GCR is About Access not Degree

1040WindowAs I have navigated the various responses towards the proposals set forth by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, I have observed several unfortunate misconceptions. Chief among these misconceptions is the thought by some that the Task Force and proponents of the GCR are saying that people in India are “more” lost than those that have not trusted Christ in the southeastern United States. I am not quite sure if this misconception has arisen because of lack of clarity from the original Axioms message or the report from the Task Force. I am not sure if the misconception has arisen because some have not read or understood Dr. Akin’s Axiom’s message, or the articles and thoughts of those on the Task Force. And I surely do not want to believe it is an intentional smokescreen to skirt the real issues.

Regardless of how this misconception has been perpetuated, let’s put it to rest. The original message by Dr. Akin and the subsequent thoughts coming from the Task Force have never been about whether a person outside of Christ is more “outside” than another. It has been, from the beginning, that there are billions that have far less “access” to the gospel message. Is a person in India outside of Christ “more” lost than a person outside of Christ in the southeastern U.S.? Absolutely not. Ephesians 2 is clear, “Dead” is dead. All outside of Christ need resurrection to life that only the gospel brings. However, the only message that brings that kind of “life” is the gospel, and the man outside of Christ in the southeastern U.S. has far greater access to this message than the man outside of Christ in India. In fact, in certain parts of the world a person could walk for days, weeks, and months and not run into a Christian, bible, church, or the gospel message. This is what has broken the hearts of many in the SBC and has driven them to say that we must do better in getting that message to a world that is dying and has little or no access to the only message that brings life.

A man outside of Christ in the southeast U.S. absolutely needs the gospel, but there are thousands of Southern Baptist Churches alone, not to mention other strong evangelical churches, in this region. In other parts of the world there are places with far greater populations that don’t even have a church, let alone hundreds of churches in their area. If we are truly to be about the “propagation” of the gospel to the ends of the earth as our SBC forefathers hoped we would be, than many are saying lets make our structures and spending reflect it. There are many that cannot see how spending the majority of our funds in areas that we already have a strong presence as reflecting the idea that we are a Great Commission Convention. This is the heartbeat of the GCR, many may disagree, and that is fine. We can disagree charitably, but lets make sure that we know exactly where the Task Force and the GCR proponents are coming from. The GCR has never been about degree; it has always been about access.

Below is an outstanding sermon from Pastor David Platt about the fate of the unevangelized. This topic is one of the things that compels the GCR TF.

David Platt – What Happens to Those Who Never Hear the Gospel – Romans 15:20-24 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Comments 0

  1. Post

    I am not sure what you are trying to get at with your question… I chose to highlight the SE US because that is where the majority of our SB work is done. There are absolutely churches in the regions you mention, but far fewer than there are in SE. We need more work in the two regions you mention, the GCR is saying that.


  2. Jeff T.,

    Go to the seminaries and ask. I think you will find many students with those areas on their hearts. I know of one who graduated with his PhD at SEBTS who is going to Boston. I know of another SEBTS alumni in Boston working among the Russian population.

  3. Perhaps the term “access” is more properly applied to the Christian desiring to witness than to the lost person. Christians in the Bible Belt do enjoy greater “access” to lost people than Christians in many other regions nationally and internationally, which helps explain the more successful cultural penetration in the Deep South. The lost have more “access” to the gospel here because witnesses have more “access” to them.

    I think Baptists in the Bible Belt resent the implication that successful Southern evangelism is the result of a selfish missionary strategy. Praise God we have more churches in the Southeast part of the United States. That means God has done a great work through us here and we have enjoyed the freedom to “access” unsaved souls like nowhere else on earth. Praise God that this region of America is responsible for raising more money for world evangelization than any other region in history. Baptists in this area should be celebrated and not scolded!

    Rather than setting the established Bible Belt church against a church plant somewhere in an adversarial manner, why not ask God to penetrate the Deep South to an even greater degree so even more Bible Belt churches can help spread the gospel around the world? I think this is what people are really trying to say with the whole “equal degree of lostness” argument: we don’t really want to set one Acts 1:8 location against another as if it were a greater priority when Jesus has called us to be witnesses to ALL of them. If Jesus had intended to prioritize the uttermost nations over Samaria, Judea and Jerusalem, He certainly could have spoken that message clearly. Jesus knew all about access and still called us to be witnesses everywhere without really making any kind of clear distinction with regard to priority. Let’s prioritize ALL lostness, whether in Chattanooga where we enjoy access or in China where we do not.

