Information for Churches Interested in Joining the Northwest Baptist Convention

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This week I met with a church that is interested in affiliating with the Northwest Baptist Convention.  There was a great deal of excitement in the room as we discussed the synergy that we enjoy by serving together with like-hearted churches.  Simply put – we have far greater Kingdom impact by working together, and this was obvious to every person in the room as we discussed the cooperative work of the NWBC.  This particular church is a large church, with more than 1,000 in Sunday attendance.  But even a large church understands that they can’t start healthy churches without others to help them.  They can’t send missionaries and do disaster relief and educate their pastors without cooperating with other churches.  So, this large, independent church is now praying about uniting with the NWBC.

The meeting with above mentioned church happened because one of our church planters developed a relationship with their pastor, and as the pastor learned about who we are, he became more and more interested in affiliation.  Many of you who read these articles have similar relationships with pastors who, like the one I met with this week, like what they see of the NWBC.  Because of that, I thought it would help you to have some information that you can share with those who are might like to work together with Northwest Baptists.

A Brief Description of the NWBC   

The Northwest Baptist Convention (NWBC) is a network of about 450 churches in Oregon, Washington and Northern Idaho which voluntarily cooperate to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We believe that working together provides incredible opportunity for greater kingdom impact. Our churches represent dozens of languages and ethnic groups, including 40 Korean-language churches and about 30 Spanish-language churches. Baptist churches are autonomous, and we have no creed, but the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 describes the beliefs of Baptists regarding the major issues of the faith. The following information demonstrates some of the ways that our churches partner together.

 I. The following are some ways that NWBC churches work together

1. Church planting in the Northwest. Together we facilitate about 20 new church starts every year. We do this in partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). These new churches receive training, mentoring and funding over a period of 3-5 years.

2. Pastor/leader training and encouragement. Pastor clusters, retreats, conferences, and individual consultations are some ways this is accomplished.

3. East Asia missions partnership. The NWBC is in the process of establishing a partnership with missionaries who focus on unreached people groups in East Asia. NWBC churches have the opportunity to work with overseas personnel that are placed through the International Mission Board (IMB).

4. NWBC churches partner with, and support, over 4,800 IMB missionaries. Approved members of our churches can be trained, sent, and supported as missionaries through the IMB.

5. Disaster Relief. The NWBC has over 600 trained D.R. workers who are members of our churches. They respond to disasters across the nation and around the world. The NWBC is affiliated with the North American Mission Board which coordinates D.R. work in North America.

6. The NWBC provides My316 evangelism and new believer resources to all affiliated churches.

7. NWBC churches partner with six Southern Baptist seminaries, whose total enrollment exceeds 16,000 students. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Pacific Northwest Campus is located in Vancouver, WA and his housed in our NWBC headquarters. Students from NWBC churches have greatly reduced tuition at all six seminaries.

8. Collegiate Ministry, Youth Ministry, Children’s Ministry and Senior Adult Ministry are each a part of the work of the NWBC. Retreats, training and conferences focus on these various age-groups.

9  In addition to cooperating with the NWBC, many churches are involved in local Baptist associations, working together at the local level to advance the Kingdom.

 II. NWBC churches cooperate together in some of the following ways

 1. The average giving of NWBC churches to the cooperative program budget of the NWBC is a little more than 7% of their budget receipts. Some give more, some give less. New churches that are funded by NWBC must give 10% to missions, with at least 6% of that to the cooperative program. NWBC churches are autonomous and determine what they give.

2. Three major mission offerings also support the work of the NWBC, IMB and NAMB. Participating churches generally receive these offerings three times a year, but each church determines how they support the mission work of the NWBC and the larger Southern Baptist Convention.

3. Attending the Annual Meeting of the NWBC during the second Tuesday-Wednesday of November. Each NWBC church is able to send messengers to the annual convention, at which our cooperative missions budget is adopted, among many other things.

4. Annual Church Profile. NWBC churches are encouraged to report attendance information, baptism statics, etc. each year as a means to track our progress in fulfilling the Great Commission.

You can add to this description of how NWBC churches partner together.  Don’t be shy about telling our story!  And let me know when you encounter a pastor or church, small or large, who would like to talk about affiliation.  The church I mentioned earlier has investigated their options and they have determined that if they choose to affiliate with a denomination, there is no one doing more in the Northwest to reach the lost, plant churches, respond to disasters, encourage pastors, and send missionaries than our cooperating churches.  Truly, it is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest! 

Helping Others Discover Jesus, Part 6 – Friendship

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The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples: Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:11-12).

