SWBTS General 1

Embracing missions in modern culture a common theme at SENT conference

May 15th, 2017 / By: JC Davies / comments

AUSTIN—As they seek to fulfill the great commission, local churches should be marked by the “mercy and good fruit” described in James 3:17, David Sweet told attendees at the Southern Baptists of Texas SENT Conference, hosted on April 27-28 at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin.

“Do you think that the receptivity of the gospel might improve if people in our culture had something that they admired about churches? Let’s let the gospel of the cross be the offense, not us,” said Sweet, who was one of the conference’s keynote speakers and associate pastor of Hays Hills Baptist Church in Buda.

By turning inward and focusing only on what’s going on inside the church’s walls, many congregations are missing out on opportunities to reap the “harvest of righteousness” talked about in James.

“Some churches have lost sight of the harvest, of being fruitful. … We have to show the power of God, not just tell it,” he said.

While social justice causes should not eclipse sharing the gospel, Sweet encouraged pastors to be creative and allow their church members to take leadership in engaging their communities through a wide variety of ministry opportunities.

“There are thousands of ways to demonstrate mercy and good fruit and righteousness. (God) has already prepared it, all you have to do is walk in it. Let your members go.”

Keynote speaker George Ross also urged attendees not to neglect holiness and good works.

The role of a believer today, he said, is to be an “everyday missionary in Babylon,” referring to Jeremiah 29, when the Israelites found themselves in Babylonian captivity, surrounded by all kinds of evil and wickedness.

“Jesus indeed will come and rule and reign one day. … You and I, in the meantime, have to be God’s people here on earth, living out and manifesting the kingdom of God here on earth,” Ross said.  “Wherever you find yourself, a sovereign God knows who you are and where you are, and he has called you to be on mission for his glory.”

Just as God commanded the Israelites to put down roots and “seek the prosperity” of Babylon, believers today ought to do the same wherever they are, no matter how dire circumstances feel, Ross said.

“The Israelites were called to do some good works in Babylon,” he said. “We can’t lose heart and grow weary in the day and time we live in. We are God’s people, called by God to be on mission, that we would be people of good works.”

Ross also encouraged Christians to remember that “the church is not on its death bed, and the message of the gospel can overcome post-Christian culture.”

But the cultural context in America, and around the globe, is changing, said Terry Coy, a speaker at one of the conference’s workshop sessions. The “good ‘ol days” of cultural Christianity and civil religion are no more, but like Ross, Coy said Christians should take courage and embrace ministry within the culture, rather than fleeing from it out of fear.

“The cultural map has changed, and the ministry map has changed,” Coy said. “These cultural storms can be unexpected; they can be devastating to the church, but they don’t have to be if we can learn to read the map correctly, if we draw up a flight plan to missionally deal with the storms.”

Christians standing out in society is nothing new, historically, Coy said, but as followers of Christ continue to be pushed to the margins of modern society, the church must learn to stand out for the right reasons.

“We have to rediscover what it is to be a peculiar people. We’re going to have to relearn, as we’re being more and more marginalized, what it means to be the church. … We need to be different. We need to draw the right kind of attention. We need to be a peculiar people. We need to learn what it means to speak truth, but in love and in grace.”