Northwest Baptist Progress Report, May 2015

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You are making a difference. You are blessing God. In times of suffering, in days of struggle, it is essential to know that you and your church are expanding God’s Kingdom into the hearts of thousands. When Peter wrote to a suffering church, a persecuted church, he encouraged them with the truth that they possessed a “living hope.” The gospel of the resurrected Savior is so magnificent, Peter wrote, that angels desire to look into it (1 Peter 1).

Therefore, as aliens and temporary residents of this world, as those who possess a gospel of superabundance, I want to encourage you in the work that we are doing together through the Northwest Baptist Convention of churches.

Ministry Leader Training

Already this year we have had 75 pastors involved in pastoral leader training groups, each meeting several times or over several days. Sixty-six pastors and other ministry leaders were trained in methods to lead churches through times of transition. Nine students attended the new Portland CLD center (Contextualized Leadership Development for pastor training), joining a couple of dozen others in CLD who are training for ministry. Forty-six students attended Golden Gate Seminary’s Pacific Northwest Campus this spring. Also, since January over 800 Northwest ministry leaders have attended training events in evangelism, small groups, Vacation Bible School, children’s ministry, church music, women’s missions and ministry, and much more. Training ministry leaders for our 450 churches is a vital part of what you do to reach people in the Northwest with gospel of Jesus Christ.

New Churches

Eleven new church planters have launched new work so far this year. They join 50 others who are currently planting new churches. In addition, seven men have begun their one-year church planting apprenticeship before they move to church planter status. These new works include Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Native American, and English languages. They are located in each of the three states in our convention. Some are rural and small town churches. Most are urban and suburban churches.

The annual church planter training retreat on May 20-22 included 49 church planters, 8 apprentices, 45 spouses and 63 children. They were joined by 24 collegiate ministry leaders and 27 additional children. This is Northwest missions. This is what you are doing to reach our Northwest people with the good news of Jesus Christ.

East Asia Partnership        

A few dozen churches are already moving forward with mission trips to East Asia and/or adopting an unreached people group in East Asia (go to www.nwbaptist.org for more information). Now we have the remarkable opportunity to serve our East Asia missionaries and their children in a training retreat August 1-10, 2016. Get this – 1,300 East Asia missionaries and children, together with 75 missionaries from the IMB’s Deaf Affinity Group, will gather in Thailand for worship, inspiration and training. And they have invited the NWBC to provide 200 volunteers to serve them! I am so thankful that Shelia Allen has agreed to serve as the NWBC project coordinator. See the East Asia article in this publication for more information on this historic opportunity. Reaching the nations from the Northwest is what we do as Northwest Baptists.

Through the Cooperative Program the churches of the NWBC are doing missions in your neighborhood, throughout the Northwest, and to the nations beyond. Together, always and only together, can we accomplish the work our Lord has given to us. Every person matters. Every church counts. It is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest!

This Side of Glory

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“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).

This amazing statement acknowledges the tremendous privilege that belongs to those who have lived on this side of Jesus’ earthly life. The Old Testament prophets “predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet. 1:11b), but their knowledge was partial. They spoke out of the darkness of the light that was to come, and in this sense they served us rather than themselves. Indeed, even the angels were “in the dark” before the glory of Christ was revealed in Bethlehem and Galilee and Golgotha.

Sometimes we think of “glory” as that which is yet to come, forgetting the glory that is ours in the present. Can you imagine what life would be, with all of its suffering and struggles and victories too, if we did not have Jesus and all that He is to us? For 2,000 years, up to the present moment, believers have uttered the simple prayer, “Help me Jesus,” in moments of despair and confusion. Martyrs are today dying with “Jesus” on their lips, sometimes quoting Jesus’ own words as He faced His killers, “Father, forgive them.” The privilege of prayer in Jesus’ name, with all that means, is glory.

It’s hard to fathom how life would be were it not for knowing “The Sermon on the Mount” or the “The Farewell Discourse.” Untold thousands have been sustained by Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12a). Seeing how Jesus spoke to the “Woman at the Well” and the woman who wept on His feet has enriched the entire world. Which has brought us greater blessings, deposits of gold mined in the hills, or Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal Son?” How can we compare the beauty and glory of the most precious gems to that of Jesus’ words “For God so loved the world ….” Give me “I am the bread of life” and you can keep “riches untold.”

Recently I read a fascinating book titled The Man Who Touched His Own Heart by Rob Dunn. The book describes man’s relationship and investigation of the human heart from ancient times to the present. One thing that struck me is that early pioneering heart surgeons often despaired to the point of quitting as their patients died while they strived to develop lifesaving methods that are commonplace today. Jack Gibbon, the inventor of the iron lung, only used it a few times. His last two surgeries were on 5-year-old girls, both of whom died. He never again performed a surgery. His invention, and its perfection, has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but he lived on the other side of “glory,” unable to fully see what his work would one day mean.

The glory of knowing Jesus and the New Testament witness brings us a “living hope,” as Peter calls it (1 Peter 1:3). It is living because it is founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The glory that is ours because we have a living hope is greater than every other thing we could know or have. It’s better than our jobs, our families, our ministries, everything. The Old Testament prophets predicted it, as looking through the darkness, but we possess this living hope. We see clearly the glories of Christ. When our eyes are rightly focused, we see all that there is to see through the lens of Christ’s glory.

To see the glories of Christ is to know that Jesus is worth everything. Are you suffering in your service to Jesus? He is worth it. Do you lack “stuff” because you have chosen to serve Jesus? He is worth it. I’ll always remember sharing Christ with a man in Bangladesh, my youngest son Luke with me, and the man told us, “If I do this, I might get killed.”   He meant that if he received Jesus he might die. What could we say to him except that Jesus is worth it? Jesus is worth everything. This side of glory, with all that Jesus said and did, we know that Jesus is worth everything.

I think it would have helped those pioneering heart surgeons if they could have seen what would become of their work. It would have blessed Isaiah and Jeremiah, and even the angels, had they seen the glory that is Jesus. We have seen Him. His words give us life, shape our thoughts, and enrich our lives beyond expression. What a privilege is ours to live this side of glory!