By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
RUSTON (LBM) – A exceptional lineup of speakers made point after point that Louisiana Baptists must be more intentional in imprinting the next generation, the nation and the world with the Gospel.
In his message on “Marking the Next Generation,” LBC President Eddie Wren issued a call to pass a living faith onto the next generation.
Referencing Psalm 78, Wren said God proclaimed that we must witness to and disciple “the generation to come.”
“As we think about imprinting the next generation, we do not need a new gimmick or a new tool,” said Wren, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rayville. “Instead we need folks who are more interested in the old, old story of Jesus and His love than they are about the things of the world.”
Wren said parents have a duty to disciple their own children and share with them about how God blesses His own, especially in times of trouble. Stories of God’s provision and miraculous power will help them understand God’s faithfulness, and their confidence in Him will grow, he said.
Wren said the older generation can build relationships by mentoring and involving youth in ministry opportunities.
“The faithful must disciple the coming generations,” he said. “If we do not testify and set the example they will be tossed here and there by the deceitfulness of the enemy. But if we set the example and invest in their lives, training them to walk after Christ, notice they will not be like their fathers — a stubborn and rebellious generation. They’ll not be a generation who did not prepare its heart and who are not faithful to God. They will be faithful.”
During three Bible study sessions, Nik Ripken, founder of Nik Ripken Ministries and author of the book “The Insanity of God,” reminded messengers of the persecution Christians face in other parts of the world.
Ripken and his wife, Ruth, traveled the globe to collect stories from Christians who were tortured for their faith, and found these individuals were not victims but victors for the great courage they experienced under extreme circumstances.
Ripken said he and his wife encountered more than 100 Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Some had traveled to three countries to find a Christian to tell them how to discover “the Jesus” who had spoken to them in their dreams.
“Are we going to continue to say to the 2.8 billion people on the planet, if you want us come find us,” Ripken said. “Are lost people going to be the ones who are obedient to dreams and visions and come looking for us?
“Let’s change this,” he said. “At the very least, when God moves in their hearts and they come looking for us, let them find us at their front door.”
Ripken closed with a challenge to the messengers.
“You are the people of God and cannot keep Jesus to yourselves,” he said. “Let’s go to work until the last lost person hears that ‘Jesus saves.’”
During the Convention Sermon, Jeff Ginn said God commands seasoned Christ followers to leave an imprint on the rising generation.
Drawing from Deuteronomy 6:4-12, Ginn said this can be accomplished if the older generation will listen intently, love intensely and lead intentionally.
Ginn, who is pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, compared this effort to an Olympic relay race.
“In relay events, the race is won or lost often in the passing of the baton,” he said. “Do it well, you win. Do it poorly, you lose.
“The continuance of the Christian faith depends upon one generation successfully passing the baton to the next,” he continued. “Leaders must make sure their disciples grasp the faith.”
Johnny Hunt, the newly named senior vice president of evangelism for the North American Mission Board, challenged messengers to influence others with the Gospel after the model of the First Century Church.
“If you and I are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, we’ve got to have confidence in our message,” he said. “I want to preach where God connects with the heart. It’s not a winsome sermon that will win them. It’s a powerful sermon of the Gospel that will reach them.”
“God’s Gospel has the power to change someone’s life,” he said. “The Word of God faithfully proclaimed is the most powerful force in the world.”
“Only the Gospel can change someone’s life,” Hunt declared. “The Word of God faithfully proclaimed is the most powerful force in the world. God takes it and uses it to change lives, to heal relationships and the likes.”
But, Hunt offered that the results of the Gospel are achieved through the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit without the Word is weaponless,” he said. “And the Word without the Spirit is powerless. And without His witness of the Holy Spirit ours is futile.
“It is not my duty to convince the people of the truth of the Gospel,” he continued. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Gospel is not just a message to be believed. It is a message to be obeyed. It is not the truth you know that makes a difference. It’s the truth you obey that makes a difference.”
“The Gospel is not just a message to be believed,” he said. “It is a message to be obeyed.”
Herb Reavis closed out the annual meeting by describing qualities of the ideal church of God.
He said God would attend a church that has dynamic Christians, gathers on a special day, fulfills a unique responsibility and worships a living Savior.
Reavis, who is pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, said Christ has issued a command to make disciples like the early church.
“The Bible says we are, through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to do God’s work, God’s way, for God’s glory, and raise up a generation of folks who have spiritual roots and a foundation of substance who have been infected with sound doctrine so that they can go out and live out their faith in a powerful way in a hostile environment,” Reavis said. “It’s time for the church of the living God to grow up and realize Jesus says that we’re to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. We’re to be full-grown, sold-out believers.”
Reavis said times of discouragement will come, and when moments of trouble arrive, Christ followers should look to the cross for reaffirmation.
“We live in a day and age where people act like any pain or discomfort is wrong and we’re out of the will of God,” he said. “Sometimes it is the will of God that puts you in the place of pain and discomfort.
“I’ve found in my own life it’s the pain and discomfort and even the difficult people that God uses like Heavenly sand paper to shape my character into the very likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “We need to teach our people that the pressure and the difficulty and the adversity are tools in the hands of God to deepen their faith, to expand their vision and even to develop their prayer life — to make them into a strong saint of the living God.”
Reavis also encouraged pastors to remember they matter to God.
“God has called you to do what you’re doing, and He has put you where you are to do it,” he said. “You’re somebody in the eyes of God.”