THE VISION OF IMPOSSIBILITIES
MORRIS H. CHAPMAN
June 15, 2010
No one could be more blessed. No one could have been more surprised to travel the journey which I have traveled these last 20 years, and I am grateful to God and grateful to you. I love Southern Baptists. I have been a Southern Baptist all my life, even though I waited until 7 to be saved, and I love you and I love Southern Baptists.
I do have a few words for you today, and I want to share with you my heart. This will be the last address which I shall ever make to the Southern Baptist Convention, and I must tell you something that's been trying to get out of my soul and out of my mind and out of my heart in these recent months. I've been wanting to ask it, and perhaps this is the place to ask it. I keep wanting to ask, 'What is wrong with the Cooperative Program?'
When did anybody put a lid on the Cooperative Program? The Cooperative Program has survived many years of tough times and brought us through every time. The Cooperative Program has never given any entity all the money that the entity would need under visionary leadership, but at the same time the Cooperative Program has always provided some for every entity that Southern Baptists supported to do their work for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Conservative Resurgence voted to go back to our roots theologically, but as I read the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, it is as if we are voting to go away from our roots methodologically. We are who we are because of our theology and our methodology.
If we abandon the methodology of cooperation, we shall be independent Baptists, not autonomous, cooperating Baptists. And so I agree with those who said this may be the most historic meeting the Southern Baptist Convention has had at least in the last 20 or more years because we shall continue to march as God has blessed us through the years or we shall march in a different direction.
And I don't know about you, but under God, I do not want to go in the wrong direction on the wrong road at the wrong time in our history. I know that the report lifts up Great Commission Giving and Cooperative Program giving, but it would have been impossible to lift up Great Commission Giving without lifting up Cooperative Program giving.
And yet the Cooperative Program in this plan shall never again hold its place that it's had in our history. It will be one of several offerings. It will not be one of a kind. I want us to dream today. I want us to see a vision of impossibilities. In Mark 10:27, Jesus looked at His disciples who were asking Him about salvation and He said, 'With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'
I'm praying God will give us a vision of great magnitude to our Southern Baptist churches. I am praying God will give us a vision to do something greater than we are. I am praying to God to give us the courage to do the extraordinary by faith and be ready for Him to do the miraculous in our midst. The solution to any obstacles we may face is an obedient church and a surrendered people who love Christ more than they love the world.
Many of you today are small church pastors. You've told me you feel isolated from your convention. Listen, you may labor in relative obscurity, but I want you to know what you already know: You are a child of the King. He knows who you are and how you toil for His Kingdom's sake. You are among those who preach some of the most powerful, Spirit-anointed sermons in the entire Southern Baptist Convention. Your church is the model of cooperation among Southern Baptist churches. We need your collective leadership.
You say, "But I'm pastor of a small church. I have no leadership place in the Southern Baptist Convention." Listen to this: 24,320 churches that run under 200 in worship attendance and give through the Cooperative Program. There are more smaller churches, but 24,320 give through the Cooperative Program that have an attendance of less than 200 in worship attendance.
If you had one registered messenger from those 24,000 churches, you would set the destiny for the Southern Baptist Convention. So don't sit back. Don't wait. You say, 'But we never have the money to send a messenger.' Start a savings fund for the year, and be sure that you get at least that one messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention. And we may have 10,000 at this convention. That means next year we might have 30,000, 35,000 or 40,000 and 25,000 would be from small churches. That's who we are as Southern Baptists.
Perhaps you're a layman who faithfully rears your children in the church, leads them to Christ, offers your time, energies and resources to help the church become a beacon of light to your community, and you support the Southern Baptist missionaries who leave temporal things behind to go to foreign lands. Like for the small church pastors, there's a place for you at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Perhaps you're a black man and woman whose heritage in this country is one of slavery and whose faith rests upon Christ, the solid rock. You never gave up, you never gave in, you never gave out in your pursuit to be free in Christ and to live a free man among free men in the greatest nation on earth. There's a place for you among Southern Baptists.
