Kids are cute. Watching and helping them develop is, at times, hilarious. Our 2 year old son, Josiah, is saying more and more everyday. Most recently, in regards to his 9 month old sister Susannah, he has started saying that he “wuv’s sissy.” Each verbal affirmation is accompanied by a soft pat to Susannah’s back. Good times.
Although Josiah now has the ability to express his love for his sister in the abstract, he has not learned that love is specific. When Susannah reaches for any of “Josiah’s” toys she is quickly tutored by him that this is not appropriate. It’s always easier to love in the abstract without specificity.
Southern Baptists find themselves in a similar situation with regards to a Great Commission Resurgence. The staggering lostness of the world has brought Southern Baptists to their knees, pleading with God to use them in his kingdom advancement more effectively. By the grace of God, there is great support. Great Commission task forces, Great Commission emphases, Great Commission blogs, etc. are popping up everywhere. There is great excitement and momentum. That is, until the GCR gets specific.
The Question of Change
Although Southern Baptists, from the person in the pew to the heads of entities, agree about the need for a Great Commission Resurgence in the abstract, there is disagreement when the GCR gets specific. It’s always easier to champion a GCR in the abstract without specificity. After all, hardly anyone is against the Great Commission.
For instance, most recently, Pastor Ronnie Floyd delivered the progress report for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. While his report focused on broad needs, it did provide specific proposals for moving towards a genuine GCR. Floyd, very reasonably, argued that the SBC should make a number of changes in order to be more effective for the kingdom. In other words, representing the GCRTF, he showed with some specificity what a genuine Great Commission Resurgence could look like. The task force recommended meaningful changes in the ways Southern Baptists are trying to reach America and the ends of the earth with the gospel.
But, specificity in relation to a GCR has been met with great opposition. Recently, BP news highlighted the Alabama State Evangelism Directors response to some of Floyd’s presentation. Sammy Gilbreath believes that adjusting the funding structure between state conventions and NAMB, one of the areas addressed by Floyd, “would devastate us.” BP news also notes the words of Gary Swafford, director of the SBOM associational missions and church planting office. He states, “Alabama is a missions field, too. This will change the way we do church planting and eliminate major ministries across the state.”
The article continues by showing the many ways that the state convention and associations would be effected. Readers learn that many ministries would be cut as a result of the change. Amongst the many listed reductions, Bobby DuBois, SBOM associate executive director, notes that the “Baldwin association would lose the state’s resort missionary.” The article concludes with some words from Rick Lance, “there is no way Alabama Baptists can pay for all the ministries and missions now supported jointly with NAMB.”
Without a doubt, the article paints a grim picture. If Southern Baptists only read this article, they would probably conclude that the specifics of a Great Commission Resurgence actually hurt the Great Commission. The ministries that would have to be cut leave the reader with the idea that there would be no way to continue these ministries and, thus, these people would never be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, it would seem that the GCR proposal should be rejected so that the lost can be reached or the GCR should be accepted resulting in the devastation of the ministries of the Alabama state convention. It’s always easier to support a GCR in the abstract without specifics.
The Direction of Change
Like love, a GCR will be meaningless without specific action. And there will be disagreements over the specifics. These specifics, no doubt, will be weighty. Real change affects real people in real situations. Perhaps it will be helpful to keep a few things in mind as GCR discussions move forward.
First, somebody and something has to change. Is this obvious? Yes and no. Yes, everyone knows that somebody and something has to change. No, hardly anyone thinks that “somebody” is them and that “something” is their ministry. If Southern Baptists are not willing to look at their lives, jobs, and areas of influence with the same critical eye that they look at their least favorite ministry, then this whole thing will be superficial. Life is too short and Christ is too glorious to waste time thinking a GCR will happen when “other” people change. Somebody has to change in order for there to be a GCR and you’re one of those somebody’s (and so am I!). There can be no sacred cows, no untouchable aspects of your life, your ministry, or your job. All of these are precious gifts, but none of them should be treated as though they are on the level of Christ’s mission in the world.
