By Norman Jameson
The long-awaited second edition of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was released May 3, and interest is high. Revisions indicate task force members heard the reactions of Baptists to their initial progress report which came out Feb. 22.
Committee chairman Ronnie Floyd’s assertion that it would be “significantly” different is an exaggeration for which he is easily forgiven. He’s likely just glad to be done with it. He said in an April call that he has been working “from dawn to exhaustion.”
On a conference call May 4 with Baptist editors, Floyd said the committee’s goal is to create a new culture among Southern Baptists, to focus us on “a new culture of trust, of coming together in love for the sake of the gospel.”
The original six recommendations have been expanded to seven, with the addition of a new first recommendation. And the report, written primarily by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, adds a host of recommendations “to” the Southern Baptist Convention, its entities and to individuals, families, churches and pastors.
Maybe most significantly, the initial recomendations’ four-year phase-out period for the cooperative agreements that govern the mutual work of the North American Mission Board and Baptist state conventions has been extended to seven years.
Asked how that delay would sit with impatient folks who are urging significant changes in SBC status quo right now, Ted Traylor, task-force member and SBC presidential candidate, said the effort was to balance the urgency felt by some with the time state convention leaders said they needed to make the adjustments such a change will require.
Language was softened in the final version to indicate a greater appreciation for the partnerships through which Southern Baptists operate in all areas. But there is still some disconnect between what the task force wants to see and what Southern Baptists are already doing.
For instance, the task force wants to contextualize missions for church planting through a re-created and “liberated” North American Mission Board (NAMB). But no one better knows the context for church planting than the associations and state conventions, which are identifying, recruiting and training church planters in their context.
While missions strategists at all levels say “churches plant churches,” not denominations or boards, the task force asks Southern Baptists to affirm NAMB “with a priority to plant churches in North America.” The recommendation later states that NAMB exists to help churches in “their task” of reaching North America. So it seems the report disregards those already living in the context while urging NAMB to be the primary teacher of contextualization.
I don’t want to pick nits here, because this document is not Scripture. But these things have a way of working themselves into an unintended status as doctrine.
I am glad somebody is kicking the SBC horse to get it back on its legs and pulling the cart again. As the task force makes clear, none of its recommendations has a chance of success if individuals and churches are not captivated by the vision.
Chairman Ronnie Floyd has said for weeks the compelling vision that will rally Southern Baptists to unified effort (for the first time since Bold Mission Thrust) will be presented June 15 at the Southern Baptist Convention in the form of these task-force recommendations.
The one new recommendation asks Southern Baptists to establish a “new mission statement,” which the task force says should be “to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
It is a great vision and a high-purposed goal and resounds of Scripture. In fact, it reminds me of the 1976 Bold Mission Thrust goal that once united Southern Baptists: “that every person in the world shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ in the next 25 years — and can understand the claim Jesus Christ has on their lives.”
That train was derailed by the denominational infighting that the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is hoping to carry us beyond. One generation lost is enough.
If the SBC is to adopt a new mission statement — and such adoption should be considered a huge undertaking — what is the statement it replaces? The SBC was formed in 1845, according to our founding documents, for the “purpose of carrying into effect the benevolent intention of our constituents by organizing a plan for eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the denomination for the propagation of the gospel.”
The purpose of our convention, according to Article II of our bylaws, is “to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad and any other objects such as Christian education, benevolent enterprises, and social services which it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.”
Are a “purpose” and a “mission statement” the same thing? If the proposed mission statement is an add-on, it can be enthusiastically endorsed. If it is to change the purpose statement of the convention, it needs far more serious consideration than to be the first of seven recommendations from a task force formed for a different purpose entirely.
The task force still wants to dilute the Cooperative Program by making it the “first and primary component” of something they would call Great Commission Giving. The progress report in February basically would have taken any responsibility for Cooperative Program promotion and “returned” it to the state conventions. The new version still doesn’t recognize that the states have always had primary responsibility for CP promotion and it urges the SBC Executive Committee to work with state conventions to form a “unified strategy with clearly established goals” by 2013.
My strategy to encourage churches to higher CP giving is this: Demonstrated commitment to CP from those who lead the Southern Baptist Convention.
SBC president Johnny Hunt, who has pledged to double his church’s CP giving this year to about $900,000, rightly reminded the editors that no one responds positively to criticism. You can’t get someone to do more of something by emphasizing how little of it they currently do.
He reminded us that “thousands” of churches that claim SBC affiliation give nothing to CP — and the six-percent average church CP commitment would be much smaller if not for the large dollar amounts churches like his provide.
Missions education will be very important to any success of engaging the next generation in Great Commission purposes, the task-force members on the phone call said.
I think I see the resurgence of another great old idea. Anyone have the Woman’s Missionary Union phone number?