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Floyd: IMB/NAMB merger not in GCR plan


Ronnie Floyd

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — The much-discussed merger of Southern Baptists’ two mission boards will not be among the recommendations presented to the Southern Baptist Convention at its June meeting in Orlando, the chairman of the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force said Feb. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., made the comment in an afternoon panel discussion about the task force’s work during the annual Pastors’ Conference at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Shortly after the GCR Task Force was formed, speculation at one point ran so high that the group might recommend to dismantle the Georgia-based North American Mission Board or to merge it with the International Mission Board that task force member Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, addressed it on the blog site as one of eight “myths” spreading among Southern Baptists. The idea that the task force was planning “to abolish NAMB or dissolve it into the IMB” was a matter of “intense discussion and interest” among Southern Baptists, Akin acknowledged in that article, but “a myth as it relates to the current work of the GCRTF.”

SBC President Johnny Hunt, also a task force member, addressed the subject during one of the earliest listening sessions – an Aug. 26 panel discussion at the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark. Hunt said at the time it was “poor journalism” that suggested the task force would consider disassembling the North American Mission Board and added: “There is absolutely no quote whatsoever to go with that. It is ludicrous.”

During the Feb. 1 event in Jacksonville, however, Floyd acknowledged the task force had weighed the option of changing the SBC’s two-board arrangement.

“Our sights are set on having the North American Mission Board, and our sights are set on having an International Mission Board,” Floyd told the group. “There was great, great, great discussion, study, 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 in response to a question from Jeff Callaway, a church planter from Cleveland, Ohio.

Joe Westbury/Index

Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White, center, and Roger Spradlin, left, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., listen to a discussion during the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force meeting in San Antonio, while Jim Richards, right, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Texas Convention, takes notes.

Not proposing a radically different approach to organizing Southern Baptist missions this year doesn’t mean the idea is not right “for a later day – five years from now, 10 years from now, you know, 20. Who knows? Only God knows,” Floyd said. Then he added: “We’re going to find a way to do some things together, which I think that’s going to be revolutionary.”

While the task force’s full report will not be released until May 3, Floyd said his presentation at the Feb. 22-23 SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville would “unveil a great part” of the final document.

In an interview with The Christian Index at the Jan. 27-29 Task Force meeting in San Antonio, Tex., Floyd underscored the considerable amount of work yet to be done and the limited amount of time in which to accomplish its goals.

“Our task is very large and we all have fulltime ministries and other normal demands on our time. We continue to be in the process of developing that vision and will continue to meet until we have finished the task,” he added.

“We still have a document to write.”

The Arkansas pastor did not say how many other times the group may meet, but did say an unofficial timetable was to have the final document released by May 3 on its website.

“Southern Baptists will be able to go online and see for themselves what we believe” the future holds for the denomination, both spiritually and structurally. “We will spend the month of May tweaking the document, if any tweaking is needed, before it is formally presented to messengers to the annual meeting in Orlando on June 15-16.”

All 6,000 individuals who have registered at the site will also receive an email copy of the document as soon as it is released.

Prior to the Feb. 1 panel discussion in Florida, Floyd had challenged the pastors in attendance to “face the facts” about lostness in America and around the world. Of 306 million people in the United States, at least 254.6 million are lost, Floyd said. And of the planet’s 6.8 billion people, 4 billion have little or no access to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Joe Westbury/Index

Larry Grays, pastor of Midtown Bridge Church in Atlanta, takes notes on his computer during the three-day meeting of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force meeting in San Antonio. His congregation, one of Georgia Baptists’ newest church plants, meets at Atlantic Station in downtown Atlanta.

The “massive lostness” of the world requires pastors to begin thinking like missions strategists, Floyd said.

“Do you realize there are places in your region where the Gospel has never yet been?” Floyd asked. “We need to find those places and we need to go fishing there. We need to discover the ponds of lostness, the tanks of lostness ... and take the Gospel there, advance the Gospel where the Gospel has never been.”

Serving as chairman of the task force the past seven months has changed both his life and his ministry, Floyd said.

“I wish I knew 20 years ago what I know today,” Floyd said. While he can’t go back and change the way he did things in the past, Floyd said, “I am setting the course for the future in a different way, to give my life to advance the Gospel, to penetrate the lostness of this world.”

The task force’s research has led him to a sad discovery: “the lack of urgency in our churches – and by the leaders of our churches and our denominations – the lack of urgency about advancing the Gospel to places where the Gospel has never been.

“That has to change,” Floyd declared. “To the degree that we understand and embrace lostness, intellectually and theologically, [that] will be the degree [to which] we operate our lives and our ministries with urgency.”

Floyd pointed out that in the moments following the massive Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, people turned the backs of pickups into ambulances and doors into stretchers.

“You know why?” Floyd asked. “Urgency called them to do it. If we want to penetrate lostness, we have to have an urgency that is unprecedented – in your life, in my life, in your church, my church, and all evangelical churches that want to penetrate lostness with the Gospel.”


Joe Westbury/Index

The 23-member Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, chaired by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, held its fifth meeting in late January in San Antonio, Texas. Previous meetings were held in Atlanta (twice); Springdale, Ark.; and at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.