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A Message From BGCO President Nick Garland

nick garland

Dear Pastor:

What is the last thing your church did that was truly “God-sized” or “Kingdom-sized” in its scope and impact?   Hopefully, you did not have to think about that answer very long.  This fall, all of us will have a great opportunity to be “Kingdom” focused.  I want to invite you to join hundreds of Oklahoma Baptists to reach out to our unchurched neighbors in a way we have not done collectively in a long time.  We want to move back to the future!

Sunday school is the backbone of every church.  It is the heartbeat for evangelism, ministry, mission service, stewardship development, leadership recruitment, and fellowship. Baptists were at our best when SS was continually promoted in church.  Involving people in small groups is the key to retention of new members, accountability of church attendance, and maturing believers.

This fall, the BGCO will be engaging our Oklahoma Baptist churches with the practical SS strategy called START.  Those churches that embrace the START strategy will be entering a ten-week campaign that will provide growth for every size church.  The START emphasis will focus on starting new units in the SS, training and encouraging all members in evangelism, praying for unchurched friends and inviting them to SS, and reaching out to the community around the church during the ten week strategy implementation.

By uniting across the state and encouraging every church to participate, the entire state during the ten weeks could be visited and enlisted to come to a Baptist church’s SS.  How great is that!  Baptists have always rallied when it was most urgent.  Our culture is sick.  Our country is sin-sick.  Our churches have the answer. Christ is the cure for sin!

This should be our finest hour and the greatest harvest is just ahead of us.  Let’s join hearts and do what the old hymn we used to sing admonished us to do, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying…..weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen.  Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save!”  That is, indeed, Kingdom-sized business!   Your community is dying for someone to care!  You do!  Let them know!!!

Blessings,

Nick Garland

Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Broken Arrow

Practically Speaking

practically speaking imageWe all like to dream, imagine, set goals, and forge new ground, but it takes work to reach our goals and realize our dreams, practical, boots-on-the- ground, dirty-your-hands effort. All progress begins with, and is, a series of small, practical steps.   Sunday school or small groups provide an environment in which we can accomplish all the big dreams God provides for our lives and for the church through practical steps, vital connections.

To truly live as God intends His followers to live, we must connect to Jesus, His Truth, His community (the church), and His mission in this world. Understanding the importance of the small group or Sunday school class in pointing us toward these vital connections, how can we personally engage and engage others in this important work. Here are a few thoughts…

1)      Connect to Jesus.

  • How much of what you know about Jesus comes from personal experience, and how much comes from the testimony of others?
  • Do you sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting on a regular basis, or have you allowed yourself to be sidetracked to the point that you have difficulty discerning His will?  Does anything need to change?  If so, what do you plan to do about it?
  • How much time a week do you spend with The Lord? This week, how can you structure your day so you can spend time with Jesus?
  • This week, how are you connecting others to Jesus? In your teaching, leading, working, family? Consider how you might put Jesus at the front of all your interactions this week.
  • When was the last time you led someone to Jesus?

 

2)      Connect to Truth.

  • What are you reading in Scripture right now? We are to meditate on His word, but how much time do you spend digesting new Truth?
  • Are you still quoting the same handful of verses that you learned as a child, or are you adding daily to your Scripture arsenal so that you can fight off the Enemy?
  • We are to pray continually, but how much time per week do you spend in concentrated, purposeful prayer? 
  • Consider you conversations with people inside and outside the church.  Is Scripture a regular part of your conversation?  How can you include it?

 

3)      Connect to Community.

  • Positions and posts aside, are you fully integrated in the life of your local church?  Who depends on you?  Who holds you accountable?
  • What relationships within the church need fostering or mending?
  • Who has joined your church lately as a result of your influence?
  • Who can you connect in the next couple of weeks into community in the Church?

 

4)      Connect to the Mission of God in the World.

  • Do you consider yourself a missionary?  Do your actions prove that notion?  Are you willing to serve if there is no tangible reward?
  • Do you sacrifice so that others can hear about Jesus, or is your giving convenient and easy?
  • Do you pray only that the Gospel will be spread or that God would use you to spread the Gospel?

Maybe you would take time to evaluate whether or not you are living practically the things you say you believe and God intends. Are you vitally connected to the work of God in your life, the lives of others, and His church?

Are you a Sunday School or small group leader (or thinking about serving in that way)? You may want to check out www.reconnects.com for online training to become a more effective leader and learn more about the four vital connections.

Think Small

think-small1The biggest things come from the smallest things. Think about it. The smallest functional unit of the body is the cell. Cells are formed into tissue, tissue into organs, organs into systems, systems into bodies. The smallest unit of a society is the family. A kingdom is only as strong as the loyalty of the subjects. Again, the most elaborate strategy is predicated upon attention to the detail of the basics. This list of examples could go on and on.

It makes sense that the health of things on a large scale will be, and is, determined by health at the smaller level. It plays out in life every day. So it is in the life of a believer in Christ. So it is true in the work of the church. We must give attention to the small things to see results on a larger scale in our life, and in the church as a whole.

Daily devotion, continued obedience and intentional life on life relationships of accountability, encouragement and influence with those rough, messed up, strange and imperfect people, both inside and outside the church. It is work that is not easy, but it is meaningful, rewarding and vital.

It is important to understand the church must do good work at the smallest levels to accomplish what it needs to accomplish. If we do not make vital connections to Jesus, His truth, His community and His mission in the world, then we have missed the point.  The truth is that all of these important things can be accomplished—are most effectively accomplished—in the life of the church through Sunday School or small group ministry.

Good Sunday School work is simply good small group work. The converse is also true. The small group environment puts us into immediate contact with Jesus, His truth, his community and His mission in the world. These are the things followers of Christ are to be and do. A church must do good small group work to be healthy at the larger level.

So, you can ignore work at the smallest, most foundational levels of life and ministry, but you will end up with a shell that appears like all the pieces are in place when, in reality, it is fragile, not able to bear the weight of life and Truth. It’s like settling for one of those cheap hollow bunnies at Easter that are made up of the gross chocolate. Who are we kidding? We would often rather shortcut or circumnavigate real relational work than invest time in the areas that are most important and that would give us the most lasting results. We sacrifice actual for artificial health because we avoid health at the smallest levels.

Don’t sacrifice substance for surface. Focus in on the basics. Hammer down on the fundamentals. Commit to feed the four vital connections. Understand that the direct line to these connections most of us have in our churches is the Sunday School or small group ministry. Highlight the smallest functional units of your church as the means to accomplish the work of the church.

ReConnect Sunday School is not just about re-connecting to Sunday School, re-emphasizing a program or revitalizing a ministry. It is about the people of God re-connecting their lives and others to the vital work of the life of a believer and of the church and using small group connections as the primary way to accomplish that work. Want to be healthy?  Think small.