Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear laid out four “game-changing convictions” that helped the early church grow extensively during his talk at Exponential, a church planting conference.
Greear, who heads The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, spoke at the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday afternoon.
The first of the game-changing convictions listed by Greear was that the early church saw disciple-making and evangelism as “the core-calling of the church,” explaining that it's “the center of everything that Jesus gave us to do.”
“All the conferences, all the books, all the counseling, all the social justice things that we do, the center of them is this core commission to make disciples, because without this nothing else we do has any eternal lasting value,” said Greear.
“Church plating without proclamation of the Gospel and making new disciples is just reshuffling sheep around into new folds. Community ministry without evangelism is making people more comfortable on their way to Hell.”
Next, Greear spoke about the importance of preaching the Gospel outside of the church, saying that it applied to western culture both back then and in the present, especially with the well-documented rise of religiously unaffiliated people or “nones.”
“If we continue to focus all of our efforts on improving the product that we deliver on the weekend, we're going to end up putting on a better and better show for fewer and fewer people,” Greear continued.
He referenced the New Testament book of Acts, pointing out that nearly all of the miracles that take place in the book are done outside of churches.
Third, Greear talked about how the early church believed “Jesus’ promises about the rapid expansion of the Gospel centered on raising up and sending out, not on gathering and counting.”
“We celebrate churches as the ones who have managed to gather the most people around one man to admire his anointing and that’s the number that we write down. But that is not where the greatness of the church lies,” Greear said.
“The greatness of the church lies not in its seating capacity; it is in its sending capacity,” he stressed, with the sentiment receiving applause from the audience.
Finally, Greear said the early church believed that “life in the world” was only possible with “death in the church,” specifically people leaving to evangelize and form new ministries.
“We give away the very best of our leaders. We’re going to send them out to plant churches,” explained Greear, adding that “it’s painful” to have them leave, yet ultimately “worth it.”
Greear’s comments came as part of the Exponential Conference, held March 4-7 at First Baptist Orlando and carrying the theme of “Made for More: Mobilizing God’s People, God’s Way.”
In addition to Greear, other notable speakers included: Alan Hirsch, founding director of 100 Movements, 5Q Collective, and Forge Mission Training Network; Albert Tate, founding pastor of the California-based Fellowship Church; Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College; Cynthia Marshall, the chief diversity officer and senior vice president of human resources at AT&T; and Francis Chan, pastor and best-selling author, among others.
On Tuesday, Chan passionately implored pastors to have Spirit-led churches, telling them about a “wave pool” he saw in Waco, Texas, recently. He noted that it was “so different from real surfing” due to how predictable it was. Chan said it reminded him of the church.”
“I can create a wave. I can make a wave start at 9:20. And I can have a peak at 9:30. And then it will die out at 9:50, so we can get the kids out of child care. I can make a wave where everyone is having a blast and then we walk away and we go, ‘Whoa God moved!’ Eh, I think it was man-made this week,” said Chan.
“As long as we’re OK in the wave pool and create a little bit of excitement, we’re not going to get to see the things we see in [the Bible].”