FBF 86th Annual Fellowship Reflections (Part 2 of 5)

FBF 2006 Annual Fellowship

Wednesday, June 14

Session 3: Matt Recker–Dispelling the Darkness Through Reaching the Nations of the World at Our Doorstep

Introduction to Recker

In 1957, Jack Kerouc wrote the novel On the Road involving a journey to San Francisco, where the main character wanted to find people “who never yawn or say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous Romans candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” I wish unsaved Jack could have met the saved sinner, Matt. Perhaps the NYC church planter might not be as colorful as the character, Emperor Joshua Abraham Norton (laughing), in San Francisco’s history, but Matt is just one of those guys who has fun igniting your imagination for taking the Gospel to the cities of America.

Matt’s topic would tempt any sensitive missionary heart to pack up the bags at home and to move to San Francisco, pulsating with pluralism and ostentatiously preserving all sorts of cultural and ethnic identities. Hey, this is the place for “eating in every language.” Cities like San Francisco beckon you to hear the unspoken longings of the Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Cambodians, Laotians, Thais, Malaysians, and Samoans. Tim Sneeden told me by email that “50 percent of the city is Caucasian, and 30% are Asian with 150,000 of those being Chinese.”

Indeed, coastal cities and university cities bring the nations of the world to our doorstep. In my area of the country, ironically, it is the Mormon calling of young missionaries that bring the flood of international students to southeastern Idaho and Utah.

Ten years ago, during my last BJU Bible Conference, Matt Recker fired up my soul about church planting, punctuating his sermon with these notes, “a thankfulness, a longing, a readiness, an indebtedness, and a boldness” from Romans 1. Now here we go again, a decade later, in the Queen City of the Pacific.

John Piper wrote in God Is the Gospel, “If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on for centuries and into eternity, you don’t have to have a high IQ or EQ; you don’t have to have good looks or riches; you don’t have to come from a fine family or a fine school. You have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things, and be set on fire by them.”

Message from Recker

Recker handed us a four-page handout for his message titled, “Reaching the Nations at Our Doorstep,” [17] taken from the text, Romans 15:7-13.

Man is a master of building bridges or barriers. It is easier to build walls–the crude versus the cultured, the intellectual versus the illiterate, the Jew versus the Greek, the slave versus the free; but God in the Gospel vanquishes, crushes every difference that divides us. Independent, fundamental Baptists are still struggling with this. Our nation is changing in color and culture; and beloved, we must change in order to reach them. We must leave our white, middle-class comfort zones and reach the nations. We must become a culturally diverse model. Sometime just walk in your local Wal-Mart. We can either move away from the nations (and become irrelevant) or adapt.

In a disclaimer, Recker mentioned that because of biblical conviction, he will not receive charismatic, CCM, or seeker-friendly philosophies of ministry; but he must welcome all people, all classes, all cultures because God received him. He gave humorous illustrations about ministering with people (whether black or Democrat) in Queens and Brooklyn for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Recker strongly exhorted the brethren, “It makes me mad when an Independent Baptist-type church moves out of the neighborhood, primarily because of ethnic changes.” The Catholics and cults don’t have a bad model of ministry. The Catholics don’t run. They just put in a Haitian priest.

From his handout (I have not included everything), he outlines his text in Romans 15. Reaching the nations at our doorstep must be …
1. Our CONVICTION, because of Christ’s work (v. 7)

A. From your heart have a conviction that the nations of the world are image bearers of God.

B. From your heart have a conviction that the church of Jesus Christ is to be comprised of all the nations of the world, Romans 1:14-16.

C. From your heart have a conviction to welcome those different ethnic groups in a sincere and natural way when they come into your congregation.

2. Our PASSION, because of God’s Word (vv. 8-12). Jesus Christ came to …

A. To confirm God’s promises to the nation of Israel (v. 8 )

B. To reveal God’s mercy among the nations of the world (v. 9)

1.) From our perspective, we are COMMISSIONED to praise God among the nations (v. 9 - Psalms 18:49)

2.) From the nations’ perspective: God has COMMANDED the nations to rejoice (vv. 10-11 - Deut. 32:43, Ps. 117:1)

3.) From God’s perspective: God has CERTIFIED that He will rule over the nations (v. 12 – Isaiah 11:10)

*Preach the Word, showing that God has torn down the barriers that should divide us in our worship and service to Christ (Acts 13:1; Eph. 2:11-22; Eph. 3:1-12; Rev. 7:9).

*Invite involvement of different ethnic groups in the ministry (Acts 13:1-3).

*Give away ownership of the church to those God brings in.

3. Our EXPECTATION, because of the Spirit’s power (v. 13)
*We do not do merely what is natural by human nature, but we do what is supernatural by divine power. We do not have to compromise our message, our music, or our doctrine to reach the nations

A. Our great ASSURANCE in the inner man: we have joy and peace in accomplishing this.

B. Our gracious ASSISTANCE in the inner man: we have the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this.

*Do you need to repent? Of your unbelief, of a negative attitude towards those who speak a different language or have a different skin color than you, of ethnic joking, of cultural pride, anger, bitterness or an attitude of exclusivity?

