Portrait of a boy with the map of the world painted on his face.

Portrait of a boy with the map of the world painted on his face.

There was incredible excitement in Louisville when 95% of SBC messengers at the 2009 Annual Meeting supported a motion for President Johnny Hunt to appoint a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to study our convention structures and come back with recommendations on how we can better cooperate to fulfill the Great Commission. For the first time in a long time there was hopefulness for many in our convention. It was a hopefulness that we would become a more Great Commission-minded convention. So, the Task Force set to its work, and thousands agreed to pray for them. Then, their report came out February 22nd. The reaction has been wide-ranging and diverse. Some think this will mean a bright new day of Great Commission activity in the SBC. Others apocalyptically forecast the destruction of mission activity in the SBC. How could we all agree then that changes needed to be made and have some come out on opposite ends of the spectrum when the recommendations were made?

I think one reason is found in a recent BP news article where the Evangelism Director in the Alabama state convention says the GCRTF recommendations will devastate Alabama missions. The article laments the ending of the cooperative agreements because he says many ministries will have to be reduced or abandoned if the recommendations pass, which also means some ministers will lose their jobs. These include deaf ministries, Hispanic ministries, a resort missionary, Asian ministries, a black church planting strategist, hospital chaplain, and many others. The reaction to this article has been varied in state papers, the blogosphere and the “Twitterverse.” One example is the varied reaction of Norm Jameson, the editor of the Biblical Recorder. He said in the comments section of one of his recent articles that comments  about the GCRTF recommendations devastating Alabama Baptists are “silly.” But, he does believe the recommendations will bring significant change. He says that “the effect of the financial adjustments to maintain those positions – or the loss of those positions – should not be underestimated.” Others are reacting by saying that the recommendations don’t go nearly far enough considering half the world lives with little or no access to the Gospel.

So, the recommendations frustrate some people because it seems like if they are passed then many good ministries will be cut and some good people might lose their jobs. This is lamentable for sure. I really do sympathize with their frustration. I really do wish there was an option to keep on doing what we are doing now as a convention while simultaneously getting more resources to the places of greatest need in our country, and especially the nations. That would be great! The problem is that it just doesn’t seem like that is a viable option. In almost all of the reactions to the GCRTF recommendations, almost without exception, the one thing everyone agrees on is that we do “need” a GCR. However, it seems that I keep reading that everyone is for a GCR and many more resources going to the places of greatest need in our country and the nations but only as long as our other ministries don’t get touched in the process. The most important question that needs to be asked though is, “what if that is not an option?” What if in order to reach millions with no access to the Gospel we have to strategically assess what we are doing and make hard decisions? What if that means we have to cut some “good” ministries for the “best,” most strategic ministries?

I certainly don’t have all of the answers, and definitely wouldn’t want to be the one in charge of thumbs up or down to certain ministries. But, it does seem that if a GCR is going to become a reality that there are some things we are currently doing that are really good things that wonderful men and women have poured decades of faithful service into that we need to think through creatively how to do them differently. One example could be resort ministry. My uncle was a pastor of a local church in a resort town. His church had ongoing ministries at the ski resort in their town and had a “cowboy church.” These ministries were all local church based and without CP dollars. If we can figure out some creative ways to do things like that then we can unleash greater resources to the underserved cities of our nation and the completely unengaged peoples of the world. That’s what the GCR is after, and that is what I hope all Southern Baptists are after. BUT, if we are going to get there, it means some difficult decisions will have to be made.

Everyone can agree that changes need to be made, but no one likes changes that affect them. I don’t mean to be unfair or imply that if you aren’t fully supportive of the GCRTF recommendations then you are against the Great Commission or not able to make difficult decisions for change. My point is that if we are going to reach places we are currently not reaching then difficult decisions between “good” ministries and the “best” ministries will have to be made. I think the vision of the GCRTF is the first step in the right direction toward a Great Commission Resurgence. My prayer is that we see the bold vision cast by the GCRTF and we make creative, sacrificial and difficult decisions to get there.

Addendum: One might object to this argument and say, “We can continue to do all of the things we are currently doing AND MUCH MORE around the world if people’s hearts got right with the Lord and they gave more to the CP.” Some are saying we don’t have an efficiency problem. They say we have a heart problem. They want to challenge pastors to challenge their people to give more, and they want to challenge pastors to lead their churches to give a higher percentage of their undesignated receipts to the CP. I want to state upfront that I partly agree with this objection. We do need greater financial sacrifice and generosity at the local levels, including me! We do need to give more to the CP if we want greater cooperation in the Great Commission. However, this objection assumes too much and doesn’t ask this key question, “Is the only reason why people/churches aren’t giving more to the CP a heart problem?” Are some decreasing their giving or designating their giving because they don’t think the allocation of the CP reflects global mission as a priority? It seems there are many who would say, “If we change the CP allocations so greater dollars get to the unengaged peoples of the world, then my people will be excited to give more to it, but they won’t sacrificially give to a system that doesn’t seem to prioritize the greatest mission needs in the world.” One recent example of this is Bryant Wright, who will be nominated for President of the SBC in Orlando. He has said that the current allocation, which keeps more dollars in our states than go to international missions, is exactly the reason for his church’s decrease in CP giving.