Part 2 to be posted shortly…
You are correct in what you are saying. But, if this is true, then it is incumbent upon the GCRTF to show how their changes will make things better. I don’t think that they have communicated that. The loudest voices are telling us what we will lose. But, what will we gain? Why should the SBC change if we don’t understand how the change will help us better accomplish the Great Commission? I agree that Alabama is a mission field, but if the 3,000+ SBC churches in Alabama can’t get the job done, then the state convention isn’t going to get it done either. And, that is part of the problem. We keep farming out the Great Commission to other people that we pay to do it for us. I love the guys at ALSBOM and personally know most of the people that you quoted in this article. Their hearts are good and they desire to see people come to Christ. They are representing their perspective and it is valid. Why would they want to give up the ministry that they are doing, especially when it is really difficult to see what will replace it, both in Alabama and also in pioneer regions.
And, a lot of guys in the pioneer areas are not happy about this either. A great deal of church planting will cease in places like Delaware, Michigan, and Minnesota under this plan when the cooperative agreements are cut. If we are going to change something, we have to understand how what we are replacing it with is better. For example, the idea that the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist convention has an annual budget of around $1.5 million while Southern Seminary just spent over $5 million on an entry way might be a little hard for some people to understand. There are many individual churches in the South with budgets larger than entire state conventions in other parts of the country. We need to understand how ending cooperative agreements is going to help people, because right now, all that everyone can see is that a lot of ministries are going to end and a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. That might not be bad, but what will replace the system we have? We just see some vague plans.
Thanks for the comments Alan. I want to be clear that I am not questioning the sincerity anyone’s motives. I believe that those guys, along with everyone else, really desires to see people come to Jesus. I think that this difficult, but necessary, GCR conversation needs to take place at a level where we can talk about real changes that involve serious ministries of the gospel. We need to be able to talk about good, better, and best (I’ll talk about this more in the next part of the blog).
I think it’s also important to note that while there is a lot to say about the GCR report that Floyd gave, it isn’t finished. They still welcome any and all ideas. There is an openness and transparency that characterizes the GCRTF that is rare indeed.
With that said, I still think that there was a remarkable clarity to his report. It seemed to me that one thing was really clear, they intend to increase, not decrease or simply sustain, the church planting, ministries, etc. in pioneer states. These men and women have a passion for church planting in the unreached and undeserved areas of America and the world.
You’re right that there are a lot of complexities that surround Cooperative Agreements. But, state conventions existed before their creation in the 1950s and 1960s and, it would seem, could exist with an adjustment to them. But, again, they are open and I’m definitely open to hearing how to make our cooperation even better and more faithful.
Thanks again for your comments. I hope you’ll continue to offer helpful ideas and pray for these men and women as they carry out this massive task.
Here is my view on the “problem” with the task force’s report relative to the item regarding the NAMB.
Rhetorical Questions regarding the task force’s goals relative to chruch planting / evangelism in North America:
1. Is the task force’s statement of the problem correct? YES
2. Do we need to do more to put “boots on the ground” in places in the USA (such as large cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco)and in “pioneer” states (such as the Dakotas, Montana)? YES
3. Do we need to have a unified command and control structure for church planters and evangelists in the USA rather than the Byzantine method used now which is implemented by the “cooperative agreements”? YES
4. Do we need to streamline our operations? YES
5. Do we need to have dispersed regional centers in the USA as opposed to having only one HQ location in Alpharetta? YES
This does not mean that the task force’s solution is correct. Because:
1. The task force’s proposed solution is not budget neutral.
2. The task force’s proposed solution results in a $50,000,000 unfunded mandate upon the state conventions.
3. Many people in pioneer state conventions would loose most or all of the funding for their salary — which is tantamount to “defunding” these pioneer state conventions leading to their annihilation.
