Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence is a series of articles by faculty of Southeastern Seminary that seeks to offer some definitions of what constitutes a GCR, why we believe the SBC is in need of such a movement, and what such a movement might look like in SBC life. The series will address biblical, theological, historical and practical issues related to a GCR with the hope that God will use our finite and flawed efforts for His glory and the good of the people called Southern Baptist.
No place is it more difficult to live out the implications of the gospel than in the home. No place is it more essential and needful. We proclaim to a skeptical and cynical culture that they should come to our Jesus. After all, He will forgive you of your sins, change your life, and take you to heaven when you die. Never mind the fact He will not make any difference in your marriage and family. After all we divorce at a rate close to those who are not Christian. Our homes are racked with adultery, dysfunction, rebellion and dissatisfaction just like everyone else. Of course we never say this, but our family life too often betrays our confession.
In 1998 Southern Baptists added an article to the Baptist Faith and Message that addressed the family. We received a lot of heat and criticism from the liberal church and secular media, but the statement is a faithful reflection of biblical truth. The article was added because the times necessitated it. Confusion, even in the Church of the Lord Jesus, demanded that we speak and speak clearly to what the Bible says about God’s first ordained institution. Much could be said about how the gospel and the Great Commission should impact marriage and family, but let me highlight some non-negotiables that I believe must be at the heart of biblically grounded marriages and Great Commission homes.
First, we need Christ-centered gospel saturated homes. Husbands and wives need to find their sufficiency in Christ, and love and serve their mate in His strength. Out of an overflow of love and devotion to Christ, and then one another, we must share verbally and live out consistently the implications of the gospel. Children should be taught the gospel from infancy onward as their parents pray for their conversion, and as their parents put on full display the glory of Christ in the home.
Second, we need to regain the biblical concept of marriage as a divine covenant meant for life. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 says marriage is, “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for life.” In this context we must be pastorally preventative and redemptive. With courage and conviction we must make it clear that God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16) and that He has not changed His mind on the matter. Divorce is sin of a most serious sort. We should work diligently and strive mightily to prevent it at all cost. Too many pastors have avoided this difficult topic out of fear of offending those who are divorced and who attend our churches. Truth will offend. Deal with it! However, and this is where the faithful shepherd must come forward, we must be clear that divorce is neither unpardonable nor unforgivable. It almost always has painful consequences, but God’s amazing grace and forgiveness is available to every sinner who repents. No one has the ability to turn back the clock and change history. It would be nice if we could, but we can’t. Those who have suffered the pain of divorce need love and care. They need faithful, biblical ministry. They should never be treated as second class citizens in the kingdom. But, the people we preach to and teach today can be reminded of God’s expectations for marriage now and in the future. They can be reminded and consistently taught that marriage is intended to be a picture and proclamation of the gospel and the relationship that exists between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:21-33). Thus, it is to be a permanent and faithful union until separated by death. Christian marriage is to end only one way!
Third, we need to be clear that men and women equally bear the image of God (Gen. 1:26-31), but that there are distinctive roles and assignments divinely ordained by God for the home and the church. Men are given by the Lord the leadership assignment in both. Such leadership is not autocratic or dictatorial. It is shepherding and serving. It is sacrificial and it is sensitive. It is satisfying and it is specific. Men are called to love (Eph. 5:25-33; Col. 3:19) and know (1 Pet. 3:7) their wives. Women are called by God to submit to and respect their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24, 33; Col. 3:18). They follow the leadership of their husband as the Church follows Christ. First Peter 3:1-6 is remarkable in its counsel and Great Commission focus. There a saved woman is instructed to submit to an unsaved husband that, “they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (NKJV). It is no accident that Paul and Peter both ground their theology of marriage in the atonement! Paul, in instructing husbands, points to the sacrificial death of Christ (Eph. 5:25). Peter, in his counsel to wives, emphasizes Christ as our example (2:21). The “likewise” of First Peter 3:1 makes this connection crystal clear.
Fourth, and here I will be intentionally practical. We must affirm the value and necessity of premarital counseling and mentoring. Any church that allows a single marriage to take place on its property without requiring intensive premarital instruction should be ashamed of itself. There is simply no excuse considering all that is at stake. We must also begin to implement in an intentional and comprehensive approach the mentoring principles taught in Titus 2:1-8. Never has there been a greater need for older, godly men to mentor younger men, and for older godly women to mentor younger women. The potential such an emphasis has for marriage, family, evangelism and discipleship is enormous, the impetus for a Great Commission Resurgence tremendous.
Fifth, we must acknowledge the gift of singleness that God gives to some (Matt. 19; 1 Cor. 7), taps into their tremendous potential for service, and stop harassing them simply because they are single. This may be God’s will and calling for them. We should not forget the significant singles of Scripture: persons like Elijah and Elisha, Daniel, Simeon, Anna, Paul, John the Baptist, and, of course Jesus. Our churches should rejoice and take advantage of what God can and will do through godly and dedicated singles.
Sixth, in a culture that seems to be going in the opposite direction, we must affirm in word and practice the gift of children as a “heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Godly parents will be disciple-makers beginning in the home. They will understand that no greater investment can be made than that they would raise a brood of godly children who will live for Jesus just like they saw in Mom, and especially Dad. Our churches must train parents to evangelize and disciple their children. Men who live out and put into practice Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 have never been more important. Both are Great Commission to the core. Both place tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of fathers.
Finally, parents should be challenged and encouraged to pray and ask God to use their child and grandchildren (!) for His greatest glory. Like our friend Al Gilbert at Calvary Baptist in Winston Salem, my wife Charlotte and I have prayed for our four sons, and now we are praying for our grandchildren, that God would call them to ministry and, if He would be so gracious, to the ministry of the mission field. Heaven and hell are real and Jesus is the only difference (John 14:6). What a blessing for any parent, any grandparent, to be used by God to raise a generation of faithful missionaries and evangelists for our King. This is what a Great Commission Resurgence might look like when the power of the gospel is unleashed in the home. I am fervently praying for such an awakening in our churches and in our homes. Would you consider joining me?!