    Regarding the realistic flow of Christian stewardship, most Baptists are going to keep the majority of the money God gives them and donate some through their local church. Most local churches are going to keep the majority of the money God gives them and donate some through the Cooperative Program. Most state conventions are going to keep the majority of the money God gives them and donate some through national and international causes. This makes International Missions seemingly the very last priority. And yet, no other Christian stewardship system has ever resulted in more money going to the nations.

    It would be a very unfortunate approach to set our various Baptist entities against one another in a funding competition rather than a funding cooperation. The win-win of “more money for everyone” is better than the win-lose of “more money for China and less money for Georgia.”

  4. Rick,

    Again thank you for clearly articulating the CPR position & showing our need for a GCR not only in structure but in mindset!

    CPR- Let’s focus ourselves on saturating the most reached portion of our country and let resources (people & money) trickle out to the places where there are MUCH fewer witnesses, Christians, and churches, IF ANY!

    That’s what seem to be saying. Let’s concentrate mainly on the South and then once we’ve won a lot more people to Christ then we can get around to the areas with fewer Christians.

    GCR- Let’s strategically focus our resources (people & money) on places with the fewest witnesses, Christians, churches, etc.

    Despite how you try to paint the picture there is no competition here or adversarial role between Bible belt churches and church plants in the NW for example. There’s none of that. We are trying to come together and reach those who don’t know Christ and strategically target areas with less witness.

    There is no setting against here. Just because we discuss strategy and how to best accomplish cooperating in mission together and ask questions of priority doesn’t mean there is a competition.

    In your strategy you are prioritizing the south over other less reached places. That’s one way we could do it. The GCR is calling for a different priority. That doesn’t mean we are in competition. It means we are trying to figure out how to best cooperate to reach those we haven’t yet reached.

    Acts 1:8 isn’t about equal priority to each area, or even about more priority to one area, it’s about the advance of the Gospel. If your strategy of praying for more penetration of the Bible belt and continuing to focus our efforts there and then let efforts trickle out had been followed by the disciples they would have NEVER left Jerusalem b/c it wasn’t in the main reached.

    Plus, GCR is not saying forget the lostness in the south. They are simply trusting the THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of Gospel churches we have in the south to evangelize their neighbors!

    Your next to last paragraph struggles with the is/ought fallacy. Just b/c something IS so doesn’t mean that it OUGHT to be so. This is one example of why GCR proponents think CPR proponents are simply for the status quo. You’re saying this is the way it is and instead of changing the way it is why not just celebrate the good we are actually doing right now. That is one way to do it.

    Others of us feel the crisis is at a point where a change needs to be made, not b/c we criticize mission efforts happening now, but b/c we think more can be done and more strategically.

    Again this post is not about competition it IS about cooperation! To state otherwise is to blur the lines and to imply that we cannot have a discussion of changing the current strategy w/o competing. That’s just not so. This is about cooperating better to reach the unreached places. Apparently the CPR camp wants more resources for the nations but only if it means that their area doesn’t have to sacrifice any resources in the process.

    Your response also fails to state what is happening right now (and quite frankly one reason why there is LESS funding), Georgia IS GETTING MORE MONEY THAN CHINA! In our current situation that will always be the case.

    There are many churches who burn in their hearts for the lost in the Southeast, and they think God has placed them where they are to reach them. Since they are focusing on that task when they try to cooperate with other churches in mission they want their money to go to places where there is little or no witness at present.

  5. My hope is that the GCR will stir local Baptist churches to become Acts 1:8 Mission Strategy centers and every pastor become a missions strategist. Can you imagine what would happen if just 10,000 of our churches took the Acts 1:8 mandate seriously?

    If just 15% of our churches (approximately 6,000 churches) personallly adopted an unreached people group and decided to become the missionary to that people group. In addition to continuing to send more missionaries, IMB could also focus on resourcing churches to be those missionaries to the over 6,000 UPGs.

