TGC Profiles Summit Church’s Incredible Sending Capacity

If you want to get fired up about how a local church can develop a culture of sending its members on mission, go read the Gospel Coalition’s profile of Summit Church. Titled How One Baptist Church Has Seven Times More Missionaries Than Anyone Else, Sarah Zylstra details the history of Summit: From a church plant, to quickly growing, to plateaued & declining, and then to revitalization and exponential growth, the focus isn’t on the numbers attending the church but the pipeline of leaders and workers going out to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. In the 17 years since the church called J.D. Greear as senior pastor, the church has been on an amazing journey.

Some of the highlights:

  • Middle school students encouraged to do a short-term, domestic mission trip with their families.
  • Early high school students encouraged to go on a mission trip “somewhere in the Americas”.
  • About 10% of their high school seniors will spend 3 weeks living overseas with missionaries.
  • College students asked to give one full summer to missions.
  • Summit has planted 40 churches in the U.S. and over 200 overseas whose combined attendance (10,171) now eclipses Summit’s own attendance (9,973).
  • The number of IMB missionaries serving from Summit is 7 times higher than the next-highest SBC church.
  • Summit spends 17% of its budget on missions.
  • Every month they commission the next group being sent. Every month.
  • Services end with pastors giving the charge: “Summit, You are sent.”

Even reading about this culture that’s been intentionally developed gets my mind thinking about how our church can be more involved, orienting our church and members toward a mindset and lifestyle like this. Summit’s sending pastor, Todd Unzicker, is quoted throughout the piece:

‘About 48 percent of our people doing local outreach ministry have been on a one-week international trip,’ Unzicker said. ‘The people who tithe the most, who are involved in small groups, who are involved in their local community—it all came back to one thing. They’d been on a short-term trip.’

Unzicker and  J.D. Greear work together weekly to make sure at least one church planter or missionary is highlighted in Summit’s service. J.D. served himself with the IMB before becoming Summit’s pastor, and says he never felt called off of the mission field, just to a different role:

‘When God directed me to pastor this church, he never relinquished my call to the mission field,’ Greear said. ‘He showed me I was supposed to reach the nations by mobilizing the American church.’

Make sure to head over to The Gospel Coalition’s website and read about the work that God’s doing in the Raleigh/Durham area and across the world through Summit.

Be a light in the NICU

Unexpected tragedy strikes — that’s just life sometimes. As I write these words, it is fresh from the experience of holding my 1-week-old baby girl in the NICU. And I must say, it was a pretty odd place to be.

The emotional roller coaster of thankfulness for a new baby but also fear and uncertainty as she is hooked up to multiple wires and tubes has a way of making even the most confident adult feel rattled.

In your community right now, there are multiple families at a neonatal intensive care unit. The smallest things can make the biggest difference to a family. Here are a few fresh ideas for things you can do to support families with babies in the NICU:

— Crochet a ton of baby hats, tiny blankets, socks, etc. and deliver them for each room. You most likely will not be able to be in contact with the families themselves, but instead will leave the items with the nurses.

— Collect a stack of puzzle books (crosswords, Sudoku, Word Finder) for the waiting room.

— Gather small toys and coloring books with crayons to leave in the waiting room for older kids who are waiting on their parents.

— Do a book drive and deliver children’s books for each NICU room with a note written inside the front cover saying, “We’re praying for you.”

— Buy a small teddy bear or soft toy for each baby in the NICU.

— Create prayer request cards that you can leave at the nurses desk. Arrange for a church staff member to come by the hospital and pick up cards that have been filled out so your church’s prayer team can continue to pray.

— Leave a stack of church pens and/or notepads for families to use.

— Is it near a holiday? Make (or take) a holiday-themed gift, mini Christmas stockings, Valentine’s teddy bears, etc.

— Write encouragement notes with Scripture verses for the parents and siblings of the babies in the NICU.

Get creative with simple things you can take or do to be an encouragement to families who are spending their days and nights with their newborn in the NICU. No matter what you do or take, be sure to include a handwritten note with a promise of your prayers along with an invitation to worship at your church on Sunday and something that shares the good news of Jesus.

 __________

Autumn wall and her husband Yale are church planters and have recently adopted a third child who has been in and out of the hospital since her birth a few months ago. This article first appeared in Baptist Press and various state papers and Autumn has given me permission to post it here. You can hear more about the Walls’ adoption story here.