Is the biggest issue a heart issue or an efficiency issue? I think the answer is both. We need to challenge in both areas if we are to see a GCR. BUT, people can have their hearts in the right place and still not choose to be generous towards a system that doesn’t prioritize the unreached of the world. Let’s change both!

Comments 0

  1. So many issues…

    (1) I would hesitate to interpret the 95% vote as meaning that 95% of the messengers agreed that we are in a drastic state of emergency requiring a total denominational restructuring. The way it came across to me is that the body felt a vote in favor of Dr. Mohler’s motion was essentially a vote in favor of the Great Commission. The articulate Seminary President in his host city celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Southern made an early morning motion generating very little discussion. Basically, there may not be as much sentiment for catastrophic change in the SBC as some people believe.

    (2) There is definitely a limit to what the Task Force can do. They might propose these changes, but the Executive Committee, the State Conventions and the entities themselves have autonomy as well within their various boards and bylaws. The SBC can pass motions asking those Boards to “study” and “consider” certain changes, but they cannot easily dictate to other autonomous bodies.

    (3) I, for one, did not feel “hopeful” as you stated. In fact, I was so disappointed with what appeared to be rather stifled and orchestrated measures I had to walk out of the convention, the first time I’ve done that in over ten years of attending the SBC. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking everyone favors this missions support restructuring. Some of us really believe it undermines the Cooperative Program and the whole concept of cooperative missions versus societal missions. We’re not angry or reactionary. We have legitimate concerns over the direction these moves would take us.

    (4) Are we reduced to name calling? I know the Evangelism Director in Alabama, and he does not make “silly” comments. In fact, there’s only one word for a person who would call his comments “silly” and that word is… Well, you see how this degenerates.

    (5) Why do we need a GCR? Because lost people are going to hell? We’ve been working on the Great Commission for years and will continue to do so. What has changed that makes the denominational restructuring of the “GCR” necessary? Let’s keep telling the world about Jesus and get with the program — the Cooperative Program. If we were still giving at 10% rather than 6.6% we would not be having this missionary funding crisis. Some of us believe we already have a Great Commission system in place known as the Cooperative Program. For us, many of these recommendations, though well intentioned, do not seem to be a wise course of action.

    To be succinct, if we place the “good” societal missions approach on the same plane as the “best” cooperative missions approach, I believe we will be making a serious error jeopardizing the greatest missions funding system in Christian history.

  2. Jon,

    I’ve talked to you about this in our off-blog conversation, so I’ll just append the question and let the group respond:

    The GCRTF is trying to “change the vision”, but are the states willing to listen? From Baptist Press (as you stated above), I am hearing, “Ooh, this is a bad idea!” from both frontier and old-line states. Our polity’s Achilles heel comes to the forefront yet again: we can defund the cooperative agreements and then watch the states keep even MORE money. This is why we need more people from other states in the conversation. GCR will have to follow CR’s trajectory: acceptance at the national level, followed by grueling floor-fights in the state annual meetings to bring us all on-board. My state (Missouri) just finished the turnover in the late 90’s…can we afford 20 more years of bloated states? And how else would we solve the problem?

  3. Not to beat a dead horse, but consider this article from yet another state convention executive director. He is very clear thinking and articulate in laying out his concerns. I don’t think anyone would accuse him of being “silly.” He also said what really needs to be said, perhaps even shouted, in Orlando: “Just because someone doesn’t like this proposal does not mean they oppose the Great Commission itself.” I really think some people would be afraid to vote against these proposals for fear that they are actually hindering the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

  4. I know that we have unreached people groups all over the world including North America. I pray that NAMB survives the cuts and proposals that are being made. To totally destroy a structure in the name of Great Commission Giving is just deplorable. I would like to know how come some of the same proposals made for NAMB aren’t also made for IMB. Interesting No changes submitted regarding our seminaries. HUMMMM. It’s hard to look at the GCRTF progress report and not see politics at work.

  5. Marty,

    I think that’s exactly right. If we want to continue to get the same results let’s just keep doing the same thing. The world is waiting.


    Maybe I’m reading you wrongly, but I am confused as to how component 5 is “petty/silly.” I can understand if you don’t agree with it but how is it silly?

    I am not sure that I want to equate CP giving (or Great Commission Giving) with “fulfilling the Great Commission.” Missions giving is great but it is not mission itself. I think this is one reason why this might actually be a very helpful change for the SBC.

    I have a friend who pastors a church in a state that has a liberal state college. As a result they designate part of their CP giving. They give every bit thru the state but designate the part that will go to this college and say send that to the IMB instead. As a result they get counted for zero CP giving in the state paper. Recently a couple had been visiting his church for several weeks but then refused to join b/c they told the pastor they couldn’t in good conscience join a church that wasn’t “missions minded.” My friend was confused b/c they participate in missions all over the world, so he asked why they thought this. They pulled out a copy of the state paper and showed the CP giving.

    If CP giving is how we are going to define mission then we are in trouble! Actually participating in mission must count for something.

    Also, there are churches right now that are asked by the IMB to personally fund ministries in places like the Middle East and those churches do so at high dollar amounts to train indigenous church planters. I think this is going a long way toward fulfilling the Great Commission and planting in unreached areas.

