Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WE ARE A MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH”

Matthew 28.18-20

 Most church members would not normally envision great controversy surrounding the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet controversy constantly surrounds the Great Commission. Please turn to Matthew 28.18-20, where we find the most familiar of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commissions that are recorded in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts. When you find that passage, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 18    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 Crucial to one’s understanding of the Great Commission is one’s own experience with the gospel, since the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit, and cannot know them since they are spiritually discerned, First Corinthians 2.14. However, understanding the gospel is crucial to properly obeying the Great Commission. Thus, while some of the confusion surrounding the Great Commission is related to varying amounts of spiritual illumination of believers (none of us understands everything completely), it must be admitted that much confusion is owing to the lost condition of so many who claim to be Christians and whose understanding of the Great Commission is very deeply flawed. For example: One young man once told me of a church that has decided their only contribution to fulfilling the Great Commission is praying, and that they have chosen to leave the rest of the Great Commission to other congregations. Of course, there is no authority for any congregation to willfully neglect any portion of the Great Commission, but such is the reasoning of all lost people and too many saved people. Can you imagine some thinking they are Christians who are not involved in reaching the lost in any way? Yet some do. Another example is of a church in California that unanimously voted to abstain from the Great Commission to avoid receiving racially mixed couples and non-white couples as members. These true cases are appalling.

The Great Commission is the Lord Jesus Christ’s directive to New Testament congregations to carry the saving gospel message forth with the goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ by means of gospel preaching and teaching, by means of baptizing those hopefully converted to Christ, and then training those added to the church to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, in compliance with His duly authorized instructions. Our church, now in its 36th year, is and has always been what is called a missionary Baptist church. If you are familiar with the ecclesiastical lay of the land, you can easily become disoriented by my use of the phrase missionary Baptist, owing to the fact that so many black congregations in the United States incorporate missionary Baptist into their name, and owing to the fact that some predominately white Baptist denominations known as Landmark Baptists have many member churches that have missionary Baptist in their name. I do not use the phrase missionary Baptist in either of those contexts, but as the term was originally coined near the beginning of the modern day missions movement around the turn of the 19th century.

The modern missions movement was initially a movement among Baptists, with such men as William Carey and Adoniram Judson being the leaders in capturing the imaginations and harnessing the efforts of Christians of their day to reach the world for Christ. To accomplish that goal, para-church institutions for the promotion and funding of evangelism, Bible and literature publication, schools, charitable and social work and other religious causes were begun. Such a response created extensive controversy among Baptists. Some Baptists withdrew their involvement in missions altogether. Non-Baptists tended to embrace the notion of para-church institutions wholeheartedly, with such organizations as the Gideons, Women’s Bible Fellowship, the Trinitarian Bible and Tract Society, the Wycliffe Translators, Focus on the Family, the Navigators, and Campus Crusade For Christ. For the most part, however, Baptists who strongly advocated missionary outreach identified themselves as missionary Baptists, with some missionary Baptists embracing the para-church institutions and other missionary Baptists opposing the para-church institutions. Calvary Road Baptist Church is a strongly missions-minded Baptist church, while at the same time being opposed to involvement with para-church institutions as not authorized by scripture.

Allow me to clarify our church identity around four central themes:

 First, THE MODERN MISSIONS MOVEMENT

It has always been the will of God for the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to be the marching orders of the church. However, as error crept in over the centuries commitment to the Great Commission greatly declined until the gospel’s advance all but stopped. For centuries, the gospel was not openly preached in Christendom, with gospel preaching congregations surviving in mostly isolated regions of Europe. Then, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks and thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament were carried into Europe, the Protestant Reformation was ignited.

Though Baptists existed in very small numbers before and after the Protestant Reformation in Europe and Great Britain, our greatest growth came about during the First Great Awakening in England, Wales, Scotland, and in the American colonies, with huge proportions of those converted under the preaching of George Whitefield and John Wesley in the mid-1700s eventually embracing Baptist convictions. Baptists in Great Britain and in the American colonies were aggressively evangelistic, with hundreds of churches started. Here in the American colonies and in the new United States such men as Isaac Backus, Hezekiah Smith, Shubal Stearns, Daniel and Abraham Marshall, and John Gano (the Baptist who baptized George Washington) were among those who nurtured church planting fervor.

