By Vicki Brown, Word&Way News Writer
Roach -- Relating the stories of four individuals involved in missions, national Woman's Missionary Union executive director Wanda Lee challenged messengers and guests at the Baptist General Convention of Missouri annual meeting to live the mission lifestyle.
Lee appeared at the BGCM session despite a request by Missouri Baptist Convention executive director David Clippard not to do so.
BGCM executive director Jim Hill called her "courageous," and convention messengers and guests greeted her with a standing ovation.
In her address, the WMU leader noted that many Baptists think they know what "missions" means because they can relate stories and statistics. Many Baptists believe missions education is important in their churches, and many go on mission trips.
"But do we really understand what the Bible teaches us about embracing missions as a lifestyle, and what our motivation should be if we are to commit our lives to following Christ?" Lee asked.
Lee pointed to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 as the command for all believers to be involved in missions. But, she added, love -- for God and for others as commanded in Matthew 22:37-40 -- is the other aspect of missions Christians also must follow.
"We can raise all the money ever needed to send missionaries to the uttermost part of the earth. We can go ourselves all over the world preaching the gospel, healing people of all diseases and feeding all the hungry people of the world. But if we miss the point of Matthew 22, it will all have been in vain," she said.
Believers' love for God with all their being must come first. "Out of that love must flow a deep love for others and a genuine desire to demonstrate that love in all aspects of our lives. If we miss that point, then our witness will be wasted effort," she said.
She emphasized that missions becomes a priority when believers have a personal relationship with Christ and when they understand that "missions and following Christ are synonymous."
Lee pointed out that WMU's purpose has been missions for 117 years and that WMU is and will remain true to that purpose.
She quoted former WMU president Ethylene Boone Cox that missions is "a long word" that "reaches from creation to eternity," "a deep word" that "extends from the depths of the heart of God to the heart of man" and "a wide word" that "includes the uttermost part of the earth."
Believers, Lee told her audience, are "called to embrace not only the Great Commission, but also the Great Commandment as we seek to bring a word of hope to those who have never heard."
Clippard had sought to convince Lee to withdraw from the BGCM invitation. The MBC executive director noted in a March 17 letter to Missouri WMU leaders and pastors that he told Lee he believes the BGCM, formed in 2002, would divert Cooperative Program funds away from Southern Baptist missions.
In a written response to Clippard, Lee said she accepted the BGCM invitation for two reasons. First, some BGCM-affiliated churches have WMU organizations and many send Cooperative Program gifts directly to the Southern Baptist Convention and are considered SBC churches.
Second, WMU assists "all churches that decide to grow in their missions awareness and commitment." (05-05-05)