    Instead of celebrating this, some of these churches are often criticized for their “missions” giving b/c their CP amount doesn’t meet a benchmark.

    Again, there will be disagreement over this component, but I don’t think silly or not fulfilling the Great Commission is a part of the disagreement. The disagreement would be that this is not the “best” way to cooperate or fulfill the Great Commission, and then we’d have something to talk about.

  6. Rick,

    I appreciate your comments on this blog. I guess I may not have communicated clearly, so let me try to clear up some things.

    (1) I agree with your warning that the GCR vote may not mean that 95% of SBCers agree we need drastic changes. But, I think the vote does show that 95% of convention messengers thought things are bad enough in terms of missions in the SBC that we need to take a look at everything we do and ask the question, “Can we do it better?”

    I don’t think the majority of SBC messengers in Louisville were as confused as you think they were (or swindled by Dr. Mohler). The motion was not a motion for the Great Commission. Dr. Mohler said we should ask the question can we do better, and there’s no reason to fear the question. I think it was quite clear what we were voting on.

    I base my assessment that everyone agrees changes need to be made not solely on the vote in Louisville but also on the comments in all of the GCR viewpoints, including all of the state directors. None has come out saying we don’t need a GCR, we are doing just fine as is. They’ve all agreed that we need a GCR; they just don’t agree wiht the GCRTF on how to get there. That is fine. I wish alternate proposals would be made so a genuine discussion could be had. But, if we want to just continue to do things the way we’ve always done them then we will get the same results we’ve always gotten.

    (2) agreed on this point.

    (3) I am sorry that you weren’t hopeful after the vote in Louisville. Most everyone else was, and there was an energy in the room b/c I think people saw this as a sign that we might get more focused on the Great Commission. I am unsure why you were so upset about a motion to simply ask the question “can we cooperate in mission better?” Why would it ever be a bad thing to examine ourselves?

    Again, I didn’t see ay stifling or orchestration (or confusion)…

    I don’t think everyone is in favor of the GCR or “missions support restructuring.” Two things: 1) The GCRTF is not calling for missions support restructuring. They affirm and praise the CP as our method of cooperative giving. All Component 5 does is celebrate all Great Commission giving rather than criticizing it for not meeting a benchmark that defines one as Southern Baptist, or worse defines one as missions minded.

    Again though let me be clear, I don’t think those who oppose the GCRTF recommendations are opposing the Great Commission, and I wanted to make that clear in this article. I hope we can kindly disagree with each other.

    (4) I am sorry if the article was not clear here. The silly comment was not mine or anyone associate with B21. It was from the editor of the biblical recorder. I didn’t call the Evang Dir’s comments silly. So, I agree that name calling has no place in this discussion.

    (5) We do need a GCR b/c lost people are going to Hell, and mainly b/c there are millions who are headed there with no hope of even hearing the Gospel while we continue to spend the majority of our resources in the places with the majority of Christians/Churches.

    Yes we have been working on the GC for years, but the stats seem overwhelming that we aren’t doing a great job at it. So my question for you is “do you think everything should stay the same and we shouldn’t change anything?” What has changed that makes restructuring necessary is we are starting to slip (baptisms down, church attendance down, missionaries having to come off the field, etc.). We are noticing that things we did in the past that were great are not working now and need to be updated.

    I love the CP, but as I state in the article, simply telling people to give more is not going to work b/c some are decreasing their giving b/c they don’t see frontier/foreign missions prioritized in CP allocation.

    I don’t think anyone is calling for societal missions.

    In regards to your second comment, again I didn’t call anyone silly, and again the article states that one can oppose these recommendations and still love the Great Commission. And I don’t think people will be as confused as you think they will…

    Again, in terms of the argument of my article. do you think we just need to keep doing what we are doing? Or is there anything you’d change in terms of what we are actually doing at present?

    In my mind if we continue to do everything we are currently doing that means we won’t begin to focus on the places that are underserved and unreached.


  7. Andrew,

    I appreciate dialoguing with you and think you ask insightful questions.

    I think many believe we can’t wait 20 years of trying to streamline bureaucracies and raise a quarter of % in states more to SBC causes (specifically the IMB) in order to thrive as a convention.

    These recommendations may help shift us in the right direction. There needs to be a bold vision or no one will ever shift what they’re doing currently b/c it’s too uncomfortable to change.


  8. Jonathan,

    I’m sorry you’re so upset about the recommendations.

    How do you propose reaching the unreached people groups of the world? of North America?

    What structure is being destroyed? I am unclear on what you mean.

    Let me try to answer your question about why these proposals aren’t being made for IMB: 1) B/c IMB and NAM work completely differently. 2) B/c IMB doesn’t have cooperative agreements. They’re not working w/ state conventions or associations b/c there aren’t such things in many places that they’re working, 3) B/c $ given to IMB is being used to reach unreached people groups whereas much of the $ in the cooperative agreements is being used in states that are already saturated with churches…

    What would you have changed at the seminaries?

    I guess one could see politics at work in the GCRTF recommendations, but that doesn’t seem to be the intent at all. Plus what is the political gain in it? And for whom? It seems to me that we’ve got a group who genuinely wants to see us fulfill the GC as a convention of churches. You might disagree with their recommendations, but I don’t think judging their motives is helpful.


