The following transcript is from Rick Warren’s message to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference in Phoenix, AZ.
You can do three things with your life. Three things that you can use your life. You can waste it. You can spend it. Or you can invest it. The greatest use of your life is to invest it in that which will outlast it. Now there are only two things that are going to last forever. Number one is the Word of God. Heaven and Earth will pass away but my word will never pass away. So you ought to invest your life in the Word of God. And second, the other thing that’s going to last forever? Oh yeah, people. One of two places. Heaven or Hell. If you want God’s blessing on your life, if you want God’s anointing on your life, if you want God to use you in ways that you could have never imagined, you must get with God’s agenda. His vision. God never blesses our agenda. But he does say seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.
Now, a vision of God’s agenda is what we need in the Southern Baptist Convention. But the problem with a vision is it’s easy to lose. Vision is a very fragile thing. It dims over time. It’s easy to get lost. It shrinks when it gets wet from criticism. It’s kind of like a cotton shirt. It just gets smaller and smaller. You know, when we start out as young people, college, high school, seminary, you get out of school and you think man, I’m going to change the world. Then you get married. And your vision shrinks to I’m just going to change my spouse. And pretty soon after a while you figure out, I can’t even do that, I’m just going to change my clothes. And then you get to the stage where you’re hoping to have enough energy to change the channel. And one day you may at the place that you’re hoping somebody will come and change the bed sheets.
So vision can shrink. It can get lost. Now when you lose your vision, the inevitable result is discouragement. And friends, we have an epidemic of discouragement going on right now. In lives, in ministries, in churches. If you have a Bible, I want you to turn to Isaiah Chapter 49. Isaiah 49 is an amazing passage. These first six verses. Now I don’t have time to exposit all six truths in this text, in fact I did Saturday night at my church. I did all six points and it was about an hour long sermon. I’m not going to do that. I want to point out one of the six truths out of this passage. And it is that God’s antidote to ministry discouragement is a bigger vision. It’s a global, an international vision. Now this is an amazing story because Isaiah is recalling a conversation with God at a point of despair. He is discouraged. He is depressed about his ministry. He feels fatigued. He is fearful. He’s worn out. He is down, down, down, dooby doo down, down. And we’ve all been there. People ask me have I ever wanted to resign at Saddleback? Just every Monday morning. And I think surely, God, somebody can do a better job than I just did. I’m not smart enough to teach these people.
But Isaiah is very, very discouraged and in this passage he recounts later on his conversation with God. And again, I’m not going to go through the whole part of it, but notice in Verse 1, it’s there in your Bible, if you didn’t get one of the outlines, I think it may even be here on the screen. Verse 1 to 3, Isaiah begins with an international announcement and he says this: All you people in far away places listen to me. All you distant nations pay attention to what I have to say. Before I was born, the Lord called me to serve him. And he said to me, I will show my glory through you. Now, Isaiah here starts off by admitting that he’s called by God and that God says I’m going to use you for my glory. In other passages he goes on and he talks about I’m gifted and I’ve prepared and things like this. But he says I know God is going to use me, but he immediately starts to make excuses. And in Verse 4, he says, but, I said I’ve worked hard for nothing. And I’ve used up all my power. But I have not accomplished any lasting purpose. Without a doubt there’s some people here who feel this way today about their ministry. But I said – by the way, we all have our buts. Yours is bigger than mine. I can’t see mine. I can see yours. But I always thing yours is worse than mine, but we all have our buts. But I said, I have worked hard for nothing. I’ve used up all my power. I have not accomplished any lasting purpose. I got him to go read Warren’s book.
