JACKSONVILLE (FBW) – After “great, great, great discussion” studying a possible merger of Southern Baptists’ two mission boards, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) has concluded it will not recommend a merger, Chairman Ronnie Floyd said Feb. 1 at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Floyd spoke about the possible merger of the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board (NAMB) as part of a panel discussion with three other GCRTF members during the church’s annual pastors’ conference.
Responding to a question from a NAMB church planter in Cleveland, Ohio, Floyd said “Our sights are set on having the North American Mission Board and our sights are set on having an International Mission Board. There was great, great, great discussion studying, planning and even to the point of having strategic formation of the possibility of the other. But we just really sensed in our heart that wasn’t right at this time.”
He added, “That doesn’t mean it’s not right for a later day – five years from now, ten years from now, you know, twenty. Who knows? Only God knows.”
The GCRTF’s consideration of a merger between Southern Baptists’ national and international missions agencies makes at least the 11th time such a merger has been considered – and rejected.
Although not recommending a merger, Floyd said, “We’re going to find a way to do some things together, which I think that’s going to be revolutionary.”
Speculation has swirled among Southern Baptists about a possible merger of the mission boards since the earliest days of the GCR movement, starting with the April release of “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence” declaration – the manifesto that became the basis for the SBC’s creation of the GCRTF in June.
The GCRTF was charged to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”
NAMB trustee chairman Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, was the first to publicly call for such a merger, telling Florida Baptist Witness in May he signed the declaration with the belief that it was time for a “singular world mission agency.”
Although NAMB trustees later unanimously affirmed the “crucial” role of the agency, talk about a possible merger continued, with retiring IMB president Jerry Rankin telling reporters in September that he was open to the idea of an entirely new missions board that would replace the IMB and NAMB.
In an October interview with the Witness, Floyd urged the IMB and NAMB presidential search committees to be “very prayerful and watchful” of the GCRTF’s work, causing further speculation of a possible significant denominational re-structuring.
In a brief interview with the Witness following the panel discussion, Floyd elaborated on the task force’s serious consideration of a merger.
“We were passionate about the possibility of that. We dreamed about it. We strategically tried to even consider formulating that,” Floyd said, adding later, “And a lot of things pointed to it.”
In the end, the task force concluded it was not the “will of God for us” at this time, he said.
Joining Floyd in the panel discussion was SBC President Johnny Hunt, seminary presidents Al Mohler and Danny Akin, all part of the 23-member GCRTF.
Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the task force has studied the SBC “with a fine-tooth comb” and said the group has “great passion” for two things – reaching the “massive lostness” in the nations where the gospel has not been heard and reaching “massive unreached areas of North America.”
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said although greater effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission among Southern Baptists is not an issue about money, “money points to the issue.”
Saying the problem of “localism” must be faced, Mohler said the average Southern Baptist only gives two percent of net income “to any of God’s causes,” and the average SBC church retains 94 percent of the money given.
Seemingly reflecting on discussions about Cooperative Program distribution between state conventions and the SBC, Mohler said, “We’ve got a localism that is not starting with the SBC and not starting with the state conventions; it’s not even starting with the local churches. It starts with Southern Baptist individuals.”
Mohler added: “It’s going to take a whole lot more than doing a little better. … It’s going to take Southern Baptists reevaluating everything we are and everything we do, starting at home long before it gets to anything like the structure of the Southern Baptist Convention.”