Paul said: Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible (1 Cor. 9:19).

One of the striking things about Jesus and His disciples was whom they chose to befriend. In short, they befriended those who needed God, and who knew they needed God. The basis of their friendships, as revealed in Scripture, was the spiritual quest to know God. Did Jesus have other interests in common with the “tax collectors and sinners” with whom He dined? Perhaps, but Scripture does not record chit-chat between Jesus and sinners, or between Paul and sinners. Jesus didn’t befriend people because of their common interest in the Jericho Juggernauts soccer team! Jesus befriended those who needed God, and we see the same in His disciples.    

Amy Carmichael, the legendary missionary to India, wrote a little booklet titled God’s Missionary, in which she shares nuggets of experience and wisdom. One that I most remember is her discourse on friendship and the importance of extending true friendship to the people with whom you are sharing the gospel.

Carmichael said that the Indian people knew whether you loved them and cherished their friendship based on how you spent your “free time.” She said that missionaries who only spent time with Indians during “working hours,” and spent all of their non-working hours with other missionaries or westerners, sent the message that the Indians were not their true friends. Not only did they send this message, it was one that was easily read by the Indian people, who considered themselves the “projects” of these missionaries. They were the subject of their work, but not their true friends.  Friends are those with whom you recreate and enjoy dinner and “after-hour conversations.” She further observed that missionaries who developed true friendships with the Indian people were better accepted and loved by the Indians, and their ministry was more fruitful.

As we help others discover Jesus we must ask ourselves, “Who are my friends? Are all of my friends followers of Jesus already? Are they all church members? Do I have meaningful friendships with unbelievers?” And related questions are, “How to I determine who my friends are? Do I seek to make friendships, true friendships, with people who don’t know Jesus?” And, “Is my friendship and love for my unbelieving friends unconditional, or is it conditioned on their coming to Jesus soon and very soon?”

Friendships are typically formed around shared interests and values, but for those who would help others discover Jesus, our ambition to make disciples must permeate every aspect of our lives, including our friendships. Friendship with a sinner puts you in a position to guide them to Jesus as life happens to them and to you.

Sociologist and historian Rodney Stark says that the growth of the early church to majority status by the 4th Century was largely aided by their friendships with sinners, especially during times of plague and disaster. The recent mudslide in Oso, WA, in which 43 people died, has resulted in many others coming to faith in Christ as Christian friends in the communities of Oso and Darrington ministered to their unbelieving friends and neighbors. One of the first people I helped come to know Jesus was my college roommate, a close friend. Currently I am building a friendship with a young man whose life has spiraled downward because of poor choices, and I’m praying that God will use our friendship to bring the prodigal home.

Do you have friends who have yet to reach Jesus on their spiritual journey of discovery? If not, let’s make some new friends!   

Keys to Helping Others Discover Jesus, Part 5 – Fairness

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Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

Warren Buffet tells a story, sometimes called The Ovarian Lottery, which speaks to the futility of the expectation of “fairness.” The story goes something like this. Suppose a genie came to you and told you that you can set the rules by which the world will operate for 100 years. You can set the economic rules, the political rules, tax laws, the legal system, the health care system, the educational structure, and every other system and regulation by which the world will operate.

That would be an extraordinary opportunity! But then the genie tells you that there is a catch. There’s always a catch! The genie says that after setting the rules you will cease to exist as the person you are, and you will be born into this world the very next day, but you won’t know if you will be born in Afghanistan, Italy, the United States, Nepal, Sudan or Venezuela. You won’t know whether you’ll be born male or female, intelligent or dimwitted, well-bodied or infirmed. You could be white, black, brown, tall, short, a pygmy, aborigine, Swede, or any combination of all of the above. Your birth family might be rich or they could be poor, Christian or Hindu or Islamic or atheistic. Your father could be a Bedouin herder in North Africa, a fish thrower in Seattle’s Pike’s Market, or a rickshaw driver in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Your mom may be a teenage single-parent, or not. “Now,” says the genie, “set the rules by which life will be fair for all the peoples of the world no matter the situation into which they are born.”

With the above scenario it takes millisecond to understand the impossibility of engineering the conditions by which every human being born into this world will experience an equal measure of fairness. And while many of us were told by our parents “life is not fair,” this reality hasn’t prevented politicians and parents from promising to “make things fair,” nor has it kept the desire for fairness from the mind of most people. Many people with whom we share Christ have a strong desire for fairness, and when they are made to think about it, they are quite bothered by the impossibility of fairness, indeed the massive imbalance of fairness between the peoples of the world.