Have you ever planned a pity party and invited yourself? Now it’s interesting to me that God’s response to Isaiah’s discouragement is not coddling. It’s not nursing. It’s not responding to him with indulgence or pampering. He doesn’t say, Now, now, Isaiah. I know it’s rough being in ministry. It’s tough being in ministry. Come on over and let’s just have some cookies and milk. He doesn’t say that. God’s response to Isaiah’s discouragement is this: You know brother, what your problem is is your vision has shrunk. The problem is, you’re not thinking big enough anymore. And in Verse 6 he says this: Then the Lord told me what you are doing is too small a task. Did you get that? What you are doing, Isaiah, is too small a task for you my servant. Just to bring the tribes of Jacob, your people, back to me. What is God saying? He’s saying I made you for more than reaching your kind of people. I made you for more than reaching your city. I made you for more than building your own church. I made you for more thane even reaching your nation, even if it’s America. The Lord told me what you are doing is too small a task for you my servant just to bring the tribes of Jacob, that’s the Israelites, your people back to me. I will also make you a light for the gentile nations so that you may bring my salvation to the end of the earth.
Now a lot of translations say so that people all over the world will be saved. My favorite is the Message paraphrase where he says so that my salvation goes global. God is a global God. And if you want God’s blessing on your ministry, you’ve got to get a global vision. Your vision for I’m just going to build my church, sorry, it’s not big enough. Now it’s not a shame to be a small church. It is a shame to be a small church with a small vision. You must have a global vision. God says I didn’t call you just to reach your own kind of people. You need a bigger perspective. You need a bigger vision. Now, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never been accused of being a small vision person. But eight years ago, God just smote me. Have you ever been smote? It’s not a lot of fun. God rebuked me and I had to repent of my small vision. You see, up to that point, I’m a fourth generation Baptist. I’m a church planter. My father was a church planter with Home Mission Board. My great-grandfather was led to Christ by Charles Spurgeon and sent to America as a church planter. So I’ve got this in my blood. I planted my first church at age 16 in a barn in a town of less than 500 people. So I know a little bit about this. But I thought God I’ve got this figured out. And eight years ago, God said, Rick, your vision isn’t big enough.
Now I’d only had two visions. One of them was to go and plant a church and pastor one church for my entire life. And the other was to encourage pastors, because I love pastors. I are one. And that’s what I’ve spent the last 31 years doing. Growing a single church and encouraging pastors around the world. And God said Rick, your vision is too small. And he said it to me through a small African pastor in South Africa.
I was in Johannesburg and I was teaching leadership training like I do and after it was over I said let’s just get in a Jeep and take me out to a village. I want to see a typical church. I don’t care what denomination it is. Let’s just go see a church. So we get in a Jeep and we go out into the middle of nowhere. I mean we’re way back in the bush. We come into a village with no water and no electricity. And we pull up on this little tent church. It’s a church meeting in a tent. That’s all they’ve got is a tent. And it’s 50 adults and 25 kids orphaned by AIDS – 25 kids who’d lost their moms and dads to AIDS. Now this church with only a tent, they’re feeding the kids. They’re growing a garden next to the tent. They’re feeding the kids. They’ve got a couple of old worn out school books and they’re schooling the kids. The kids are sleeping in the tent at night because there’s no place for them. And I looked at this church and I thought, this church is doing more to help the poor than my rich mega-church in California. And I had to repent.
It was like a knife in my heart. And I said, God, I have to admit, widows and orphans have not been on my agenda. They don’t reward that in the SBC. That’s not the way we count statistics. And I had to repent. And I said, God, it’s not like I’m a terrorist. I’ve been training pastors. I’ve trained 400,000 pastors in 162 countries, and I’ve been pastoring a church, too. And we’re planting every year. And God said, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s all good, but you don’t care about the people I care about most. The poor, the sick, the needy, the disenfranchised, the people we want to turn our heads away from.