  9. To all who’ve responded or read the blog,

    Many seem to be hung up on one component or another from the GCRTF report and are asking questions about specific components. I think this is a good thing and needs to be done.

    However, the main focus of this article is on the fact that many are saying changes need to be made b/c business as usual isn’t working, but are reluctant to embrace specific changes. If we continue to do the same thing we will get the same results. In order to get different results we need to do something different.

    The question the article asks is if we don’t like the recommendations then what can we do different than we are doing now? Let’s ask the hard questions. If you think things need to stay the same then make that argument and defend it.

    I think these recommendations are good and will help not hinder the GC. I think there are ways in our convention entities to shift what we are doing currenlty and thrive in mission. If times are changing then we need to change to keep up or we will get left behind.


  10. Jon:

    I sent you an E-mail with a specific proposal for change. It is a “compromise” position. If you allow me do so, I’ll “copy and paste” it into a comment in this thread.

    One can either agree or disagree with “alternative” proposals to the interim GCRTF proposal. However, it is not correct to say that just because people disagree with the interim report that therefore they are defending the status quo and/or don’t see the need for change.

    The incontrovertible fact is that there are a number of possible improvements that can be made to the task force’s recommendations which will put more “boots on the ground” in pioneer states without such dire consequences for the state conventions and without anyone having to lose their job.

    Specifically, rather than handing people pink slips, people they can be moved to where the action is.

    My proposal calls for the state conventions to “implement some downsizing”. But, no one will get a pink slip.

    My proposal is budget neutral. Unlike the task force’s idea, it is not predicated upon “funds falling out of the sky”.

    The task force proposal calls for some [most?] of the people currently doing good work under the auspices of a “cooperative agreements” to be fired so the NAMB can hire others to work in “pioneer areas”. My proposal says move people to where they can be used more strategically.

    I don’t think it is making progress overall in the SBC if we just fire people and they end up working as 2nd shift managers at the local Taco Bell or they become greeters at WalMart. These people shouldn’t just be dumped in the street. We shouldn’t be taking seminary grads and tossing them in the gutter just because they don’t happen to be working in a place that we deem is strategic. Instead we should be doing whatever it takes in the SBC family to move them where the action is.

    This whole task force proposal is Darwinian. It is top down and out of touch.

    I used to manage a microcode development group in Silicon Valley. I never treated my people like this. If I had to downsize my own operation, I’d do what I could to help them find a decent job doing micro-coding even if it had to be at another location in the company or even I had to use my “network” in the industry to help them line up a position at another company. I can’t believe that any Christian organization could actually appoint a task force that comes out with a call to fire people across the board, independent of their competence or performance or the results they are achieving, and then endorse it as justifiable “collateral damage” for the greater good.

  11. Jon:

    I decided to put up my proposal. Here it is:


    Compromise Proposal Regarding a Way to Eliminate Cooperative Agreements
    April 2, 2010
    Working Draft V1.2

    Here is a compromise proposal. It DOES NOT involve terminating the employment of anyone currently employed under a state convention/NAMB cooperative agreement. Also, it is budget neutral to the NAMB, the old-line state conventions, and the pioneer state conventions.

    The highlights of the compromise are as follows:

    Consider an old-line state convention which has “y” number of people who – on a weighted average basis – have 60% of their salary covered by the NAMB via cooperative agreements. In that case, then the NAMB is free to transfer approximately .6y number of people to some “out of state” place which they feel is most strategic. However, the old-line convention could step in and agree to pay 100% any person’s salary and thus keep him on their payroll.

    Note: In actual practice, there would be “weighting” going on due to the fact that not all people are receiving the same salary. Also, only some integral number of people could be re-assigned from an old-line state to a pioneer state.

    All workers in a pioneer state would end up working within that same state. Any given worker would become an employee of either the NAMB or the state convention. At the end of this process, the whole thing would be budget neutral for both the pioneer state convention and the NAMB. Budget neutrality would be achieved by adjusting the number of people that end up either working exclusively for the state convention or working exclusively for the NAMB. There would have to be some allowance for “quantization” error to deal with situations where either the state or the NAMB would have to chip in slightly more than before in order that the “last person” would be working 100% for one or the other agency.

    The NAMB would have the right to substitute people currently in the state with others from outside the state on a one by one basis for people it is funding. Those leaving the pioneer states due to these substitutions would be assigned by the NAMB elsewhere. The idea is to bring the right talent to the right place.

    Note: For pioneer states a “state” includes all the states within a given “state convention”.

    Key aspects of this compromise:

    1. All cooperative agreements become null and void because all personnel previously covered by them end up working for — and having their salary fully funded by — either a state convention or the NAMB
    2. No one gets a pink slip.
    3. The scheme is budget neutral for the pioneer state conventions and the NAMB.
    4. The scheme is budget neutral for the old-line state conventions because when a person is transferred by the NAMB from the old-line state convention to a pioneer territory there is a loss of revenue offset by an equal reduction in expense at the old-line state convention.
    5. Old-line states would have the preemptive right to retain the services of a person currently covered by a cooperative agreement by assuming the NAMB portion of that person’s salary.
    6. Old-line states will lose some workers but they don’t have ongoing requirements to subsidize pioneer states.
    7. There are more “boots on the ground” in the pioneer states because of the transfer of people from old-line states to the pioneer states

    This is a compromise position and is different than any of my previous proposals and also different from the interim recommendation of the task force.