    Presentlty, only 3.5% of Southern Baptist Churches sponsor a church plant. NAMB reported 1,256 new churches Southern Baptist Churches last year. While we rejoice in all these new works, that is 1,256 new churches with a present structure of 1,100 Baptist associationa and 41 State Conventions along with 43,000 SBC churches. We have made it easy to do Missions by proxy, through our local Associations, State Conventions and National entities. The easiest thing to do is set a percentage amount of undesignated offerings and fool ourselves into believing we are doing the Great Commission. We would still need strong Cooperative Program giving, but the roles of the local Associations, State Conventions and NAMB must change.

    Imagine if instead of 3.5% of our churches sponoring a new church, we had 25% of our churches sponsoring a new work, we could see 10,000 new churches planted every year in North America. Again, NAMB, local Associaitons and State Conventions would still be a necessary part of such a strategy to help equip churches in their role as sponsoring/supporting churches.

    The restructuring the GCR calls for is long overdue. The time is now!

  6. Randy, Tell me how small churches can do this? The flaw with the GCR team is they had a small minority of small church pastors. The make up should reflect the SBC it does not.

  7. Jon,

    While you graciously thanked me for clearly articulating a CPR position, I must not have done so, since you then went on to restate my position with what I consider to be a series of unfair exaggerations. To your credit, you did write, “That’s what [they] SEEM to be saying.” Listen, brother, it’s NOT what I’M saying. Let me try to straighten this out, because I don’t believe the things you attributed to me and I don’t even know anyone who does.

    First, you wrote of my view: “Let’s focus mainly on the South…” Never said that. Don’t believe that. My actual view: “Let’s focus BOTH on the South AND everywhere else at the same time.” In other words, let’s not NEGLECT the South by transferring so many resources elsewhere that we weaken the very place where our outreach has been the strongest and must continue to be strong if we are going to continue funding missions work worldwide.

    Second, you wrote: “In your strategy you are prioritizing the south over other less reached places.” Nope. Not what I said. Not what I believe. My actual view: “While I am NOT prioritizing the south over other less reached places, neither am I prioritizing other less reached places over the south.” The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Everyone needs to hear about Jesus no matter where they live or how much “access” their government allows missionaries to have in sharing the gospel or how many Christians live in their country or whatever language they may speak. There’s a difference between prioritizing one place over another and viewing the priority of all places as equally important.

    Third, this part you did more or less get right: “Apparently the CPR camp wants more resources for the nations but only if it means that their area doesn’t have to sacrifice any resources in the process.” That has at least a few overtones of selfishness, which I don’t think are necessary. My actual view: “We don’t NEED to sacrifice any of the properly utilized resources being wisely spent in fulfilling the Great Commission in our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in order to reach the uttermost. All we need to do is get every church to “resurge” to the place where it is giving ten percent undesignated through CP and we will have MORE THAN ENOUGH resources to reach all four Acts 1:8 regions simultaneously and with equal priority.

    Please don’t put a construction on my views and the views of others that makes it seem like we don’t want to reach the lost all over the world. We do. We simply want to reach them here just as badly. We believe the CP is a tool God can use to do that if we will return to the tool.

  8. Jeff, small churches can cluster together to support a church plant. In new work areas, we will need many bi-vocational church planters. This is not just for financial reasons, but missiologically, it puts the missionary into the ebb and flow of the community. If five smaller churches partnered together at $250 each a month, they could provide the resources for a church planters health insurance. Many small churches are led by faithful bi-vocational pastors. These men would be excellent coaches for bi-vocational planters.

  9. Jeff, small churches can cluster together to support a church plant. In new work areas, we will need many bi-vocational church planters. This is not just for financial reasons, but missiologically, it puts the missionary into the ebb and flow of the community.

    If five smaller churches partnered together at $250 each a month, they could provide the resources for a church planters health insurance. Many small churches are led by faithful bi-vocational pastors. These men would be excellent coaches for bi-vocational planters.

  10. Post


    A few responses to several of your comments. First, I agree with what Randy has said.

    Also, I dont know comprehensively about this, but I know that there are church planters trying to go to places in the north that are struggling because lack of funds. Though, as Stephen pointed out earlier, there are many from our seminaries hoping to go to these areas. My church just sent a church planting team to Boston on Saturday.