The young African pastor walked around that tent and he came to see as we got out of the Jeep and he goes, I know who you are. And I go, how do you know who I am? He said you’re Pastor Rick. Now we’re in the middle of nowhere. And I said how in the world do you know who I am? He said, I download your free sermon every week. I said wait, wait, wait. Time out here. You don’t have water or electricity in this village. How are you getting my sermon every week? He said they’re putting the internet in every post office for free in South Africa. They’re called PITS – Public Information Terminals. And once a week, I walk an hour and a half to the nearest post office, I download your sermon, I walk an hour and a half back. I teach it to my people. He said, you know Rick, you’re the only training I’ve ever had. And my heart broke. And I said I will give the rest of my life for guys like that. You haven’t seen me at many conventions in the last ten years because I’ve been overseas for ten years. Working in villages like that. Then we decided well, how could normal people plant churches? There aren’t ever going to be enough ordained people in the world to win the world. Can normal church members plant churches? And we said well, let’s just try.
So we came up with a little strategy. We called it PEACE. It was plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, educate the next generation. Every member of my church had to be a part of PEACE. And over the last eight years, our church has sent out 14,869 of our members overseas to plant churches and equip leaders and assist the poor and care for the sick and educate the next generation. You know, we’re reading that verse where God says, you know this verse, go to every nation. And I thought has anybody ever done that? Has any local church ever gone to every nation? In 2,000 years of church history, has any church ever gone to every nation? Why don’t we do that? So we set a goal that by the end of 2010, we would go to every nation in the world and plant a church. And promote reconciliation. And equip leaders. And all these other things.
Well, there are 195 nations in the world. There are 193 that are part of the UN. Two nations in the world are not part of the UN, North Korea and Serbia. And on November 18 of last year, we went to nation 195. It was a little nation called Saint Kitts, only 35,000 people in the Caribbean, but we weren’t going to leave out nation 195. The men sitting here on stage are the team that helped me mobilize 15,000 members to go around the world. Would you just give them an applause? Thank you, guys.
Now, let me tell you something. We learned a thousand ways that don’t work. So someday I’ll write a book and it’ll save you a lot of time. But we did learn a few things that did work. And I want to tell you this. If Southern Baptists want a new wave of growth and a new wave of revival in our convention, our vision of church planting is going to have to include three facts. I want you to write these down. These are things we have to understand about church planting, regardless when, where or how.
The first is this, and we learned this one in spades. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. There is no one way to grow a church. If somebody tells you here’s the one way, they’re dead wrong. There are hundreds of ways to grow a church. In fact, I could show you churches that are doing the exact opposite thing and they’re both growing. And I’ve helped thousands, maybe tens of thousands of church planters plant a church, and I’ve done it in thousands of different ways.
Now look at these verses there on your outline, 1 Corinthians 12:5 and 6. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it’s the same Lord we’re serving. And there are different ways God works in our lives, but it’s the same God who does the work through all of us. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. There’s more than one way to grow a church and if you’re getting the job done, I like the way you’re doing it. It may not be my style, but have you noticed that God likes variety? Look down your row. Clones are man’s ideas. Copies are man’s ideas. God has never made a clone of anything. Everything God makes is an original. You’re an original. There will never be anybody before or after you exactly with your DNA. Even identical twins aren’t really identical. God wants every church to have its own thumbprint, its own handprint, its own footprint, its own eyeprint. Because we are a body just like your human body.
You know, I like to grow stuff. It’s just the way I’m wired. I like to grow people. I like to grow ministries. I like to grow churches. I like to grow plants. I’m a gardener. And every year I grow 40 or 50 different kinds of vegetables. And I’ve discovered that every single plant grows at a different rate, a different speed, has different fruit and looks different. That’s a good thing and it’s a God thing. Paul says it like this, 1 Corinthians 15:38: God gives the plant the form he wants it to have, so quit trying to be like somebody else’s church. God gives the plant the form he wants it to have each kind of seed grows into its own form.
Now why does it take all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people? Because human beings are wired for choice. You go into Starbucks, do you realize how many different thousands of ways you can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks? You know, half and half, no milk, quarter milk, soy milk, fake milk, put in the macca, hold out the cappuccino, put in the frapa, take out that, you know, it’s all these different ways. You go into any fast food, you get a choice between small, medium and large. Or Big Gulp. Same is true in churches. Which by the way, when I go into a Starbucks and I order a different kind of coffee, which one’s best? The one that’s best for me. If I want a small, which they call a tall, which makes no sense at all. Would somebody write a letter to the president and say tall doesn’t mean small? Anyway, that’s best for me if that’s what I want.
