Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cooperating Autonomously

The dam of anticipation broke free when Mr. Beaver sensed that what Narnia was eagerly awaiting was about to come true - Aslan was on the move. It is with the same sense of thrill that we watch the reality of our dreams for GCPN come true. God is on the move.
Sunday before last, the seven current GCPN interns from FBC Arlington attended church with those from Cottonwood Baptist in Dublin. Afterwards, this group of young saints gathered at Mike Stroope's house to share a meal, talk about their life processes and pray for those who will be leaving soon - particularly Katie, who will be going to East Asia in the next few weeks and Ashley, who will be leaving for SE Asia in June. As I sat in the floor listening to their stories of call, it suddenly struck me that there was a potentially explosive force of dunamis packed into a small room in the middle of a rural Texas farm community that was going to impact the world with Spirit power in the next couple of years. Armed with the love of Christ, a heart for the lost, and the skills to cross cultures, these amazing young people will change the world for the Kingdom. As our time together drew to a close, Mike Stroope asked with wonder the question that was drifting beneath the surface in my mind - WHAT IS GOD DOING??!!

I praise God for the faithful churches who will assume the responsibility for sending. This past Sunday I observed a church taking a bold step of faith as it commissioned a young DBU graduate to serve in one of the most difficult regions of the world. It was a beautiful New Testament picture of one being sent by the Holy Spirit and the Church - just as in Antioch. The dynamic was familial . . . the air sacred . . . the power Divine.

What is the answer to the missions puzzle? The answer is in the Church. The answer is the Church. Para-church organizations, mission sending boards and agencies, conventions and cooperative support efforts are vehicles that can enable some to serve. But they are not the church. The answer is in the church.

Many people have asked me, What is GCPN? What does GCPN do? The real answer to that question - GCPN is the church. It can be the sending branch of YOUR church. Our desire is to enable all churches to prepare and equip believers to live out their missional calling. We are not a sending board or agency. We are merely a community of faith that allows Baptists to do what they do best - cooperate autonomously. Baptists are cooperative by nature. We like to be a part of something bigger than ourselves - to be Kingdom connected. Yet, as Baptists, we like to remain autonomous, maintaining our sense of calling and utilizing our own corporate giftedness in Kingdom endeavors. That is the beauty of our network. As I looked around the room of GCPN interns preparing to serve all over the world, I asked myself the question, What can we share that will make this task easier? The answers are pretty concrete.

We can share leadership. The common factor that everyone in that room in Dublin shared was a missiological guide. Every person in the room had been shaped, sharpened and affected in some way by the missiological leadership of Mike Stroope. In the short time I have known him, Cottonwood's pastor, Mike Fritcher, has shaped my understanding of what it means to be a church that loves well. Others will arise from within our churches who feel the divine obligation to share what they know. What can you contribute to the Kingdom in the area of shared leadership? We will all benefit if you are able to answer that question.

We can share information. My church has just completed a several month study of the process and structures that are necessary to be a responsible sending church. If not for the input of other churches like Cottonwood, Grace Community, Antioch and others, we would still be somewhere near "square one." But because these churches were willing to share information, we find ourselves ready to send our first missionary. We have put that process in generic form and will be glad to share this information with any church that needs it. What information has been most beneficial to your church's missional maturity that you can share with others? We will all benefit if you are able to answer that question.

We can share resources. What does missional preparation look like in practical terms? We will soon have the benefit of seeing in print the GCPN Global Learning Laboratory curriculum that Mike Stroope is writing. Your church can implement this training within your own community. Who can do assessment for missionary candidates preparing to go to the field? GCPN has assembled a growing assessment team made up of medical, dental, psychological and educational professionals who offer their services - many of them free of cost. Perhaps there are professionals within your church who would like to be a part of this team. These are just a couple of examples of many resources we can share as we seek to raise up spiritually mature believers equipped for Kingdom service. What resources have you developed that you can share with the community of churches? We will all benefit if you are able to answer that question.

We can share structures. We will be sending our missionaries through a couple of non-profit corporations that have been established just for the purpose of being shared by churches within the network. Why start another non-profit if you can use one that is already established with a core commitment to the belief that each church should develop its own strategies and manage its own missionaries? We will all benefit if you are able to answer that question.

We can share money. . . with network churches which have less financial resource. One church within the network has chosen to model this principle of selflessness by committing 5% of its direct missionary support funds to be utilized by other GCPN churches. Is it your responsibility to enable other churches to send? That is the equivalent of the question, am I my brother's keeper? I can promise you the Kingdom will benefit if you are able to answer that question.

What does your church have to share? The answer to that question is something. I encourage you to think in terms of corporate giftedness for Kingdom success. We're all in this together. We're the church. Is there such a thing as cooperative autonomy? Sure there is. We're living proof.


Essential Roots for the Missional Body of Believers

The following article, focusing upon the Biblical Foundations for Missions, has been submitted by Dennis Wiles, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas

Biblical Foundation for Missions

Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19:5-6

Fundamentally, the Bible is about God. As Robert Cates points out in Old Testament Roots for a New Testament Faith, the Bible reveals a God Who Is and a God Who Acts.So, who is this God of the Bible? What does He do? Obviously, we can't exhaustively answer those questions in a short article in an online newsletter. (Not that I could answer these questions definitively anyway!)

However, we can address one aspect of God's character and the activity associated with it. So, let's do that.

The God of the Bible is a relational God. He desires to be in relationship with the crowning glory of His creation - namely, human beings. On page one of Holy Scripture we discover that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-28). At the very least this means that mankind can be in relationship with the Creator. As the pages of the biblical drama unfold, it is readily apparent this truly is God's desire.Time and again, God demonstrates His love for people. He lives in relationship with them. He talks to them. He listens to their pleas. He reacts to their plight. He reveals Himself as a loving God who cares deeply about each human being.

On page three of the biblical material, the relationship so desired by God is marred by the sinfulness of mankind. The result is brokenness. God responds to this brokenness with both judgment and compassion. He judges sin. But he is unwilling to sever the relationship with human beings. A great plan is set in motion that will culminate in a personal visit from God through His Son. All of this aimed at restoring the broken relationship between human beings and their Creator.

My point? God is a seeking, missionary God. His actions in both the Old and New Testaments clearly demonstrate this truth. He called Israel to Himself in relationship. They were to be His people. He then commissioned them as priests to reach the nations (Exodus 19:5-6). Israel was to serve as His emissary to the rest of creation. Unfortunately, God's desire was not lived out through Israel for a number of reasons.Jesus issues a similar commission for the New Covenant people of God - the church. We are to "Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples." (Matthew 28:19 - CEV)The biblical mandate to go to the nations is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Obviously, God intends for us to do it. We have no option but to be obedient. We must go, pray, go, send, go and give.

Several churches in the New Testament era recognized the responsibility of this commission. The church in Antioch sent out the first missionaries from their body. These men went throughout that region of the world, preaching the Gospel and establishing other churches. Churches joined this effort and the Gospel was proclaimed so fervently that by the beginning of the 4th century, the Roman Emperor Constantinople would declare Christianity as the official religion of the empire. Wow!God is still a relational God. He remains a missionary God. If we are going to be like Him, we must be missionary people.

To Him be the glory as we go to the nations on His behalf.

Dennis R. Wiles