The lecture notes for Taking God seriously may be accessed here. If you would like a printed copy (these are large files), please print and bring with you. Thank you!
Dear brothers and sisters,
As you may know, I experienced a bit of a scare this past Sunday. I am scheduled for a doctor's visit and think I am going to be just fine. Thank you for you encouraging notes and prayers! While I cannot be certain of why I nearly passed out, it has certainly grabbed my attention. For several weeks now, the Spirit has been impressing upon me very heavily that He is giving us a special opportunity to return stronger, united, and devoted to doing whatever it takes to magnify King Jesus and make disciples by prioritizing His Word in our church and in our daily lives. So, I decided to write down everything that the Lord and I have been discussing in the form of a letter to you. To read the letter, please click the file below. Thank you so much, and I look forward to worshiping with you this weekend!
In Christ's love,
Coming up just a few weeks from now, churches across our country will remember the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb on Sunday, January 17. At North Roanoke, we have been blessed in the past to collect donations for the Blue Ridge Women's Center, to do some work at their facilities, and to pray for our community to see that life is a gift from God -- expectant mothers, reluctant fathers, governing officials at every level -- and to also pray the church would be a place of refuge for those plagued by guilt from their past and a place where the most vulnerable would encounter the love of God.
On Sunday, January 17, I plan to preach on the sanctity of human life, and, immediately following the service, we will have an opportunity to pray silently for our community and our country. We will assemble along Peters Creek Road in front of our church building. When I last checked the statistics, I learned there are close to 1,000 abortions in Roanoke every year -- approximately 75 babies whose lives are taken every month. Imagine if God moved in the hearts of those who offer the abortions to stop their work. Imagine if those who are feeling pressured to abort their child found hope and help in local churches throughout our Valley. Imagine if the people of God would adopt and foster at a much greater rate than we presently do. Imagine if those all around us who do not know the gift of life and life everlasting would encounter the love of God in Christ in 2021 -- imagine... and then join us on Sunday, January 17 to pray accordingly.
This initiative is being coordinated by Tony and Becky Clark, and they have written a letter to us that I have posted below. Please give it a read, and I look forward to praying for our Valley together soon!
Dear church family,
As Pastor Daniel has mentioned, January 17, 2021 will be Sanctity of Life Sunday. This is a day traditionally set aside to celebrate the value of human life that God has created.
In a world that not only refutes the facts of creation and argues the timeline of human life but also accepts and encourages the choice to deny such life to a child, we need to come together and pray for the unborn. In a recent search on lovelife.org, these staggering statistics were noted:
We know the decision to choose life can be scary and confusing to the mother and father. Many times there are circumstances that seem out of their control — finances, health, relationship. For this reason, it’s even more important for us, the church, to cover them in prayer — to let them know they are not alone. Let them know that our Father has plans for them as well as for their child. Let them know their lives have a purpose, and “He works all things for the good of all who love him and have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
As we approach the New Year, we look forward to the opportunity to stand together in prayer for the unborn and the uncertain. Please join us on Sunday, January 17, 2021 immediately following our service. We will demonstrate to the Valley our dedication to the sanctity of human life as we participate in silent prayer and fellowship in front of the church parking lot (Hebrews 10:22).
Please feel free to reach out to us, and we will be happy to answer any questions!
In Christ’s Love,
Tony and Becky Clark
Tony (704) 787-6416
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It seems to me that 2020 has been the most 2020 year of my life, and yet I am so encouraged by your faithfulness in uncertain times. You, the people of God, have continued to delight in Jesus and to treasure Him more than comfort, financial security, or anything else that would compete with our affections for Jesus. Thank you for how you have continued to give so generously for the glory of God and the good of all nations.
Because of the way taxes and investing work, the month of December is always an important month of giving in the life of our church. For that reason, I like to share some reminders around this time of the year in case this information could be helpful as you plan to give as generously as the Spirit leads and as wisely as you can.
While we know generous giving is a vital to our own spiritual lives and to the health of Christ’s church, some people are unfamiliar with some of the most tax-wise ways to give. Below, I have listed and described some strategic ways to support your church as we pursue Christ’s mission in the world. If you have any questions about these strategies (my personal favorite is #5 – a great plan for some senior adults), contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540.563.5113.
Strategy #1: Appreciated Stock, Mutual Funds, or Real Estate
People often purchase stock (or mutual funds) as a way of building wealth over the long term -- for retirement, for kids and grandkids, and for blessing others. While the annual dividends may be minimal, appreciation in value over the long term may be very substantial. If someone purchased $1,000 of Apple stock on December 12, 1980 and never sold it, it would be worth over $315,000 today. Although gains in a stock’s value are not considered normal income, they are a part of God's blessing that we should consider as we give for the glory of Christ and the progress of the gospel.
If you own significantly-appreciated stocks/mutual funds in non-retirement accounts, you can make a gift by transferring (not selling) your appreciated stock to the church and save tremendously on taxes. Here’s how: a gift of appreciated stock minimizes federal taxes in two ways. First, when someone donates a stock, the appreciation in the value of the stock is not subjected to capital-gains taxes (if the stock has been owned for at least one year and one day). Second, the full, fair-market value of the stock on the date it is transferred to a church may be itemized on the donor’s federal income tax return.
How about an example? Let's say someone wants to donate $10,000. If they write a check and itemize their donations, they will save $3,960 on their federal income taxes (using the top tax bracket rate for our example). However, if they own $10,000 in stock that originally cost them $1,000 and transferred the stock to the church, they would save $1,800 in capital gains taxes (again using the top rate for this example) and $3,960 in itemized deductions. So, the gift of stock would have a net cost of $4,240, and the gift of cash would have a net cost of $6,040. Using appreciated stock in this example, the gift cost the donor nearly 30 percent less. Or, s/he could give 30 percent more than usual without costing any more money. Tax-wise giving can make a huge impact! (**This is an illustration only, please consult your CPA for specific questions related to your particular situation**).