Now since I began Saddleback Church in 1980 with just one member, I have pastured a church of every size. Nobody’s pastured a church smaller than me. Because I had one member, Kay. I preached the first sermon, she said it was too long, and it’s been downhill ever since. Thirty-one years later she’ll say, honey, it’s too long. But we have to have variety in the convention or we die. We will. We will die if we do not have variety.
Now, at Saddleback we plant three kinds of churches. I want to give you a little lesson here. We call them rabbit churches, tiger churches, and elephant churches. And they’re all important, they’re all biblical, they’re all necessary and they’re all useful and we plant all three of them, and we have for 31 years. So let me just give you a little explanation of these to maybe make things clearer for you. When it comes to size, a rabbit church is a micro church. You might write that down. Micro church or house church. By the way, that’s the most biblical form because for the first 300 years of the church there were no church buildings and everybody met in a house. So a micro church is a rabbit church is a house church. You might call it a small group. But it’s a church that meets in a house.
Tiger church, that’s what most of our churches are. A tiger church is 100 people, 200 people, maybe more, 300. It’s a mid-size church. An elephant church is a large church. It’s a mega church. Now, Jesus said where two or three are gathered in my name I’m there. That’s a rabbit church. That’s a biblical church. But a mega church is also biblical, because on the first day of the Church of Pentecost it says how many were baptized? Yeah, 3,000. So they were a mega church the first day. So a mega church is just as biblical as a house church.
Now, what about strength? Well, there’s a strength to each of these kind of churches. The strength of a house church, of a micro church is its simplicity. You might write that down. Simplicity. Because it doesn’t take a lot of organization. You’ve just got to get somebody who will start a fellowship in a home and that’s it. It doesn’t take a lot of planning a lot of promotion. It’s very, very simple. The strength of a tiger church, which is what most of our churches are, 100 people, 200 people, maybe a little more. The strength of a tiger church is fellowship. And it’s a strength of the church because you can know everybody in the church. Now, you don’t have to know everybody in a church to feel like it’s your church. Studies have shown the average person knows 67 people whether you have 600 or 6,000. You’re not going to know, really, everybody. And the strength of the elephant church is full service. It can offer things that a smaller church can’t. In our church, for instance, we have 150 volunteer counselors who do over 50,000 hours of free counseling a year. Now, we couldn’t offer that when we were smaller. And there are a lot of different things. But each size has its own advantage.
But when it comes to winning the world, what you’re looking for is reproductive speed, and when it comes to reproductive speed, the smaller the better. If you take a rabbit’s reproductive cycle, it’s very fast. A female rabbit does not have a period, which means she can get pregnant five minutes after delivering babies. Some of you ladies are going thank God I’m not a rabbit. A rabbit can raise in one litter ten to up to 12 babies in a single litter. And she can get pregnant, and the pregnancy only lasts a month, so she can get pregnant 12 times, so theoretically a rabbit one mother could have 120 babies in a year. Now that’s what I call a promiscuous animal. Now, the reason I know that is when I was kid I raised rabbits. And I knew that.
Now what about a tiger? A tiger is a little bit slower in reproduction. A tiger has a three to four month pregnancy, has three to four cubs and then won’t mate again for another year. It’s a little bit slower than the rabbit.
What about an elephant? Do you know how long it takes an elephant to be pregnant? Two years. Thank God you’re not an elephant. Can you imagine carrying a baby for two full years? And when you have that baby, it is a giant baby but it’s only one.