    I understand your thoughts about the make-up of GCRTF, but I disagree with them. The make-up does not matter if the recommendations are good for all and the most effective recommendations that could be brought forward at this time. Do I wish it went further in some areas? Yes I do, but probably in areas that a couple in this comment thread would not like to go. So the TF did a good job of coming up with recommendations that many could rally around, and you are beginning to see that with several state convention ED supporting it. In addition, as they have stated, everyone of these men pastored small churches at some point.

    Also, small churches can absolutely do planting. The problem is we need a different paradigm for what church is and for church planting. Read the book Total Church, those guys are planting churches out of churches of less than a 100. It can be done, the problem is we do not need to think that to plant a church there needs to be a big building, lots of technological tools, and a big building. In some areas, more funding is needed, like those areas in the north with less churches. The GCR is about flooding those areas with more resources.


  11. Post


    it is obvious that you and I have completely different mentalities when it comes to how we spend our resources. So I am only going to respond once.

    First, the GCR also believes in a “lets focus on the South AND everywhere else…” The difference is the GCR believes that the Christians that live in the South can do the work of the ministry with limited resources, while the other areas will take much more resources to be effective in (lets take your home state as a case study, according to some there are 1 million Southern Baptists in Alabama, and only 4 million in population. In order for that state to continue to be reached those 1 million simply need to witness to their neighbors, but they dont need to be paid to do so, they just need to be disciple-makers as Christ commanded. So limited funding is needed in that area, but to send someone to China per say, there has to be visas garnered, travel expenses raised, etc)

    Second, no one is saying to not celebrate that there are many christians in the south, or that it is not a good thing that they raise money for missions. But, if they just stay in the south and keep their resources in the south that is not a good thing. Then, we all that are doing that, are neglecting Christ’s commands to make disciples to the ends of the earth.

    Third, I completely disagree with you about prioritizing as far as resources go. I stated above in the case study why.

    Fourth, the view that we just need local churches to “resurge” and give 10% to CP completely misses the fact that there are churches that wont give more to the CP because they dont like the allocations. They believe “less reached” areas need to have higher priority, hence the call for a GCR, and so they do not feel comfortable giving to the CP. They believe that would just pour more money into the SE and they want more money going to places that dont even have churches, or have a limited number. That is OK for them to do because the Convention is to serve the church, not the other way around. It is never right for the convention to demand of autonomous local churches to give a % but it is right of the church to demand allocations change. For the convention to demand that churches give 10% without adjusting their allocations, seems to indicate they believe the church serves the convention and not the other way around. The church is primary and the convention is only necessary and relevant as it helps the local church do its ministry, it is not to do the ministry FOR the local church. That is why limited resources are necessary where there are thousands of churches (like your home state) and why that state cant stand to send more on to less reached areas.

    In the end, I think we are both saying Both AND, but I am saying prioritize the “underserved areas” and you are saying prioritize the already strong areas. Because even by saying prioritize all equally and just give more to the CP, that means, based on our current allocations, even if every church gives more to the CP more will stay in the south. If we do not change the percentages, that will always be the case.


  12. Rick,

    Obviously there is a disconnect here. But I don’t think it is a disconnect in terms of understanding as much as we just don’t agree with one another. However, I don’t want to misrepresent your views, so I’ll try one final time to state why it is that I characterize your view as I do.

    1. You may not have outright said “Let’s focus mainly on the South” but your strategy does that. Under the current CP and the current status quo no matter how much is given to the CP or how high a percentage the current framework will always prioritize the south b/c the overwhelming majority of funds will go to the south. So we can say we are doing BOTH and we are doing everywhere else at the same time but the truth is we are not.

    Our structure will always prioritize some areas over others. Right now it prioritizes based on allocation where most of us are.

    2. I am for ministry in all areas but think missions funding should be going to places with less access to the gospel, and the MILLIONS of believers and THOUSANDS of churches in old line states should be responsible for reaching people in those states.

    Again, we are prioritizing the south over those less reached places ALREADY…Just look at the amounts of $ we spend here and the map of where our NAMB missionaries are…

    Saying the ground is level at the foot of the cross blurs this discussion. The ground is level at the foot of the cross but some people are closer to hearing about that cross than others.

    This cannot be any clearer: Why in the world would we favor spending 97.5 cents of every $1 given to the church in places that already have multitudes of Christians, churches, conventions, etc. when there are places that have NONE of these things and yet we throw 2.5 cents at them?!