Individuals who own other types of appreciated assets (e.g. real estate, a vacation home, an inherited land/property, etc.) may also transfer the deed to their real estate to the church. The gift and deductions work in a similar way as appreciated stock.
For information on transferring appreciated stock or a home, land, private business, or other real property to North Roanoke, call the church office at 540.563.5113. If you are planning to transfer stock or other property to the church, please notify the church before making your gift to ensure proper processing and accounting for your gift.
Strategy #2: Cash/Check/Online Giving
While gifts of appreciated assets make great gifts, most people give by using cash, checks, or online/in-app giving. These remain great ways to give.
Indeed, one of the best gifts you can give to your church is consistency in giving. This helps with cash flow throughout the year. If you want to support your church regularly and generously, pick whatever method is best for you, and stick with it.
Online giving is safe and secure and provides a reliable way to be consistent throughout the year. If you want to be a consistently generous giver in 2020 and beyond, consider establishing a recurring (weekly or monthly) gift using the online giving option, and consider getting started this week.
Strategy #3: Kroger Rewards/Amazon Smile Foundation
While being generous begins with wise spending decisions, living does require eating, and birthdays and Christmas often require a purchase from Amazon. When you buy groceries at Kroger and gifts and other essentials at Amazon (smile.amazon.com), you can register North Roanoke as your non-profit of choice, and a portion of your purchase will help pay down the debt on the gym/community center.
Strategy #4: Required Retirement Distributions
At 70 and 1/2 years of age, seniors are required to take distributions from traditional IRAs even if they do not need to take them. In 2017, Congress recently made permanent (as permanent as anything can be with Congress) a rule allowing payments made to churches and charities to count as a part of the minimum required IRA distribution. If you are taking a retirement distribution that you do not need and, as a result, unnecessarily increasing your income taxes, consider directing an IRA distribution directly to North Roanoke to reduce your overall income and associated taxes.
Strategy #5: Gifts that Pay an Income for Life
Yes, you read that heading correctly. You can make a gift that pays you an income for life!
The vast majority of our nation’s wealth is held by men and women who are 70 and older. However, that wealth is often held in assets that provide very little income for living today.
Stocks typically offer a minimal dividend, and savings accounts currently offer almost no interest income at all. However, with a charitable gift annuity or charitable trust, senior adults can contribute a portion of their accumulated wealth to their church and dramatically increase their income for living. Income can often be increased by three, four, or five times and sometimes even more. Also, when the gift is made, the donor receives an opportunity to deduct the fair-market value of their future gift from their income taxes which can offer savings on income taxes for up to 6 years depending upon the size of the gift. This means it is possible that a gift could both increase your income and reduce your overall income taxes.
Gifts that pay an income can be complicated and should not be considered without consulting with your CPA or legal adviser. If you would like some additional information or a personal gift illustration to share with your tax adviser or need a referral to a Christian adviser, please contact the church office.
Deadline for 2020 Giving
Gifts must be received or postmarked by December 31 to qualify as a tax-deductible gift for 2020. Online gifts must be time-stamped by 11:59PM EST. To be safe, please consider submitting any last-minute, online gifts by 10:00PM.
Checks may be mailed to: North Roanoke Baptist Church, 6402 Peters Creek Rd, Roanoke, VA 24019.
May God bless you and yours with an abundance of His presence as we finish 2020 strong and look forward to, we pray, a not-so-2020 year to come.
In Christ's love,
P.S. These strategies and illustrations are intended as helpful examples but not professional advice for any reader’s particular situation. Before making a special gift, check with your adviser on your particular circumstances.
Last updated: 11/21/2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Greetings and blessings in the Name of Jesus Christ our reigning and coming King! I want to share some updates and encourage you during this unusual season. While the global pandemic has stopped the world in its tracks, our God is still working for the glory of His Son in all the earth.
When we suspended our in-person meetings in March, I never imagined the road to “a new normal” would be so long and include so many twists and turns. For now, not much seems normal, but we do not need to fear or fret.
God has given us a sure guide — His holy and perfect Word. In some ways, we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect on why the local church is so vital. We can be reminded of His design for His church and pursue it wholeheartedly as things return to “new normal.”
To do this, it is helpful to remember God desires for us to glorify His Son by making disciples who make disciples who make disciples. To make disciples, we need to know what a disciple is, does, and believes.
A disciple is a new creature in Christ created through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. A disciple must be “born again” — made new through the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. A disciple cannot be made unless the gospel is heard. To make disciples, we must be disciples who share the good news.
If this pandemic has shown us anything, it is that many people do not have the peace and joy that comes by belonging to Jesus who has conquered death. We have a great opportunity to rise above the worry, the confusion, and the various opinions to share the best truth ever -- Jesus conquered sin and death for those who trust in Him!
Being a disciple does not end with the new birth. Genuine new birth leads to a new life in a new community — a local church. As we have seen in Hebrews, our target is not decisions for Christ that fizzle but disciples of Christ who finish the race. The local church has been given the responsibility of baptizing new believers and teaching them to observe all that King Jesus has commanded us to do as His people.
This is an important truth. Being and becoming a disciple happens within the context of a strong commitment to a local church. God has made us new to experience and to share in His new life together as His church.
According to the New Testament, virtually every aspect of being a disciple happens in/through/with a local church. The local church is an ever-growing family on mission together. It is in a local church that we love, serve, pray for, encourage, challenge, and forgive one another.