Now, I’m in favor of mega churches and I’m in favor of mid size churches, and I’m in favor of micro churches. And at Saddleback, we do them all. Let me just say a couple of things about these churches. None of them require a building. I’m really tired of people saying we can’t grow because we don’t have a building. I wanted to prove to America that you don’t have to have a building to grow a church, so we went 15 years without a building. Saddleback grew to over 10,000 in attendance in 15 years without a building. We used 76 different locations. Sunday morning one place, Sunday night another, Wednesday night another, Thursday another. We said we’re the church if you can figure out where we are this week, you get to come. We only want really intelligent people.
Once you get above 10,000, yeah, you can build a building. But don’t tell me you can’t grow without a building. There’s a word for that. It’s when you cross a crocodile with an abalone – it’s a crock of bologna. You don’t have to have a building.
Second thing I want to tell you is that a mother church doesn’t have to be big to have babies. Mothers come in all sizes. Would anybody like to give a testimony. Mothers come in all sizes. And one of the reasons God has blessed Saddleback is because we build church planting DNA from the very first year. When I started, when I moved from Texas to California to start Saddleback, we decided we would plant a church every year at a minimum. So at the end of the first year, we planted our first church. We didn’t have 100 people, but we planted our first church. End of our second year, we planted our second church. End of our third year, we planted our third. Fourth year, we planted three churches. We didn’t have a building ourselves and we already had planted five or six other churches. One year we planted 17 Spanish-speaking churches, and we didn’t even have a building ourselves. So don’t tell me you have to be big to plant a church. You don’t. You don’t. God blesses the unselfish church. When God looks down and says that church is willing to give away members, you know what he does? He just give you a whole lot more.
We planted all three types. In fact, in the last 20 months, the last 20 months at Saddleback, we have planted over 100 rabbit churches a month. A month. We’ve planted over 2,000 rabbit churches in the last 20 months. In fact yesterday, Sunday, we planted, we got commitments for 236 more rabbit churches. People willing to leave our church to go plant a rabbit church. In 20 months we’ve planted 9 tigers, we planted one elephant.
Now the second truth we’ve got to understand if we want to have real renewal, real revival, we want to have real breakthrough in growth, to break out of this decline, it takes not only all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people, it takes all kinds of people to plant all kinds of churches. It takes all kinds of people to plant all kinds of churches. Now not everybody’s a preacher, but anybody can plant a church. Not everybody can pastor a church, but anybody could be part of a team to plant a church. I’ve seen it done in every nation with normal, average, ordinary people. I’m not telling you theory. I’m telling you something I’ve seen done over the last decade. Anybody can help plant a church.
Look at these verses: 1 Corinthian 14:26 – When you meet together one person has a song and another has a teaching and another has a new truth from God and another speaks in a different language the purpose of all these things should be to help the church grow. In other words, everybody’s in the game. Everybody’s involved. It’s not just we’re sending out one church planter, it’s everybody is in the game. Ephesians 4:16 – From Him (Christ), the whole body grows and builds itself up in love as each part, what? Does its own work. Does its own work.
Now, anybody who’s been in construction knows that when you are building a building, you’ve got to put stuff on the outside to hold it up called scaffolding. Everybody knows what scaffolding. In scaffolding, you put the – what is scaffolding? It’s support that comes from the outside for a temporary basis. And then once the structure is stable, you take the scaffolding away. Every church plant requires scaffolding people. They don’t have to stay, but they’ve got to be there until it gets stable. I was a scaffolding person 37 years ago. I volunteered through the International Mission Board, it was Foreign Mission Board then, I was in college, to go to Japan for 90 days to help the First Baptist Church of Nagasaki, Japan plant a new church. And I was a scaffolding person.
Now, I didn’t know a word of Japanese, but I was willing to help. And I said use me in any way. I wasn’t preaching. I would just go in to help plant that church. And I gave 90 days of my life, that’s summer 1974, and we planted a church out of the First Baptist Church of Nagasaki, Japan. Thirty-seven years later, that church is still going. That’s called investing your life in something that will last.
