gospel with them. Prior to leaving on this trip, I was actually quite terrified. I felt anything but courageous. I was leaving the comfort and safety of my Midwest existence and heading to a country whose religion caused fear in the hearts of many post-9/11 Americans. However, I was not scared of being in a Muslim country or being with Muslims; I was scared of God. 

Learning to rest in the gospel 

During my college years and for several years afterward, I had a poor understanding of the gospel. I thought I needed Jesus to get to the cross, but after I received salvation, it was up to me to be good and perfect and holy. This meant that I pursued the “most holy” thing I could do, which was going overseas for the sake of the gospel. And when I was there and struggling with a lack of desire to do what I’d been sent to do, I became fearful of what God thought of me. Surely, he would not love me unless I committed right then and there to spend the rest of my life living in the Middle East. 

Later on in life, my husband, 8-month-old daughter, and I headed overseas again. This time we were spending two years with the IMB working with a Muslim people group in Europe. I was less fearful this time, but I still held onto a low-level fear that God was somehow inexplicably disappointed in me each day. It wasn’t until I read a parenting book on grace that I finally understood that I was the heathen, not just those I was going to share the gospel with. Once I realized that I was in need of grace and understood that God had already freely given me grace for my sins, I was set free from the fear that had caused me to keep God at arm’s length. 

Today, we are living in time that causes a lot of fear for many Christians. I think many of us have either assumed or been taught, albeit subconsciously, that it’s up to us to be holy and prove our righteousness before men and God. Scripture even tells us to be holy as God is holy. But if we look at the whole Bible, we see how much emphasis is placed on God’s saving work on our behalf. 

Responding to the fears of our day

As we near the end of 2020, you may be feeling that the world has completely turned upside down. You could be fearful of a pandemic or a new government in the United States. You may be worried about job loss and the economic future of our country. Our subconscious Christian culture may have told us that these things should cause us to fight for our rights. But, I would like to suggest a different way to react to these things that, for many, are truly scary. 

As we look to increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, while also looking down the barrel of an uncertain political future and economic disruptions, the greatest thing we can do is embrace our fear and take it to God.

When I look back on my time overseas, I remember how scary it felt to share the gospel with a post-modern European who believed that all truth was relative and anyone who believes in a Middle Eastern carpenter who walked the Earth 2000 years ago is crazy. The largest mosque in Europe was just a few blocks from our apartment, and every Friday I saw droves of North Africans fill the neighboring streets so they could attend Friday prayers. At times, the spiritual lostness was so overwhelming I felt paralyzed to even know what to say.

I can even look to my life here in the states and see when fear has crept into my heart. I pray for my neighbors and the friends of my children. But what if God gives me an opportunity to really talk about my faith? Will I freeze up in fear, or will I trust that God can give me words to say?

What I’ve learned most about fear and courage in my 37 years of life is best defined by my friend Lori McDaniel who says there are four ways to deal with fear: 

  1. Pretend I have none: denial
  2. Remain in it: paralyzed
  3. Hand letter it and post on social media: facade
  4. Absorb God’s Word and move forward: trust 

As we look to increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, while also looking down the barrel of an uncertain political future and economic disruptions, the greatest thing we can do is embrace our fear and take it to God. Tell God what you are fearful about, not social media. Instead of getting angry and attacking someone on the other aisle of your beliefs, take your anger and frustration to God. He wants to hear what you have to say, and he wants to show you in his Word how he will take care of you. God can and will give us all the courage to be salt and light in this broken world. No matter what happens in the remainder of 2020, 2021, and the rest of our lives, we can be sure that God is on his throne, completely in control of everything happening. Be strong and courageous in the truth that God is God and you are not. 

Russell Moore’s latest book, “Courage to Stand,” is about how courage means embracing your fears. Check out his book here

We encourage you to consider giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. You can help send even more Southern Baptists to the ends of the earth by making a year-end donation to the International Mission Board

By / Nov 17

Even though the religious freedom situation in Russia is already challenging the traditional and therefore ineffective political correctness of international rights organizations and Western governments, few of them acknowledge that the continuing limitation of freedom is affecting the actual life and missionary practice of local evangelical churches. Today, churches unwillingly appear in the center of attention of officials and security services as the main spiritual extremists and terrorists. As is well known, in July 2016, the president of Russia signed a package of “antiterrorist laws” that became known by their co-author name as the Yarovaya Laws. In practice the so-called anti-terrorist laws turned out to be anti-missionary and even anti-church laws. Instead of a war on terror, the state unfurled a very real war against religious freedom.

It is remarkable that even during a pandemic there have been numerous instances of limiting the religious freedom of evangelical believers, mostly fines for distributing spiritual literature and bans on conducting worship services.1Russian Evangelicals Fined for ‘Missionary Activity’ During Pandemic The fact that the state is so active in its attempts to control the activity of evangelical communities even in the midst of more global problems shows plenty about the priorities of state policies.

Worship services in the forest

Recently in the news about religious freedom in Russia, an interesting headline caught my attention, “Vladimir Ryakhovsky Agreed with the Mayor of Novorossiysk About Solving the Problem of Evangelists Conducting Services in the Forest.”2Владимир Ряховский договорился с мэром Новороссийска о решении проблем евангелистов, проводящих богослужения в лесу // The news appeared on Sep. 10 on the official site of the Russian President’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.

Immediately I thought of two things. It was strange to see a Baptist church in the woods as the result of all the heroic efforts of the president of Russia and his Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights. It was even stranger to hear that it is necessary to “agree” on the implementation of constitutional rights of freedom of conscience and assembly.

I learned from the news that “believers turned to a human rights defender because in July 2019, the judicial authorities sealed the living room of a residence where a church of evangelical Baptists conducted a worship service. A ban on the owner and other persons using the yard and the residence for religious purposes was imposed by a court decision. As a result, the congregation was completely deprived of a place for worship and forced to conduct worship services in the forest during the summer of 2020.”3Ibid.