We maintain the confession of our hope within a local church. We are accountable to Christ by being accountable to one another in a local church. We identify and train up a new generation of God-called men to serve as pastors in a local church. Disciples identify, support, and send out church planters and missionaries from a local church. We encourage one another to love and good deeds in a local church. We bear one another’s burdens in a local church. We help young men become godly husbands and fathers and young women become godly wives and mothers in a local church.
This is not an exhaustive list, but we know these things are true of disciples because God’s Word reveals both our need for life in Jesus and how to live for Him. Among the many things a disciple does, gathering together to worship King Jesus is central and vital.
I have heard from many how much you miss worshiping together. This is a great sign! A hunger for God’s Word and a desire to worship Jesus comes from the indwelling Spirit. We are compelled to serve together in the mission of making disciples when we hear and sing God’s truth and encounter our King in worship. A real disciple longs to gather with his/her local church to worship King Jesus. In worship, we hear God’s Word, read God’s Word, encourage one another by singing the truths of the gospel to God and to one another, support the mission through our generous giving, and more!
For this reason, if you are not in an at-risk category, I want to encourage you to consider that now may be the time to return to the worship gathering. If you are unsettled by worshiping indoors, consider the outdoor service — a service where we have seen a wide range of ages lifting their voices to Jesus in a socially-distanced fashion.
Below, I will say some more about worship and some other upcoming opportunities to come together and be Christ’s church.
Gathering for Worship
Because gathering for worship with our local church family is such a vital part of being a disciple (Heb 10:25), we should view the livestream (available on the church YouTube channel, the website, and through the app) as a last resort and not as our “new normal.” A livestream is helpful in a pandemic, when you are sick, or when you are out of town, but it is no substitute for being physically present with your church family to worship Jesus.
God has made us to be encouraged through our assembling together. Indeed, the New Testament shows the Spirit dwells in a special way among the church when we are gathered. For that reason, I want to be sure you know about the two opportunities to worship each weekend (weather permitting on Saturdays, moved indoors if necessary).
Sundays at 10:30AM | Preschool/Kids Ministries Return August 9
First, we have worship in the sanctuary (and as needed projected on the screens in the gym) on Sundays at 10:30AM. Beginning Sunday, August 9, we will have nursery, preschool, and kids' worship available during the 10:30AM service. We will check children’s temperatures as they arrive, and volunteers will wear masks. Children over 10 must also wear a mask unless they have a medical reason they cannot. You will need to register your household for the worship service (by Saturday afternoon would be a huge help!), and we will be ready to receive your child at 10:10AM for the 10:30AM service.
Saturdays at 7PM
If you prefer to not have to sign up or wear a mask, we also have an opportunity to worship on Saturdays in the field behind the church at 7PM. The wonderful thing about this service is the freedom. People are relaxed and receptive. The attire is comfortable/weather appropriate. We’ve had quite a few guests attend. At this service, you may sit as far away from others as you would like to feel that you are at a safe distance, and you may sing to the Lord without a mask. It is a wonderful time!
I truly believe God provided the field for us to be able to gather and worship safely and to magnify Jesus in our community during this season. We did not know it at the time, but He did. We have a place to worship given to us by God for this time. As the days get shorter, we will adjust the time of this service to continue worshiping during daylight. For now, this is the safest way to worship and accommodate a larger gathering.
At this service, we have seen people from various ages and stages of life — singles, couples, widows, young, young at heart, and families with kids of all ages. The diversity of ages and life stages reminds me of the crowds to whom Jesus preached, and I hope you will consider joining us for this service if worshiping inside is too great a risk. We simply ask you to bring a lawn chair or a blanket and your Bible. There is plenty of room to practice social-distancing; we keep the service to an hour, and the bathroom is available if needed.
Big Worship Weekend (weather permitting)| August 15-16
Because worship is so vital, I want to specifically ask you to make plans to join us on Aug 15 or 16 for a Big Worship Weekend (most of the "big" is on Saturday, but if you cannot attend Saturday, it will still be a BIG deal to be able to worship with you on Sunday).
August is typically one of my favorite months of the year! The weather is still warm, but fall and college football are on the way. Families are returning from vacations, and students are anticipating another school year.
While all of these things are wonderful, what I enjoy the most is that the worship services are filled with you. People are back in town and back to worshiping Jesus and inviting others to consider the gospel.
This year, many things in our lives are quite different, but August remains a great time to get back to worship. For many of us, the time to return is now. We need to see one another and worship our risen King together. For that reason, I want to invite you to participate in the Big Worship Weekend on Saturday (8/15) or Sunday (8/16).
On this weekend, weather permitting, we will celebrate some baptisms during the Saturday evening service. We will also have an opportunity to meet a missionary couple that our church helps to support every week. They are serving Jesus in a very dark and dangerous place and will be available to fellowship and answer any questions you may have following the service. We are also hoping to have an ice-cream truck or other sweet treat following the service (more details on this as soon as possible - we are awaiting an answer).
**If weather prevents us from worshiping, we will still worship inside on both Saturday and Sunday, but we will move the baptisms and other special opportunities to the following weekend.**
Small Groups | Sunday School
While worshiping together is the engine that fuels our life together as disciples, small groups provide a place to live out many of the “one anothers” of the Christian life. For as long as social distancing is required indoors, it is difficult to hold individual Sunday School classes inside at the same time. Most of our classrooms will not allow us to meet the regulations for social distancing.
For this reason, classes and small groups are encouraged to meet over Zoom and/or to schedule a time to use the field or the sanctuary during the week. The sanctuary is already marked off in socially-distanced zones and may be used by classes during the week on a first-come, first-served basis. We simply ask that you wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and sanitize the space as you leave.