*Do you need to refocus?

*Do you need to refocus some of your mission dollars? Or should you refocus your priorities away from building bigger buildings in the suburbs and reach the ethnic multitudes moving in around you? Nothing is wrong with building a new auditorium or gymnasium, but when a main concern is to have a bigger auditorium intentionally removed from the ethnic masses that are coming our way, something is wrong with our thinking, our vision, and our expectation of what God can do among the nations of the world.

May God help us to see that we can and must reach the nations of the world who are moving into our cities and more and more into our suburbs. May we have a conviction, because of Christ’s work to reach the nations of the world. May we have a passion, based on God’s Word to reach the nations of the world. May God give us an expectation, because of the Spirit’s power, to reach the nations of the world, for His eternal glory

My Personal Reflections on Recker’s Text

Have you ever heard of Independent Baptist local fellowships not getting along in the same city? Brethren in the categories of “weak” or “strong” can tear each other apart. And racial and cultural hostilities only magnify the problem. But as a conclusion of the whole scriptural section, Romans 14:1-15:6-7 should shatter the festering disunity among believers in cities. Climbing up Telegraph Hill so our family could get to the top of Coit Tower in San Francisco, I noticed a historical sign on a corner building, “Original Site of Third Baptist Church–the first Black American Baptist church west of the Rockies.” I wondered how many white believers in the 1800’s fellowshipped with them.

Now verse 8 introduces one of the greatest sections on missions to the disobedient nations in all the New Testament. Recker couldn’t have zeroed in on a better text. The main problem with the nations is not that they are headed to hell but that they are not glorifying God. Romans 15:9a gives us our whole purpose for missions. And if you have trouble believing this, Paul backs it up with four Old Testament passages.

For me personally, while ministering in “Mormon country,” I don’t have to be unhappy or anxious. It is “through the power of the Holy Ghost” that I “may abound in hope.” For every Christian who seeks to bring Christ to the Gentiles, Romans 15:8-12 is the fabulous fuel that will cause us to burn, burn, burn.

Sessions 4: Jeremy Sweatt–Dispelling the Darkness Through a New Generation of Leaders in New Emerging Cities

Introduction to Sweatt

When I saw this motley society brother from almost 20 years back on the roster of speakers, I just wanted to break out in a loud, clamping, stomping, sing-song, society cheer. “From East to West, Alpha Theta is the best ” And to think that just the week before last, I was wearing my old green BJU sweatshirt emblazoned with the three orange letters, Alpha Theta Pi. Unknown to me until later, one of the newly moved young couples in the neighborhood was trying to figure out what frat house I belonged to at University of Idaho.

(Here is a question for Jeremy. Our freshman class initiation—did that really check with the administration handbook? Burning barrels. Bad boys dressed like out of the Bronx. A shirt shredded to pieces. Who would have ever thought of this in the back alleys of BJU? Though I didn’t kiss the pig, I was sweating like one. What a wild, hilarious night! Did they do this back in Mark Minnick’s day in Alpha Theta Pi? Cheers, fellow razorback!)

Honestly, Jeremy’s topic lathers up the race horse, stomping in the chutes. I remember when Bert Sperling and Peter Sander in their book Cities Ranked & Rated (2004) rated my town of ministry, Idaho Falls, Idaho, among “the top ten emerging U.S. metropolitan areas” in the country. [18] Other cities of interest to me were Bend, OR (#2); Logan, UT (#4), Coeur d’Alene, ID (#5); and Lewiston, ID (#11). Two years ago, Idaho was hitting the radar screen in a big way. And do you know what I think? Big city folks are becoming more and more attracted to the backwoods, laid-back paradise of Idaho. [19] In the big cities of California, Nevada, and Arizona, you need to keep a tight reign on loose articles. But for me, I wake up in the morning still seeing my unlocked cars and bikes strewn all over my front yard and gobs of belongings in my open garage. But, alas (sigh of content), I digress.

On March 3, 2002, God used Jeremy to birth Community Baptist Church (www.community-baptist-church.com)[20] in Holly Spring, Georgia. Now here he was in San Francisco at this conference, struggling to hold back the tears over the privilege of being with godly men and standing behind the sacred desk.

Message from Sweatt

His text was specifically 2 Timothy 2:2. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

Sweatt spoke of a new breed, a new generation of fundamentalists arriving, young men desiring to serve the Lord. In the discussion between the older generation of fundamentalists and the younger generation, he expressed being kind of in the middle.

Among the four generations Sweatt noted in verse 2, there is a command. And this command takes effort, willingness, and faith in our Christian fellowships–for the hope and future of our movement rests not in our colleges but in our local churches. Young people ought to have things committed to them before they reach Matt Olson at Northland Baptist College or Stephen Jones at Bob Jones University. Needless to say, Sweatt is encouraged by the brief survey he conducted recently; well over 2,000 students are enrolled in Bible colleges for further training in local ministry.