    We DON’T prioritize all places as equally important. Current system doesn’t do that. That’s why arguing for more of what we are already doing makes it seem that you are content on focusing mainly in the south.

    3. As Nathan stated the CPR doesn’t take into account why many churches are giving less to the CP b/c they see that it does prioritize one region over another.

  13. Nathan,

    Thank you for the dialogue and I will only respond once more as well. No sense going around in circles.

    If I employed you for $1,000 a week and twenty years later I was giving you $660 a week, would you say my “approach” toward funding your position was “status quo” and had not changed? Ironically, the CP advocates in this discussion are told, “Your way is not working” when in fact, our way is not being tried. The “designated giving” experiment of the last twenty years, which is actually our current “status quo,” is the thing that is not working. Redirected designated giving doesn’t work, but voluntary, cooperative “10% or more” CP giving does.

    We know these things from experience: (1) Societal giving wastes resources as each entity must spend so much to promote direct fundraising. Less will go to the nations as more goes to each Baptist entity’s fundraising arm: “Here, church, designate directly to our more worthy cause!” (2) The cooperative missions approach works as long as churches voluntarily give a level around 10% or more of undesignated gifts. No one is using the word “demand” but you.

    What I now hear you saying is this: “Both the GCR and the CPR are claiming that their position is a “Both And” but really only the GCR position is a “Both And” while the CPR position is a “me first.” There’s really no way for me to dialogue any longer when my words are redefined like that except to say, “Is not!” which does not really elevate the discussion.

    Where do I see us headed? If GCR passes, the states and other entities will “consider” the suggestions of the convention and I believe most of them will be autonomously rejected. At least I hope so, because I think the underlying root of all this designated giving is indeed the societal approach to missions funding. If the approach toward designated giving grows, CP giving will continue to shrink. The relationship between directed giving and CP giving is an inverse relationship: as the former has gone up the latter has gone down. What makes us think that will suddenly change? As CP giving shrinks, the basis of our cooperation would become fractured. Many ministries will suffer ostensibly so “the nations” can receive more. Only the nations will not see more money. Churches will not be able to designate quickly enough or generously enough to offset the decrease in world missions giving through CP. Philosophically, Southern Baptists will have abandoned the greatest missions funding strategy in world history. I believe we would live to regret it — at every level of missions cooperation.

  14. Rick,

    1. We’ve been declining as a denomination for 50 years (see Stetzer’s research). The CP has been in decline for 25 years…so, can we really say that either what we used to do or are currently doing is working?

    Plus, again, your view fails to consider WHY churches are decreasing their giving…

    2. There is NO return to Societal giving here. Read the GCRTF report. The CP is hailed as our primary missions giving channel. There is no wasted resources here b/c entities are not allowed to solicit funds like those in a societal structure.

    3. Hard not to see it as “me first” when we allocate the majority of our resources to the places where most of us currently live…This is true at every level starting w/ individual Christians, churches, etc.

    4. Many state execs have come out affirming the GCR so I find it difficult to believe they would reject the suggestions. That would be disingenuous and non-cooperative if a majority of SBC messengers said this is what we want.

  15. Thanks for all your responses. I still think that the GCR will hurt smaller churches. I like my state convention handling most of the church planting opportunities because they serve as a central (visible point). I agree a good ideal is a good ideal, but the absence of smaller churches on the commission still speaks loudly at least to me. Whatever happens in the next few years, I am going to support the work of the SBC!

  16. Jon,

    Regarding 1: I was not talking about the denomination itself — although that may be a worthy topic someday. I was only talking about CP missions funding and the effect of designated giving upon it over the past two decades, which has been to reduce CP giving.

    Regarding 2: If the CP is “hailed” as our primary missions giving channel, why was the comment on Rev. Greear’s latest post (not written by me) which alluded to the 1.5% CP giving by his church removed from the comment stream? The report may “hail” CP giving but the actions of those who drafted it are speaking much more loudly than their words. Also, if entities are not allowed to solicit funds, why am I now hearing about the possibility of the IMB partnering with larger churches in sending missionaries apart from traditional channels? How could this NOT be considered an entity directly asking churches for support in commissioning work? You say that entities are not allowed to solicit funds, but when budgets are slashed and ministries are about to be “sacrificed” that is exactly what will happen. Who’s going to “police” that and stop them from soliciting? Is Roger Goodell going to fine them?