Currently, we have one class meeting outside on Sunday mornings before worship and another small group meeting on Tuesday evenings in the field. The students are utilizing the field on Wednesday evenings. If you would like to schedule the field or the sanctuary to have your class meet during the week, please contact the church office, and we will get your class on the schedule.
For those who are not a part of a class that is meeting during the week, we also are providing a Sunday School lesson on Facebook live at 9AM on Sunday mornings. We have a great rotation of teachers helping with this!
Later this fall, we hope to bring more people into the building at a common time and with opportunities for children at the same time. Tentatively, we are considering having a few combined adult classes in the larger spaces for social distancing. We are still working on some of the logistics and will share more as we can.
In the meantime, please feel free to use the field or the sanctuary as a place for your class to meet. The first time you schedule the sanctuary, Cindy will tell you about the how to sanitize the space as you leave.
Business Meeting | Saturday, August 8 | 8PM
Under normal circumstances, we would have had a regular business meeting in July, but limited opportunities for interaction have meant that our nominating committee has needed a bit more time to prepare a list of nominees for service on the various committees of the church.
For that reason, we will hold the regular business meeting on Saturday, August 8 in the field immediately following the worship service at approximately 8PM. Holding the meeting in the field will allow the greatest number of members to participate. We will place the documents with the information needed to be considered by the church in the church app (search North Roanoke in your app store to download the free app).
Throughout the pandemic, many of you have asked about the church’s financial picture. For much of the year, our financial position has been remarkably strong.
Remarkably, earlier this summer, receipts were ahead of the budgeted need for the year. This is no longer the case, but we are still in a pretty good place for this point in the year (approximately $17,000 behind budget). Your generosity has been an overwhelming encouragement and testimony to your love for Christ and His mission. You may continue to support the advance of the gospel through North Roanoke by giving online, through the app, through the mail, or by placing your gift in the offering box at worship or in the white mailbox outside the church office.
As you may know, the long-range planning committee was poised to bring a motion to our regular business meeting in March regarding a relocation/renovation of the preschool. This is something we still hope to do. In one way, now would be a great time for the renovation because the building is empty. However, many unknowns remain due to COVID-19. For that reason, we are monitoring our overall financial picture and hope to bring the motion for the work to be done as soon as things are heading toward “new normal.”
Thank you for bearing with me through this lengthy update. It has been pure joy to see many of you returning to worship, and I hope to see many, many more of you in the weeks to come.
In Christ’s love,
Recently, I was asked why I am passionate about Roanoke. Specifically, why am I committed to praying for a tidal wave of gospel impact to overtake the Roanoke Valley, and why do I want to see our church make a positive and even measurable impact in the Roanoke Valley for the glory of Christ? Below, I do my best to try and answer these questions. I trust you will agree that it is a blessing to live in the Roanoke Valley and to have the opportunity to magnify Jesus here!
Roanoke is Home
We are dedicated to making a positive impact in the greater Roanoke Valley because that is where God has placed us. Our campus is conveniently-situated within a 15ish-minute drive from just about anywhere in our community --
Cloverdale, Daleville, Downtown, Hollins, Glenvar, Grandin, Melrose, Salem, Southeast, Southwest, Westwood, and all the places in between. Our church family lives and works in nearly all of these communities. What unites us is our new and everlasting life in Jesus who compels us to share this good news with others throughout the Roanoke Valley.
Roanoke is Special
While we want to make an impact in Roanoke because it is our home, we also believe Roanoke is a special place, and it is a special time to have a part in what is happening here.
Not only is our community often rated a top-place to retire; we have also seen a rapid increase in the numbers of young professionals moving to Roanoke in connection with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and other recent economic-development initiatives. In the last 5 years, the growth of young professionals living and working here has outpaced the 15 years prior. For young, old, and in-between it is an exciting time to call Roanoke home. The greater Roanoke Valley is about a 40-minute drive from two state universities (Radford University and Virginia Tech) and is home to Hollins University, Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke College, and Virginia Western Community College.
As a church, we desire to get the gospel to all sorts of people living and working in the Valley. Consider just a few examples.
Roanoke Needs Jesus
The Roanoke Valley has so much to offer — beautiful mountains, wonderful outdoor activities, a revitalized downtown, great local, high-school sports, a rapidly-changing economy with new opportunities for growth, and flourishing towns throughout the Valley. Yet, there is one thing the people of Roanoke need today as much as ever — to discover the joy and transformation that comes to those who find true life in Jesus.
Roanoke is such a beautiful place. When Stacie and I moved away to Raleigh, I immediately missed the mountains and the incredible sunrises and sunsets that can be enjoyed here. Of all the places God has allowed me to see, Roanoke remains among the most beautiful places I have ever seen on this earth.
When we lived in Raleigh, God began to place a burden and dream in my heart for our hometown to be filled up to overflowing with the gospel - to see lives and entire families changed by Jesus. On trips back "home" to see our parents, there is a particular point in the drive where I would look out and see the Valley and its surrounding mountains on the horizon, and I would think, "what would it look like for the gospel to go forth in power in this beautiful place?"
You see, below the surface of the natural beauty in the Roanoke Valley, there are things that are not as beautiful.
These are just some examples of how much the Roanoke Valley needs Jesus. In every neighborhood, in every workplace, in every school, and in every community, there is gospel opportunity in this Valley. At North Roanoke, we we want to love Jesus and one another so well that the world must see that there is a better way -- the way of Jesus. We also want to equip you to be an ambassador for King Jesus in this Valley, boldly announcing to others by what you share and how you live, love, and serve them that Jesus saves sinners and gives them a new life, a new purpose, and a new power to live on mission with Him and His people. If you would like to join us on our King's mission as we endeavor to impact the Roanoke Valley, we would love to meet you soon!
