LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Overwhelming approval of a Great Commission Task Force
climaxed 25 minutes of discussion during the Tuesday evening session of
Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
Messengers authorized SBC President Johnny Hunt to appoint a task force
to determine how “Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and
effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”
The task force is to report its findings and recommendation to the 2010
annual meeting of the SBC in Orlando.
Three members of the task force named by Hunt today have North
Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, and J.D.
Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, were among the 19
members of the group. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, was also named to the task force.
Other members of the task force are: Ronnie Floyd of
Springdale, Ark., chair; Jim Richards, executive director, Southern
Baptists of Texas Convention; Frank Page, of Taylors, S.C.; David
Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Simon Tsoi, IMB trustee from Arizona; Donna Gaines of Cordova, Tenn.; Tom
Biles, director of missions, Tampa Bay Baptist Association; Al Mohler,
president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Drummond,
layman from Florida; Harry Lewis of the North American Mission Board;
Mike Orr of Chipley, Fla.; Roger Spradlin of California; Bob White,
Georgia Baptist Convention executive director; Ken Whitten of Tampa,
Fla.; and Ted Traylor of Pensacola, Fla.
Mohler earlier offered the motion to form the task force. He told messengers there was no reason
to fear asking if there is a better way for Baptists to work together.
He called the present “a turning point in history” and said churches
need to be more active in getting the gospel to the ends of the earth.
California messenger Ron Wilson offered a substitute motion calling for
the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board
each to study how better to reach their respective assignments with the
The substitute failed after Mohler countered that the thrust of the
Great Commission Task Force motion was not to address how the two
boards should do their work but how to get the resources needed by the
Jerry Nash of Florida called the motion “a waste of time, funding and
other resources.” He charged Southern Baptists no longer are agreed on
the “heart of the gospel.” He pointed out 30 percent of seminary
graduates are Calvinists, and Calvinists occupy leadership throughout
“If we cannot agree that God loves everyone and that Jesus died that
everyone may have the opportunity to hear the gospel, how can we expect
evangelical churches to support the convention?” he asked.
Former SBC president Frank Page of South Carolina responded that the
Great Commission Task Force rose above any single contentious issue. He
reminded the messengers that more than 20 years ago, messengers asked
the SBC president to appoint a Peace Committee to examine a difficult
At a press conference earlier in the day, Hunt said Southern Baptists
face a defining moment in history. Anticipating adoption of the Great
Commission motion, he told reporters, “Southern Baptists need a Great
Commission Resurgence to reemphasize reaching the lost, to inspire us
to do more church plants, to penetrate the darkness of lostness.”
While he has led the charge for the Great Commission Resurgence, Hunt
said he has never been alone. He noted an influx of e-mails from
international missionaries urging him to “stay the course” in its
Hunt said he had no desire to touch the structure of the SBC. He
declared his respect for the responsibility of trustees who are charged
with directing the various SBC ministries and said he had communicated
that position to state executives with whom he had talked.
Hunt said he wanted the Great Commission Task Force to come to its work
“at ground zero and begin there.” He added he was encouraged that IMB
and NAMB had already started to examine their work to see how more
funds could be directed to primary responsibilities.
Still, Hunt said he expects to find overlap of programs and services in
the denomination. He called some overlap good. Other overlap, he said,
was bad because it takes money that could go to “piercing the darkness
Hunt said he expects to find some state convention models to celebrate.
He added that the task force will challenge others to do more.
When asked if a 50–50 division of Cooperative Program funds between
state and national conventions was a goal, Hunt said that was a good
place to start.
“When can a state convention or a church say: ‘Enough is enough? We are big enough. Now we can give to penetrate the darkness.’”
Hunt said the starting point is with the church. They will be asked to
examine their priorities, he said. Associations and state conventions
will also be examined as well as the SBC.
In a theme interpretation Tuesday afternoon, Akin,
author of the Great Commission Resurgence document, urged approval of
the task force motion.
“Southern Baptists are compelled to get the gospel to the places where
the gospel is not known,” he said. He added that figures provided
by the IMB indicated 1.6 billion people never have heard the name of
“That is not acceptable,” he said. “We have to loose the passion of Southern Baptists for the lost.”
In the Tuesday morning opening session of the annual meeting, Morris
Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, raised questions
about the Great Commission Resurgence proposal.
“Is a Great Commission Resurgence more about the Great Commission than about the Southern Baptists Convention?” he asked.
“Does the Great Commission Resurgence seek to bring together all
Southern Baptists—at the national, state and associational level—or
does it unnecessarily alienate certain demographics?”
He also questioned whether the proposed task force honored the long-established principles of trustee governance of entities.
Finally, Chapman asked messengers to consider whether the proposal
seeks “personal transformation of our hearts or institutional
transformation of our structure.”