4. Implementing the task force’s solution results in putting a financial squeeze on many “old-line” state conventions. For example, in Oklahoma the funding loss would be around $1,000,000 per year.
There is a way to achieve the “same” goal as the task force but (a) does not result in any pink slips being handed out, and (b) does not involve a $50,000,000 unfunded mandate placed on the state conventions.
The situation with the task force is very difficult for most of us to interface with because they are operating in secret. Although they take input from everyone, they evidently don’t share any tentative ideas with people to get feedback on them. So many people were blindsided by their interim report.
These problems could have been short-circuited if the taskforce would have opened up their proceedings so that the NAMB proposal which has caused so much pushback could have been “nipped in the bud”.
It should be noted that so far the task force’s propoal is only an INTERIM proposal so there is still time to get this right. Let’s hope that the task force shares their final May 3rd proposal with a select group of people representative of ALL SBC stakeholders prior to its official release. If necessary, they might have to implement “non-disclosure” agreements.
In reference to your last paragraph:
Is this even feasible for us to do? I agree that “no sacred cows, no untouchable aspects of your life, your ministry, or your job” but we as Southern Baptists have a hard time actually relinquishing the sacred cows to their needed slaughter.
Again, not questioning heart-motives, but maybe pocket-motives, I wonder if the state leaders are so opposed because it will be incumbent of them to trim the fat first. There is little, if any, among the entities…and the churches will pick up the programmatic slack only when they cannot, to quote Alan “farm out the Great Commission to other people that we pay to do it for us”.
So I ask, are we really ready to tighten belts and step out in faith to fulfill the Lord’s desire?
I couldn’t agree with you more on what you say about the local church. I really believe we think a lot a like on this issue. If 3,000 SBC churches with 1 million people can’t get the job done evangelizing, discipling and planting among 4.5 million people then no state or national entity can or will.
I think one of the major problems in the SBC is that we farm out missions. For years we’ve thought that writing a check that says CP defines “missions minded.” We do need to figure out how to be a convention that is centered on the gospel and the primacy of the local church.
I believe many churches are becoming much more hands on with missions and planting, and that is one reason why the CP suffers. I think every single one of our entities is going to need to figure out that the game is changing and they need to refocus to serve the local churches if they’re going to thrive in the 21st century.
Let me try to answer your main question as to what will be gained from the GCRTF recommendations. I think one thing we will gain is a decentralized church planting network in NAMB. I think the reinvented NAMB will focus on serving local churches in helping them plant in the urban centers of our country. This will be a local church driven network. Of course some of this will depend on the right guy being selected as president. If a guy who wants to continue business as usual is elected as president then he can (and probably will) counteract all that the GCRTF is trying to accomplish with this recommendation.
I think we will replace a denominational situation that is currently characterized by overlap and duplication. From what church planters have told me they are in the middle often times trying to choose which one of their “bosses” to please in order to get resources (association, state convention, or NAMB).
I think we will gain a church planting network that is focused on pioneer areas and the major urban centers of our country. The GCRTF has said they want more planting and ministry in those areas not less.
I think this is a good thing b/c we need an unencumbered, decentralized church planting network if we are going to really assist local churches in planting in the major urban centers of our country. If we are going to spend greater resources in the places of greatest need then of necessity they will have to come from the places that currently have the greatest resources. They won’t come from the NY convention, illinois convention, etc. b/c the resources aren’t there b/c there aren’t many churches there.
If we don’t want to accept this vision for reaching the unreached places of our country and the world then what vision should replace it b/c continuing to do what we are doing doesn’t seem to be the answer either.
Yes the end of the cooperative agreements will result in an unfunded mandate on the state conventions and yes put a squeeze on old line conventions, but is that necessarily wrong?
You claim that “there is a way to achieve the ‘same’ goal as the task force but (a) does not result in any pink slips being handed out, and (b) does not involve a $50,000,000 unfunded mandate placed on the state conventions.” What is it? That would be very interesting!