For Christ and the gospel,
Our missions strategy is to support and participate in the work of planting healthy churches among peoples and in places where few (or none) exist.
Below, we explain why.
The Bible gives us a model for the work of getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to people from all nations. To the best of our ability, we have built our missions strategy on the biblical model.
The Apostle Paul was, very likely, the greatest Christian missionary in history. He covered thousands of miles by foot and by boat all while enduring tremendous persecution. At the end of his letter to the Romans, he gives us God’s strategy for reaching all nations with the good news that God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has come to rescue sinners.
In chapter 15, he writes, “from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, And they who have not heard shall understand.’”(Rom 15:19-21, NASB).
There are three key implications for a biblically-faithful missions strategy that we can see in the life of Paul and in this text (don’t miss point 3).
First, disciples are made in healthy local churches.
Paul planted churches and trained pastors to lead the churches he planted. God saves people into His church, and local churches are the place where people are baptized and taught to observe all that Christ commands (Matt 28:18-20). In the New Testament, Christians are always part of a local church or part of the work of establishing a new church. Christians and churches go together.
Second, the gospel is preached by healthy local churches.
When Paul says he has “fully preached” the gospel, he does not mean he has preached the gospel to every person. Rather, every person in that region (Jerusalem to Illyricum) had the opportunity to hear the gospel proclaimed in a language they could understand. Why? Because Paul had established enough churches in the region to live out and proclaim the gospel to everyone living in that region.
In the world of modern technology, it is easy to forget the centrality of the local church to fulfilling the Great Commission. Preaching on the radio can be good. Preaching on TV can be good. Preaching through a crusade or evangelistic ministry can be good, but it is local churches planted among a local people that establish a reliable and sustainable witness to the gospel for the long term.
What the people of the world, in every place and every generation, need more than anything else is to hear the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). This happens by the establishment of health local churches who can “fully preach” the gospel where they are.
Third, we must plant churches among people who do not yet know the Name of Jesus Christ.
When Paul had fully preached the gospel in one region, he desired to take the gospel to a new region where Christ was not yet known. This way, more could “hear” and “understand” and be rescued by Christ. There are approximately 3 billion people in 6,700 people groups (people with a distinct language/culture) who have little to no access to the gospel, and they need to hear of Jesus!
This is why our missions strategy is to support, assist, and send out missionaries to do the work of planting healthy churches among peoples and in places where few (or none) exist. We aim to encourage, establish, and strengthen local churches who will share the gospel among the people around them until Christ returns.
Acts 4:12 says, "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” The peoples of the world desperately need to hear of Jesus.
To pursue this great work of getting the gospel to all the peoples of the world, we partner with more than 47,000 like-minded churches in the U.S. to support, train, and send missionaries through the International Mission Board. Currently, we support more than 3,500 missionaries around the globe. These missionaries are planting churches among the least-reached peoples of the world and often in some of the most dangerous places in the world.
In addition, we are praying that God would raise up more missionaries from North Roanoke to go with the International Mission Board and plant churches where people so desperately still need to hear His beautiful, marvelous, powerful Name.
The book of Hebrews is written to a church facing intensifying pressure for following Jesus. Some are tempted to retreat to Judaism and abandon Christ as a way of trying to please God while avoiding the costs and challenges that often come in this world to those who remain faithful to Christ. The book of Hebrews reminds us that without faith in Jesus, it is impossible to please God because Jesus is better than anything else that would try to compete for our attention or our affections. Today, even in our own country, the pressures that come to those who live for Jesus are growing, and we can learn much from Hebrews about how we can live for God by enjoying the blessings and benefits that are available to us only through Jesus. Comes join us as we see the various way that Jesus is better!
Before we dive into this little essay, one I've titled “Why and How We Reach the World: A Brief Theology of Missions," I want to begin with this reminder: evangelism and missions are not the same thing. Evangelism is sharing the gospel with those around you – at work, at play, in your neighborhood, on a cross-country flight…in your family. Missions, however, is when you cross cultural and linguistic barriers to establish a gospel presence among a people with inadequate or non-existent access to the gospel.
Both evangelism and missions are the responsibility of every Christian. As an example, in Acts 8, when persecution scatters the church in Jerusalem, every Christian flees sharing the gospel. And, as we have seen often in Ps 67, we have the privilege of knowing God’s presence so that others may know God’s salvation.
While every Christian has a responsibility to share the gospel locally (evangelism), every Christian also has a responsibility to be part of fulfilling God’s mission in the world – by praying, giving, and going. The God who saved us has a global mission. He is saving a people for Himself out of every tribe, tongue, language, and nation.
We do missions because Jesus has saved us to send us. Now, we cannot all physically go, but we all have a part in going. As Jesus says in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” He sends us for the same purpose for which He came, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), so that God might be glorified, worshipped, known, and enjoyed in all the earth. As John Piper has now famously said, “missions exists b/c [there are places and people] where worship does not.”
The Joshua Project says, “A people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.” Of the nearly 11,500 people groups in the world, approximately 6,700 of them have little to no gospel witness. That is more than 3 billion people spread across 6,700 different people groups with little to no access to the gospel. Can you think of a problem in the world that remotely compares to this problem?
In Acts 1:8, Jesus says, while we do not know when He will return, we do not have to wait to experience His power. He promises, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Christians are lacking God’s power today because so many Christians have forgotten what God’s power is for.