    Regarding 3: Contrary to appearances and the way my comments have been interpreted, I don’t really have a problem at all with state conventions increasing the amount they give to national and international causes. I just think those decisions should be made within the context of a state convention annual meeting adopting their budget and I think churches should continue supporting CP strongly rather than redirecting funds. We can get more money to the nations without crippling the excellent work of associations, state conventions, the Executive Committee, the ERLC and other Baptist entities.

    Regarding 4: It’s not the state execs who adopt the state convention budget. It’s the messengers at the state conventions. The national convention has no authority to tell the state conventions what to do. My state convention is twenty years older than the Southern Baptist Convention. The national body is our daughter, not our mother. My guess is that if the GCR passes by 60-40 or 70-30, some state conventions will respond significantly while others may not experience much change at all. How is that more disingenuous and non-cooperative than a church giving 1.5% to our allegedly “preferred” missions channel?

  17. The CP has been tried. It is 85 years old. It has worked and could continue to work, if the funds are used more wisely and strategically. There is a reason that churches have declined in their percentage of CP giving, and it is not because they are all “bad Southern Baptists” or “hypocrites” (as one pastor wrote in a BP article). It is tough to go and ask these pastors/churches why they decreased their percentage of giving. I have done it. It was tough for me to hear that my Association was not helping their churches and that we were not relevant. But over a ten year period (1995-2004), we had seen overall Missions giving percentage increase significantly and CP giving percentage decrease significantly. We needed to know “Why?”

    Whether we like it or not, our churches have many other options for investing their Missions dollars. As one pastor said, “It is time we stop complaining, and start competing”. If our pastors/churches see we are serious about adjusting our structure for 21st century realities, they will respond.

    Things have changed since 1925. Consider this…

    “More and more Christ-followers are engaging locally and globally, and the numbers bear this out. Since 2000, ‘12% of active churchgoers reported having gone overseas one a short-term mission project while in their teens…up from 5% in the 1990s, 4% in the 1980s, and only 2% before that…Approximately one-third of U.S. congregations send mission teams overseas, averaging 18 members per year”
    (Swanson and Rusaw, The Externally Focused Quest)

    Many doctors and engineers are parts of organizations such as “Doctors” and “Engineers without Borders”. Some of these sit in our Southern Baptist churches every week. Do we presently have a training system through IMB/NAMB to equip these folks to be catalytic missionaries?

    Simply asking people to give more money without making necessary changes will not work.

  18. Rick,

    I am only responding now to clear up a few things.

    1. Actions do speak loudly. Why not mention the increase from Pastors Hunt and Floyd’s churches to the CP?! There are men on the TF increasing their giving to CP and who are challenging others to do the same.

    2. Regarding IMB partnering with churches (it’s not just LARGE churches by the way), this has nothing to do w/ soliciting funds and EVERYTHING to do w/ what we at least say our ecclesiology is, primacy of the local church. Local Churches as well as the IMB have been pursuing strategic partnerships w/ one another so that local churches can drive the mission. This is as it should be.

    Partnerships are also being established between churches and seminaries, NAMB, etc. This is b/c local churches are taking a hands on approach, which is a MORE “traditional” (read biblical) approach than farming missions out to agencies.

    3. I don’t “say” that entities are not allowed to solicit funds, that’s what our structure is and says. IF entities begin to solicit funds they should be reprimanded for it.

    4. No one is dictating to state conventions how to adjust their budgets b/c they can’t do that as you rightly state.

    So if states are going to give more money to national causes then it is going to be b/c it is approved at the state’s annual meeting. That’s the way it is now. GCR won’t/can’t change that.

  19. I’m wondering about an unreached people group that stretches across the U.S., i.e., drug users. What thoughts might some of the readers of this comment series share about reaching out to drug users in the U.S.? I know that a lot of times we seem to just go along with the “lock ’em up” mentality that the world puts on them; I’m wondering if we as SB might propose a different approach, something that would suggest to them that the Gospel is speaking to them and that we care about them as eternal souls… Who in SBC might be interested in starting this discussion?

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