Thanks to Vladimir Ryakhovsky’s personal intervention, the congregation gained the hope that it could restore worship services in its church building. In order to understand the seriousness of the situation, one should know that Mr. Ryakhovsky is a prominent Russian attorney, a member of the presidium of the President of the Russian Federation’s Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, and co-chairman of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice. His brother, Sergei Ryakhovsky, heads the very large union of Pentecostals of Russia, and even so, is considered quite loyal to the Kremlin.

It seems that even such a highly-placed intercessor is unable to defend local churches. The role of the Council regarding “human rights” is more and more becoming a façade, leading to an illusion of freedom and even hiding its absence. At the same time, anti-missionary limitations are becoming a part of a consistent government policy directed against the most active religious congregations that are not controlled by the government.

Forum 18 announced that before it went to the forest, the Novorossiysk congregation was subjected to systematic pressure by the security organs.4RUSSIA: Losing places of worship // Its pastor Yurii Kornienko was fined for conducting a worship service in a private home owned by a church member. Although there were only Baptists at the service and although the pastor himself had permission to conduct missionary activity, the ban on using the building was imposed by the Novorossiysk administration. Thus, a small Baptist congregation lost the right to gather in a building and was forced to transfer to the forest.

Suppression of evangelical church locations 

This event is part of a general problem in which the state does not allow believers to exercise even minimal rights to a designated place for assembly, forcing them into a semi-legal space and clandestine existence. Evangelical believers assemble in private homes not because they do not want to build separate church buildings (“cultic facilities”). Rather, they are not allowed to do this by the state itself, which then punishes them for this. Thus, the state deliberately creates the conditions under which no place for congregations remains in the legal space of social life and then forces them to break up into clandestine small groups or to gather in the forest.

This is a well-known story for local evangelical believers who still continue from the times of furious Soviet anti-religious campaigns when all churches were closed and when believers went underground and gathered secretly in private homes or in remote unpopulated places. Little has changed since then. Although in the first years after the collapse of the USSR, the state closed its eyes to the “self-willed-ness” of the evangelical churches and tolerated their missionary activity, in the last 20 years it transitioned to active countermeasures against further growth and church activity. Even so all this time, the Orthodox Church was allowed full government support and built luxurious religious buildings in the very best locations.

Today we see a shocking contrast between the golden cupolas of the Orthodox Church and the humble congregations of evangelical believers in the forest. These contrasts speak volumes. First, that in distinction from the Soviet practice of fighting against religion as such, the current Russian authorities are quite discriminatory in their attitudes toward religion. They maintain a course of state support for one confession and of marginalizing the others. That which can be controlled winds up in a golden cage. That which opposes control winds up behind prison bars, or in the forest.

Regrettably, many Western experts on religious freedom are inclined to follow the lead of Russian propaganda and to equate the Christian revival in Russia with the expansion of the official Orthodox Church. They are simply deceived by the results of surveys in which the majority of Russian confidently declare their adherence to Orthodoxy. Even more, they are deceived by the beauty of the Orthodox churches. Therefore, instead of solidarity with evangelical believers in defense of their freedom, the experts advise reconciling with the reality of Orthodoxy and the pro-Putin consensus and to accept the rules of the game, which are written in the Kremlin. But there is another path, a narrow path of faith in God and one’s conscience, which leads to the forest, and for some to prison.

I recall my childhood experience of being a part of the underground evangelical community. I committed my life to God in such a church, which we called Church in the Forest. Then we gathered in worship services in deserted places far from the cities and walked many miles to worship God freely in lap of wild nature. There were harsh crackdowns on congregations and frequent fines and searches of homes. But my parents were prepared for this; and we, the children of Christian parents, were proud of their courage and valued our freedom to believe in God and to be faithful to him. Sometimes the church can remain the church only in the forest.

That which occurs today in Russia is not Christian revival but determined state support of Orthodoxy and discrimination against all other confessions. But knowing the history of the evangelical church, including the history of my family which included not a few martyrs and prisoners, I can confidently say that the result of the state’s anti-missionary campaign will be not the cessation of the churches’ missionary activity and the isolation of believers but the general mobilization of the church and the creative search for new forms of service. Having been deprived of buildings, the church does not cease to gather; but it finds its place even in the woods and in prison. 

The difficulties for the evangelical church created by the anti-missionary laws aid its growth and its active mission much more than gifts or temporary concessions or privileges by the government. The church in the woods is an excellent illustration of the faithfulness to God and its mission. The persecutors of the church never did and never will understand that this history of faithfulness never frightens believers but strengthens their faith and motivates them to a more sacrificial mission.

  • 1
    Russian Evangelicals Fined for ‘Missionary Activity’ During Pandemic
  • 2
    Владимир Ряховский договорился с мэром Новороссийска о решении проблем евангелистов, проводящих богослужения в лесу //
  • 3
  • 4
    RUSSIA: Losing places of worship //
By / Oct 20

When I was a child, my mother passed along to me a deep appreciation for the life and writings of Elisabeth Elliot. As a teenager, I read her book Passion and Purity, convinced that my own Jim Elliot was right around the corner. In my 20s I often read from Keep A Quiet Heart as I wrestled with both depression and singleness. In my 30s, I clung to Elliot’s mantra, “Do the next thing,” as chronic illness made a home in my body and altered my life ambitions. And I spent the summer I was 42—recovering from chemotherapy and major surgery—savoring every last word of Suffering is Never for Nothing. 

When Elliot passed in 2015, I dug up an old picture I’d taken with her at a speaking engagement 20 years before. Although there had been seasons when I’d tired of her crisp-and-conventional style (after all, she was from my grandparents’ generation, not mine)—and I’d let her books collect dust on my shelves—I looked at the picture with a heart full of love and gratitude, feeling that I’d known her well. 

Little did I know how little I knew her. 

Last month I picked up a copy of Ellen Vaughn’s new authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot—a captivating look at the woman behind the best-selling books, the lauded story, and the global speaking engagements—as well as the criticisms. 