Christians have been told God gives us power for us, because He wants us to be comfortable, to have everything we’ve always wanted… Now, I just returned from a vacation, and it was very nice (thank you), but if I think Jesus saved me so my entire life can be a vacation where I eat too many Oreos and drink too many Cokes, I’ve missed it, and I will miss out on the power of God in my life. God gives us His power to mortify sin in our lives and stay united in hot pursuit of His mission in the world (if you marriage is stale, your work life is blah, your parenting is off – recalibrate it to the mission of God, and watch God work).
We are meant to live in God’s power and that happens when we pursue God’s mission.
As a reminder, God’s mission for us is encapsulated in the Great Commission which is Christ’s command to the church in every generation to make disciples of all nations. In Matt 28:19–20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Now, I need to offer a quick caveat: consistency in missions flows from a desire to worship God. All of life – our work life, married life, parenting life, coaching life, social life, and church life -- is to be lived to the glory of God. To do missions, we must do it for His glory.
So, our mission is not just missions. It is first and foremost worship. But if we are really worshiping and encountering God, we will have to be involved in His mission of making disciples and equipping others for the work of the ministry (Eph 4), and the work of the ministry that Paul has in view is the work of making disciples.
Now, I want you to notice something very important. According to Matt 28, to make disciples, there must be baptism, and there must be teaching. For there to be ongoing authoritative teaching, there must be leaders identified and trained who can communicate the gospel among their own people. For there to be biblical accountability and mutual encouragement to fulfill the “one-anothers” of the Christian life, there must be other people with whom to do life together.
In other words, disciples are made in local churches. You cannot become a disciple without a local church. That is where you live in accountability to other Christians, serve one another, confess sins to one another, forgive one another, forebear with one another, pray together, sing together...
So, how do you make disciples in places where few or no churches exist? To answer this, I want you to recall what Paul says at the close of his 3rd missionary journey in Rom 15:19. He writes these words, “From Jerusalem to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
This is astounding. In a territory approximately the size of New England, Paul, traveling by foot and boat, has fully preached the gospel?! He does not mean every human in the region had heard the gospel but that enough churches had been established to cover the entire territory with the message of the gospel.
Paul did not measure his success by the number of decisions made for Christ but by the accessibility of the gospel to people throughout the region. Once Paul had “fully preached” in one region, he was ready to move to the next.
This means success in missions is planting faithful local churches in places and among peoples where few exist.
For churches that exist where the gospel is readily available, a Biblical missions strategy will prioritize planting churches in places where lost people have few opportunities to hear the gospel. As Akin writes, “Those who are committed to the Great Commission rightly focus on the ‘outer edges’ of lostness where the gospel witness is faith or nonexistent. And, we understand that our divine assignment is not to make converts but to make disciples” (Akin, I Am Going, 37).
At North Roanoke, we long to see the whole world filled with enough biblically-faithful churches to get the gospel shared among the 3+ billion people in the 6,700 people groups who have little to no access to the gospel so Christ will have the worship He is due from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).
In my conversations with Pastor Andres in Puerto Rico, he estimated there are 25 doctrinally-sound churches on the entire island. That is 25 churches to share the gospel and reach 3 million people. Helping plant a church in Carolina, Puerto Rico is a part of a biblically-faithful missions strategy.
This is why we strongly support the International Mission Board. Every Sunday, a portion of our church’s giving goes directly to support trained, international-church planters serving among some of the least-reached people groups in the world. These people are learning new languages, new customs, new musical styles, new climates, and new foods because Christ has made them new and given them a burden to take the light of Christ into the darkest darkness. As missionary Jon Falconer wrote, “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”
Now, not all of us will be called to go as international church planters (although many more of us should be), but we all have a responsibility to be senders. We all should long for the day when Isaiah’s vision is fulfilled and it is declared in all the earth, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa 6:3). This is why we give. It is why we pray, it is why we send, and it is why I am asking God to raise up some from this church to go not just on a short term trip but to a desperately lost people group for a lifetime.
All of this is, of course, costly. For the people that God raises up to go, it will likely require a sacrifice in your comforts. For the people who remain, sending is also costly. God sent His only begotten Son and calls us all reflect His generosity toward us by give generously for the sake of His mission in the world. We may call it a sacrifice, but I agree with C. T. Studd (1860–1931), a missionary to China, India, Sudan, and the Belgian Congo who said, “If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
If we meet our budget this year, the IMB will receive either directly or through our support of the CP, a little more than $36,000. Also, this year, we developed a way to help members of our church go on short-term trips and be directly involved in the work of helping to plant thriving churches where few exist. This is an exciting time to be at North Roanoke - we just saw 17 people take their first-ever cross-cultural missions trip!
Sustained progress in pursuing a Biblical-missions strategy requires generous giving. I am grateful for a church that seeks to treasure Christ before and above all other treasurers. This is why we give, by the way; Christ is infinitely greater than what we give, and when we give, we remind our hearts of this truth.
Now, you may be wondering (no one has said this to me…but, perhaps the thought has crossed your mind), “Why don’t we just keep that missions money for ourselves?” Wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems? We could hire an executive pastor, or we could eliminate the debt, renovate the sanctuary, or… The list is never-ending. And, that is partly the point. If we delay pursuing the Great Commission because of our immediate needs, we will never get meaningfully involved in God’s mission, and God's mission, the building of Christ's Kingdom through the progress of the gospel deep into our lives and out into the world is why we are here!
When I was growing up, I was told there were 6 billion people on the planet. Today, there are 7.7 billion; soon there will be 8 billion. According to Paul, we owe them the gospel. Paul says in Rom 1:14, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” If you belong to Christ, you owe your life to the lost by striving to get them the gospel – Greeks and barbarians, patriots and punks, Muslims and Mormons, Ivy League and blue collar, Middle Eastern and Middle American.
