A yearlong self examination process by a 22-member task force handpicked by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Johnny Hunt last year will ask Southern Baptists to “reset every priority” to focus on a single goal of “pushing back lostness” according to its final report issued May 3.
Southern Baptists will consider seven recommendations the task force is making when they hear the report at their annual meeting in Orlando on the afternoon of June 15.
A progress report issued Feb. 22 drew considerable reaction and task force members, chaired by Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark., and of Church at Pinnacle Hills in nearby Rogers, Ark., held numerous listening sessions across the country. Their final report reflects their responses to the input.
Whether the report will be presented as one recommendation or considered one component at a time is as yet undecided.
Floyd said that decision is in the hands of the presiding officer, although John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention and for 25 years a parliamentarian at the SBC, said in a recent interview he expects the report to be considered and voted upon one recommendation at a time.
Unlike the progress report, the final draft contains not only seven recommendations, but also 92 challenges to Southern Baptists individually and to their churches and institutions, all of which are aimed at focusing SBC individual and corporate life on winning the lost to faith in Christ. But it is only the recommendations that formulate the task force report that messengers will consider. To see the full report and challenges, go to www.pray4gcr.com.
In an introduction that says, “We must see a tidal wave of evangelistic and missionary passion” or Christians will fall further behind in their efforts to win unreached people, it says, “Churches in America are losing ground with each successive generation.”
The report recognizes that Southern Baptists “must see this generation of young Baptists take their places on the front lines of the Great Commission Resurgence” as “our only hope (humanly speaking) for a bold advance for the gospel in the coming generation.”
It says “there are bright signs of promise and ample signs of hope” if Baptists will “do whatever it take to see a great Commission Resurgence change our priorities, reshape our plans and fuel our lives for God’s glory.”
The first recommendation is to adopt a “missional vision” that will “reset every priority of the local church and the denomination.”
While the Southern Baptist Convention has a purpose statement from its founding days in 1835, the task force suggests the SBC operate from the basis of this statement: “As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
That statement is similar to the purpose statement adopted by Southern Baptists at their formation in 1835, but more narrowly focused.
Component two encourages Southern Baptists to make their values transparent in a “new and healthy culture” within the SBC.
It asks that Southern Baptists stand together in Christ-likeness, truth, unity, relationships in which we consider others more important than ourselves, trust, embracing responsibility for a future generation, honoring the local church and joining other Christ-followers “for the gospel, the Kingdom of Christ and the glory of God.”
Component three affirms the priority of missions giving through the Cooperative Program, but would create a broader accounting category to “celebrate” a church’s gifts to Southern Baptist causes outside CP as well.
It would create a “Great Commission Giving” category with CP as the central ingredient. This is one of two components that prompted the most reaction, primarily from people who believe it would further dilute the sense that CP is the primary missions giving channel.
Component Four — which also garnered significant reaction — says the North American Mission Board (NAMB) must be “liberated” and “unleashed for greater effectiveness.”
It wants NAMB to be free to plant churches, appoint missionaries directly and establish a national strategy without what the task force believes is the encumbrance of working with Baptist state conventions through cooperative agreements.
Cooperative agreements are working documents that outline strategy, responsibilities and shared costs between Baptist state conventions and NAMB when NAMB responds to requests from the conventions. Baptist associations also receive NAMB funding and work with a state convention to access those funds.
The task force believes too great a portion of such funds return to the southeastern states where Baptist work is strong, rather than going to underserved areas. It wants to phase out all such agreements over seven years in favor of another working agreement which has not been designed.
Verbiage in component four also says, “Our churches are in great need of leadership, strategies and materials for making disciples” and said NAMB is “best suited to fulfill this leadership mission.”
Component five would remove any geographic restrictions from the service areas of missionaries appointed by the International Mission Board. The IMB strategy to follow people groups rather than national boundaries should include the United States, the task force says, where as many as 586 people groups are represented.
That means IMB missionaries working with a people group in West Africa, for instance, could minister among those people in Detroit or New York or anywhere else they are gathered, lending their language and culture expertise to local churches.
Component six would encourage Baptist state conventions to take primary responsibility for promoting the Cooperative Program and stewardship among churches. It also encourages the states and SBC Executive Committee to develop a strategy “for encouraging our churches to greater participation and investment in the Cooperative Program.”
The preliminary report recommended removal of the responsibility altogether from the Executive Committee, but recognizes in the final report “there must also be a role” for the SBC in CP promotion. Component seven would move one percentage point of national CP allocations from the SBC Executive Committee to the IMB.
At current levels one percent equals about $2 million, which would be almost one-third of the Executive Committee budget and less than one percent of the IMB’s. The Executive Committee, which operates as the SBC between annual sessions and recommends the overall CP allocation for approval by messengers, has grown in recent years as it has assumed some responsibilities resulting from consolidating commissions and agencies in 1995.
For many years it operated on just one percent of CP allocations.
The task force acknowledges their report does “not represent a revolution in Southern Baptist life and work,” and says it is “only a start.”
It also recognizes “the challenge of working toward a Great Commission Resurgence will require the commitment of a generation, not merely of the messengers to an annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Members of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force: Johnny Hunt SBC President, Ex-officio member of the GCR Task Force, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.; Ronnie Floyd, chairman, pastor of First Baptist Church Springdale, Ark., and the Church at Pinnacle Hills, Rogers, Ark.; Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tom Biles, executive director, Tampa Bay Baptist Association; John Cope, pastor of Keystone Community Fellowship, Chalfont, Pa.; David Dockery, president, Union University; John Drummond, owner, DMG Development, Panama City, Fla., Donna Gaines, wife of Bellevue Baptist Church pastor Steven Gaines,_ÑŒ Cordova, Tenn.; Al Gilbert, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem; Larry Grays, pastor, Midtown Bridge Church, Atlanta, Ga.; J.D. Greear, pastor, The Summit Church, Durham; Ruben Hernandez associate Spanish pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; Harry Lewis, vice-president of Partnership, Missions, and Mobilization Group at the North American Mission Board (NAMB); Kathy Ferguson Litton, wife of First Baptist Church, North Mobile, Ala., pastor Ed Litton; Albert Mohler, Jr._ÑŒ, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Mike Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church, Chipley, Fla.; Frank Page, vice-president of Evangelism at NAMB; Jim Richards, executive director of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, Calif.; Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.; Simon Tsoi executive director of Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the U. S. and Canada; Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, Lutz, Fla.