Published May 6, 2010
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — Future Southern Baptists will mark their 2010 annual meeting as the beginning of a Great Commission Resurgence in the same way they refer to 1979 as the start of the conservative resurgence that changed the face of the convention. At least that’s the view of panelists during a Great Commission Resurgence discussion at Southeastern Seminary April 28.
And it may take as long to show similar results, they said, cautioning patience on the part of the seminarians in attendance and reminding them it took 20 years for the convention to fully reflect the results of the actions that started in 1979.
Just five days before the May 3 release of the much-anticipated update of their recommendations, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force members Daniel Akin, J.D. Greear, and Al Gilbert were present to answer questions presented by John Akin, representing Baptist21, which put the panel together. Another GCR task force member, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, and SBC President Johnny Hunt presented videotaped answers to questions they received earlier. Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd answered questions live via teleconference.
Panelists encouraged pastors to bring their maximum number of messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., to vote approval of the task force recommendations, which will be presented after lunch June 15.
When asked if task force recommendations simply rearrange SBC bureaucracies, Greear, pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C., said, “The cry of the conservative resurgence was ‘We don't want to give money to liberal institutions.’ Now the cry is, ‘We don’t want to give money to bloated bureaucracy.’”
He said Rome was neither built, nor unbuilt, in a day and the task force recommendations are a “first step that will need to be followed by many more steps.”
Greear told the seminarians most of them would be able to grow a church without the SBC or the Cooperative Program, “so what's the point?” Then he encouraged them to spend time on the mission field or with an unreached people group and “very quickly you will conclude you need cooperation with other churches to reach those places. That will lead you back to the SBC for missional reasons,” he said.
Several questions related to the potential effect of task force recommendations on Cooperative Program (CP) support.
Greear said younger churches are not as excited about giving through the Cooperative Program because they no longer look to convention leadership as pastors did 20 years ago. “We live in a flat world with lots of other ways to communicate” and find resources other than by going to a denominational knowledge broker, he said.
The task force report is sending a “clear message to institutions that there is a real heart in Southern Baptists to spend more money in missions,” Greear said. “The days of a bloated kind of centralized bureaucracy that leads the mission ... those days are a’changin.’”
Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, told the group, “We need you to join in on this force so we can make a difference. You can become a catalyst to lead change.”
John Akin, Daniel Akin's son and pastor of a Highview Baptist Church satellite in Louisville, Ky., moderated the panel and presented questions that had come from around the country.
After a brief description of the declining statistics in the SBC where the "evidence is overwhelming that we're losing ground," Daniel Akin, president of host Southeastern Seminary, said Baptists must become “more aggressive, more efficient, and more effective in reaching lostness in North American and around the world.”
That will require change, the panelists said. First, it will require “spiritual renewal through repentance,” according to Floyd, who said the spiritual emphasis of the task force's recommendations has been overlooked as people studied the structural aspects.
Ultimately the task force cannot instruct individuals, churches, Baptist state conventions, or national entities, they said. They can only lay out a compelling vision, trust that Southern Baptists will stake their claim to it, and believe that repentant, committed believers will give sacrificially to support it.
At the same time, task force members expect the boards of entities and institutions to respond structurally to the vision Southern Baptists adopt to free more resources to reach highly populated areas of North America and unreached people groups overseas.
Exactly what they are changing to “will take some time to figure out,” Mohler said. But the task force is sure Southern Baptists don’t want to use mission money simply to replicate a denominational structure in small state conventions, “but to create thriving congregations.”
“They want money deployed to planting gospel churches,” Mohler said.
The Southern Seminary president also said “localism,” or churches spending more on local ministries, is one reason CP giving has been dropping.
“We do need a great example from the leaders of our convention in terms of support for the CP,” Mohler said. He said churches that are “committed” are going to have to send more than 6 percent of their gifts to missions through the CP and individuals are going to have to give more if churches are to send more.
Keeping true to their pledges of confidentiality, panelists did not reveal any changes in their original recommendations that may have resulted from their final work session April 26 in Nashville.
Floyd said the final version of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report will be released online at www.pray4gcr.com at 9:30 a.m. May 3.
This story was edited down from a much longer version posted on Baptist Press on April 29. Visit www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=32832 to read the full version.
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