Mission Georgia is a year-round emphasis, but in a special way September initiates a special season of prayer and giving for State Missions.
Jesus said to his disciples that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
From our very inception Southern Baptists have been know for being a missions-minded people. In fact, many historians credit Baptists with beginning the modern missions movement. There were some modern missions endeavors before William Carey, but Carey’s spirit and example kindled a spark that spread everywhere. His story still kindles sparks.
A handful of Baptists caught the thrill of foreign missions from Carey. He went to India at an indescribable sacrifice. Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson sailed to Calcutta, India on February 18, 1812 and met with Carey. Although Rice and Judson were in India under the auspices of the Congregational Church, they became so impressed with the Baptist spirit and sacrifice that they were baptized and became Baptists, too.
Today, Southern Baptists are engaged in a worldwide missionary enterprise, but it all begins at home with the local church.
According to the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine, the baptisms of Judson and Rice electrified American Baptists and their decision viewed as “a call in providence upon us to extend our views and missionary efforts to that quarter of the globe.”
Rice returned to America to raise support from Baptists for Judson’s work. Southern Baptists trace their heritage back to Rice and others who paved the way for a global missionary enterprise. Nine years after Luther died William Bullein Johnson, first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, explained, “The formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 [was created] for the purpose of organizing an efficient and practical plan, on which the energies of the whole Baptist denomination, throughout America, may be elicited, combined, and directed in one sacred effort for sending the word of life to idolatrous lands ….”
Today, Southern Baptists are engaged in a worldwide missionary enterprise, but it all begins at home with the local church. There is a reason Jesus said that the Gospel should be preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem; and this divine strategy demands that we remain strong in our Jerusalem and Judea. That is why we are passionate and unashamed about highlighting Mission Georgia in this editorial and this edition of The Index.
First, we must begin to share the Gospel in Jerusalem (your city or community) and Judea (Georgia) because people are as lost nearby as they are far away. Lost is lost whether in a Georgia farmhouse, a Newnan suburban home, an Atlanta high rise penthouse, or in the jungles of South America, the Himalayas of Tibet, or the Sub-Sahara regions of Africa.
Second, we must begin to push back the darkness here at home, because if we fail to do so we are first class hypocrites. Those who dare to go around the world and presume to witness to the lost in some remote corner of the world, but who won’t walk across the street to witness to their neighbors, are not missionaries but sightseers. Our praying, giving, and going to needs far beyond our immediate sphere of influence is duplicitous if we are not expressing at least an equal concern about our community and state.
You have heard the old proverb, “The shoe-maker’s wife always goes barefoot.” How many times is this true of Christians? Some within our ranks run to and fro, caring for the needs of people in distant lands while neglecting the real needs of those closest to them. In our great desire to serve Christ to the very ends of the earth we must take care that we remember to begin at home.
Third, if we do not give some priority to reaching our own state for Christ, the supply line for missions beyond our borders will be significantly restricted.
I am thinking of two churches in one Georgia association right now. Twenty years ago those two churches baptized a total of 411. Their total gifts to Southern Baptist mission causes were $513,879.06. Last year those same two churches baptized 116 and gave $123,840 to all Southern Baptist causes. The point is that if we don’t focus much of our energy and resources on revitalizing churches, church planting, and evangelism in Georgia our gifts to national and international causes will eventually shrink by substantial margins.
Our praying, giving, and going to needs far beyond our immediate sphere of influence is duplicitous if we are not expressing at least an equal concern about our community and state.
Fourth, Spurgeon suggests that “beginning in Jerusalem” means that we must be willing to begin in the place where we are tempted not to begin. If you will remember on the evening of the day of Christ’s resurrection, the early disciples met together behind closed doors for fear of the Jewish leaders. Surely, they concluded, “It won’t do any good for us to go out into the streets now, because the people are all worked up and will not listen to us. Maybe we should go to Athens or Damascus and preach the Gospel.”
I think we find it difficult to be missionaries at home because we have shown little spiritual interest in our neighbors, acquaintances, and even our loved ones for years. So we fear that they will wonder why we have withheld such good and glorious news from them until the present.
Then, of course, there may be something in our lives that would be an impediment to a faithful and consistent witness.
Fifth, we should begin in Jerusalem, because that is what Christ commanded us to do. He said it in Luke 24:47 and also in Acts 1:8. This is the divine plan and we dare not divert from it. We are primarily responsible for the spirituality and character of our own community. We may have limited influence in Washington, Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, or Tehran, but we can have significant influence in our community and in our state.
I believe Jesus wants us to begin where we have the most influence.
Our Mission Georgia emphasis this year is “DAYSPRING: Moving from Darkness to Light.” Through your Mission Georgia offering you have the privilege of:
• bringing light to disaster-torn communities;
• planting dozens of new churches statewide;
• ministering to victims of human sex trafficking;
• making disciples of thousands of college students on 54 campuses in Georgia;
• helping coordinate over 185,000 volunteers on short-term mission trips;
• training over 3,500 non-English-speaking Georgia residents to read Scripture, and;
• proclaiming the Gospel in 89 different languages across Georgia.
However, more than anything we need spiritual awakening. Pray that God will kindle a sacred flame of revival in our hearts so that Georgia will become the state where spiritual renewal begins and it will spread throughout the land and the world.
We have yet to see what God can do with a state convention that is solely surrendered to Him.