Over 2,100 Baptist churches make up the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and every single church has a place in God’s kingdom.
The vast majority of our churches average around a hundred people on Sundays, although the large churches get an outsized portion of the attention. Sadly, however, churches of all sizes tend to settle for lukewarm when it comes to the Great Commission.
In a typical year, we in South Carolina have about one-fourth of our churches baptizing no one at all. As a group, our churches baptize no more new believers than we did 40 years ago, while our state population has grown from 3 million in 1978 to more than 5 million in 2018.
You may be tempted right now to stop reading this article, figuring I am going to pile guilt on you. Instead, I would like to inject some important truth into your life, and that of your church, regardless of size.
Throughout our convention, our churches have adopted the Great Commission as our mission. We generally focus on the “go make disciples” portion of the text. While “making disciples” is the action verb, there is another critical portion of the Commission easy to ignore. It is overlooked by smaller churches who think they don’t have the resources to be on mission. Larger churches overlook it just as easily because they have so many assets. What is this missing piece? The last words of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, CSB).
For every pastor, this promise of Jesus must become the most powerful reality in the Bible: “I am with you.” Every church needs to be reminded of this great truth, that Jesus Christ Himself has promised to be with us whenever we are on mission with Him to make disciples. Pastors and churches, please allow that word from your Savior to embolden your life and your ministry. “Remember, I am with you.”
Excuses come very easy to us. I know, because I have invented quite a few myself. If we only had a new worship team … or if we had a better building … or if we had a more exciting children’s ministry … or a bigger budget … or if our pastor could fit into those skinny jeans, that would turn our church around.
We have churches fulfilling the Great Commission around our state without contemporary worship teams, without massive buildings, without cool children’s ministries, and some of those pastors have never even heard of skinny jeans. What do they have? The great promise in the Great Commission: “I am with you always.”
Every single church has the gospel and the power of Christ. In terms of the parable of the talents, every church has been given at least one talent that must be put to use. Rather than bury it, let’s trust the inerrant Word of God to be true and act on it.
- Start where you are. We end up paralyzed because we want to overreach. Start by praying to God for insight on how to reach one person, one group. Train your people to share their testimonies and get started. Consider how you can start doing the one thing that, with the power of Christ, will change lives. Then, by all means, get going.
- Use the resources you have. If all you have is the gospel and Jesus, you have enough, but you are likely underestimating what else you have. If you have a relationship with a local school, or if you have the best barbecue cook in the county, or if you have people willing to go to the nursing home to sing and share the gospel, you have resources. Stop wishing you had what some other church has and capitalize on your own resources. If your church has many resources, then be a good steward and leverage those resources for the kingdom of God.
- Do what God has called you to do. Every church has a purpose, so do what your church is called to do. This is not competition, this is a matter of obedience. If God has called your church to reach the local motorcycle club, then get on your bike and go.
What we cannot do is ignore God’s call. We know for a fact that God has not called us to be lukewarm when it comes to the Great Commission. Our Savior has commissioned us to make disciples, and He has promised He will be right with us every step of the way.
Every church can do this. The only question is: “Will we?”
— Marshall Blalock is pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.