Alabama pastor and SBC presidential candidate Jimmy Jackson made a two-stop campaign tour in North Carolina June harboring “serious concerns” about potential negative effects on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) if the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations are approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting June 15 in Orlando.
Jackson, hosted by Tim Rogers, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Indian Trail, had a breakfast meeting in Monroe, then a luncheon at Oakdale Baptist Church in Statesville where he answered questions from a dozen area pastors.
Speaking quietly but firmly, Jackson, the 70-year-old pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., said he knows and loves those who are promoting the GCR Task Force recommendations, but he is concerned that their rhetoric is establishing an invalid dividing line as if some support the Great Commission and others do not.
“We’ve all read, preached and believe the Great Commission,” said Jackson, pastor at Whitesburg for 32 years and an SBC parliamentarian for 23 years. “We’re in favor. We’ve spent our lives in one way or the other trying to do the Great Commission.”
He is concerned that the Great Commission is being defined only as planting churches and evangelizing, both efforts he heartily endorses. But all Christians are to be involved in the “make disciples” and “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” parts of the Great Commission that are not given sufficient emphasis in the task force report.
He feels adoption of the report will lead to further neglect of church health, weaken Southern Baptists in the long run and diminish the role of lay men and women who are Great Commission Christians when they do the work of the church. He mentioned as one example adults who tended the nursery so a single dad could hear the gospel presented in worship service, where he was saved.
Christians do the Great Commission “by our giving, by serving, by helping people, by going on mission,” Jackson said. “It’s not something that rests on my shoulders alone or on yours. It would crush us. But we all have our place.”
He said it is vital to teach people “not just how to witness” but “how to live their life” because problems don’t “suddenly go away” when you become a Christian. It would not take long if the church neglected disciple making before it would be so shallow it would be helpless, ineffective and broke.
He identified three typical groups in a period of change. He said the status quo group resists all change; the “go go” group wants to change everything yesterday; and the growing middle group recognizes, “We need to make changes, but not changes that are detrimental to us and not helpful.”
Hunt’s passion for souls
He said SBC President Johnny Hunt was driven to implement the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force from his “passion to win souls.”
But Jackson’s approach would have the new SBC president sit with the boards of every SBC entity and ask their input directly in what they can do to move their entity to higher effectiveness in winning souls, shedding any unnecessary bureaucracy and inspiring Southern Baptists to give more money to support their cooperative work.
Jackson said he put the GCR recommendations before a northeast business consultant and asked if the proposals would increase efficiency of the organization or decrease costs. He received a “no” to both questions.
He doesn’t deny the SBC faces issues but says the GCR report offers no solutions. As the business consultant told him, “Companies that try to change from the top down have failed,” he said. “You need to start with the local churches. Work with them. Help them get on fire.”
He said there may be some associations that could consolidate for more effectiveness, but that those issues need to be studied individually, not with a mandate from a select committee.
As to whether or not the GCR recommendations would help Southern Baptists baptize more people, the consultant told Jackson, “I think you will have such division and confrontation if this is pushed through, that you’ll go backwards.”
“I’m concerned that we’re getting stampeded,” he said of the “Madison Avenue” promotion of the GCR proposals, with a steady stream of endorsers being released to the GCR prayer partners and to Baptist news outlets daily. “Hasty decisions are not usually healthy decisions.”
Jackson, president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, said the bulk of Southern Baptist cooperative work “is going on behind the scenes in our states,” and he listed many services and ministries “that keep us alive and strong.”
He realizes his church is not a “pace setter” in CP giving, sending 4.64 percent of undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program. It gives nearly an equal amount divided between the special offerings for international missions and North American missions. He said he is going to talk to his leadership about directing more gifts through the CP because if others are designating away from CP, the nuts and bolts funding required for missions is being lost.
The funding issue is at the heart of much of the GCR impetus, with high profile pastors not getting the “credit” they feel their churches deserve when their percentage of giving to CP is low.
Jackson said he wonders if the GCR push “came from people that have some grudges going on.” “If the average Southern Baptist showed up in Orlando in numbers we’d vote this thing down and the election would be over,” Jackson said. “Whether they come out or not is the issue because we didn’t have $250,000 of CP money to promote this thing.”
The money Jackson referred to is the funds allocated by the SBC Executive Committee to conduct the work of the task force.
“The value of what Johnny (Hunt) has done is to fire a shot over the bow” to alert Southern Baptists that “some people don’t like the way things are done,” Jackson said. This is an opportunity to sit down and evaluate how we can meet the goals of winning souls, being efficient and increasing giving, he said.
He just doesn’t believe the GCR Task Force report is the right vehicle.