Thanks to Vaughn’s writing prowess, laborious legwork, and extensive use of Elliot’s personal journals, I felt as if I were shadowing Elliot from her birth to her early 30s (Vaughn is writing a second volume to tell the story of Elliot’s later years). I vividly saw, smelled, heard, and even tasted Elliot’s world—from her scrupulous East Coast childhood home to the perilous jungles of her 20s. I felt her agonies and ecstasies, her terrific triumphs and heart-wrenching failures. I wept through words that painted Elliot so human—so like me. She too wrestled with depression, a flawed personality, broken relationships, and weariness. Elliot wrote, 

“It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God’s and the call is God’s and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, our bravery and cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses.”

Not only was Elliot well acquainted with weakness, she was also on a first-name basis with mystery. Vaughn shows how the cumulative loss and death and “unfruitfulness” of Elliot’s 20s transformed her from the once “dutiful, devout . . . high-achieving new missionary” into a seasoned woman of tenacious faith who didn’t mind asking the tough questions. Her unresolved sufferings—and the God she came to know intimately in the midst of them—laid the bedrock of her lifelong message that captivated millions around the world. Elliot wrote,

“Obviously, God has chosen to leave certain questions unanswered and certain problems without any solution in this life, in order that in our very struggle to answer and solve we may be shoved back, and back, and eternally back to the contemplation of Himself, and to complete trust in Who He is. I’m glad He’s my Father.”

While Elliot is best known for her husband’s martyrdom and her consequent decision to live with the tribal people who murdered him—and although she did write a number of best-sellers and travel the world speaking to thousands—Vaughn beautifully demonstrates that the most celebrated parts of Elliot’s life were “just part of her story. For Elisabeth, as for all of us, the most dramatic chapters may well be less significant than the daily faithfulness that traces the brave trajectory of a human life radically submitted to Christ.” 

Elliot had boring jobs and monotonous days that threatened to suck the life out of her. She endured appalling living conditions in both New York City and Ecuador. She faced long, hard years isolated from dear friends and family. She waited half a decade for the man of her dreams to decide whether or not he was going to marry her. And then after that man finally married her, he was killed 27 months later, leaving her with a toddler and the formidable task of running a jungle station. 

As I devoured page after page of Vaughn’s biography, I began to realize that while I’d known the indomitable Elliot through her testimony, her books, and her messages, I’d not known the flesh-and-bone “Betty” I discovered through Vaughn’s careful unveiling of her life. Vaughn doesn’t force any preconceived ideas of Elliot. In her own words, she wanted “to lay bare the facts of Elisabeth Elliot’s case” by using Elliot’s own words and the words of “so many who knew her well.” 

Vaughn does this masterfully. As a result, this biography will appeal to a broad audience—not only to those who grew up with Elisabeth Elliot as a household name but also to a young new generation who asks, “Elisabeth who?” 

By / Sep 15

During pre-COVID-19 times, raising funds to go on international mission trips has been popular in America’s culture of Christianity, and rightfully so. But there are mission fields that are often neglected within our own country, in neighborhoods that surround us. This isn’t news to many. But one of those types of fields may be surprising: low-income communities. I say this because one thing that I have noticed as an African American male who has lived in different types of neighborhoods is the alarming number of differences in the church experience for low-income communities as compared to suburban areas. 

The struggles in low-income neighborhoods

Various factors, including racism, have led to the fact that many of these low-income communities are made up mainly of people of color. And these poverty-stricken communities often have a culture that includes generational cycles of violence, physical/sexual abuse, broken families, and less educational opportunities and recreational resources. Millions of children are born into these communities, and for them to attain certain forms of success in life they will be forced to overcome tremendous adversity But this reality has additional implications as well. Ultimately, this means that many people of color in our country have to navigate more complicated stumbling blocks in order to come to know Christ.

While salvation works the same for everyone—we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus—opportunities to hear the gospel or grow in faith aren’t the same everywhere. For example, working at churches in low-income neighborhoods doesn’t normally come with a large paycheck, or any paycheck at all. Another example is that these communities are often made up of older churches without large youth groups, or budgets for student ministry. And for these and other reasons, many children in these areas never establish a strong connection with a church and are therefore unlikely to attend church after entering adulthood. 

This is not to say that such neighborhoods are neglected entirely. There are many ministries and nonprofit organizations that come to mind that do a great job of bringing the gospel to and meeting the needs of those in these communities. But even so, why isn’t it more common  for us as the body of Christ to serve in such areas? Why does it seem that so many churches overlook the opportunities, present in their own communities, to minister to those around them? 

We don’t have to wait for an international missions trip to disciple or minister to people who don’t look like us. As believers, we should be intentional about seeking people of all nations and backgrounds. If we truly want our churches to reflect the church in heaven, we must seek diversity in our discipleship, not just in color, but in the many things within the make-up of human beings that cause us to be diverse.

The Great Commission calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This is a command to take the gospel to all people. We don’t have to wait for an international missions trip to disciple or minister to people who don’t look like us. As believers, we should be intentional about seeking people of all nations and backgrounds. If we truly want our churches to reflect the church in heaven, we must seek diversity in our discipleship, not just in color, but in the many things within the make-up of human beings that cause us to be diverse.

The gospel opportunity gap 

I firmly believe there is a large opportunity gap when it comes to reaching low-income communities with the gospel, and this particularly affects many people of color in our country. I call this the gospel opportunity gap. Jesus is able to save anyone, anywhere, but we should not let the location where a person is  born determine their ability to receive the gospel. Right now there are areas (and people) in front of us that are in need of our attention.

More affluent churches or those represented by majority-culture shouldn’t assume they can “solve the problems” of those in low-income communities. But they can minister in these communities by sharing the gospel and meeting needs, especially by partnering with those already doing ministry in these locations. Instead of deflecting, ignoring, or simply being afraid, we must find a way to be the church in these areas and to support church-based ministries in the communities. The struggles churches experience in low-income communities versus middle-to-high-income ones include weaker discipleship models, fewer resources, and fledgling finances—to name a few. 