    Differences between the Task Force’s Proposal and this compromise

    The task force’s proposal is not explicit in a number of areas. The compromise spells out certain things that the task force’s proposal does not. The following is based upon my interpretation of the task force’s recommendation:

    Positive points of the compromise relative to the task force’s proposal
    1) Relating to personnel – no pink slips during the “transition period” due to downsizing. Terminations “for cause” would be handled by normal procedures
    2) Relating to NAMB – budget neutral
    3) Relating to old-line state conventions –
    a) No requirement for old line state conventions to send funds to pioneer state conventions [Note: it is uncertain if the task force’s proposal contemplates this or not]
    b) State conventions have the right to keep any personal currently working under a cooperative agreement in their state; budget neutral [but not personnel neutral]
    4) Relating to pioneer state conventions –
    a) No person currently working in the geographic area of a pioneer state convention is sent elsewhere during the “transition period”
    b) Budget neutral

    Negative points of the compromise relative to the task force’s proposal
    1) Relating to personnel – personnel may be asked to move from a the territory of an old-line state convention to a pioneer state convention area if they wish to maintain their employment with the NAMB
    2) Relating to the NAMB – the NAMB does not have the flexibility to move people from one pioneer state convention are to another pioneer state convention area – at least until some transition time has expired
    3) Relating to old-line state conventions —
    a) The old-line state convention would have to pick up the NAMB’s portion of a person’s salary that was previously covered by a cooperative agreement if the old-line state convention wanted to retain that person on their staff
    b) Reduction of number of staff.
    4) Relative to pioneer state conventions –some personnel currently under their control, or joint control, of the pioneer state conventions would become NAMB employees

    This proposal is a set of talking points to move things forward relative to the task force’s proposal. I do not represent any party to the negotiation, including any state convention or the NAMB or the task force.

  12. This is a great blog and I have enjoyed reading the comments as well because it shows that people are questioning what we are doing to get the gospel to the world. Honestly, until reading this I have not thought about local ministries having to be reduced or possibly eliminated. I do believe that no matter what changes are made if we have faith and pray for God to provide for these local ministries then He will. I have read through the GCRTF recommendations and I am still praying for God’s guidance in my own heart for understanding all aspects of the recommendations, and I hope all SBCers are doing the same.

    I believe that we should always ask “what can we do better to spread the gospel?” We should have been asking this question for a long time. However, I thank God that we are today. I think the biggest problem some people have is that they fear change. I agree that changes can be scary, intimidating or uncomfortable. But if the Lord is calling us to make a change then we must face our fears and, with the Lord’s guidance, overcome them. I am a member of a church that has asked the question “what can we do better to spread the gospel?” Yes there has been opposition to things that have been introduced to reach our community, but we have found a way to come together and change some things that have enabled us to better our outreach to the community. I think it comes down to which option do you choose. If option one will allow us to share the gospel with 5% of the population of the world and option two will allow us to share the gospel with 60% of the world; isn’t option two the way we should go? The main point to fulfilling the Great Commission is to do what we need to to get the gospel to whole world, and right now we are not doing that.

    I hope that once decisions are made and changes are made we don’t say “okay we have done it, we are fulfilling the Great Commission” and then leave it at that. I hope after the decisions are made and the changes are made we continue to ask “what can we do better?”

  13. Roger,

    We’ve discussed this previously, but for the sake of the others in this conversation in light of your revamped plan, could you please tell me how your proposal differs from the Task Force (It looks like you have just given a skeleton to implement what they are recommending by thinking out the details of the transition.


    I think the hullabaloo about the preliminary (and we, including myself, have forgotten that this was the first draft and not the final one to be voted on/considered) report is that we agree with the principles (Recommendation 1, for instance) but not the implementation or the focus of changes. Thus we fixate on the problems and not on the areas of agreement…sadly typical Baptist behavior!

    Jonathan McLain,

    I would counter/respond to your assertion of “politics at work” with the fact that the ERLC is also not addressed in the GCRTF report. the Task Force, it seems, has focused their first round of attention on those areas which constitute the most “boots on the ground” (to steal Roger’s phrase) and take up the most CP dollars…the seminaries are being run on a shoestring (especially with the loss of endowment moeny in the stock market downturn), thus the GCRTF proposed an expanded role for IMB in the light of a unwidning of NAMB and a shift of funds from EC to IMB. I hope that we will not attack the low-hanging fruit of smaller entities to fund poorly-run larger ones…THAT would be politics at work in the Convention.

  14. Jon:

    You asked me a question regarding how “my plan” is different from the task force’s plan. First, as we all agree, the task force’s plan right now is only an interim proposal. So I admit, I’m speculating on exactly what implementation details the task force will ultimately come out with.

    But, the task force’s plan — as we now understand it, [without using the words explicitly] calls for most of the people now working under “Cooperative Agreements” in the pioneer state areas to lose their jobs.