Autumn Wall, online at www.autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mom of three in Indianapolis. She is the co-author of “Across the Street and Around the World” (New Hope Publishers).

The Monday Morning Prayer (by Dr. Mark Tolbert)

Monday has been given a bad rap! Perhaps the least favorite day of the week, Monday has a negative reputation. Pastors joke about how many times they have almost resigned, usually on a Monday morning. A popular song from the seventies described it like this: “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” But Monday has become one of my favorite and most strategic days of the week, since I began praying “The Monday Morning Prayer.” The Monday Morning Prayer launches me into each new week and serves as a catalyst for stimulating gospel conversations.

In five decades of following Jesus, I have discovered a sobering reality in my journey – I do not drift toward evangelism. I drift away from evangelism. I do not mean to do so. It is not a decision I make. It is not that I determine never again speak of Jesus. I just drift.

We drift from evangelism in spite of our joy in seeing people come to Christ. This, in spite of our desire to be obedient to Christ’s command to proclaim the gospel. This, in spite of the promise that Jesus gave to His first followers, in saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). What prevents us from experiencing this realty in our walk with Jesus? Why do we not naturally fish for men? Why do we drift away from evangelism and what can we do to change this? We drift from evangelism because of internal and external forces. Internally, there are forces that pull us from evangelism. The fear of man and the weakness of our flesh work against us. The fear of man along with the weakness of the flesh are common roadblocks for witness. Even the Apostle Paul, experienced it. To the church at Corinth he wrote: “… I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Externally, we are engaged in spiritual warfare when we attempt to witness for Christ. Satan will seek to discourage the witness (1 Thes. 2:18) as well as blind the eyes of the unbeliever (2 Cor. 4:4). He will also seduce us into being a silent witness, convincing us that words are unnecessary. Although we witness by our life, we must witness by a combination of our life and our lips. The “witness” who witnesses only by his life, witnesses only of himself. Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). Romans 10:14 asks: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”

How do we counterbalance these forces? How do we overcome the internal and external forces that war against us? Several measures will enable a Christian to resist the drift. A simple tool can allow us to be consistent in our witness.

We must be intentional in our witness for Christ. How can we be intentional? A simple, yet profound technique is what I call “The Monday Morning Prayer.” Although not a scripted, literal prayer, what I am suggesting is a moment at the beginning of the week, Monday morning, when you ask the Lord to present you with the opportunity to share the gospel during the week.

Let Monday morning be a trigger for you to begin to be intentional about seeking a divine appointment to have a gospel-conversation with at least one person during that week. Be serious about asking God to place a person in your path, to lay someone upon your heart, to guide you into an opportunity where you seek to talk with an individual whom God has prepared to hear the message of the gospel.

The Monday Morning Prayer is about intentionality. We do not drift toward evangelism; we drift away. We do not drift back. If we practice personal evangelism it is because we are intentional.

The Monday Morning Prayer is also about spirituality. We do not do this on our own. We do not just begin talking to people. We pray. We ask the Lord of the harvest to send us into His harvest field. We ask the Lord to convict people of sin and draw them to Himself (John 16:8). Although we can proclaim truth, only the Spirit of God can impart truth and transform lives.

Scripture highlights the strategic value of prayer in evangelism. “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (Matt. 9:37-38). The Apostle Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1). The Bible urges us to pray for those to whom God intends for us to witness. It has been said, before we talk to people about God, we would do well to talk to God about people! This scriptural mandate is at the heart of the Monday Morning Prayer.

The Monday Morning Prayer is about focus –– focusing on the harvest and the Lord of the harvest. It prevents the drift that we all have experienced. It is a reminder every week to be about the Father’s business.

Dr. Mark Tolbert is Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared in the program for the 2017 SBC Pastors’ C0nference.

How we pray for those we know who aren’t followers of Jesus

As a pastor, I often ponder how my church can be more effective at sharing the love and gospel of Jesus with our community. Ours is not a large town. We are a community of roughly 1700 people in a county of around 18,000. This presents certain challenges to evangelism: many people are commuters, we don’t really have a “town center” where large numbers of people regularly gather (well, maybe the football field in the fall), and many people said a prayer and were baptized as a kid in VBS or the likes, so they don’t think they need anything else despite the fact that little in their life resembles a follower of Jesus.

