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"Contend, Contextualize, Cooperate"
by Tom Goodman
June 21, 2007

“Isn’t it a great irony that one of the greatest missionary examples in history—whose work is celebrated each year at Christmas—is not our model?”

In Baptist churches, according to Ed Stetzer, Lottie Moon is loved but not emulated.  Lottie Moon, for whom our annual Christmas offering is named, was a missionary sent by Southern Baptists in the 1800s to China.  She adopted the Chinese culture, dressed in Chinese clothes, and ate Chinese food.  But, Stetzer says, Southern Baptists are unwilling to apply her missional methods in their own local settings.

You really should take 28 minutes and watch the video of Dr. Stetzer “bringing it” at last week’s Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio.  Clearly, the convention organizers saved the best for last.  I have links to the speech at the end of this article.

Spontaneous applause interrupted Stetzer’s address several times as he preached from Acts 16:7-10. Stetzer said that Paul immediately responded to the vision he had seen where a man was standing in Macedonia begging for Paul to “come to Macedonia and help us,” adding that Paul immediately crossed over into that culture. “Our Macedonias are calling us and we have not crossed over to help,” Stetzer said.

He said that we falsely divide the work of international missions from our own local church work when, in fact, we should do our local church work in the same way that missionaries do their work in other fields.  We should live as missionaries in our own context.

Using the same three words he’s used in many other speeches, Stetzer insisted that our churches must contend for the faith, contextualize the gospel, and cooperate together.

Contend:  “No group without a firmly held theology reaches people for Christ,” he said, “Rallying around missions while ignoring doctrine does not work. Missions without doctrine leads to compromise. Compromise leads to a lack of commitment to biblical truth. Soon, we no longer see the need for evangelism because we have flawed and weak doctrine.”

Contextualize: “There are things we [as Southern Baptists] find essential for the Gospel and some things we find convictional as Baptists. We cannot reach this continent by compromising those, but we do need to live them out in different contexts.”

Complaining that “a trip into many of our churches is a step back into another time period of culture,” Stetzer referenced Romans 9:3-4, saying the Apostle Paul was willing to sacrifice his very salvation so that the Hebrews might be saved. Unfortunately, he said, Southern Baptists often cannot “give up [their] Sunday morning preferences” that have become an impediment to reaching the culture around their churches.

“From this very SBC pulpit,” Stetzer said, referring to the various speakers during the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio, “we have preached against models and ministries that are reaching more people for Christ than we ever have.”

Cooperate: “Is it debate that enlivens us, controversy that excites us or is it God’s mission?” Stetzer asked the audience.  Accomplishing the Great Commission requires the combined efforts of others.

To watch his 28-minute challenge, click here and scroll down to “Challenge: Ed Stetzer” (fourth item from the bottom).  And if you want to hear more from this remarkable SBC leader, this blogger has collected a bunch of Stetzer mp3 files onto one page.


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