To reach the world for Christ by AD 2000, our witness must be characterized by a God-given boldness. The unfinished task requires that the witness for Christ be given courageously, confidently, freely, fearlessly, openly and plainly.
In 1975, Southern Baptists looked toward the 21st Century and after prayer, consultation with convention leaders, and dialog with Baptist partners overseas, a committee unveiled a plan that was approved by the Southern Baptist Convention messengers at the annual meeting in June 1976. The plan was called Bold Mission Thrust and carried the objective that every man, woman and child have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ by AD 2000.
By the early 1980s, despite significant growth, a disturbing question arose, If we continue at the present rate, will everyone in the world hear the good news of Jesus Christ? The answer was a sad, but honest, "No."
Careful analysis of church growth trends affirmed that bold witness goals were needed in response to God's leadership. God used the alternative futures study to convict the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) for appearing self-sufficient to reach to the whole world alone. Grasping the immensity of the unreached world, FMB leaders began reaching out to Great Commission Christians committed to reaching the world for Christ. Working cooperatively ushered in a new era in which Christians joined in world prayer crusades, interchanged information about unreached peoples and encouraged one another.
In 1994, the FMB developed a bold new vision statement committing itself to be on mission with God to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It reaffirmed the FMB's seven basic principles. Three of these principles expressed a commitment to world evangelization.
Bold witness is illustrated clearly in the Book of Acts. The apostles' demonstrated boldness so that people saw Jesus in their actions. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NIV)
In a Chinese house church a Christian cautioned a visitor, Do not teach anything for which you are not willing to die. Is it any wonder that researchers estimate the number of Christians in China to be 45 to 60 million? God responds to bold witnesses.
God has led the FMB to focus on a lost world with evangelism that results in churches. Church growth will be characterized by spiritual sensitivity, solid research, monitoring of progress toward world evangelization, partnering and constant systematic intercessory prayer.
Within the national context Southern Baptists work with partners within countries as they develop their own national strategies.Jerry A. Rankin, U.S.A.