Here’s the point: unless there is a God who enables things to come out right in the end – in eternity – the best word to describe the lot of individual human beings is “luck,” good or bad, aka the ovarian lottery. There is no system, nor any network of systems, that can make life fair for everyone.

As in the case of man’s desire for justice, his desire for fairness has no possibility of fulfillment in this world. We are left with the reality that life is about winners and losers, the “survival of the fittest,” some win the lottery, most lose, and, in the end, all will lose the battle to maintain vitality and life. Warren Buffet understands that he won the lottery, but if he believes that death will end his existence, and that there is no afterlife, even Warren Buffet must understand that he will lose everything when the great enemy overtakes him.

As we help others discover Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and the truth that His resurrection is the proof of our coming resurrection to life eternal, the reality of the ovarian lottery is a helpful topic of discussion. The unfairness of a child born into the squalor of Sudan, or the ever-present conflict of Afghanistan, might evoke some anguished thoughts. But if the plight of the Sudanese seems too distant and abstract, there is the deep pain when one you love loses life’s lottery. Imagine the pain one feels who has no hope of salvation and heaven and eternity with God when their child or spouse loses life’s lottery? Despair is inevitable for unbelievers as they journey through life and experience mounting losses.

The truth is, many simply run from such thoughts and try not to think about them. But it is the opportunity of the evangelist to help people confront the reality that life is not fair, and that there is no possibility of fairness in this world. Believers are privileged to help others discover that only in Jesus is there hope for those for whom life has been unfair. The human desires for justice and fairness, and the relative ease of demonstrating that these desires can find no fulfillment in this world, provides the basis for a spiritual conversation in which the believer can help others discover Jesus.

Who do you know that has lost life’s lottery and is troubled by it? Do you have a friend who has given up hope of overcoming this world? You could help them discover Jesus. No one experienced more unfairness than He, and yet He overcame the world, nor for Himself alone, but for all who put their lives in His hands.

Keys to Helping Others Discover Jesus, Part 4 – Justice

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Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25f).

Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31f).

If there is no God, who both knows what is right and has the power to effect the right in a final resurrection and judgment, then Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao and every other wicked, murderous tyrant are the winners, while their victims, many of whom were women and children, are the losers. If there is no God, then life is about winners and losers, and the winners are those who get what they want, while the losers are those who get stomped upon, taken from, suffer and die young, either through the violent actions of evildoers, terrible accident, or through the bad luck of poor genetics.  

A basic teaching of Scripture is that there is a coming “day” in which the dead will be raised and God’s judgment on each person will be revealed. It is upon this teaching that man’s yearning for justice ultimately rests. Underlying the belief in resurrection, final judgment, and thus justice are three convictions.

Conviction one – God is. He exists.

Conviction two – God is good and He always knows the right thing to do.

Conviction three – God is able. He has the power to do what He chooses to do, and, conviction two means that what He chooses to do is always the right thing to do.

As we seek to help others discover Jesus Christ and submit to Him as Lord, consider the basic desire that people have for justice. It matters not whether a person is religious or irreligious, liberal or conservative, a democrat or republican, most people want justice to prevail. That doesn’t mean that “what is just” is always agreed upon, but the concept that things should be “made right” resides in most human hearts.  

Yet, without a just God, justice will never been secured. How can justice be secured for the victims of 9/11, or for those killed in the horrific school shootings that we have seen in recent years? What of the tens of millions of children who die each year through disease, war, abortion, or accident? What of the victims of crippling abuse? What does punishing the evildoer, assuming he is found and tried and convicted in a court of law, do for the victim who is dead or severely damaged? Nothing!

If there is no God, and there is no resurrection, then there is no justice. Without God we are left with “the survival of the fittest,” but even the fittest will one day succumb to the enemy which is death.

As you help others discover Jesus, show them that without Jesus, there is no justice. Few want to admit that life’s ultimate victors are those who get the most, even if by getting it they destroy others, sometimes millions of others.

This is not to say that all will be convinced because of their yearning for justice. Richard Dawkins, an atheist who delights in attacking religion in all forms, writes:

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference” (River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life).

Dawkins has made his choice to reject God, including the God revealed in Jesus Christ. But he understands that in doing so, he has also given up hope of a purpose, a differentiation between good and evil, and justice.

Few who have yet to discover Jesus have consciously given up all that Dawkins has. We need to help them know, however, that Dawkins has correctly identified what is at stake. Without God, there is no justice, no good, no evil, and no purpose. We are simply left with the lucky and the unlucky. And that means Hitler won, at least in comparison with the millions he murdered.