    Under my plan NO ONE looses their job.

    While my compromise also calls for funding the new “boots on the ground”, from the NAMB portion of the funds from the terminated cooperative agreements, the difference is that I don’t allow anyone to be transferred from the geographical boundaries of any “pioneer state” convention. In effect, I grandfather workers in the pioneer states so that, though they end up working 100% for the NAMB, as opposed to being under “cooperative agreements”, two things happen: (a) these SAME people are still employed; (b) these people are still working in the SAME STATE where they were prior to the transition.

    A natural byproduct of my proposal is that in pioneer states people might end up doing “on the ground” stuff rather than management.

    The task force’s agreement, as generally understood, would allow people to be handed pink slips in a given pioneer state — which is equivalent to virtually defunding everyone on the payroll in that state that is currently working for the state convention. My proposal would keep all people working in that state but most of them would be FULLY FUNDED by the NAMB. The only people not fully funded by the NAMB in the pioneer states would be fully funded by the CP giving that the pioneer state conventions continue to receive. This would be a small number — maybe 10% to 30% depending upon the situation in the particular pioneer state.

    My compromise proposal, dated 2 April, still is tantamount to “gutting” the pioneer state conventions to the point of near extinction. But at least it keeps THE SAME PEOPLE employed and working in THAT SAME state.

    Also, as the task force’s proposal is currently understood, it evidently requires “old-line” states to subsidize “pioneer states”. My proposal only requires “old-line” states to give up people in direct proportion (a weighted average) to the proportion of the NAMB funding that is received by all those working under “cooperative agreements” in the old-line state.

    It is possible that the task force’s final report will have more details such that it would morph into what is essentially my compromise.

    However, it is also possible, given the vagueness in the task force’s interim report, that it could not only defund virtually all church planters and evangelists in certain “pioneer state convention” geographical areas, but it would end up handing out pink slips to all those who are currently working in that pioneer state, and then hire totally new people and then put them to work in some other more “strategic” area. For example (this is just a example) the task force’s proposal doesn’t preclude all cooperative agreements in Montana from being canceled [in fact it calls for this explicitly], with all the church planters, missionaries, and other workers being given pink slips (given that 80% of all their salaries were paid by the now defunct agreements), and then the NAMB decides to hire new people to work in the Northeastern in cities such as New York and Boston because the NAMB decides those areas are more “strategic”.

    My compromise acknowledges the idea of cancelling the Byzantine agreements, but it doesn’t just give the NAMB free reign to fire people and then hire others to replace them and put the new hires elsewhere. I honestly believe that is too drastic.

    Also, my compromise calls for both old line and “pioneer” state conventions to “share the pain”. The old line conventions loose workers. The “pioneer state” conventions for all practical purposes cease to exist.

    I have thought this over long and hard for the last couple of weeks and I honestly think this is an appropriate way to “share the pain”. It “releases” the NAMB some but there are still some constraints on the NAMB going forward — at least for the next 5 to 10 years.

    If this compromise is appropriate it will be hated equally by all stakeholders in the SBC.

    The old line states will hate it because they are losing workers. These workers are moving from old line states to any other place that the NAMB deems to be strategic.

    The pioneer state will hate it because they are, for all practical purposes, going out of business,

    The NAMB will hate it because they won’t have total freedom to hire whoever they want and they won’t be able to place those people wherever they want. According to the lingo of the task force the NAMB won’t be totally “released”

    The workers involved will love this because they will be able to keep their jobs.

    The coefficient of “boots on the ground” per square mile will be maintained because everyone is still there working — except for the old-line states which will take a hit on number of personnel.

    I will likely tweak my proposal. It is at: simpsonfamilyokc.com

    Jon, thanks for facilitating a frank and open debate on this.

    We won’t know until May 3rd what the task force is going to say. And whatever they say is evidently is going to be “take it or leave it”. I think the task force would be advised to leak out some of the parameters of any adjustments they are going to make between their interim and final reports. Better to grease the skids now than have continued polarization up to and including Orlando.

  15. Roger,

    I’ve read the task force report and I’m not sure why we would assume that one set of people would be fired and different set of green recruits would be hired to new positions. If positions are restructured into a different organization (fully NAMB or fully state funded vs. partial NAMB/partial state as in a coop agreement), why would the same people not go with the position?

    The whole point is to put our North American missionaries into more strategic positions. Why would this require sending trained people off to Taco Bell just so we can pull in brand new ones to make up for their loss? The real rub comes from how to fully fund a ministry if neither organization can commit enough funds to do it alone. This requires a change in focus. That change in ministry focus is the undercurrent of the entire proposal, not pink slips.

    States are being asked to focus their ministry in a new way and to let money go to the national level so that NAMB can also refocus its ministry in a new way.

    Local churches are also being asked to focus their ministry in a new way. Many churches are used to just putting money in the plate and letting someone else run the ministry. Many state level fears seem to be that local missions will not continue if the state is not there to do it in the church’s stead. In my mind this is the biggest change being asked of Southern Baptists in this proposal. The local church will have to step up and perform many functions that are currently run at the state level.