Yes, the gospel opportunity gap is strong in many places outside of our country. But it also exists in places that could be within a 30-60 mile radius of where you live. Christians, let’s start figuring what we can begin doing to adequately serve these areas. It may require extra sacrifices, it may cause us to go out of our way to add a bus route, it may inspire us to create a new church plant, it may be something that never benefits our churches financially, or it may simply look like committed discipleship. But it is important to see these efforts as investments into communities that are in desperate need of the life-altering presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

By / Feb 27

Editor’s Note: The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recently voted to approve the first Sunday in February as the annual George Liele Church Planting, Evangelism and Missions Day. Liele holds the distinction for being the first known Baptist missionary. Having been enslaved from birth, he understood the depth of the gospel message of freedom and rest in Christ and shared it with people of many backgrounds and ethnicities.

Born around 1750 in Virginia to his enslaved parents, Nancy and Liele, George Liele was originally known only as George. Not much is known about his childhood, except that his father loved God and most likely taught his son about his faith. In 1764, a farmer named Henry Sharp moved his family from Virginia to Georgia. They brought nine slaves with them, including Liele, who was around 14 years old. Eventually, Liele was given the last name of his master, so he was known as George Sharp. 

Henry Sharp was a Tory leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. Along with his brother-in-law, a preacher named Matthew Moore, Henry Sharp started a Baptist church in the early 1770s. The Sharp family taught Liele to read and write, and he attended the Baptist church they started. Liele later wrote about his faith:

I was informed both by white and black people that my father was the only black person who knew the Lord in a spiritual way in that country (Virginia). I always had a natural fear of God from my youth, and was often checked in conscience with thoughts of death which barred me from many sins and bad company. I knew no other way at that time to hope for salvation but only in the performance of good works.

Even from a young age, Liele had an awareness of God and felt guilt over his sin. But his understanding of religion was based on works. When he was in his early 20s, something changed. He listened to the preaching in his church and realized he wasn’t a Christian. He read the Bible and prayed while learning more about the gospel in church and saw that his own good deeds could never save him; only the work of Jesus Christ could do that. Liele prayed, asking Jesus to save him and to give him work to do for God—not to earn his love, but to show him love.

When he had given his life to God, he wrote, “I felt such love and joy as my tongue was not able to express.” No longer seeking to earn his salvation, he now knew the true freedom of trusting in Christ alone. Liele then stood in the church and told his fellow church members how God had saved him, and Matthew Moore baptized him in the nearby creek. And as he had asked in his prayer, God gave him work to do. Liele began teaching fellow slaves about God out of a desire for them to have the same joy and love he had. 

The beginning of Liele’s ministry 

He started out teaching people hymns, encouraging people on the plantation to sing and explaining the hymns’ meanings. He used the hymns to teach Scripture and theology. When the Caucasian members of the church saw Liele’s talent at teaching, they granted him opportunities to preach to slaves in the church. Soon after this, the church ordained him as the first black Baptist pastor in America, and they sent him out to preach wherever he could gather slaves together, not just in the church, but also on plantations. Liele also preached to the white members of his church, an extremely rare occurrence in the 1700s.

One of the plantations where Liele preached was called Silver Bluff. At Silver Bluff, Liele didn't preach the text insisted upon by many slaveowners about slaves obeying masters, but instead he preached on Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” After the sermon, a slave named David George went to Liele and told him how he felt weary and burdened and needed Jesus to give him rest. Soon after, David George became the pastor of the Silver Bluff Baptist Church, and he and Liele remained connected through the rest of their lives.

When the war came in 1776, Henry Sharp fought as an officer for the British Empire. He freed Liele from slavery, and Liele then took his father’s name, becoming George Liele instead of George Sharp. With his wife, Hannah, and their four children, Liele moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he was joined by David George. The two men traveled around, farming and preaching the gospel to slaves. But when Henry Sharp was killed in the war, some of his children attempted to re-enslave Liele, claiming that their father hadn’t actually freed him. They had him arrested and put in jail, but he was released when he showed papers proving his freedom.

Taking the gospel beyond the U.S. 

Like his former master, Liele was loyal to England. As things became more dangerous for him in Savannah, he and his family chose to sail to Kingston, Jamaica, in 1782 with Colonel Kirkland, a British officer who had loaned Liele $700 to pay for the voyage. To pay him back, Liele worked as an indentured servant for Kirkland for two years. 

Surveying Jamaica, Liele saw the terrible treatment of slaves at the hands of their British masters. He started preaching to the slaves, but many government and religious leaders were incensed. He was thrown in jail and placed in stocks for breaking a British law that made it illegal to preach the gospel to slaves. Upon his release, Liele immediately returned to preaching the message of hope and freedom to slaves.

Liele was the first known Baptist missionary. He took the gospel to Jamaica 10 years before WIlliam Carey went to India and started a modern missions movement. Liele had no mission agency to send him to Jamaica or to support him. Instead, he worked as a farmer to provide a home and food for his wife and children. He built a church and a free school for black children. He was continually persecuted by British officials. Every sermon he preached and every prayer he prayed in his church had to be written out and checked by authorities for messages about insurrection before he could speak to his congregation. 

The message he preached of freedom in Christ soothed the hearts of many slaves. He gave them hope and taught them of a Savior who promised rest for those who were tired and weary. But his impact wasn’t felt just in Savannah and Jamaica. David George, who had grown in his knowledge of God by working with George Liele, established the first Baptist church in Canada and later moved to Sierra Leone in West Africa and started a church there.

In 1791, George Liele wrote a letter to Dr. John Rippon, a leader in the British Baptist Missionary Society in London, telling him about his life in America and his current work in Jamaica. He told Rippon he had baptized 400 people in Jamaica and that his church had around 350 members, both black and white. He asked the British Baptists to help with money for the construction of a church building, which they agreed to. He also requested that British missionaries come join him in his work. These missionaries came to Jamaica and saw the cruel treatment of the slaves, and they wrote home about what they witnessed. This testimony was helpful in abolishing the British slave trade. Today, George Liele is considered one of the men who worked to gain independence for Jamaica. 

After visiting London for six years in the 1820s, George Liele died in 1828. He left behind money and property to care for his family. But more importantly, he left a legacy of many who knew freedom and rest in Jesus Christ because of his faithful teaching. 

This article is based on a chapter from the author’s book, Strong: How God Equipped 11 Men with Extraordinary Power (and Can Do the Same for You).

