ORLANDO, Fla. — Supporters
of the Great Commission Resurgence task force took a final opportunity to
garner votes for their report when they encouraged 1,300 primarily younger
pastors attending the B21 conference Tuesday to leave the luncheon and become
fixtures in the meeting hall.
“Please get into that hall,
sit in a chair and do not leave until somebody prays and we go eat,” said
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler.
Mohler was one of eight
panelists who answered questions presented them by Jon Akin and Jed Coppenger,
two leaders of B21, a movement intended to help participants discern what it is
to be Baptist in the 21st century.
The Great Commission
Resurgence task force report was the primary topic of conversation, along with
frank discussions about reasons to continue being involved with the Southern
Baptist Convention or to support its Cooperative Program missions channel.
Because changes suggested in
the task force report would require painful adjustments in some entities’
budgets where priorities would change, David Platt was asked to explain how he
made such changes in his church, Brook Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
Platt’s church determined to
shift $1.5 million from its budget that was spent on comfort and convenience
for members “to go to urgent spiritual and physical needs.”
“In the end, it’s not really
a sacrifice,” Platt said. “We still have much more than our brothers and
sisters around the world. … The reality of what we do as a convention is a
product of what we do in our churches. When we do that as churches, it informs
what we need to do as a convention of churches.”
Mohler called the decades of
the 1950s through the 1980s “fat” years in Southern Baptist life when they
could put money into good ideas.
Today, “everything’s got to
be provisional” and open for reconsideration in the light of gospel scrutiny,
Mohler said, because “I don’t think we’re ever going to be there again.”
SBC President Johnny Hunt
said the urgency voiced by young pastors has inspired him and his wife to
examine how they will commit more of their personal resources to missions.
all preachers, Hunt said, “There’s got to be more emulation to go with our
He is encouraged that no
matter the result of the task force vote, “The greatest change that will
probably happen has already come and that is that God will change our heart.”
Jimmy Scoggins, pastor of
First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., said he resents that “to be
considered a good soldier” in Baptist ranks, he has to “cooperate in too many
things I don’t believe in” and support departments in his state convention he
sees no reason to have, “money spent on good things by good people that should
be given to the inner city.”
“Our convention agencies are
going to have to compete for mission dollars,” Scroggins said. People seeking
missions funds come to his office weekly.
“It is a competitive
environment,” he said and he is going to lead his church to give to “networks
that are doing the best job.”
He said the task force report gives him hope that
such a network “will be the Cooperative Program.”
Matt Chandler, who
affiliates with the SBC and serves on the Acts 29 network board, said the SBC
will not be fixed overnight, but the key to his continued support is to discern
that it is “headed in a direction.”
By the same token, Chandler
said of Acts 29, “Anybody who thinks that’s a pretty house just hasn’t been
inside the house.”
Ed Stetzer, president of
LifeWay research said, “Southern Baptists are not now evidencing a serious
commitment to planting churches.”
Southern Baptists plant a
lot of churches only because they have a lot of churches already, he said.
per capita, Southern Baptists are low.
Mohler called the
Cooperative Program a “great economizer” and “great exercise in stewardship,”
when it was created in 1925.
But it is “toxic for a
denomination” to “focus on the vehicle rather than on the trip.”
He said Baptists have made
the Cooperative Program “worse than a golden calf” — not because they worship
the unified budget, but “we simply think we have to defend it.”
“Who wants to sell a product
you can only sell if there’s no other option?” he said.
“The CP is worthy of
support, but only as a means to get somewhere we need to go,” he said.
Mohler reminded the
audience: “We are not in that room as people who love the Great Commission and
people who don’t love the Great Commission. … Let’s pray this becomes a model for
how Southern Baptists can reason together, and do the right thing and go home
and lead our churches to reason together.”