Before he addressed the men mentoring the younger generation, he challenged those in student roles to be teachable and not just to swap ignorance.

Concerning the older men of the FBF, Sweatt readily acknowledged that they were not harsh, critical, or overbearing. He recounted his appreciation for men like Frank Bumpus, Chuck Phelps, Dave Jaspers, etc. He reminded the older men that the young fundamentalists are a questioning generation. It takes time.

And Paul did not tell Timothy to do just like he did. We shouldn’t get worked up over alterations in methods and programs, but we should in our philosophy be grounded in timeless truth. If the philosophy is right, things turn out fine. Keep going by the Book. Stick to the truth.

Sweatt spoke of the population growth of cities in Florida, Illinois, Virginia, Nevada, and South Carolina. He mentioned fast growing cities, #4 and #5, in South Dakota and joked, “We will pray for someone to go there ” (laughter in the audience). Certainly, with all the new home starts and the new business corporations, there are just more great opportunities, more people to reach.

He ended, “May God help us to be faithful to commit the timeless truth.”

My Personal Reflections on Sweatt’s Text

My comments have nothing to do with the text but mainly with Sweatt’s comments on population growth. Yes, from man’s standpoint and all practical purposes, emergent cities seem to be the logical places to plant churches in America. But if you feel God’s heavy hand pushing you to a rural village or to an economically dying, inner city urban area, you had better go God’s divine path, for Ezekiel breaks a lot of ministry paradigms and success stratagems.

I am encouraged that God gave Jeremy a young man to mentor, who is now headed off to Bible college. What a thrill! We must all long for these opportunities. We must teach, teach, teach, teach, teach, and teach.

________________________

17. Recker writes in the introduction, “We are living in historic times in the United States:
*The population growth from 1990–2000 of 32.7 million people represents the largest census-to-census increase in American history.
*The fastest growing states are Nevada, Georgia, and Colorado.
*The two fastest growing metropolitan areas are Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, Nevada.
*Midwestern states like Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa had their highest growth rates since 1920.
*Nationwide, from 1990-2000, the Hispanic population increased 57%, the Asian population 52%; and those in the “Other” category increased 87%.
*New York City increased to more than 8 million people, and there are more than 21 million people in the surrounding metro area. Eight of the ten largest cities increased population, except Detroit and Philadelphia. NY, LA, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, and San Antonio all grew.
*Our message and ministry must be to the nations of the world. We send forth missionaries to reach these people groups. Now, more than ever, the nations are coming here. What will we do? How do we respond?”
18. Are you down here checking the accuracy of the nation-wide importance of my beloved city in Idaho? Do you really believe me that my spudville in Idaho is ranked as one of the Hottest Small Cities in America? (Smiling) For all you statistical skeptics, check out Inc. Magazine, May 2006 (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20060501/boomtowns-small.html). And seriously, here are all kinds of intriguing books for the rising church planter to fiddle-fuddle over. Let me note the cities in the West (yep, I am biased).
**Best Places To Raise Your Family (NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2006) by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander. Louisville, CO, is rated number one. Other places of interest are Castle Rock, Denver; and Fort Collins in Colorado; Eagle in Idaho; and Kaysville and Logan in Utah.
**50 Fabulous Places to Raise Your Family (NJ: Career Press, 2006) by Kathleen Shapuits. Greenville, SC, is listed. But places noted in the West are Olympia and Spokane in Washington; Bend, Milwaukie, and Salem in Oregon; Chino, Pismo Beach, Sacramento, and Vista in California; Fountain Hills in Arizona; Henderson and Reno in Nevada; Provo in Utah; Boise in Idaho; Billings in Montana; and Colorado Springs and Loveland in Colorado.
**Retirement Places Rated (NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2004) by David Sarageau. Florence, OR, is number one. Scottsdale, AZ, is number two.
**And one more book for the small-town church planter: America’s Best Small Towns (NY: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 2002). Have you ever heard of Anacortes, Port Townsend, Leavenworth, Chelan, Moses Lake, and Ellensburg in Washington; Astoria, Lincoln City, and Newport in Oregon; Yreka and Ukiah in California; Page in Arizona; Vernal in Utah; Rexburg in Idaho; Lander, Spearfish, Douglas, and Scottsbluff in Wyoming; and Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Salida, Montrose, Telluride, and Durango in Colorado?
19. You won’t believe this. I was sitting with my family at a little Vietnamese hole in the wall, Boston Café, streets down from HSBC. We are the only people sitting on the stools. A man walks in named Dave. We start talking. I find out he is in the LDS bishopric of one of the SF wards. God set up this appointment for me to come as a missionary from Idaho and to scripturally challenge him about his faith. When he retires and sells his SF house for $800,000, he will be moving his family to Southeastern Idaho. I told him with that money, I could build three more buildings for Baptist fellowships in the area.
20. The website presented a good overview of Jeremy’s work. And with a pastor’s curiosity, I had to check out his recent bulletin and church calendar for the year. In his Family Altar series, the article “Abba Father” weaves together his earthly adoption and spiritual salvation testimony.

———–
Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University. But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10).

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