    However, in the end, this is a proposal to restructure how national convention funds are spent. It must focus on national convention effectiveness. If, from that perspective, some funds are not being used wisely and we can find a way to make the national focus more effective by spending those funds differently, then the national convention should do so. The national convention cannot make budgets and mission strategies based on the hope that some other level of polity will help out.

  16. Josh:

    I am not making any assumption that people currently in pioneer state convention areas would be fired. However, that seems to be the default understanding of many in those pioneer states, even though the task force does not SPECIFICALLY call for this.

    All I’m doing recommending that the task force’s language be beefed up in a number of ways including wording that says SPECFICALLLY that no one’s job is at risk during the re-org as the Cooperative Agreements are phased out.

    Let’s focus only on the “pioneer states” here.

    In the pioneer states right now it is a fact that somewhere between 60% and 90% — depending upon the particular state convention in view — of the salaries of virtually all of the people working for those state conventions are paid for by NAMB via the cooperative agreements.

    So the “problem”, from the view of those working in that state now, is that the NAMB will just pull the rug out from under them. Don’t take my word for this. Please go to Baptist Press where there are about a dozen (or more) articles from people who are the execs of various state conventions.

    One such article is by Glen Land dated Mar 12, 2010. Read all of the articles to get a flavor of the situation with the cooperative agreements in the pioneer states.

    Josh, let me turn this question around. Based upon what the interim task force report says, how could one possibly conclude that the people who are currently the leaders in a given state convention, say the Dakotas, won’t lose their jobs as the NAMB puts people on the ground in those areas who are church planters and evangelists rather than execs and managers?

    FLASH, — HOT OFF THE PRESS: Baptist Press has just put up a news item that there was a six hour long meeting in Memphis between key members of the task force and a number of state execs. Regardless of anything else, it is clear that the task force issued its interim report without significant representation from a key stakeholder in the SBC — namely the state conventions. That’s why the state execs — who were blindsided by the task force’s interim report — raised so many objections.

    Evidently, yesterday’s meeting was an attempt by the task force (long overdue in my opinion) to seek a “meeting of the minds” with the state conventions.

    Hopefully, the task force is working now on “compromise language” that will be acceptable to ALL stakeholders — including the state conventions. The situation is that whatever compromise proposal comes out will be one that no one is satisfied with 100% but at least no one will walk away from. It is the nature of the SBC structure that we have autonomous bodies with different viewpoints and perspectives at different levels of hierarchy and located in different geographical areas. Dealing with this is like herding cats.

    Roger K. Simpson
    Oklahoma City OK

  17. Random thoughts…for years HMB/ NAMB leaders, FMB/IMB leaders, state conventions aimed to equip and mobilize local congregations to do a better job of reaching the lost. The view that every church should be a church-starting church has also been around for awhile. The problem, from one place to the next, is that churches (leaders + followers) must own that vision. Maybe this factors into how we’ve rated our current system’s weaknesses. Any new system faces the same challenge. Autonomy remains a fancy term for “We’d rather not go there.” The other catch is this: we don’t win hearts by telling potential partners that they/we aren’t getting the job done. (It may be true. It’s just a hard saying to hear.)

    Where do we see real Great Commission synergy in our convention? Baptist 21 seeks to create a Leadership Community–that’s why pastor’s and seminaries host conferences, develop mailing lists, etc. That’s why many state conventions and associations have done the same. Maybe that comes down to the nuts and bolts of implementation, but this in itself should be a component for a revised GCR proposal.

    As for hiring/firing personnel–even with restructuring, can we find enough folk among us who won’t bring their old stuff to the table? Have the men and women we elected made wise choices in hiring missionary leadership, and make missionary appointments? Were their hires based on a prayerful and thorough process that weighed the track-records, skills, and character of candidates? If so, is it smart to cut off those whom God called? If not, should we assume smarter choices will suddenly be made for future missions leadership?

    A vote to restructure may not come easy, still that is the easy part. Resurgence happens when congregations live on missions. So the real vote happens with how many churches seek a Holy Ghost-makeover in their own focus and priorities.

  18. John,

    I think you’ve raised the same issue as Roger. Should we cut off those whom God has called?

    A large number of people who were called to be missionaries, yet could not go because of a funding shortage, was the biggest motivational impulse behind this GCR movement. I think any assumption that a task force report will call for taking missionaries off the field simply forgets why the task force was so motivated in doing their work in the first place. They don’t want any missionaries to come off the field. They want more to be able to go.

    However, they cannot work with money that is not there. Supporting all of the called missinaries will require a restructuring that removes duplication in oversight. If NAMB truly funds such a large percentage of the salaries of the pioneer state execs, then I would suggest that those state conventions exist in name only, while in reality they may just be another division on NAMB. If NAMB is the lionshare of funding in those areas, then why should they fund a duplication of their own missions oversight? It is not NAMB’s mission to foster new state conventions. It is to plant new churches, and the existence (or non-existence) of new state conventions should be left to those churches.

    I don’t think we should ask that no state exec will lose their current job. We can reasonably ask that no missionary on the field be taken away from that task. State sponsored missionaries can become NAMB sponsored missionaries or the other way around as each need presents itself. The focus of state conventions that rely so heavily on NAMB funding needs to change so that they are a viable ministry along side NAMB, not dependent on it or duplicated in it. As God calls people to Himself from those unreached or under-reached areas, those pioneer state conventions will grow, but they don’t need to try and grasp more than they can handle financially before they grow. Part of the change for the managers in those areas may be a new bi-vocational ministry position until the churches in that area can support them. I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation.

