Evangelist: What must & must not change
Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013
By Norm Miller
HOUSTON (BP) -- Three things that are changeless are "the man, the message and the mission," and three that must change are the "mindset, methods and motives," the president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists said at their annual meeting in Houston.
Eric Ramsey, also president of Tom Cox World Ministries, recapped the message that must not change: that Jesus was fully God and fully man is the only way to salvation.
"He is the Creator, who loved us so much He paid the death penalty for our sins," Ramsey told the crowd of about 200 assembled for a COSBE-led worship service in Houston June 9 prior to the SBC's June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.
Ramsey said 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 is the Gospel in a nutshell: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
Ramsey said the message that Jesus Christ died and rose again is changeless, as is the unchanging mission to make disciples according to the Great Commission in Matthew 18:19-20.
The phrase, "As you are going," is the grammatically correct way to understand the "go therefore" verbiage in the passage, Ramsey said. "It is assumed we are already going. As we go, we are to make disciples."
The process of discipling is "first we learn, then we emulate and then we become a multiplier -- someone who goes and makes disciples," Ramsey said.
What Christians must change is their mindset. He referred to Philippians 2:5-9, Ramsey said, noting that Jesus was obedient unto death on a cross and thus, "a believer's mindset does not need to reflect self-centeredness."
"Do you spend more time talking about yourself than about Jesus?" Ramsey asked.
Expressing appreciation for those who stand against the encroachment of godlessness in American culture, Ramsey said Christians "must be careful about how much we present Christ against the culture and begin to represent Christ in the culture."
"If I set myself up to represent Christ against culture, then it keeps me from being effective for Christ in our culture," he said. "We need to be louder about Jesus Christ than we are about societal issues because Christians are not the change agents; Jesus Christ is."
A mindset change includes knowing the culture in one's own neighborhood, Ramsey said, but that does not mean the Christian message changes. "How we communicate that message does change," he said.
"We don't need to begin with 'You are a big sinner,'" he said, because "the wall immediately goes up because so many don't know what sin is."
Many in America define sin as breaking one's own moral code, he said, "and many church members believe this."
Jesus knew His culture, Ramsey said, noting that Jesus talked about fishing with fishermen, sheep with shepherds and crops with farmers.
"We must know the audience in our culture and speak their language to keep the mission on point," he said.
Christians' evangelistic methods must change, too, because they "can take on a life of their own," Ramsey said.
The Gospel is successful by itself, and "as we get so broad, the Gospel loses its central message of Christ dying for our sins, and that God wants to transform our lives."
Speaking to motives, Ramsey said if "we work for the rewards of men, then we have our reward."
"If we are trying to please people, we are not pleasing God, and the Gospel is not effective," he added. "Then the church will plateau and become ineffective."
"When we are willing to humble ourselves not just through a worship song but with our lives, then God will exalt us," he said.
"If we keep our mindset right, we can focus on the man. If we keep the methods right, we can focus in the message, and if we keep the motives right, we can focus on the mission," Ramsey concluded.
Also preaching at the meeting were COSBE vice president Richard Hamlet of Global Ministries Fellowship and international evangelist David Stockwell.
COSBE re-elected by acclamation Ramsey and Hamlet to their positions of president and vice president, respectively. Musician Russell Johnson of Conway, S.C., was elected worship leader for COSBE's next annual meeting.
Norm Miller is director of communications at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.