By / Mar 14

A lot can be lost in a single generation. Ronald Reagan famously admonished Americans that they had to teach the principles of freedom to a rising generation or those principles could be lost. The writers of Scripture often warned the leaders of Israel that unless they rehearsed the works of God to their children and grandchildren, a generation would arise that “knew not the Lord or his ways.” Read the pages of Scripture and church history, and you’ll find a troubling reality: It is far too easy to begin well and end poorly.

Southern Baptists have a lot to pass on to the next generation, and one of the most important principles is the concept and practice of cooperative mission. Our cooperative mission strategy has yielded one of the greatest gospel movements in history. If we are going to remain faithful as a denomination, then we will only do so by remaining fixed on the mission Christ commissioned for us.

Passing the torch of mission in the SBC

Cooperation between churches for the sake of mission is what drives the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Of course, Baptists didn’t invent the idea of missional cooperation. All throughout the New Testament, we see churches partnering together to advance the mission. Paul mentioned giving—from one church to another—in several of his letters (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8-9; cf. Acts 11:27-30). Interestingly, when Paul mentioned the gift given by the Macedonian Christians in Romans 15, he called it “koinonia”—literally, “fellowship.” Chad Brand, in his online article, “Cooperative Ministry in the New Testament,” goes so far as to say that financial sharing for the sake of the mission is the key element of fellowship for churches in the New Testament.

The church I pastor, The Summit Church, has “fellowshipped” with the SBC since our birth. It is a partnership that has greatly enriched us. For instance, the SBC enables and equips us to send our people out in ways that we could not do alone. We currently have more than 200 people serving overseas, most of whom are with the International Mission Board (IMB). That’s an enormous investment, and we are incredibly grateful to stand with Southern Baptists in support of all our missionaries.

Closer to home, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has been a crucial partner in all of our 43 domestic church plants. Then there’s the world-class training provided by our SBC seminaries, which has equipped a huge portion of our staff. And I can’t ignore the personal debt I owe to the SBC as a two-time seminary graduate and former IMB missionary! I could go on—retirement benefits, community outreach, mission trip coordination, representation in Washington, D.C., local and state church planting partnerships, aid in work among refugees and immigrant communities, and many other crucial projects.

All of that (and quite a bit more) is made possible by something that the younger generation finds uninspiring—a commitment to our institutional structures. More specifically, our mission opportunities are a result of our cooperative giving. When we give through the Cooperative Program (CP), Annie Armstrong, or Lottie Moon offerings, we are giving to a powerful and proven method for supporting the Great Commission. This is what the SBC has always
been about.

It’s hard for many people to get pumped about giving to an institution. We love hearing stories of life change and success in missions. We rarely hear (or tell) stories of the support structures that made those stories possible. Perhaps we should.

A rising tide raises all ships 

One of the biggest challenges for the SBC in the next two decades will be increasing the engagement of a new generation of churches in our Convention. Much of this is specific to the SBC, but the broad strokes of these ideas apply, I believe, to all churches in the United States. If we keep our focus on the mission, we have to do what we can to continue funding the mission. God has given us what we have, not to make us more comfortable, but to make us more effective in mission. I see our engagement increasing in three key ways:

1. All churches ought to be giving more to the Cooperative Program.

That may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. At The Summit Church, our Great Commission Giving (i.e. all giving to SBC entities) has always been high (last year totaling 19 percent of our undesignated receipts). Over the last few years, however, we have made a concerted effort to increase our traditional CP giving as well (currently 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts). That’s worth celebrating. But I recognize that there is still a great need for more money to go through traditional CP structures.
We aren’t where we need to be yet.

And, candidly, neither are most of the churches in our Convention. I’ve heard it said that if 100 percent of the members of any one church just tithed, then most churches would more than triple their available funds. The same is true across our denomination. Our institutional structures have allowed the mission to go forward, so we should feel no shame in calling each other to keeping the mission going.

2. Since CP giving goes through the states, we should encourage state conventions to do as much as they can to get money to the field.

CP money is given for the sake of mission, particularly overseas mission among unreached people groups. As much of that money as possible should be directed toward that aim. I appreciate the conventions like Florida and Texas (among many others!) that have led the way in this, giving more of their money away to the field than they keep. Our own executive director-treasurer, Milton Hollifield, has talked about doing this in North Carolina, too. We are grateful for the many kingdom-minded leaders in our local and state conventions.

3. We should celebrate all Great Commission giving.

Some churches will choose to give cooperatively but not through the traditional CP structures. We recognize that churches have the freedom to give in various ways; however, I don’t want to see us go back to “societal giving”—where everybody gives only to their favorite entity. Overly-specified giving is not healthy in a local church, and it wouldn’t be for the Convention either. We have elected leaders, and we should trust them to steward the money. If we’re not happy with those leaders, we should vote them out. But as Paul Chitwood, former executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (and huge CP advocate) and newly-elected president of the IMB, has put it, cooperation means more than mere CP percentages. A rising tide, as they say, raises all ships; the more we celebrate all of the Great Commission giving we see in the SBC, the more we’ll see giving toward the CP rise, too.

Movements need institutions 

As I look to the future of the SBC, I am reminded of the need for both movements and institutions in the kingdom of God. Movements are exciting—they are grassroots level initiatives that feel spontaneous, Spirit-prompted, and generate a lot of buzz, enthusiasm, and participation. Institutions, by contrast, have the reputation of being fixed, firm, and sometimes boring and bureaucratic. But both movements and institutions need each other. Institutions without movements lack vitality. But movements without institutions lack staying power.

For example, if you look at some of the most robust movements of church planting networks in the U.S.—many of which are doing excellent work—you may be disappointed in the actual numbers. Very few of these charismatic movements are churning out more than 100 new church planters a year. Most are sending out far fewer.

Compare that with the number of SBC graduates from last year—2,000. Even if you wanted to eliminate half of those (as underqualified or not headed into pastoral ministry), that still leaves 1,000 qualified graduates every year. Together, as Southern Baptists, we have nearly 4,000 missionaries serving overseas, in almost every nation in the world. Because of our cooperation, they have training and care structures, and a multi-million dollar budget to support them.

