Among the most moving and challenging passages of Scripture are those in which the Apostle Paul speaks personally about his life and ministry. One reason these passages are spiritually and emotionally powerful might be that Paul often wrote from jail. He wrote about his suffering, his fighting “the good fight” and finishing “the race” well.
I have noticed that when Paul speaks personally about his life that he often references the “day of the Lord.” As he served Christ, and when he suffered for his service, never far from his thoughts was the certainty of the coming day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). He even anticipated that he would “boast in the day of Christ” that he “didn’t run in vain or labor for nothing” (Phil. 2:16).
Paul’s belief that he could labor in such a way as to “boast in the day of Christ” is something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. Almost daily we hear new accounts of brothers and sisters giving their lives for Christ in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Occasionally we are privileged to learn that they died boasting of Jesus, praising Jesus, with anticipation that they will soon look into the face of Jesus. As the Bible says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).
If you are able to attend the annual meeting of the NWBC on November 10-11, 2015, I pray that the reports you hear represent a faithfulness to Jesus about which we can boast in the day of Christ. The frontline work of disciple-making, baptizing and teaching believers to obey Christ is the work of each local church. Still, we believe that only through believers and churches working together, supporting one another, cooperating in the great missions task before us, can we accomplish all that we hope to boast about in the day of Christ.
Consider some of what we have accomplished in the Northwest as we have worked together. Together we have engaged new language and ethnic groups through planting churches among Mandarin, Spanish, Korean, Bhutanese, Native-American, African-American and other peoples. More than 130 of our 466 churches worship in a language other than English. Increasingly we are seeing second-generation churches formed. These are churches comprised primarily of ethnic peoples who worship in English. One of the “miracles” of cooperation is seen in the diversity of our convention of churches.
In leadership training we have seen well over 1,000 people participate in various regional and convention-wide training events. This includes over 200 pastors in pastor cluster groups, transitional pastor training, mission and evangelism training, Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) and other specialized opportunities. The greatest single evangelism ministry of our churches is Vacation Bible School. This year 552 leaders were trained in VBS and hundreds of professions of faith were recorded by our churches.
MY316 Evangelism Training is used by many of our churches, with some of the curriculum now available in Spanish and Korean. The impact of helping each new believer learn how to share their faith, and identify those in their life who are unchurched and most likely lost, is the single most important thing a church can do for a new Christian. Well, it’s difficult to put anything above teaching new Christians to pray and meditate on Scripture, but you get the point. And remember, MY316 Evangelism Resources are available to all of our churches without charge. Your Cooperative Program gifts have already purchased those.
In 2015 many of our churches continued the westward journey until they arrived in East Asia. Our partnership with the IMB has blossomed as Northwesterners travel to faraway places where there are few believers and little access to the gospel. Our IMB leaders have asked the NWBC to bring 200 Northwest Baptist people to serve 1,300 IMB missionaries and their children in Pattaya, Thailand from August 1-10, 2016. What a privilege!
Although the Northwest is not immune to the financial struggles and disappointing evangelistic results of our greater Southern Baptist family, we are thankful that we experienced an increase in baptisms and church attendance last year. From the reports we are receiving, we anticipate experiencing growth in baptisms this year as well. In addition, missions giving through the Cooperative Program saw the largest increase in our history last year, with NWBC churches giving $185,000 more in 2014 over 2013, for a 7.47 percent increase. Through the first nine months in 2015 we are $44,867 ahead of last year, for a 2.27 percent increase. With a strong fourth quarter we could make budget for the first time in almost 20 years.
It is no empty slogan to say that Northwest Baptists serve Christ from our neighborhoods to the nations. Our pastors and churches are engaged in the joyful task of loving their neighbors, blessing their communities as “salt and light,” and sharing the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, we are sending and sustaining missionaries the world over. Many Northwesterners are even joining them on mission in foreign lands. And increasingly we are serving the nations who have come to us. International students and immigrants from many lands are now our neighbors. For this we are grateful. It truly is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest.
As I meditate on Paul’s references to “the day of the Lord,” I am moved to consider that day myself. Will my life and work stand scrutiny on that day? Am I stewarding my witness, gifts and finances in a manner worthy of Christ? As I consider the coming “day,” I am less concerned about the opinions of others and more committed to pleasing Christ, and Him alone if necessary. On “that day” nothing else will matter, which means, in fact, that nothing else really matters today.