As those who have received the gospel we are under divine obligation to give our lives to the cause of getting the gospel to others.
Our needs always seem greater to us than the ones we do not have to confront. But what the world desperately needs is the gospel because people in the world are lost, enemies of God, dead in their trespasses and sins, glorying in what God says in shameful and headed for the eternal fire unless they hear the gospel.
While I was serving at Southeastern Seminary, President Danny Akin returned from a mission trip in Southeast Asia and shared the following story:
“One evening my driver turned down a street that I was totally unprepared for. Suddenly, on both sides of the road, for at least a half of a mile, hundreds and hundreds of prostitutes lined the sidewalks. Some could not have been more than 11 or 12. They were dressed in seductive uniforms similar to what you would see in a private junior high or high school. The faces of these little girls and women I will never forget. Sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness were etched across their countenance. Smiles, if there was one, seemed forced, lacking any sense of genuineness. Later, I was informed that most of these girls and women had been deceived and basically kidnapped. Sex-slave traders prey on ignorant and unsuspecting parents, especially in rural areas, promising a better life for their children in the big cities. As I looked into these tragic faces, it hit me. Somewhere they have a mom and a dad. Do they have any idea what has happened to their precious daughters? I was overcome with a sense of sorrow and despair I have seldom experienced.”
That moment changed our President, our seminary, and me. There is only one thing that can radically, fundamentally change the reality I just described and the pain it has produced – the gospel.
There is only one salvation that will cleanse, heal, and restore in all the ways that are needed. We must not be ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). We must get the gospel to the world because the world so desperately needs to hear God’s good news and to be saved. Salvation is becoming spiritually alive. Ephesians 2 tells us that without the Holy Spirit changing us at the root, making us alive through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are “dead in our trespasses and sins.” But, there is power, Paul says, in the message of the gospel that leads to salvation, because it is the message of the cross of Christ, as foolish as it sounds to spiritually-dead ears, that God uses to awaken dead hearts and make them new.
People will not come to Christ unless someone proclaims to them, with words they can understand, the gospel. So, at North Roanoke, we are committed to reaching the world by supporting the work of planting thriving local churches in places where few exist because:
It is a blessing to serve Christ as your pastor as we give our all to the work of getting the gospel to the the ends of the earth. May God bless us and cause His face to shine upon us as we endeavor to reach the world all for the glory of King Jesus!
*Based upon a message given July 28, 2019.
We are meant to live in God’s power and that happens when we pursue God’s mission.
This coming Sunday, if the Lord should tarry and allow me to continue to have life and breath, I will turn 40 years old. The “big 4–0.” I remember celebrating my parents’ 40th birthdays, complete with a tombstone that read, “Over the hill.” And now, just moments later, I am 40.
Time and life are so quickly rushing toward eternity. Milestone birthdays lead me to reflect on the impact Christ has made in my life and the impact He has allowed me to have in the lives of others. My thirties were a good decade. I was able to disciple people, learn a new city, help put Southeastern Seminary on a stronger financial footing in the middle of one of the most severe and enduring economic downturns in our country’s history, help a church to die well and welcome a new church plant into their building which is now thriving, lead a neighbor to Christ after 8 years of prayer and effort, love and lead my own children to Jesus, grow more in the knowledge of God, serve my beautiful bride, and proclaim the gospel…a very good decade, and an incredibly blessed life.
But, something has been nagging at me since January when I went to a leadership training event for WinShape. One of the speakers asked, “What breaks your heart?”
It is a good question – a question I have not been able to get out of my mind. The answers just keep coming. So, here goes, here is what breaks my heart, and I pray, by God’s grace, that I will be able to help make a difference on some of these issues in however many more years the Lord gives me.
Issues in the church
• My heart is broken over how our culture and even some in the church view marriage. A good marriage is one in which both husband and wife give the other themselves in a Spirit-enabled selflessness that is rooted in being a team together for the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel to their children and grandchildren and to our neighbors and the nations. If your marriage is struggling under the weight of assumptions and expectations the world gives rather than thriving for the mission of God, pick up a copy of The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and read it with your spouse.
• My heart also breaks when Christian families fail to prize the church more than anything else on earth. Now, you might wonder why I did not say Christ. And, there is a reason. Too often, people think it is possible to prize Christ and not prize a local church. The New Testament paints a very different picture. The way we pursue faithfulness to King Jesus is through a vital engagement with our brothers and sisters in the church – “the body of Christ.” To prize Christ, we must prize His church.
• A related reality that breaks my heart is when Christian parents put extracurricular activities before Christian identity. As a father and a former athlete, I understand the benefits of sports, clubs, and activities for our children. These opportunities also present a wonderful way to reach lost people with the gospel – if we deliberately think of them in that way and leverage them for the sake of Christ. However, the extracurricular must not overwhelm the essential. I have often experienced situations where children can learn the rules, players, and positions for a game, sport, club or association and “own it,” but they have very little grasp of the Scriptures by the time they graduate high school. If a child can learn basic addition and subtraction, s/he can memorize scripture. If he can pass 9th-grade English, he can study the bible for comprehension and life change. Children value what their parents value, and it breaks my heart when children do not have the opportunity to see that their parents value Jesus and living on mission for Him in community with other Christians more than anything else.
