Devotional Thoughts: Faith & Future Generations

What if we say our faith is a personal, private thing as I’ve heard many say? Those who choose this road choose for their faith to die with them. I’m not sure that’s even faith at all. True faith sparks a fire inside that is shared naturally because of what God is doing in one’s life. Those who have come before us lived their lives in such a way that it inspires generations today and those to come. We need to feed our own faith and not be afraid to grow so faith will live on.

The greatest gift I can give my children is my faith. The greatest gift my children can give to me is choosing to live in God’s ways. This brings peace to my heart and soul. Walking God’s path is hard but leads to the greatest rewards, the kind you cannot even find here on earth.

Living our lives in such a way that future generations will know God is important. The ESV uses the word unborn instead of saying future generations. What share with someone today can help someone who isn’t even born yet come to faith. It’s exciting to ponder. Our lives matter. What we choose to do or not to do today has the ability to affect someone tomorrow, even someone who isn’t here yet.

I’ve been at First Baptist Asheboro long enough to see this happening in our ministry. Those who respond to the Gospel are teaching their children the Gospel. Some of our Multi-Housing Ministry students are now married with children and are attending churches. What we do matters and even can make a mark on eternity: making a difference whether someone becomes a follower of Jesus or not. Everyone deserves the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Not everyone will follow. Many will choose the wide road but we still share. Sharing isn’t coercing or manipulating, It’s a loving sharing of what God has done. Maybe manipulation is what created this idea of a private faith?

Misunderstanding Baptists: Soul Freedom

“So in reality Baptists are the most broad-minded of all people in religion.”  My Southern  Baptist Sunday School class full of young Baptists in their 20s burst into laughter when I read this statement to them!  This quote comes from The Baptist Faith and Message written by Herschel H. Hobbs.  I’m using an edition that was published in 1971.  It’s the explanation of the Baptist faith and explains which distinctive beliefs are so important to Baptists. After laughing, our conversation then shifted to how misunderstood we are in society.

One of the basic beliefs of the Baptist faith is called, “soul freedom,” or the “competency of the soul. “  It’s explained here quoted from the same book I mentioned above:

“Baptists insist that every man shall be free to decide for himself in matters of religion.  Baptists have ever been the champions of soul freedom, not for themselves alone but for all men.  Thus it is that Baptists believe that a person has the right to be a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Jew, infidel, atheist, or whatever he chooses to be.”

“They (Baptists) grant to every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants.  But they insist upon the same right for themselves.  The moment a Baptist seeks to coerce another person – even another Baptist – in matters of religion, he violates the basic belief of Baptists.”

I’m guessing what you just read is probably quite shocking to you?  This might even shock some Baptists too?  Our society would probably define a Baptist as a closed-minded, judgmental person who isn’t very open to hearing the opinions of others.  Herschel Hobbs also writes, “If there is any judging to be done, it is God’s responsibility, not man’s.”

Baptists are very concerned that everyone in our world hears and understands the Gospel Message of the Bible.  We are not out to judge, but to share this message and every person has the opportunity to respond to this message how they choose.  We are not out to coerce anyone but to share what God has done for humanity.  It is only God who draws mankind to Himself through the Holy Spirit.  Baptists do not believe this happens through coercion or human persuasion of any kind.  Nobody becomes a Christian through an argument, manipulation or coercion.  We simply share faith and we believe all people have the right to respond as they choose.  And, as I quoted above, “if there is any judging to be done, it’s God’s responsibility, not man’s.”

What do Baptists Believe?  Maybe we should do some reading before we come to conclusions on what a Baptist believes.   I’m assuming many Baptists out there can also use a refresher on what they believe as well.  Maybe some who call themselves a Baptist should choose another term for themselves?  As a good Baptist, I leave this up to them to decide!

One Way to Evaluate Our Mission Involvement

My grandfather went on several mission trips to Mexico years ago.  When he arrived back home he would light up when he told us how many tracts they had given away on the street corners.  This was their main task: handing out little folded papers that had Bible verses on it that shared the Gospel. As a person involved in missions now I believe what he did was a waste of time and resources.  I know many Mexican people and have good relationships with them.  I’m well aware that some of them are illiterate.  I’m also aware that their culture is very relational.  Handing out tracts isn’t the “best” thing.

So, how do we gauge what to do and what not to do in Christian missions?  Our resources are limited, so how do we know if we’re using our resources in the best place?

One test to help us answer this question is something I learned from a missionary in Nigeria.  I don’t know if this concept is unique to him or if he learned this from someone else.  All I’m saying is I cannot take credit for this as it’s not my original idea.  It has certainly stuck with me and helped me fine tune various ministries I’ve led and it’s been successful for us.

He shared three words:

GOOD ->  BETTER->  BEST

We can do many “good” things for God.  We would all say that helping someone is a good thing.  But is it the best thing?  We can evaluate our “good” things and make them even better in the work that we do, but how do we know if we are doing the “best” thing when we are choosing what to do and what not to do on a daily basis in our mission ministries?

GOOD – I can do many acts of kindness, but so can someone who isn’t a Christian!  I know many kind, giving people who aren’t Christians.  What makes the Christian different than any other volunteer who serves an organization?  Can we even call this “Christian ministry?”

BETTER – The difference is we have been transformed by the Gospel message and that is the very reason we have a desire to do an act of kindness.  So, we can take our good thing and make it better if we share the Gospel as we go along.  We should always be ready to share the reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).  We need to constantly be finding ways to put more God in what we’re doing!  How can we take our good things and make them deeper missionaly?

The BEST thing is sharing the Gospel with people who respond to it and in turn those who responded sharing it with others.  When someone finds transformation they want others to know about it!   We need to be providing atmospheres for this to happen.  Of course this requires us to appreciate and be excited about our own faith experience and we need to be willing to share it.

One way this has been fleshed out among us is we developed a camp for at-risk kids that were referred to us by school social workers.  50% of the kids who came to camp accepted Christ for the first time after hearing the Gospel many times throughout the camp experience.  One of our volunteers felt led to open her home to those who were new believers to create a space to disciple them and help them grow.  These kids invited their friends to come hear what they has experienced.

Do not despair if you’re doing too many good things!  You can make them better by being intentional at sharing the Gospel as you go along and be thinking about what you’ll do when someone comes into the Kingdom!   Have that plan in place and ready!

And remember: He who tried and failed is much better than he who didn’t try at all!

So take your good things and build relationships through then so you can share the Gospel and watch God move in powerful ways.  Ask God to transform those who are the recipients of the Good News in your ministries.

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