More than 3,000 Southern Baptist churches have registered their commitments to develop an intentional and comprehensive missions strategy through the Acts 1:8 Challenge.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – More than 3,000 Southern Baptist churches have registered their commitments to develop an intentional and comprehensive missions strategy through the Acts 1:8 Challenge.
Launched in May 2004 by the International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) – in cooperation with Baptist state conventions and associations – the Acts 1:8 Challenge is designed to encourage SBC churches to take a fresh look at how they plan and execute their missions efforts.
“It’s a testimony to the passion that Southern Baptists have for Jesus’ Acts 1:8 mandate to impact lostness and create disciples of all nations that in less than three years, 3,019 churches across the United States and Canada have embraced the challenge,” said Tim Yarbrough, director of church relations at NAMB.
The Acts 1:8 Challenge assists congregations in implementing a comprehensive missions strategy that involves their community, region, continent and the world. It’s based on Jesus’ charge to the apostles in Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
To fulfill its Acts 1:8 commitment, an SBC church is encouraged to cooperate with its local Baptist association, its state convention, NAMB and IMB. Churches accepting the challenge commit to eight “Kingdom-growing” responses as they work to intentionally carry out Acts 1:8: to prepare, learn, pray, give, go, tell, send and multiply.
Texas leads the top 10 states in the number of Acts 1:8 churches with 268. Others in the top 10 include Georgia, 260; Missouri, 254; Florida, 215; Tennessee, 177; Alabama, 171; North Carolina, 170; South Carolina, 165; Louisiana, 157; and Mississippi, 142.
“Through the Acts 1:8 Challenge, any church of any size can embrace a strategic, biblical missions model that literally impacts eternity,” Yarbrough said. “After all, missions is the overarching purpose of the church.”
When a church commits to the Acts 1:8 Challenge, it receives a packet of resources to help develop a more comprehensive and intentional missions strategy. Resources include a sermon outline, bulletin insert, video clips on CD-ROM, PowerPoint presentations and a 60-page leadership guide.
While the leadership guide helps a church evaluate its current effectiveness and implement a plan for the future, other resources – such as the sermon outline, videos and PowerPoint presentations – are intended to motivate and inspire the congregation to action.
New implementation tools for churches are being developed in 2007-08, said Yarbrough. For example, a pilot of the Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekend was held on a recent March weekend in a Denver-area church.
“Churches desiring to jump-start their Acts 1:8 missions commitment should look closely at conducting an Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekend,” Yarbrough said. “There’s no better way to bring awareness to and a passion for God’s mission in the world than through a focused event like a renewal weekend.”
In 2006 alone, 12,700 Southern Baptists were involved in church renewal, said Bob Foy, NAMB national missionary and renewal coordinator based in Mooresville, N.C. Foy said the Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekend is designed to ignite revival in the church – all focused around God’s mission for the church.
“Although the main purpose of Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekends is to get saved Baptists back on fire for missions, we had 132 salvations and 7,600 re-dedications during the 160 church renewal weekends held in 2006,” Foy said. He said 112 churches have signed up for specific renewal weekends during 2007, and 28 others are tentatively scheduled.
Foy emphasizes that Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekends are led by laypeople, not pastors. The four-day session begins with a 24-hour prayer vigil on Thursday, followed by general and teaching sessions, worship/sharing celebrations, prayer time, and fellowship meals from Friday night to Sunday night.
“We try to make people understand we’re all gifted in some way, and that lay people can step out and serve where they are,” said Foy. “Lay people think that God can’t use them where they are – that they must go to Africa or China to serve. Renewal weekends show that a person can already be placed where God wants them.”
The pilot church for the first Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekend — themed “Acts 1:8: The Extreme Makeover” – was Cornerstone Baptist Church of Lone Tree, Colo., about 15 miles south of Denver. Michael Wright is senior pastor of the 18-year-old, 220-family church.
Wright said four other churches, including a local Korean church, joined Cornerstone in supporting the recent weekend’s activities, attended by a capacity crowd of more than 500.
“That weekend forced us to become laser-focused on prayer and evangelism,” Wright said. “Now our deacons are asking me questions like ‘what can we do to make evangelism a lifestyle here, not just part of the church? How do we make missions and evangelism an everyday thing in my life?’
“This tells me that the Acts 1:8 program is going deep,” Wright said. “That’s music to my ears as pastor.”
Wright said he wanted to see Cornerstone make evangelism and missions an even stronger focal point for his church in the future.
“I’d love to see our church become a model for other churches. I’d like our people to get involved in Acts 1:8 weekends at other churches. I feel strongly that every church should conduct an Acts 1:8 weekend to get their people on mission 24/7.
“Acts 1:8 is about being transformed, not just something you put on a T-shirt but something you live. It’s about coming together to get right with God on evangelism. When you do that, the result for your church is renewal, refreshment and revival,” Wright said.
Wright said successful Acts 1:8 efforts in the Denver metro area are critical because of the degree of lostness in the area.
“Without Acts 1:8, we’re losing ground,” he said. “The lostness of the Denver area is 93 percent. Surveys tell us that only seven percent of our local population attends any kind of religious activity. It’s very much a secular world out here. We don’t have enough churches, pastors or witnesses. We need more harvesters in the field.”
Pastors and missions leaders interested in more information about the Acts 1:8 Challenge or Acts 1:8 Renewal Weekends, or who want to register their church, can access www.ActsOne8.com or call 1-800-4 ACTS 18 (1-800-422-8718).