Perhaps you are a Hispanic who dared to come to this country believing that hard work and love of family would transform the American dream into your life's experience. You and those who came to this country looking for a new life filled with promise and hope and when you came, you found Christ our Lord, there's a place for you in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Perhaps you're an Asian who came with a bright mind and a humble heart yet made the greatest discovery of your life, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There's a place for you in the Southern Baptist Convention.
All who are here in Christ know where we're going. We're going into the everlasting arms of Jesus, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. On this we all agree. But it is the worldly pursuits and attitudes that keep us from having a laser-like focus upon our real purpose for being men called of God. We need prophetic voices among us, not power brokers. If we desire to be power brokers rather than prophets, we have shortchanged ourselves and mocked the Spirit of the living God.
We're in need of a prophet who falls on his face before Almighty God and in a broken spirit confesses his unworthiness to be in the Lord's presence, yearns for nothing more than to know the all-consuming love of God that is so freely given without condition. If there is but one in this room that God shall raise up as a prophet for this hour, we may yet save our convention. We may yet save our country. We may yet save our world.
I know that people can differ with my perspectives of the task force report. And that's OK. We each have to be true to the still small voice in our hearts. It is not so important today that you believe one thing or another because somebody else does, but that you believe and stand with what you know to be true in the depths of your heart, whatever that may be. We must learn to differ and yet love each other in Christ.
So someone can tell me I'm wrong, but they can't tell me I'm not convicted of what I share with you this afternoon. They can't take that away from me. I believe in the inerrant Word of God, and nobody can take that away from me. I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior, and nobody can take Him out of my heart. I believe what I believe as I've prayed before God and studied His holy Word, and that's the way He would have us to arrive at our decisions.
As you may know, I do differ with the last five recommendations that shall be recommended by the Great Commission Task Force. My heart is heavy because these recommendations do not challenge us spiritually and shall never bring us to our knees, much less take us to the ends of the earth.
We can accomplish all of these recommendations without the power of God and the moving of God's Holy Spirit. The recommendations are about moving the chairs on the deck of the Titanic while the ship goes down into an icy, watery grave. This old ship Zion, the Southern Baptist Convention, is not as seaworthy as once she was. We are doomed to a watery grave should we continue to exact our revenge, bow down to the emperors who have no clothes, turn our swords upon our own and reward ourselves for so gallantly riding to the rescue.
We need to be called to repentance. We need a prophet to strike reverential fear in our hearts for almighty God. We need a prophet to call us next door, across town and to the ends of the earth. We need a prophet to lead us to fear no man and witness to all men.
A resurgence is not born because it is shouted down from the steeple of a seminary chapel. It must be ignited by the Holy Spirit of God and stoked by faithful people in the pulpits and pews of this land. The high and mighty will never keep the fires of revival burning. Billy Baptist and his wife Betty and a bushel of children will keep the fires burning and spreading from town to town.
The conservative movement lasted for 25 years as a crusade before anyone dared to call it a resurgence. Why? Because a resurgence is not man-made or made in America. It is God-made and made in the heavens above. A resurgence cannot be packaged. It is to be experienced. The last five recommendations will never bring a Great Commission Resurgence to the Southern Baptist Convention. We're not ready to storm the world with the Gospel.
We can hardly point to one place in this great denomination where God's people are broken before the Lord and ready to abandon all of self for all of Christ. If our intent is to change our world, we must change our hearts. God looks upon our hearts and asks us to ask ourselves these questions: What is my spiritual condition? Am I filled with God's Spirit? Is Christ the Lord of my life? Is He preeminent in my life? Do I know the joy of the Lord? That is, am I content with who I am? Am I willing to humble myself before God and my fellow man? Do I think of the welfare of others before I think of myself?
God is waiting for answers to those and more, such as, Do we crave attention and recognition or do we yearn for a closer walk with Jesus? Failure to fulfill the Great Commission is not a structural problem and cannot be accomplished by structural solutions. It is not a funding problem and cannot be accomplished with funding solutions. It is a heart problem, a spiritual problem, a stewardship problem. Thus, a problem of failing to obey God's holy Word.