And when I started Saddleback in 1980, Crescent Southern Baptist Church gave me five scaffolding people. They said we’re going to send them to help you for 90 days. By the way, I’ve never publicly thanked the three sponsors of Saddleback Church, Norwalk First Baptist Church, Crescent Southern Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Lufkin, Texas. Each of them put in $250.00 a month to help me get that church started. And they gave me five scaffolding people.
Now when I was starting this church, I was 25 years old. I knew I was called, I knew I was gifted, I knew that I wanted to do, but I was only 25. I still needed adult supervision. And so they sent me five mature adults to help me, and one of them I said, you know, I need to know how to plan the first service, because there weren’t any planning books like there are today. And I asked this one guy, what do you do, Bruce? His name was Bruce Medley. He said I’m a planner for the pentagon. I said do you know how to make a perk chart? He said yeah. I said show me how. And he helped me write down everything we needed to do in the first 12 weeks of the church and lay it all out and we taped it to a big piece of butcher paper, and I did it. And two weeks after the church began, Bruce says, I’m out of here. He was a scaffolding person. And I will forever be grateful, and so will a lot of other people because the church was born.
Now why 90 days? Why am I saying scaffolding for 90 days? It takes about 30 days to get acquainted with the people in the area, it takes about 30 days to get the project up and running, and it takes about 30 days to be able to transition it off to the next person. Yesterday, last Sunday, over 1,300 more members of Saddleback Church volunteered to leave Saddleback and go be scaffolding people. God blesses the unselfish church.
Now there’s a third key that we’ve got to know, and it’s this. The mark of maturity is reproduction. It is the proof of maturity. Reproduction. The Bible calls it fruit. The Bible says this: This is to my father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Now, what does it mean to bear fruit? And by the way, you hear people say, well, all God expects of me is faithfulness. You’re wrong. Sorry. You’re wrong. The Bible teaches God expects two things from you. He expects faithfulness and He expects fruitfulness. And Jesus cursed the unfruitful tree and it withered because it bore no fruit. Study John 15. Study fruit through the Bible. Now fruit is used four different ways in the New Testament. The Fruit of the Spirit, John the Baptist fruit of repentance, John 15 the fruit of answered prayer, and Paul the fruit of another Christian. And I want to see some fruit in Rome.
When is a tomato plant mature? When it has tomatoes. When is an apple tree mature? When it has apples. When does a puppy become a dog and is mature? When it has puppies. When is a human being physically mature? When you go through puberty. The moment you go through puberty, you have the ability to reproduce and at that point you are physically mature. When is a church mature? When it has a baby. There are a lot of churches that think they’re mature that aren’t. You go oh, we’ve got a mature church. Had any babies? No. Then you’re not mature. Sorry. The proof of maturity is reproduction.
You know, it’s interesting to me that this is the oldest command in the Bible. The very first command that God gave. Genesis Chapter 1. You can’t even get out Genesis 1 without this. And the first command God gives is this, to human beings: Be fruitful and multiply. Which, by the way, is the only command human beings have ever been able to keep. But obviously we’re all here as a result.
Now, notice in that verse it says, this is to my glory that you bear much fruit. Much fruit. How do you know if you’ve got much fruit? You’ve got to count it. You know, I noticed about ten years ago, people started saying, well, we’re not really into numbers. Well, obviously we don’t have them anymore. We’re not into numbers. I had a guy tell me one time, he said, well, we don’t believe in counting our people. I said sir do you count the offering? He said well, of course I do. I said well, then you’re saying money is more important than people. Got him!
You know, when I take a busload of junior high students on the road, I count when they get off, I count when they get back on. Why? It’s not an ego trip, it’s because I love them. Of the 99 sheep, and one lost. How did he know one was lost? He counted! At Saddleback we say we count people because people count. Never apologize for numbers. Every number represents a soul that Jesus died for, and the church that doesn’t want to grow is saying to the world, you can go to Hell. It takes unselfish people to grow a church. And to keep the main thing of evangelism the main thing.