• My heart also breaks over the stronghold that the illusion of financial security has over many Christians. When consulting for a church about generous giving several years ago, a man approached me with a question several have asked me through the years, “Should I tithe on gross or net?” For him, the act of giving was not much different than it would have been for a Pharisee – making sure he "checked off the requirement" but not really understanding the spiritual purpose not of tithing but of generous and even sacrificial giving. So, I said, “Well, do you want Jesus to bless your net or gross?” He smiled really big and said, “I never thought of it like that.” Then I asked him the more serious questions: “What if what Jesus wants you to give sacrificially, so you can enlarge your capacity for enjoying His presence? What if the Bible shows we should go well beyond 10 percent as God blesses us? What if the consistent act of emptying yourself is God’s way of opening your heart to more of Him? What if true generosity is truly contagious, and it opens you up to a move of the Spirit in your life unlike anything you’ve known since you first trusted in Jesus. What if your heart follows what you are investing in, and, as you begin to invest in the Kingdom, your service and action naturally begin to follow God’s activity in the world more than the activity of the stock market?
His face went ghost white. He was terrified, and it was sort of the terrified face that says, “You just said what I know is true, but I didn’t think you would actually say it.” This man broke down, told me He was exceptionally wealthy, and said, “I knew I should be doing more. Thank you.” I can only imagine the joy he now experiences in leveraging his business for the glory of Jesus. Fortunately, he was only in his 30s, and he still has a full life ahead to grow in the grace of giving. In my personal experience and in my experience of working with people like the man I have described here, nothing short of revival occurs when we truly shed our tendency to worship money and learn the joy that comes from generous giving motivated by a desire to remain ever-dependent upon Christ.
• A final concern that breaks my heart is when people do not finish strong in the faith but falter once their children go to college. When the commitment of a couple to be at church is only “for the kids,” often neither the parents nor the kids endure in the faith. Children can see their parents’ faith was only something done at church, and parents default to a Christmas-and-Easter only sort of faith. At North Roanoke, we are praying and working to constantly improve how we reach children and students with the gospel and then train them to know, speak, and defend the gospel. But, it takes more than what the children and student ministries can offer on Sundays and Wednesdays. It also takes Christian parents or, in the case of students coming from non-Christian homes, strong and involved Christian mentors who will show kids how to live an authentic, Christian life for the glory of King Jesus – in the church, at college, in their career, in their future families, and on mission in the world.
Christian, if you are faltering in any of these areas, here’s some good news: as long as you have life and breath, it is not too late to get back in the race or to join the race for the first time if you have not yet truly surrendered your life to King Jesus.
Issues in the world
• The first thing that breaks my heart is lostness. Apart from saving faith in Christ, people will eternally suffer the just consequences for their sinful rebellion against God, and I long to see a move of God in our Valley in which people come to saving faith in Christ in droves. The lostness of our nation and of the world is also heartbreaking. My desire is that God would continue to raise up men and women from North Roanoke to take the gospel to the peoples of the world – especially people with little to no access to the gospel – nearly 2 billion of them!
• Another reality that breaks my heart is that sociologists in our country can predict with a high degree of accuracy how a child’s life will turn out based upon whether or not the child has a father in the home, whether or not someone reads to the child at an early age, household income, and a few other key variables. What further breaks my heart is that society has come to think “more money” is the solution. We have been throwing more money at generational poverty, illiteracy, and a host of other societal ills for over 50 years, and the results are very underwhelming. We should not be surprised. We cannot expect a public system of relief or intervention, a system that must not give the gospel or be grounded in the gospel, to address the heart issues that underlie so much of what is plaguing communities in our country. The answer must include an awakening of the church to these realities and a fundamental understanding that no publicly-funded program or initiative will really address the root problem. It may help kick the can down the road, but the problem will remain. We have decades of evidence that public funding is not working. A dream in my heart is that the church would take the same sociological data, apply it to the Roanoke Valley, identify children who are most at risk and provide free or significantly reduced-cost child care in a gospel-grounded environment to preschoolers – to get the gospel into their mind and hearts as early as possible, to send them school already knowing how to read, and to win the opportunity to lead their parents to Jesus in the process. I know we can give kids a real head start – the kind of head start that makes heads spin and makes them confront the truth that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and also to motivation, meaning, purpose, better behavior, and better long-term educational outcomes. The gospel can break then chains of the statistical trends, and it will take a church or churches that are willing to spend resources in the Valley on “the least of these” in a systematic way over the long haul, trusting that God will take our crumbs (compared to what the government spends) and make an eternal difference in many lives and families. I would love to be able to look back 40 years from now and say we forever impacted the Valley by giving sacrificially and trusting that God could use early exposure to the gospel to forever change the lives of kids who were otherwise considered the most likely to fail. I can only imagine how frustrated Satan would be.
There are, of course, dozens if not hundreds of heart-breaking concerns in the world. A few more that come to mind right now:
• 58+ million abortions in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade and the moms that are represented in that number, many of whom desperately need the gospel which is the only hope they have for the guilt they bear and the depression they feel
• Parents of child(ren) with special needs who have very little time to focus on their marriage, church, etc.
• Lazy/uninvolved fathers
• The thousands of kids in foster systems across our country who need stable homes
• The marginalization, intimidation, and humiliation of Christians in the public square
• Senior adults and people with special needs who age and no longer have a parent to care for them (this one is near and dear to my wife)
• Basic ignorance in the world of the major contributions of Christians down the through the ages to the good of the world
• Sex trafficking on the rise in the U.S. and around the world
• The easy access to and pervasive use of pornography
• The opioid crisis
• And many more
How about you? What breaks your heart? What would you add to the list, and how might God lead you to leverage whatever years you have left to let Him use you to lead/serve/motivate His church to be a part of the solution?
We’ve got one shot. Let’s make it count for the glory of Christ and the good of all nations!