What are we voting on in Orlando? In the comments section of a recent article by Alvin Reid the GCR debate took on much greater clarity for me. I think I now understand in clear terms the two paths that the SBC is being asked to choose between in Orlando in June.
One path is the “Great Commission Resurgence” (GCR) vision set forth by the GCRTF and their recommendations. The other path has been coined as the “Cooperative Program Resurgence” (CPR). These two competing paths are not about who is “for” or “against” the Great Commission. One can be against the GCR and still for the Great Commission (and vice versa). The question is not who is “for” and “against” the Great Commission. The real question is two-fold for Southern Baptists: 1) How do we define the Great Commission? 2) How do we most effectively accomplish it? That is what we are voting on in Orlando this June.
- 1. GCR- This vision is to restructure certain items within the SBC to enable greater effectiveness and cooperation in the Great Commission. The hope is that this vision will lead to greater missions giving because people will give to a vision that is compelling and mobilizes more resources (people and money) to the areas of greatest need (need = least access to the Gospel).
- 2. CPR- This vision is to do more/better at what we are already doing. The SBC structure is right but the giving is not, so we need a resurgence in CP giving and that will lead to a greater fulfillment of the Great Commission. The division of the CP pie is not a problem; the size of the pie is.
So, the key question is, “Which vision will be most compelling and most effective for advancing the Great Commission?” Another important question that is corollary to this is on the subject of missions giving. Will the GCR vision “save” missions giving (GCR camp) or “destroy” it (CPR camp)? (B21 will do more discussion in a later post on the GC giving recommendation and whether or not it will save or destroy missions giving)
I do believe that the CPR vision is presented with a few major problems:
- CPR almost equates the Great Commission with CP giving.
- CPR seems to be more about system preservation than challenging greater effectiveness in the Great Commission. More effectiveness is corollary to the preservation of the system.
- If the current system is the right one for most effective cooperation in the Great Commission, then why are we in a crisis period in the SBC (declining baptisms, reduction of IMB personnel, etc.)? Also, why is CP on a two decade decline? Some pastors have said that they are giving less because the allocation of the CP pie does not prioritize places with the least gospel witness. Does the CPR vision answer the concerns of these pastors?
The first major problem is that I think the CPR vision wrongly defines the Great Commission. This vision, as it seems to me (I don’t want to be unfair), almost defines being missions-minded or involved in the Great Commission as giving to the CP. So, missions = CP giving! In Rick’s comments, the CP is called a “missiological” approach, not a missiological funding approach.
A Tennessee pastor, with whom I had breakfast some time ago, was accused of “not being missions-minded” by a couple that had been attending his church for months. He was confused because the church was on mission in several places in the US and around the world. The couple said, “but you don’t give to the CP.” This church does give through the Tennessee Baptist Convention, but because of a liberal institution in the state, they designate the portion allocated to that institution to the IMB instead. This meant that they were counted for giving zero to the CP in the state paper, and as a result this couple said they were not a “missions-minded” church. This approach to the Great Commission sees the writing of a check as the fulfillment of Jesus’ command more than the going and the disciple-making.
The second major problem with the CPR vision is that it is not compelling because it is more about preserving a system than it is about a call to greater launching for missions. The urgent cry seems to be “save the CP” and missions will go on better than ever. That’s the answer to the crisis. It’s about preserving the system and doing more/better within the system already set in place. Rick helpfully lays this out when commenting on Reid’s blog, “What if those who oppose certain components are also doing it to preserve the cooperative missions support system for the next generation?” So, the CPR vision is about the preservation of the system first (specifically the support system), and the hope is that the indirect result of saving the system will be greater mission effectiveness.
This vision is not compelling, especially to younger leaders. If we can present to them a way for them to effectively, in a hands-on manner, cooperate in the Great Commission and give directly to areas with the least access to the Gospel, then they will get on board, but a vision to save a denominational funding system is not going to “light their fire,” especially when these leaders see that the pie continues to allocate the greatest amount of resources to the places that are saturated with churches. Simply saying “give us what you’ve always given us and a little more” won’t work.
Finally, the CPR vision will need to prove statements like, “I certainly agree we need to do more to spread the gospel…” because they are not offering any alternative ideas on how we can do more to advance the Gospel within the current system, and just saying “let’s do more of the same” sounds like lunacy to many in light of how drastic our current situation is in the SBC. We can’t do what we’ve always done and get different results than what we are getting. Seems that one thing the majority of Southern Baptists are agreeing on in this debate is that the status quo is not working, but the alternative offered by the CPR is more of the status quo and longing for a golden age of the past.
In terms of the bottom line, here is how the two views play out in terms of mission impact:
- GCR- Allocate resources (people and money) to the places of greatest need in our country and the world, and as a result missions giving will increase.
- CPR- Give more money so that resources (people and money) will continue to fund what we are currently doing in the south and more will trickle out to the places of greatest need in our country and the world.
Which vision is most compelling? Which vision will have the greatest impact on the vast pockets of lostness in our country and the world? We are NOT voting on whether or not the SBC is a Great Commission people in Orlando. We are not voting on the Great Commission. However, that does not mean that this vote is unimportant, insignificant, or just about personal preferences. This is a crucial time, and this vote will have world shaping impact! We are voting on the definition of the Great Commission and how we can accomplish it most effectively together. Because of that it is among the most important votes we will ever face as a convention of churches. Which vision is most compelling to you? More importantly, which vision will have the most direct impact on a dying world? The world is not watching and waiting to hear our answers to these questions because at present they do not care about the answers, but our answers to these questions will impact them (or not).
*A follow up post will answer the question, “How do we define the Great Commission?” and it will deal with the meaning of Acts 1:8.