    State conventions don’t need to be jealous of the mission field that the messengers to the national convention ask NAMB to cover. We are all (hopefully) preaching the same message with the same purpose. NAMB does not need to be funding another level of administration to do its job. That just puts our money in a revolving door that never leads out into the field where the harvest actually is.

    We are all supportive of a Great Commission Resurgence. Let us be open to a resurgence of the Great Commission that may require a few less subsidized managers.

  19. Gentlemen:

    I think we all agree that most of the “pioneer” state conventions can’t exist as free standing operations. The funding to run them is just not there.

    That is why one of my earlier recommendations was that a couple of “old-line” state conventions and a couple of “pioneer” state conventions merge to form a new streamlined operation which would cut down on the total number of management people. At the same time, “pioneer areas” would taken “under the wing” and supported by areas in the “Old South” where resources exist that could be channeled to them.

    So we really have two “equivalent” ideas:

    (a) merge “weak” and “strong” state conventions into a mean and lean missionary machine

    (b) subsume “weak” state conventions into the NAMB

    For some reason I like the first, but I guess that when you cut to the chase, both ideas are actually the “same” except the name on peoples’ paycheck that are working in the pioneer areas.

  20. Jon,

    Thanks again for the post. I enjoy the thought provoking dialogue. We all want God’s best.

    You said: “The GCRTF is not calling for missions support restructuring. They affirm and praise the CP as our method of cooperative giving….I don’t think anyone is calling for societal missions.”

    Today, Dr. Rankin posted a blog suggesting we split the CP in two and promising to reveal in a later post how we can overcome our “societal paranoia.”

    I confess I have a hard time reconciling the two statements. It seems like CP restructuring and societal missions are indeed at the very center of the debate. Then again, I may be totally missing something. I have most certainly proven myself incapable of figuring out that mysterious island on “Lost.”

  21. Roger,

    I think I see we’re making the same request of the recommendations for reform, but from different perspectives of how our churches will best cooperate: cooperation through state level organizations to benefit the “pioneer” areas, or through a national level organization.

    I appreciate the time you’ve spent thinking of how we can cooperate to accomplish the common task. Either way, it will be our churches working together, yours and mine.

    My hope is that people would not see this as a hierarchical difference, with some “upper level” organization with more power than another. The picture really should be our churches as the “upper level” using different cooperative pathways, each with a different and distinct focus.

  22. Josh:

    I agree with you 1000%. Implicit in quite a lot of “dialog” going on here — on all sides — is that somehow the NAMB is in some sort of competition with the state conventions relative to a “re-org” of church planting and evangelism operations in North America.

    In the best case, this whole debate would be short-circuited because local churches would pre-empt the whole argument by stepping up to the plate themselves and taking up the slack through more CP giving and/or doing “long term” missions projects directly.

    The “problem” is that 90% (maybe this is not the exact number) of the 44,000 SBC churches in the South really don’t have enough organizational skills and/or assets and/or experience to do something tangible on the ground in the “pioneer” state areas.

    A subplot running through this whole discussion — and maybe it is the 800 pound gorilla in the room — is the question of the extent that CP giving will still be normative across the land. “Some” large congregations (i.e. mega-churches) have “ramped up” their missions activity from “giving” to “doing”. To me, this is a positive sign.

    However, in aggregate I don’t know how this trend, if it follows a natural trajectory, is going to effect the CP — and by extension — the health of cooperative efforts across the SBC.

    I guess it doesn’t make much difference what the task force recommends be “celebrated” in terms of missions giving — since autonomous churches are free to do whatever they want anyway.

    So maybe I’m off base to call the task force to task for ramping up some type of “celebration” of non-CP missions giving. After all they are just codifying the existing situation: namely that as time passes, on an SBC-wide basis, giving methods are increasingly morphing from the CP to a smorgasbord of various models. Churches are preemptively implementing various mission methodologies and this is not going to change regardless of whatever the task force does or doesn’t do.

    However, to the extent that the task force is viewed beefing up one giving model compared to any other model (especially if the “other model” is the CP) then I don’t think it is wise. I believe they should leave things alone relative to trying to “redefine” missions giving and/or “redesign” the form that churches fill out to report giving. If any state convention wants to change the form then they should do so. I think any redesign of “forms” should be bottom up — not top down.

    The problem I’ve had with the task force is probably as much or more a problem with process than with substance. Implicit in their whole modus operandi is that to them the best way to effect change in the SBC is top down. I guess they have finally realized that they have to interact with stakeholders other than just national entities. It was a little late in my opinion, but finally they decided to “listen” to the state conventions.

    Roger K. Simpson
    Oklahoma City OK

  23. Einstein’s definition of insanity seems appropriate right now. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We must change our structure for the sake of the Gospel which is our King’s glory. I love you all and pray that the LORD will bring us together toward His holy and perfect will. Jesus told us when He would come back… Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Let’s strive even harder for this so that we might see our King come as quickly as possible.

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