None of that would be feasible without the machinations of the SBC institutions. It may be easier and more exciting to jump on board with a nimble movement, but the long-term impact is not nearly as substantial. The cumbersome nature of institutions can be maddening, but there’s really no arguing with their strategic importance.

We need the institutions of the SBC. And we need the next generation to get involved in all of them. I’ve heard it said that decisions in our Convention, at every level, are made by those who choose to show up. For those of us who have led the SBC in mission, it’s time for us to encourage others to “show up” in our Convention.

More importantly, for all of the passionate, missions-minded, and movement-oriented people who are eager to see advancement in the SBC, I want to say: Show up. Stick it out. Stay involved. You need this institution, and just as importantly, this institution needs you if it’s going to stay faithful to its mission. You will always have institutions with you, but you won’t always have movements. Don’t buy the lie that you’ve got to pick between the two; instead, be the movement that these institutions need!

This article originally appeared in Light Magazine.

By / Apr 23

In 2014, Matthew Durham arrived in Kenya from Oklahoma to serve as a summer missionary in a Nairobi orphanage. Today, he is serving a 40-year prison sentence. Why? Matthew Durham sexually abused four children multiple times in the month he spent in that Kenyan orphanage.

But Matthew Durham is an exception, right? Isn't he just one evil individual among the 2 million American Christians who participate in short-term mission trips annually? Unfortunately, Matthew Durham probably isn't an exception. In fact, evidence suggests that not only does sexual abuse happen during international mission trips, but that pedophiles are targeting your church's mission trip as an opportunity to access children.

How big is the problem?

We can't accurately gauge the severity of the problem. Sexual abuse is a hidden crime and often goes unreported, whether in the U.S. or internationally. However, the research conducted by the Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (a joint project of academic researchers, the United Nations, law enforcement agencies, and NGOs) is alarming, to say the least. For example, data from Dutch police demonstrated that out of 85 cases where Dutch nationals were convicted of abusing children abroad, 13 occurred through volunteering opportunities at orphanages. In the wake of the scandal involving the British charity Oxfam, over 120 workers for British charities (both Christian and secular) have been accused of sexual abuse.

Examining the phenomenon of volun-tourism (short-term volunteer trips, of which Christian mission trips are a significant part), the Global Study demonstrates that volun-tourist activities give pedophiles the direct-access to children that they need under a minimal amount of scrutiny. Most organizations have little-to-no screening or training of volunteers before or during volun-tourist trips.

We would all prefer to believe that sexual abuse has never occurred on one of our church's mission trips and that it never would. But we should know better. The truth is that short-term mission trips are a way that pedophiles can gain access to children, and many of our mission trips have lower standards for volunteers than our church nurseries.

What should your church do to protect children around the world?

If you send volunteers from your church to proclaim and demonstrate the love of Christ to the world, then you have a duty to adequately screen and train those volunteers. A failure to do so risks undermining the gospel message that you are committed to proclaiming. So, where do we begin?

We must begin by changing how we often think about mission trips. If our mission trips are primarily about our own self-fulfillment, then we dehumanize the people we serve as a means of inflating our own self-worth. We hurt those we serve when we are the focus.

So, we can start by determining that going on your church's mission trip is not a right. It is a privilege and a responsibility. It is a privilege to travel around the globe and serve those made in the image of God. It is a responsibility to safeguard the dignity of the people we serve and the integrity of the long-term missionaries that we partner with. Therefore, your volunteers should expect to be screened and trained for the privilege of service, especially if it involves serving children.

Here are seven actionable steps that you should take:

  1. Only work with organizations that prioritize the safety of the children they serve. Evaluate the missionaries or mission organizations that you partner with, and ask them hard questions about how they protect children. Some organizations like the International Mission Board have child protection policies, but many organizations do not.
  2. Perform criminal background checks. Criminal background checks have become standard procedure for volunteering in children and youth ministries in U.S. churches. They should also become a minimum standard for mission trip volunteers. While criminal background checks can never guarantee that your volunteers are safe since many sexual offenders have never been convicted, they do serve as a deterrent to those with prior convictions.
  3. Give basic training to your team of volunteers. Most of us need to be reminded that you can't spot a sexual offender by looking at them. There is no profile. But we can learn to recognize the grooming process utilized by offenders to gain the trust of potential victims. At the very least, such training signals to a pedophile that your mission trip is not the easy-access opportunity that they are searching for.
  4. Have common-sense rules about volunteer-child interactions. Team members should not be alone with children. They should not sleep in the same room as children. Volunteers should also know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch.
  5. Be aware of peer-to-peer sexual abuse. This is especially important on mission trips that involve teenage volunteers. Sexual abuse is not a crime perpetrated by adults alone. Kids also abuse other kids.
  6. Understand the power imbalance. Sexual abuse always involves the exercise of power of the offender over the victim. When Americans travel to other countries, we signal wealth and power. At the very least, we possess the immense wealth necessary to travel to another country. In many countries around the world, corrupt judicial systems means that our wealth also signals legal immunity.
  7. Understand and accept the legal consequences of committing a crime overseas. Make sure that your team understands that if they commit a crime on your mission trip then they will face the legal consequences in that country. Your team is not above the law. If a member of your team commits a crime, report it to the local authorities or seek the assistance of the U.S. embassy in reporting the crime.

By doing these things, we can impede those pedophiles who target short-term mission trips as opportunities to access children. We must protect those we serve, and we must defend the integrity of the gospel we proclaim.

By / Nov 20

Every day, the media trumpets unsettling news about global instability, terrorism, immigration debates, and ethnic tension.  Add to this the natural, fallen tendency to distrust people who are different from ourselves, and it can seem like a very bad time to talk about reaching out to people from other cultures.  

But I think it’s just the opposite.  

This is a great time for Christians to confound the world and proactively reach out with the gospel to the strangers in our midst. Whatever we may think about immigration and refugee policies, I hope we can all agree that everyone made in God’s image is worthy of hearing the message of hope in the gospel.  And a friendly word may be more precious than ever to our foreign neighbors today.