However, it was in England that the modern missions movement was begun in the 1790s, when a cobbler and preacher named William Carey preached a sermon to his Baptist association and challenged them to send the gospel to the pagans in foreign lands. There was resistance at first, then Baptist pastors banded together to lead their churches to send Carey to India, where his success was legendary. In the United States, a Congregationalist minister and his bride sailed for India in 1812, intending to go to Burma. They reached Baptist convictions during the voyage, were immersed by one of Carey’s colleagues, and captured the imagination of the Baptists in America. His name was Adoniram Judson. The modern missions movement was well underway.

Next, THE MISSIONARY BAPTIST CONTROVERSY

When Carey promoted the cause of missions in England, it is reported that the revered Dr. John Ryland, Sr. said, “Sit down young man. You are an enthusiast! When God is pleased to convert the heathen, he will do it without consulting you or me.”[1] “In May 1792, Carey preached from Isaiah 54:2 at the association meeting at Nottingham. His sermon had only two points: 1. Expect great things from God, and 2. attempt great things for God. Called the ‘deathless sermon,’ it provided a turning point in Baptist history.”[2] Though most Baptist congregations and associations of churches in the United States were caught up in the missions movement, some were opposed to establishing institutions for propagating the gospel by any means, as well as being opposed to missionary societies, Bible societies, and theological seminaries.[3] Their stated reasons were theological, arguing that missions was unnecessary if human destiny was already determined, and missions was inappropriate if use was made of anything not specifically mentioned in the Bible.[4]

Personalities also played a role in the rise of the antimissions movement, with one antimissions leader having a powerful grudge against the prominent missions advocate Luther Rice, and another antimissions leader being the infamous Alexander Campbell, who left the Baptists to form the Church of Christ denomination and to advocate baptismal regeneration.[5] In retrospect, it seems that the antimissions movement among Baptists was mostly led by men who held to hyper-Calvinist theology and who themselves were men who were not formally educated and had no inclination to embrace what they believed were unscriptural means of ministry.

Third, WHAT IS A MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH?

A missionary Baptist church is first and foremost a Baptist church. That is, it is a congregation of born again, scripturally baptized believers in Jesus Christ, who are banded together in a New Testament church relationship to worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in a scriptural manner. As well, a missionary Baptist church is a Baptist church that admits that while Baptist churches have in the past not fulfilled their scriptural duty to carry the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the world in obedience to Christ’s command, they should have done so, we are commanded to do so, and from henceforth we should strive to do so.

While there are some missionary Baptist churches that have engaged in unauthorized participation with unscriptural institutions for which there is no biblical warrant (such as Bible societies, mission agencies and other obviously para-church evangelistic organizations), it is entirely appropriate for Baptist churches to engage in the fulfillment of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ while maintaining the integrity of the local church as it is described and authorized to function in the New Testament. In short, you can support missions without compromise. Therefore, the mandate of the Great Commission to “preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16.15, to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” Matthew 28.19, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in [Christ’s] name among all nations,” Luke 24.47, is not a commission rightly seen as limited to the apostolic era, or to the apostles alone, but is applicable to our era and to us. Involvement in worldwide missions is a present imperative.

Finally, WE ARE A MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH

What is meant by this? Several things:

First, a missionary Baptist church is obviously an evangelistic church. That is, we are committed to not only embracing the gospel ourselves, but to advancing the gospel locally. In practical terms, that means we think sinners should embrace Christ. However, sinners will not embrace Christ until they have been told of Christ. In addition to being told of Christ, sinners are to be informed that they have been commanded to obey the gospel. At first glance, this effort to present the gospel to those around us seems like a simple and uncomplicated matter. However, God’s Word and our own personal experiences have taught us that it is a difficult task, requiring our combined cooperation, prayers, obedience, and finances to accomplish in the face of temptations and pressures to do otherwise. To this end, we gather our tithes and offerings each week, to finance the gospel ministry locally, and to support the gospel minister who equips and leads our congregation in this endeavor, First Corinthians chapter nine.