At the foundation of everything we have attempted as a church, we have prayed about reaching those without Jesus, but at the start of 2017 I was convicted that we need to refocus our prayers: We need to pray, specifically and by name, for individuals to come to know Jesus.

This is something that I had encouraged on a private and individual level in the past, but I decided we needed to do more together as a church. So, I put the following plan into motion.

First, I preached on the need to pray for people to come to faith in Jesus. For the better part of 2017, I have been working through John 13-21 in my sermons as we lead up to Easter. Halfway through John 14, Jesus said:

Truly, Truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. ~ John 14:12-14 (ESV)

I am convinced that these “greater works” relate to the mission to see people come to know Jesus. Despite thousands showing up to hear his teachings and see his miracles from time to time, at the end of his ministry Jesus was only left with 100 or so followers and a core group of 11 (Acts 1). Once the Holy Spirit came on the scene in Acts 2, this quickly ballooned to 3000 and growing (Acts 2). But, from a numbers perspective, Jesus’ ministry was not all that impressive, especially for one who claimed to bring salvation to the whole world.

We must remember, however, that Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to complete this task in his three-year ministry, but to provide the means of salvation. He then gave the command to us as his followers to go out with his gospel and disciple the nations.

If I have John 14:12 correct, then it adds focus to 14:13-14. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask according to his character, purpose, and will. That also involves the salvation of a “people for his own possession,” as Paul would say. So, many of our prayers should be related to our mission. I forget who said it, but I love the quote: If you look at most of our prayer lists, it seems we spend more time praying to keep people out of heaven (health concerns) than to get people into heaven (salvation). There’s nothing wrong with us praying for people’s health, family situation, jobs, or finances; but in the end a person’s soul is far more important than their broken leg. We should be zealous about praying for people’s health and we should be even more zealous about praying for their souls.

Second, I challenged my congregation to commit to pray for the salvation of at least two people they know who are not followers of Jesus. These could be their coworkers, neighbors, classmates, or family members. For three weeks, we provided a sheet of paper in the bulletin. The top half contained room and instructions for writing down and committing to pray for these names. On the bottom half, they could duplicate these names and turn them in to me, so that…

Third, we took the submitted names and produced a 4-week, 28-day prayer calendar. The submitted names were divided alphabetically across six days each week. The seventh day was set aside to pray for a specific unreached people group, in our case the Turkish-speaking Kurds of Turkey. I got the URPG information from www.joshuaproject.net (a site I highly recommend as a prayer resource. They even have a prayer app you can download). Then over the next three weeks, these names and URPG were repeated.

Each week was given a different set of verses and a theme to pray. Week 1 is Romans 10:8-17 with the theme: “That these might hear the gospel, and in hearing turn to Jesus in faith.” Week 2 is 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and John 10:10, “That these would find liberty from sin and come to have the fullness of life in Jesus.” Week 3 is John 3:3-8, “That these might experience a new birth by the Holy Spirit.” And Week 4 is Colossians 4:2-6, “That God would open a door for us and others to share the gospel with these.” When the 28-days are up, we can use days 29-31 to catch up on any days we missed or pray for new people God has laid on our hearts, and when the next month begins, we start back at day 1.

Altogether, we had 70 names turned in for our calendar. That’s not yet two people per attendee, but it’s a start.

The beautiful thing about this list is that, even though no one person in the church knows everybody listed, everybody listed is connected to at least one person in the church. These are specific and known people that we are praying for.

Fourth, I am having the deacons pray for 5 or 6 of these names during their Sunday Morning prayer time. We incorporate several periods of prayer in our worship gathering. We have an opening scripture reading and prayer, we pray before the offering, I pray before the sermon, and we have a responsive prayer after the sermon. Also, planned into this is a time of intercessory prayer, usually led by one of the deacons. Like in many of our Baptist churches, this list typically is dominated by health concerns. Now, they include names from our 28-day prayer calendar.

So… Here’s my question for you: What are you doing in your own life and church in order to pray specific prayers for individuals in your life and community who are without Jesus? If the answer is not much, then I challenge you to start. Maybe the example from my church will inspire something similar at yours. I’ve also attached a copy of our prayer calendar here, so you can see what it is that we are doing.