Many of us don’t have to board international flights to reach people from other religions and cultures. We just need to open our eyes, look around, and engage the nations in our own cities and towns. Strangely, gospel work right here at home can seem more daunting than a two-week trip around the globe. Many people don’t know where to start, where to find unreached populations, or how to engage them with the gospel. But if we are spending good effort to see the gospel taken to places distant from us, it makes sense to notice the people that God has brought to our own doorsteps. Here are some ways we can do just that:

Strangely, gospel work right here at home can seem more daunting than a two-week trip around the globe.

1. Research. A first step is to find out who from other cultures and ethnic groups live in your area. This is as simple as opening your eyes as you drive around different parts of your city. Are there a lot of “Halal” food markets in a part of town near you? Chances are you have Muslims neighbors. Visiting ethnic grocery stores can be an especially good way to learn about and connect with specific ethnic or religious communities. These markets often have bulletin boards with information about events, festivals, and community needs that might provide opportunities to find out more and build relationships. Of course, just doing some straightforward online demographic research about your community can be easy and useful too.

2. Take initiative. Whatever you discover about your community, it will generally take initiative and encouragement to get your congregation engaged. In my local church, we concluded that the main population of internationals in our vicinity was students. So we began to pray occasionally in our public prayer meetings that God would allow us to reach international students with the gospel.

Reliance on God in prayer, however, is not the enemy of human initiative. One of our elders took initiative too. He sat down with a fellow church member who had himself been converted as an international student from Singapore while in London. This young man began hosting a Bible study for international students to model and encourage this outreach. Over time, it developed into English-language classes on two local university campuses and a network of church members meeting one-on-one with students interested in studying the Bible in English. Ultimately, more than fifty church members were meeting each week to explore the Bible with students from countries where evangelism is severely restricted.

3. Try different things. What might that look like in your own congregation? It could mean hosting English classes at your church, or members joining local adult soccer clubs dominated by internationals. It might mean connecting with efforts to resettle refugees or volunteering to meet newly arriving international students at the airport. Each of these can be a great entry point. But the best way to reach out to internationals may simply be your friendliness and openness when you bump into them in shops, on the street, or in your neighborhood.

4. Talk to people. One member of our church met a Muslim woman who’d begun working in the shop where she had her hair styled. During their first meeting, the Christian woman mentioned she was getting her hair done for a friend’s wedding. Then she asked the Muslim woman—clearly new to our country—if she had ever been to a Christian wedding. She had not. So right then and there this Christian invited the woman to join her for the wedding at our church that weekend. The woman came, she heard the gospel, and a new friendship was born. It can be as easy as that.

5. Practice international hospitality. Most visitors and recent immigrants are naturally eager to meet locals and understand the local culture. Sadly, it’s often reported that 80 percent of international students never see the inside of an American home during their stay. Long-term immigrants seem to fare only a little better. This is a great opportunity for Christians to exercise hospitality. Holidays are especially good times to do this. Nearly every major holiday, our family has at least one or two international students join us for a meal. In the process, we are able to share with them our supreme thanks for the grace God has extended to us in Christ, as well as expose them to some pretty amusing food and cultural traditions.

6. Prepare to be patient. However you go about pursuing relationships with internationals, you should recognize some of the challenges involved. For starters, the time expectations of internationals can sometimes take Americans by surprise. Other cultures often have much greater time expectations for friendships. You need to be prepared and willing to educate your international friends about your culture by kindly setting boundaries that are appropriate for you and your family.

You’ll also need a great deal of patience for long-term investment in relationships. Often a lot of underbrush needs to be cleared away before the gospel begins to take root. North American culture is far from Christian, but it does seem that many North Americans have some passing affinity for the gospel, whether through parents, relatives, or friends. And there is at least some cultural fluency with gospel ideas, even if twisted.

But for many of our friends from other cultures, there is none of that. They may have never known a Christian before and have no affinity for the Bible or the gospel. Persons from Muslim or some Hindu communities may have been taught to hate Christians and the Bible. Or your international friends may have come from a radically secular culture, as in much of China, where theistic belief is equated with mental deficiency. God can and will do whatever he pleases, but in the normal course of things, it usually takes a good bit of time and patience to work through the questions that these cultural hurdles create. But the fruit is always worth whatever effort it takes.

*This article is adapted from Andy’s book, "Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global"

By / Sep 22

Discipleship with the Suffering Servant changes the way we live during a disaster. When hurricane Harvey pummeled the greater Houston area, the Church of the risen Lord Jesus responded in ways I’ve never seen. I don’t just mean in the tonnage of relief supplies and sweat dropped during the recovery efforts. I’m talking about unity.

Churches are working across denominational lines to help Houston recover. Our little church alone has worked with Methodists, Bible Churches, Non-Denominational, Anglican, and more. Disaster didn’t divide the churches in Houston—it united us. And just this past weekend, our church hosted teams from churches in Austin and Commerce, Texas, and another team that drove from Phoenix, Arizona to help us mud-out and demo flood-hit homes in Houston. Why? Why did we bear the burdens of our neighbors? Why are Christians acting this way? Jesus and his so-called Golden Rule.

“Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

The urgency of the Golden Rule

Disaster didn’t divide the churches in Houston—it united us.

There are certain ethical situations which are often difficult to navigate, taking time, serious thought, counsel, and research. The answer to other situations is simple. If Jesus is my Lord, then the Golden Rule isn’t just décor for Sunday School rooms.

The Golden Rule strapped a life vest on me and put me on a rescue boat. As the rain kept pouring, and pouring, and pouring, I looked out my window and saw my street draining smoothly. But I started to hear of streets swelling with water. Ten minutes from my house, people were trapped. Single moms were in danger. The elderly needed immediate help. I couldn’t stay home and watch Netflix anymore.

The words of the Lord Jesus wouldn’t let me kick my feet up while I heard that my neighbors were in need. I knew, by faith, something had to be done. A friend at church texted and said he found a boat, told me to meet him at a makeshift rescue and dispatch station. By faith, I was ready.