However, a missionary Baptist church does not stop there. Many churches aggressively evangelize those around them and grow to be very large, but are still not missionary Baptist churches. How can this be? They do not engage in determined obedience to the Great Commission. That is, they are not actively engaged in preaching the gospel to every creature, baptizing them, and then training them, but only to those nearby. To obey the Great Commission, a church has to simultaneously evangelize their own Jerusalem and Judea, as well as their nearby Samaria, and also the uttermost parts of the world. This cannot be done by a single congregation, no matter how large of affluent, but requires the cooperative efforts of others to accomplish this task. This is why we support missionaries to undertake the Great Commission on our behalf elsewhere. Such is not accomplished by means of literature ministries, radio broadcasts, Internet websites, or book publishing. Only men who are called and commissioned to preach the gospel, baptize their converts, and then train them to obey all Christ has commanded qualify. Literature, Internet activity, and broadcasts of various kinds are not obedience to the Great Commission, though we have done these things and will do these things in the future. Books cannot administer the ordinances. My sermons on the Internet cannot administer the ordinances or deal with saints and sinners in a personal way. Only men who are authorized by congregations such as ours, doing there what we do here, fulfills the Biblical mandate known as the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. To this end, we give to missions to support our missionaries, to do for us there what we are doing here, and to do for us there what we are responsible for getting done there but cannot do there without their help. This takes money, so we give.

Some professing Christians want to work with Navigators, or with Campus Crusade For Christ, or with World Vision, and bypass what they see as the troublesome issue of involvement in the local church. Others want to benefit from their local church without supporting the local church they attend. There are even some local churches that do para-church ministry elsewhere by financing activities that do not involve church planting missionaries. However, this is not the missionary Baptist way and it is certainly not scriptural. It is not right to feed other hungry children without first feeding your own child.

Our church’s program is a Biblical program. We embrace the notion that each Christian should be a part of and serve in a congregation, should support that congregation prayerfully and financially, and should join with us in prayerfully and financially supporting missionaries beyond the reach of our congregation.

I am recently returned from halfway around the world. Where I traveled, I found a congregation like ours in many ways. Not only do they seek the salvation of the lost in their immediate area, but they also send out missionaries to start and serve in churches where they cannot go. Many people do not like this approach to church ministry. They disagree with the Bible and prefer to withhold their money in some way, either by refusing to support their own church with their tithes, or by refusing to support missionaries with their freewill offerings above and beyond their tithes.

Of course, this is your choice. No one can or will attempt to force anyone to give their tithes to the church they attend and claim to receive a blessing in. No one can or will attempt to force anyone to give their freewill offerings to support missions. However, a study of history will show God’s blessings in such countries as Russia, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, Cambodia, India, and throughout the Americas is a direct result of missionary Baptist churches like this one.

Such claims cannot made by people like you who do not give their tithes, and who do not give to missionaries, since the advance of the gospel in the places I have mentioned has come despite such conduct as you who are not tithers and missions givers display, not because of it. As I return from a far away mission field, and reflect on God’s blessings far away that has been financed by you folks, and by your tithes to finance a healthy church here, so that we might support missionaries abroad with our missions giving, I feel both joy and sorrow. I am filled with delight and rejoice for God’s work in the lives of you who give generously. At the same time I am filled with sadness by you who act like the money in your pocket is yours, who withhold what God would have you to give, and who not only rob yourself of so much, but also deprive others of so much more.

We are a missionary Baptist church, and this is what we will be by God’s grace until Jesus comes. If this is not what you are, by both personal practice and conviction, perhaps you would be happier attending another church. I say this because I certainly do not want you influencing anyone to embrace your values, to adopt your beliefs, or to be infected by your sinful practices. Give me a call sometime. Perhaps we can meet and agree on some evangelical church where you would be happier attending. I know in the past others who have attended here and did not want to seriously consider the claims of Christ seem to now be happier pretending to be Christians in a nearby church. Maybe that would be more to your liking, as well.

As for us, we are a missionary Baptist church, and that is what we aim to continue to be. If you intend to stay with us, to serve with us, to worship with us, then get on board and give with us. Your tithes belong here, and your missions giving should be given here to be used elsewhere. If you have no intention of acting like a missionary Baptist, then perhaps attending a missionary Baptist church is not the thing for you.



[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1987), page 185.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., pages 372-373.

[4] Ibid., page 375.

[5] Ibid.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org