Would you agree it’s easy to be distracted from evangelism? Yes, even by good things. Programs can distract us from evangelism. I see some pastors getting distracted by politics. By the way, if you ever see me at a political event, you need to know I’m there for one reasons, because I’m trying to witness to people. I couldn’t care less about politics. If I thought you could change the world through laws, I’d be a politician. But you can’t. So I have zero faith in any politics. When I did the prayer at the last two inaugurations, President Bush and President Obama, it was because there were international leaders who were watching and I had PEACE team members in their nations that I didn’t want to get picked up. And if they did I wanted them to go here’s our pastor’s picture.
You can get distracted by prophecy. You know, the disciples did. Right at the ascension, the disciples want to talk about he second coming. Lord, when are you going to restore Israel? You know, we’ve got our charts here. Come on, when are you going to do this? And I love Jesus’ answer. Look at this verse. Acts 1:8. It’s not for you to know the times or the dates that the father has set by his own authority. In other words, it’s none of your business. You know, a couple of weeks ago we had this kook who was predicting the end of the world. He was, he’s a kook. And I put out on Twitter, I said, that’s one day you can know for sure, obviously, go ahead and make plans on that day because Jesus said no man knows the day nor the hour, not the angels, neither the Son, but only the father which is in Heaven. Jesus said I don’t even know. Well, if he didn’t know when he was coming back, you think I’m going to figure it out? No. He says it’s not for you to know the times or the dates, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. They want to talk about prophecy and Jesus says I want to talk about evangelism. Why? Because this gospel shall be preached into all the world to a witness to every nation and then the end shall come. You want Jesus to come back? Get out and witness. It isn’t going to happen until every person that Jesus knows is coming to him comes to him, and then at that point, the last person who comes in that Jesus knows is going to be saved, bam, it’s over and we’re out of here.
Now for the Southern Baptist convention to turn around, we’re going to have to change the way we keep score. We’re going to have to change what we reward. For the last 30 years, we have rewarded attendance. And if you have big attendance, you get invited to speak. Friends, I have more respect for a church of 100 that’s planting churches than a church of 1,000 that hasn’t planted any. Frankly, I’m not impressed by crowds. I preach to theme every week. There’s no place I go that’s bigger than where I am on the weekend. A crowd is not a church. A crowd is not a church. A crowd is not a church. Now you can turn a crowd into a church if you have a discipleship plan, which you move them from come and see to come and die, but a crowd is not a church. I can show you how to get a crowd, there’s lots of ways to do it. But a crowd is not a church. And what we need to reward is not attendance, but reproduction. What we need to reward is not size, but sending capacity. Not attendance, but multiplication.
As I said, it’s okay to be a small church, it’s just not okay to have a small vision. If you want the blessing of God on your life, you’ve got to have like Isaiah a global vision. Why? Well, look at this verse from Revelation. God tells us what’s going to happen at the end. The Bible says I saw another angel flying through the Heavens carrying the everlasting good news to preach to the people who belong to this world. And I want you to read this last phrase with me aloud with great enthusiasm, To preach it to every nation, every tribe, every language and every people. Okay, friends, here’s the problem. There are 3,800 tribes that still don’t have a church. So there’s still work to be done.
Tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday afternoon in both the North American Board report and the International Mission Board report, you’re going to hear the details of a plan to go not just all over America and North America, but to take down that last goal. And Kevin Ezell is going to share about the North American and Tom’s going to share about going to the world. The theme for this conference has been aspire. And here’s the theme verse there on your outline Romans 15:20 and 21. I aspire to proclaim the gospel where Christ has not already been named. This is Paul’s aspiration. So that I do not build on another’s foundation. That’s called church planting. But as it is written, so that those who have never been told of Him shall see and those who have never heard of Him shall understand. Paul’s aspiration was church planting.
