FORT WORTH, Texas — More than 40 students and pastors in a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) seminar at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary participated in a panel discussion, July 6, discussing the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force, which was appointed by SBC president Johnny Hunt at the annual meeting in June; its role as a continuation of the Conservative Resurgence; and how Southern Baptists can be involved.
Panel members included Ronnie Floyd, GCR Task Force chairman, an alumnus of Southwestern, and pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark.; Al Mohler, GCR Task Force member and Southern Seminary president; Nathan Lino, an IMB trustee and pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church; and David Allen, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern. Steven Smith, associate dean for the D.Min. program at Southwestern, moderated the panel with Floyd and Mohler participating via telephone.
Reflecting on the approval of the task force, Floyd said, “I believe that day was one of the great days in my life as a Southern Baptist pastor … because I saw a denomination really rally around the cry of the Great Commission. Let’s put everything on the table, and let’s see what we can do to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And that’s how Dr. Hunt and I are looking at it.”
When asked what church leaders could do to help, Floyd called on pastors to inform their congregations that the SBC is doing an in-depth study to get more resources toward fulfilling the Great Commission. He also encouraged pastors to point their people to the GCR document.
Floyd admitted that the assignment the task force has been given cannot be accomplished without God’s help. The task force’s first two meetings are scheduled for August, and Floyd requested prayer for them as they embark on this undertaking.
“My goal is to try to get 5,000 Southern Baptist Christians to walk alongside us in this with prayer,” he said.
Mohler said involvement in the SBC by younger pastors is an issue of stewardship and cooperating to accomplish something greater than themselves. He expressed gratitude for the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence and excitement about the “new generation rising to responsibility in the SBC.”
“This is the generation produced by the Conservative Resurgence,” Mohler said. “Without the Conservative Resurgence, we would have no hope of seeing a generation of those who are now on our seminary campuses, young men who are now planting churches, younger pastors who really are rising to the moment of denominational leadership. I think it comes as we understand that we have inherited patterns for which we are grateful, in terms of the stewardship of the mission entrusted to the SBC, but even more pressing questions about what kinds of structures, processes and all will really fit a missional approach to the 21st century. What we’re looking at here is a generation that, to its credit, is disinterested in the older kind of patterns of Baptist cooperation. …
“The denomination will either be the answer to what they seek to be the responsibility of the church to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to see the nations exalt in the name of Christ, to see God-honoring, biblical congregations formed in the United States or this generation will find another answer to that question. I want the Southern Baptist Convention to be the answer to the question ‘How best do Southern Baptists do that together?’ A tribal identity just is not going to work. …
“When I talk about the tribal identity, I’m talking about the Southern Baptist Convention produced particularly in the 1950s and the 1960s — a generation that had a very corporate mindset. … They sublimated theological conviction to an institutional, tribal ethic. The leaders of the Conservative Resurgence were not only willing to break that tribal ethic, they basically became outlaws in the old denominational infrastructure.”
When asked if the IMB needs a Great Commission Resurgence, Lino replied, “Absolutely. I think a lot of this GCR groundswell has come out of a need at the IMB.”
He explained the $30 million shortfall in the 2008 Lottie Moon offering, resulting in suspension of critical missionary endeavors and cutbacks on missionary appointments. Because of the shortfall, the IMB only has the funds to appoint 200 missionaries to the mission field in 2009, and as of May, 191 have been appointed.
“So, from May until December of 2009, are you as a Southern Baptist satisfied with the fact that we can afford nine missionaries?” Lino asked.
“We have missionaries right now who are fully trained, appointed, ready to go, that we cannot send to the field, and we have people who are dying and going to hell over this.
“Here’s the sad factor: In 2008, if you count the money given to buildings, missions and budget giving, Southern Baptists gave $12 billion to our churches. Of that, 2.5% got to the IMB, and only 5% of the world’s population lives in the United States. I think we need a Great Commission Resurgence. I think we’ve lost our focus, and we’ve got to get back to valuing the people overseas who are dying more than we do the programs that satisfy our happiness here in the states.”
Later in the panel discussion, Lino said the IMB is “very efficient in its spending.”
“There’s this perception out there among some that the IMB is not as focused as they should be about spending. I can tell you as a trustee that is simply not the case. Upwards of 70 percent of our income goes to personnel salaries. We invest Southern Baptist dollars in the people that God has called to go there and do the work. There is not all this fat slush fund sitting around that is being misspent.”
Allen was asked questions about his views on the GCR document and its relationship to the Conservative Resurgence. He expressed both excitement and concern over the GCR document, mentioning questions about the scope of article nine in the document and the extent of the phrase “methodological diversity.” Regardless, he signed the online document.
“Like all documents, no document is perfect,” Allen said. “I’m in basic agreement with what the GCR document is all about. We’ve got to focus on the Great Commission, no doubt about it.”
As for the first generation of those in the Conservative Resurgence — including Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, who Allen is closely associated with — Allen noted that everything in the GCR document is “exactly what they were pushing.”
“A Great Commission Resurgence, if it is done biblically, is exactly what we need,” Allen said. “So, from that standpoint, I am optimistic about where it could go and what could happen. Cautious but optimistic would be my way of viewing the document and why I’m supporting it. “
Allen said he is excited about those who have been appointed to the task force, and Southwestern is proud to have Southwestern graduates serving on it. Of the 18 members appointed, nine attended Southwestern.
Both Floyd and Mohler encouraged pastors to contact them and other task force members with questions, concerns and suggestions.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)