Until we get our hearts in tune with our Lord Jesus Christ in church after church, pew after pew and pulpit after pulpit, all of the structural and funding changes that can be envisioned in the minds of men will be meaningless. We must be honest with ourselves. We are not experiencing a Great Commission Resurgence. We cannot manufacture a resurgence of God's power simply because someone declares it to be so.
In Luke 24:29, Jesus said, "I'm going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in this city until you have been endued with power from on high." They were to tarry, they were to stay, they were to wait. Why? To receive the power of the Holy Spirit, after which they were then to be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
The surge of God's power will enter our churches when God's people obey 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then -- and only then -- will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land." We read it over and over, but we must ask ourselves, "Are we living it?"
Folks, we have problems in Southern Baptist life. Any body of people as large as we are will have hurdles and problems and obstacles to overcome. But I believe the last five recommendations will bring more confusion, more chaos and less effectiveness to our convention. I believe our convention is the last hope for a great spiritual awakening in America.
And when I say convention, let there be no doubt that we're talking about the collection of churches called Southern Baptists. It may be that you want to be independent tomorrow, and you could declare it so. You can change all the documents. You can make all the recommendations. You can walk away from this building tomorrow as an independent Baptist body of people.
So when we talk about the convention, we talk about the churches because nothing else composes the Southern Baptist Convention. You are the convention. But because our convention is non-hierarchical, there are certain flexibilities and freedoms that I believe leave Southern Baptists in position to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth like no denomination or convention.
But we're not ready. We've not taken God seriously at His word. We must have the faith that God will teach us, train us and get us ready for a spiritual battle. We cannot storm the gates of hell until we've gone through basic training. God help us. I want to see God do the impossible. Luke 1:37 tells us, "For nothing is impossible with God." Do you believe that? I do.
Oh, there are so many impossibilities that God performed all through the Bible. And I had a number jotted down, but let me just leave you the very last one because I think you can readily identify with it. God did the impossible when I was burdened down with sin and shame, without hope and without God. Then God acted. I repented of my sins, I trusted in the atoning death of Jesus, I received everlasting life. Do you know what? The impossible happened.
I wish to honor the hard work and long hours spent by the task force members because I believe they lit the match that can start our hearts burning with a desire to please Jesus and none other. The last five recommendations, I believe, require more study, more thought, more prayer and wider participation if any of the ideas are to stir our souls, the souls of men. We cannot allow the leaders of our churches and our entities to cross swords. We're in a spiritual battle together.
Rather than fight to death, we need to forgive until we learn to love as God loves, unconditionally, and speak well of each other, not only to our faces but when we're talking to someone else. I learned long ago that if somebody will mistreat another person by talking to me, they will mistreat me by talking to another person.
What you hear is not worth it, whatever it is. People talk to people who are receptive to hear rumors and gossip. I am confident the SBC entities have been challenged by this report. I am confident that our SBC leaders will be challenged to examine their own hearts and exert more energy and thought into cooperating with each other as our forefathers envisioned and as God's Word teaches.
But I believe we have only one course that may bring us together and keep us together. That is by the common consent of the task force, if it were to consider recommending two sections only of the full report for adoption by the convention. You have a beautiful brochure, many of you, of the report. I think on pages three or four or so is the page about urgency, the world of lostness. There is great truth in that page, in those words. We must be urgent in penetrating the darkness.
And the other section is entitled "challenges" at the end of the report, pages 18 through 23. If the task force were not to believe this to be a foundation for the future that would help us all be together in where we need to go, perhaps someone will move to amend the report by adopting these two sections only as the full report.
Why? Because the urgency written about will keep before us the urgency of being spiritually prepared to follow the leading of God's Spirit, and the closing section entitled "challenges," if faithfully incorporated into our lives, will empower us, our churches, our entities to a higher calling, a greater vision and less of self and more of Christ.
These two sections can form the foundation of where God wants us to go together if we trust Him and work together for God's glory, not caring who gets the credit. I believe God will lead, bless and strengthen us for the beginning of an exciting journey, a journey that shall lead to revival in our churches, spiritual awakening in our nation and a witness to the ends of the earth like the world has not seen since Pentecost. I have a vision for the impossibilities, and I believe you do too.
Now may the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.