Now, I know some of you are saying, Rick, if you’d given me this message 20 years ago, but I’m getting a little older, and I don’t have the energy to be a church planter. Okay, I understand. But every church, you can either be a church planter or you can be a church parent. You know, there comes a point in your life that you want to stop having kids and start having grandkids. Anybody say amen to that? Okay. You need to be a grandmother church and a grandfather church and a great – I have great-great-great-granddaughter churches that have been started by churches started by churches started by churches out of Saddleback. And there’s great joy in grandkids. And maybe your church is going to grow to a certain size because the number one component on what determines a church’s size, sorry to tell you this, it’s not the pastor, it’s the location. And if you’re in a town of 50 people, you’re not going to have a mega church. So don’t feel bad or guilty, God put you where you are and you’d better stay put until God chooses to move you. Paul says I thank God for putting me into the ministry. But you know what? You can grow your fruit on other trees. And that’s what I want you to do. I want to challenge some of you to be scaffolding people. To give 90 days to help your church plant a church somewhere else. Overseas or here in America. You can do this. Young adults, if you’re not married or you don’t have kids yet, you could take a summer and do this.
Some of you who are nearing retirement or at retirement, what do you thing God wants you to do. You know, there’s one word not in the Bible. It’s retirement. You think God just keeps you alive to play golf? I don’t think so. And with all the maturity and all the effort that you have, you need to do in your church what we’re doing in ours which is we’re using the first generation to mentor the second. You have wisdom that is needed. And you can grow your fruit on other trees. Paul’s aspiration, to proclaim the gospel where Christ has not been known and not to built on another’s foundation, and I want to challenge you to make it your aspiration. Tomorrow and the next day, you’re going to hear the details.
I want you to take this card right now if you’d hold it up, and I want to challenge you to consider, as we prepare for these next two days, what you might do. I aspire for the global glory of God. And here’s three options. I will lead or help our church to plant a new church in North America. I will lead or help our church to plant a new church in North America.. There’s no reason you can’t do this. I will lead or help our church to plant a new church in an unengaged people group that doesn’t have a church yet. I will be a volunteer to be a 90 day scaffolding supporter for our church’s new plant. You be on a launch team. If you’re interested in training, we can give you some training. If you’re watching online, you want to make a commitment like this, you can text me, you can email me, or you can Twitter.
I’m going to ask you to fill this card out right now, and in just a minute, the choir is going to sing, and I’m going to ask you to make a public commitment to church planting. I’m going to ask you to bring your card forward and just put it on the table here. If you didn’t get one, there are some here at the front that you can have. We’re going to share these with the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board so that God might start a wave. Now friends, the train is leaving the station. You can either watch it, or you can get on board. You can either be a part of history of you can watch history. I don’t think God brought you all the way to Phoenix to just watch it happen. So I’m going to ask you to consider filling that out and then bringing it to the front during this next song.
And in a final word, I want to say this. If you are discouraged, if you’re having a tough time, I would be honored to pray for you. And it’s part of my ministry. And my team would be honored to pray for you. And I’m going to come down here over to the side and if you are going through a tough time right now, I’m a pastor’s friend. Let’s bow our heads for prayer.
Heavenly Father, I look out on all these people and I see so much talent, so much godliness. So many people who have given their lives to serve you. And yet we know that vision shrinks. Vision dims. Vision is easily lost. And when we lose our vision, we get discouraged. And Lord we know that there are those here today saying just like Isaiah, I’ve labored to no purpose. I spent my strength in vein and for nothing. I’ve put out all the effort and I don’t see many results. Help us, Father, to realize that we’re terrible judges of our own effectiveness. That in light of eternity, we will only know then the impact that our lives have had. For those who are discouraged, Lord, encourage them. For those who have lost their vision, give them a new vision. For those who have felt the spark leave, bring that back. Send the great revival in my soul, Lord. It’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me oh, Lord. And I pray that you would raise up a thousand courageous churches who’d say we will plant. For Jesus’ sake and in His name and by His grace, for the global glory of God. And I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
God bless you friends.