There is a common stock of statistics and stories that are being drawn upon to indicate the need for a change in the SBC. This common stock includes lower baptism numbers, drops in membership, the vast lostness of North America and the Nations, having to bring IMB missionaries home, among others. If the purpose of the SBC is the “propagation of the gospel,” then quite simply we must change in order to become more effective. The GCR is a call for that change and for a renewed passion for the Great Commission.
Baptist 21 fully endorses the GCRTF report. Every one of our members will be in Orlando to joyfully cast a vote in favor of the GCR report. Here are some of the reasons why we will support this report and why we think you should get to Orlando and support it as well:
1. The missional vision and spiritual emphasis of the report.
The proclamation of the Gospel and discipleship are the mandates Christ gave to us in His Commission. The report rightly recognizes this, and it recognizes the need for spiritual renewal and unity in order for us to cooperate together effectively in this mission. May the way we live be a testimony to the Gospel.
2. The primacy of the local church.
In the preliminary report the local church was called the “headquarters” of the SBC, and the final report rightly affirms the local church as the primary institution by which Jesus accomplishes his mission in the world. A good shift is taking place in the SBC where churches are becoming much more hands on in church planting, international missions, pastoral training, etc. No longer are many churches content to farm out the mission of Christ to other entities. The GCR is calling for a grassroots movement of local churches aided by the support of our wonderful SBC partners!
3. The freeing of NAMB to be a strategic church planting network.
The report calls NAMB to a primary focus on church planting (50% of their efforts), which is the best way to sustain a long term assault on the lostness of North America. We believe most Southern Baptists thought this was NAMB’s focus all along. The cooperative agreements between NAMB and the state conventions served us well, but the time has come for a new strategy which allows NAMB to focus directly on aiding local churches in planting. Phasing out the cooperative agreements will allow NAMB to unleash 50 million (or more) dollars for church planting through partnerships with state conventions in the least reached and least served areas of North America, including major urban centers!
4. The strategic focus on the least reached areas of North America prioritizes impacting lostness.
This is huge, and the strategy includes people (“boots on the ground”) as well as dollars. We continue to spend 2/3 of our missions dollars in the areas most saturated with churches. If we are going to penetrate underserved and unreached areas we have to shift our strategy to focus on those areas. The GCR does that. Many have feared what phasing out the cooperative agreements will do to frontier conventions, but as Dr. Floyd has said the GCR means “help is on the way.” This doesn’t mean less for frontier areas. It means MORE!
At present, the majority of NAMB missionaries are serving in the most reached and most served areas of North America (see recent blog by Micah Fries). Despite some comments that we as the SBC have “gotten outta Dixie,” the evidence shows that we are still a mostly Southern convention, and we are failing to direct significant resources (people and money) to the places with the least access to the Gospel. Baptist 21 has a heart for reaching lost persons in the south, but we also believe there are thousands of churches in the South equipped to reach their neighbors.
5. The reaffirmation of the CP as the central missions funding channel.
The report clearly highlights the CP as the preferred and primary funding channel for SBC missions. The genius of the CP is part of what makes the SBC great. This is how we can do much more together than we can apart. It allows us to much more affordably train pastors and support missionaries. We are glad that the GCRTF has not only said that in word on paper but is actually modeling it. Johnny Hunt and Ronnie Floyd are not just calling individual churches to increase their giving to the CP, but they have been leading their churches to give more to the CP. President Hunt was recently praised in Baptist Press for it.
6. The celebration of all Great Commission Giving to SBC Causes.
The report calls on the SBC to celebrate not criticize all missions giving to SBC causes whether designated or undesignated. Some fear this will make us less cooperative, but GC giving actually shrinks the total missions giving category to only recognize what is done in cooperation with the SBC. This recommendation also puts the local church in the driver seat and matches with what we say our ecclesiology is. This celebrates the freedom that local churches have to voluntarily cooperate in mission and keeps us from setting benchmarks that determine how “Southern Baptist” you are (or worse how “missions-minded” you are).
Currently, large portions of the giving that allows us to do all of the amazing things God so graciously allows us to do as Southern Baptists comes from designated giving. According to the statistics of the 2009 Annual Book of Reports “designated giving,” if it were viewed as a state convention, would be the 8th largest contributor to SBC causes. Designated gifts are larger than contributions from Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and other Old Line State Conventions. So, much of the giving that allows us to support SBC missionaries and entities is being designated already, why would we want to criticize that?
7. The unleashing of IMB to reach unreached peoples living on American soil.
This is a strategic and wise move given that there are over 500 Unreached People Groups with significant populations in the US. The IMB is focused on cross-cultural and cross-linguistic ministry, so it makes sense to use the training our missionaries have to reach across linguistic and cultural barriers here to reach the nations that have come to us!
8. The designation of more resources to the IMB.
This is the passion of the SBC. With over 6,000 Unreached People Groups in the world and over 1,500 Unengaged People Groups, the fact that we are having to decrease our missionary force and suspend historic programs like ISC that have led many into career missions is heartbreaking to Southern Baptists. The GCRTF is concerned with getting more resources to the IMB, and we are sure if they could’ve found a way to give even more then they would have, but this is a good first step. If we increase the CP allocation to the IMB by 1%, if we rise to meet the challenge of $200 million for Lottie, if individual Christians sacrifice to give more, and if each state convention passes on at least 50% to the SBC, then we will be able to unleash waves of missionaries to those who’ve never heard the name of Jesus!
9. The challenges.
The challenges to individuals, pastors, churches, etc. at the end of the report are quite frankly the heart of the report. If we are going to experience a real GCR it will be a grassroots movement led by churches, pastors and laymen. If we are going to experience a real GCR it will be because every SBC entity at every level owns this vision and works toward it. These challenges give us great ideas on how that can become a reality. Our prayer at B21 is that starting with us and our churches we will rise to meet these challenges!
Baptist 21 could not be more excited about the possibilities for the SBC in the 21st century if these recommendations and challenges become what we are and do in the SBC. These recommendations and challenges if accepted and followed will be a good first step in the right direction towards a GCR. We will be in Orlando to support them, and we think you should be too. Baptist 21 exists to promote gospel centrality among all nations through the local church in the SBC throughout the 21st century and beyond. We think the GCR vision is a compelling vision towards that end!
Baptist 21 will host a panel luncheon on Tuesday at the convention to discuss these issues with key SBC leaders. To register click here and for more info visit www.baptist21.com
For all the reasons you express above, the GCRTF report has my “full” support.