Our boat cruised over a four-lane road, covered in five feet of water. We went over mailboxes, cars, and docked our boat at the first address we were given. I hoped it was the right address. I couldn’t see the numbers. Terry and his wife were trapped upstairs with three feet of water in their home. And the waters kept rising. Terry, in his 60s, is paralyzed from the waist down and has limited use of his arms. We put him in his wheelchair, carried him downstairs, and hoisted him up into the boat, along with his wife and their dogs.

If I were paralyzed and trapped upstairs of my flooding home, I’d want someone to rescue me. Sure, it was a little dangerous. But it would have been more dangerous to ignore my neighbor and walk on the non-flooded side of the street. Discipleship is always dangerous to self.

The simplicity of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule, and the ethics of loving thy neighbor as thyself, is not complicated. What would you want done for you? Our Lord says, “Do that for them.”

If my home had six feet of water in it, destroying nearly everything hit by the polluted waters—photo albums, clothes, children’s soccer cleats—would I want to mud-out my home by myself? Never. I would want—need!—others to help empty my garage, rip out sheetrock, and carry scraps of water-logged carpet to the curb. Jesus tells me what I should do. “Whatever you’d want done for you, do it for them.”

No ethics committee needs to be organized for these moments. It’s simple—and supernatural. The Golden Rule is so simple, and monumental, that it can be described in a single sentence—and yet, it can summarize the Law and Prophets. It is the aroma of faith in the reigning Nazarene.

Don’t sleep on the Golden Rule. It might toss you onto a rescue boat. Jesus’s words may cause you to pick up a hammer, become an amateur dispatcher, or even make gallons of gumbo for a shelter. The Golden Rule may even cause you to slow down and listen to what someone else is going through. These famous words from Jesus may even lead you to unite with another church down the street.

What would change in your life today as you live by faith in your crucified and risen Lord? How would the do of the Golden Rule move you if you listened Jesus? Rescue boats, demo crews, and donations for disaster relief come and go. Neighbors do not. Opportunities to live by faith are ripe everywhere. Pick them.

The Man of Sorrows was acquainted with our grief. He loved us in the depths of our personal disaster. He motivates us to enter into the sorrow of others, helping us point them to a refuge and help above the clouds, beyond the horizon.

When we got Terry to dry land, we put him in a truck, loaded up his things, and I told him one thing. It all happened so fast, I could only think of one thing to say as our eyes locked: “The Lord Jesus be with you.”

That’s what I needed to hear too.

By / Dec 23

Billions of people are born, live their entire lives, and die without ever hearing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you should read that sentence again, just to give it time to sink in.

Currently, there are more than seven billion people in the world. Missiologists estimate that over 2.8 billion of those people have little to no access to the gospel. That is a huge number, and its reality demands a limitless missionary force to take the gospel to unreached peoples and places around the world.

Jesus exhorted his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:37–38). The same truth remains today.

“Limitless” is not a new idea

From cover to cover,  the Bible displays God's passion for his glory in all nations. His desire is for "all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). Therefore, birthed out of a God-given desire to see more people engaged with the gospel and to provide more pathways for followers of Christ to utilize the gifts entrusted to them, we believe the time is right and the need is urgent for a limitless missionary force. By God’s grace, the vision of limitless sending has garnered excitement among Christians and churches in North America.

The desire for “limitless” is not new. Lottie Moon, the revered and distinguished Southern Baptist missionary to China regularly urged churches and her sending organization (International Mission Board) to mobilize and send a limitless force to the harvest fields of Asia during the latter half 19th century.

Charlotte (Lottie) Diggs Moon was born on December 12, 1840, in Albermarle County, Va. She was a fearless woman who stood four feet and three inches tall. She spent nearly 40 years on the mission field in China. On July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) officially appointed the 32-year-old as a missionary to China. Just a few years after arriving in China, Lottie sounded the alarm to the churches back home for the need of an unlimited missionary force. She wrote on November 4, 1875:

The harvest is plenteous, the laborers are few….What we find missionaries can do in the way of preaching the gospel even in the immediate neighborhood of this city, is but as the thousandth part of a drop in the bucket compared with what should be done…four or five laborers cannot possibly cultivate a radius of twenty miles, so cannot we, a mission of five people, do more than make a beginning of what should be done….But is there no way to arouse the churches on this subject?…We implore you to send us help. Let not these heathen sink down into eternal death without one opportunity to hear that blessed Gospel which is to you the source of all joy & comfort. The work that constantly presses upon us is greater than time or strength permit us to do.[1]

Inadequacy demands more

Lottie recognized the desperate need for a vast missionary force in a country as large as China. She described her labors as a mere “drop in a bucket” and eagerly desired more laborers to share in this strategic work. Lottie knew that a monumental number of men and women filled with the Spirit of God and armed with the Word of God were necessary for the people of the world to be reached with the good news of the gospel. In attempt to recruit and motivate more to come and share in this difficult, but rewarding work, Lottie wrote on November 11, 1878:

But how inadequate our force! Here is a province of thirty million souls & Southern Baptists can only send one man & three women to tell them the story of redeeming love. Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call stirring the hearts of my brethren & sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people…We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time & strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privileges & her weighty responsibilities.[2]

Lottie Moon understood that the Great Commission has been given to every Christian. She knew that all of God’s people are to be passionate about God’s glory in all nations and that every disciple of Christ has a role to play in praying, giving, and going for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Spending our lives for the mission

Today, in God’s providence and timing, Christians in church pews around the world are being awakened to God’s heart for the nations. People from every walk of life, with a multitude of talents, gifts, and experiences are considering how they might best spend their lives for the accomplishment of the Great Commission.

Lottie Moon died aboard a ship in a Japanese harbor on December 24, 1912. Over a century later, God is stirring up a limitless missionary force made up of people convicted by the word, compelled by the urgent need in the world, and committed to joining God in this most rewarding and satisfying work regardless of where that might lead them.

Therefore, let us rejoice in the legacy of Lottie Moon and countless others through history who have prayed for God to awaken and equip a missionary force  to take the gospel to the world. After all, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:37–38).  


  1. ^ Keith Harper ed., Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2002).
  2. ^ Ibid