Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, lowered the anxiety level of some participants in a national conference call Tuesday with up to 500 participants arranged by the Network of Baptist Associations.
Floyd reaffirmed that any recommendations concerning the North American Mission Board would still involve partnerships and that NAMB would not be a strategy “island.”
“We’re not trying to create a NAMB operating unto itself,” Floyd said. “It can do nothing apart from local churches and little apart from state conventions.” Then he said strategies among NAMB and the associations and state conventions “may look a little bit different than before.”
“There is going to have to be sacrifice,” said Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark., and of nearby The Church at Pinnacle Hills. “There’s going to have to be change” as the task force looks for ways to marshal resources to “push back lostness” in the world.
But, to the relief of associational missionaries in areas where Southern Baptists are not strong, and whose work is heavily funded through the North American Mission Board, Floyd said, “By no means does the task force imagine NAMB being an island not working in partnership with churches, associations and state conventions.”
Strategy, not projects
Floyd said the task force is going to change terminology from its initial report in which it said future mission investments are more likely to be “project driven.” Rather than “project” he said the more accurate term is “strategy.”
With nearly half the task force on the call, moderator Bobby Gilstrap of Michigan asked several questions submitted earlier. This was a “listen only” call because of limited time.
Floyd said the task force’s single goal is to “penetrate lostness.” Every recommendation is a means to that end, he said.
He expressed a desire that the task force could meet face to face with every Southern Baptist so all could hear their voice and “understand our hearts.”
Young pastors seem to “love everything we’ve recommended,” Floyd said because the recommendations are “about the local church” but provide broad entry points into the denomination.
Floyd also said adoption by the SBC of task force recommendations will draw “real interest in people who have fallen by wayside” to re-engage with the Convention.
He said others have expressed disappointment in task force recommendations because it did not address other issues. He said, “We had one assignment; to put more dollars, personnel and strategy toward penetrating lostness.”
He admitted to the task force having a “Very, very difficult learning curve,” but suspects even denominational staff would have had a learning curve to absorb the enormous amount of material the task force considered.
While the mega church, southeastern flavor of the task force has been criticized, Floyd emphasized its membership includes eight “who receive compensation for serving Baptist entities,” several from the west, people with associational leadership experience and two state convention executives.
“Our decisions have not been made in a vacuum,” he said.
GCR Task Force member David Dockery, president of Union University, said task force members “celebrate the significance of associations in our history,” which operated well before there were state conventions or a national convention.
Dockery said the task force wants to bring Southern Baptists together “to work in cooperative, collaborative ways.” He said current collaborative processes “may not be the best ways to address issues of 21st century.”
Dockery said the core values that open the task force’s recommendations can “change the culture of Southern Baptist life,” which he said is “unfortunately characterized by fragmentation rather than cooperation” with “many aspects characterized by decline rather than by moving forward.”
He said, when asked to talk about the most important ones, that commitment to truth and to “unity working through love” can best help “change the culture and emphasize cooperation.”
Task force member Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said having cooperative agreements with state conventions and associations is “essential.” Cooperative agreements are understandings between NAMB and state conventions that share costs for mission personnel. The task force recommends those agreements be phased out completely in four years.
Richards quickly followed his statement by saying, “Cooperative agreement and cooperative budgeting are two different things.”
Alleviating some anxiety by associational missionaries in new work areas whose ministry is funded through cooperative agreements with NAMB, Richards said it would be “foolish to try to bring new personnel into areas” where current personnel have necessary skills.
“Cooperative agreements will change,” Floyd said. “But there will need to be agreements of cooperation.”
Dockery said the task force read its assignment as coming up with an “overarching vision for how to be more effective, and faithfully carry out the Great Commission as a Convention,” which, he said, includes all aspects of the Convention, from national entities to state conventions, associations, and local churches.
The task force has no intention of telling NAMB how to conduct the national strategy assignment it is recommending NAMB receive. “Once we extend vision, it will be up to the administration and board of NAMB” to come up with the strategy to move the vision forward, he said.
He said partnerships “will be more important than ever” to move the vision forward.