NASHVILLE (BP) — Vision 2025 is not simply a slogan or rallying cry. It’s a path forward to help us reimagine a new future together of reaching the world for Jesus Christ — every person, every town, every city, every state, and every nation.
We are in one of the most defining moments in our history. For the future of America, the future around the world, and for the sake of our own future as the Southern Baptist Convention, change is imperative.
We find ourselves chasing after the winds of our preferences, our own opinions, our own issues, and our own streams of social media. These are the side streets that keep us off of Main Street, that always leads us to the final words of our Lord Jesus Christ before His grand ascension: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
I am speaking about a unified Great Commission vision that unites us. Yes, a vision that calls us to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. This vision, Vision 2025, is composed of five strategic actions that are clear, concise and compelling; but this vision is also specific, measurable, realistic, attainable and timely.
Strategic Action 1: Increase our total number of full-time, fully-funded missionaries by a net gain of 500, giving us 4,200 full-time, fully-funded missionaries through the International Mission Board.
We believe one day in the near future there will be a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every day, 155,252 lost people die. When we are able to increase our total number of full-time, fully-funded missionaries by a net gain of 500 by the year 2025, many of our missionaries will be training churches overseas to send their own missionaries, and God will forward His good news through His people exponentially. Listen friends, this number of 500 additional missionaries by the end of the year 2025 comes directly from the field to our leadership at the International Mission Board.
Strategic Action 2: Add 6,000 new churches to our Southern Baptist family, giving us more than 50,000 churches.
When we imagine together adding 6,000 churches to our Southern Baptist family by the end of the year 2025, we know this means that we need to add 1,200 churches each year to our family. How will we do this?
Our goal of adding 1,200 churches annually will look something like this:
— 750 new churches planted annually;
— 50 new campuses identified or added by our multi-site churches annually;
— 400 new churches affiliating with us annually.
What does all this mean? This means for us to add these new churches annually, we will need more and more church planters who are qualified, identified, and sent out to places where the Gospel has never been before. This means we need our multi-site churches to identify and notify us through our Annual Church Profile of all the campuses that each church has now and will launch in the future. This means hundreds of evangelical churches across the United States who believe like we believe and appreciate how we do missions together may want to become a part of our family called Southern Baptists. Already, more than 300 new churches affiliate with us annually. We believe the opportunity to expand this footprint is great in your region, in your state and all across our entire nation.
Strategic Action 3: Increase our total number of workers in the field through a new emphasis on “calling out the called,” and then preparing those who are called out by the Lord.
We believe our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. This compelling call upon our lives to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation should give us absolute confidence that God is calling people right now in every church across this globe to surrender their lives to full-time Christian ministry. This call may be to serve as a local church pastor, or serve as a scholar and teacher in a seminary or college, or perhaps God is calling masses of people to be missionaries across this globe.
We must return to the Bible and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'” Jesus’ instructions are clear: Pray to the Lord of the harvest and ask Him to send out workers into His harvest. Therefore, we are called to pray and we are told to ask God to send out workers into His harvest!
As the church prays, God calls. As God calls, the church calls out those who are being called. Regardless of the size of the crowd and the size of the church, God is calling people into the ministry of the Gospel. Pastors, educators, evangelists, leaders and missionaries are right now being called out to take the Gospel into places where the Gospel has never been before.
Strategic Action 4: Turn around our ongoing decline in reaching, baptizing, and discipling 12- to 17-year-olds in the prime of their teenage years.
Did you know the baptisms of 12- to 17-year-old students are down 38 percent since the year 2000? Did you know these baptisms of 12- to 17-year-old students are down by at least 35,000 baptisms since the year 2000? We cannot look the other way. We cannot designate this to be addressed by anyone else. Reaching, baptizing and discipling 12- to 17-year-old students is imperative for the sake of the Gospel. This is our future! It is inexcusable for us to settle with this dismal decline.
Pastors and church leaders: Please look at the last decade of what your church has done in reaching and baptizing and discipling 12- to 17-year-old students. Put these baptisms on a graph to evaluate. Determine that for the next five years, if nothing else in your church grows, this will grow!
Hear me clearly Southern Baptists: If we will focus on this age group and see a turnaround in baptisms for the next five years, we will turn around the entire baptism decline in all the Southern Baptist Convention. We will also see during this same period of time, more teenagers called into the ministry of the Gospel, surrendering their lives to the ministry serving here in one of our local churches, and being sent to serve as a missionary globally.
Strategic Action 5: Increase our annual giving in successive years to reach and surpass $500 million given through the Cooperative Program to achieve these Great Commission goals.
The Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention is the financial fuel for reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation. Built upon the integrity of relationships and in the spirit of cooperation, churches give resources voluntarily through the Cooperative Program in order to reach people for Jesus Christ regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally. We are in the midst of our 95th year of giving through the Cooperative Program.
Listen carefully Southern Baptist leaders: The more monies our 47,500+ churches give through the Cooperative Program, the more we can extend the Gospel message across the United States and throughout the entire world. Sending missionaries is the heart of the Southern Baptist Convention. The more missionaries we can send, the more people we can tell about the saving power of Jesus Christ.
If we are going to send more missionaries, plant more churches, revitalize more churches, replant more churches, equip more pastors, equip more evangelists, equip more scholars and equip more missionaries, then we must prioritize our giving through the Cooperative Program, elevate our giving through the Cooperative Program and accelerate our giving through the Cooperative Program. When we do this, we will experience the greatest years in the history of our 175 years as a convention of churches.
In the year of 2025, we will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is our dream that in the Year 2025, we will see our churches give at least $500 million through the Cooperative Program.
As a pastor, I saw this time and time again: Dollars follow vision! People give to vision. If the vision is clear, concise and compelling, they will support it financially. While I know this is true as a pastor, I am also believing now that is true denominationally as we collectively call upon our churches to support Vision 2025.
Vision 2025 is a call to return to the heart of who we are and why we exist: missions and evangelism.