When you say, “These problems could have been short-circuited if the taskforce would have opened up their proceedings so that the NAMB proposal which has caused so much pushback could have been ‘nipped in the bud'” that assumes that the NAMB proposal should’ve been “nipped in the bud.” What is lost in all of this is that these proposals were not made without interaction with NAMB workers!
The GCRTF is very open to interaction. Many have interacted with them. Please offer them a better solution to these issues if there is one.
You ask a very good and key question. May answer is that I HOPE we are ready to tighten and step out in faith.
I don’t think we will if things remain the same as they are now. We need to be challenged as churches to take the reins. May already are.
You ask a great question. I pray that we are…
Thanks for raising the question regarding an alternative plan for church planting / evangelism in the North America.
I sent a very rough draft of a plan a few days ago to several people for comments. These people are “leaders in the SBC” who I have asked to give me advise on how to proceed. Specifically, I need wisdom, beyond my own, to determine if I should release this plan or not. Also, I need someone to look at it and offer feedback on it before I take it public.
I don’t want to just shoot from the hip over here. However, I sincerely believe that the task force’s vision is urgent. It is something we must address. We can’t continue to just drift along in neutral, without beefing up what we are doing in underserved areas of North America — especially “pioneer areas” and “large Nothern Cities”.
Pending advice I receive to the contrary, I’ll E-mail my “back of the envelope” sketch of what I believe is the best way to move forward late Wednesday evening.
I know we have an honest difference of opinion on this, but I sincerely believe that we can’t just marginalize the state conventions.
We can’t implement a plan that is not budget neutral — because regardless of its merits (or non merits) is is not even feasible.
I don’t think the SBC can “survive” the shock that would result from what I believe is tantamount to “marginalizing” many state conventions and scrapping many others. The only reason the SBC even exists is to enable COOPERATION. I don’t think we are making progress by going back more and more to the place where each church does its own thing and we toss out cooperation in favor of a societial model for missions funding.
I believe some feel that individual churches should take on more and more ownership themselves for implementing the Great Commission. I AGREE. However, hopefully, that won’t spell the beginning of the end of the cooperative program — which I believe is tantamount to issuing a death notice for the SBC.
Be looking at your mail box tomorrow night.
Roger K. Simpson
I look forward to reading your proposal.
I do want to disagree though with your assessment of the current report. It does not marginalize state conventions. It simply is asking state conventions to adapt!
More and more churches will continue to take ownership of the Great Commission and they should! That means that associations, conventions, entities, etc will have to adapt eventually in order to thrive in the 21st century. I think the GCR speeeds up this process.
The report doesn’t call for societal giving. It’s quite clear about that. This is being led by a president who led his church to significantly increase CP giving.
The GCRTF made a poor decision at the start by voting to have secret meetings without even a Baptist Press rep there on background; however, I appreciate their coming forward with details several months before the convention in June. Observations:
1. The word “seminary” does not appear in the prelim report. Are we to assume that our six seminaries are sacred cows or that the TF considers them to be fully Great Commission resurgent already?
2. The meat of the report is another major NAMB reorganization plan. Good for the TF. The most problem plagued SBC agency certainly needs something, but who thinks that NAMB with their history of problems will manage another $50m better than the states? Someone needs to convince me of that one.
3. The Cooperative Agreements need to be addressed. Why should SBCers in NC have their AA money go to pay for VBS training in Arkansas or for work in Alabama? Can’t the thousands of churches in those states handle their own mission work?
4. The Great Commission Giving merely recognizes the long term trend in the SBC. I doubt it will change anything.
Thanks for the comments William. I think it is important to distinguish between “secret meetings” and “private meetings” though.
“Secret meetings” could be taken wrongly. Their meetings weren’t secret, since they told us all that they were having them. But you are right that the meetings were private. Surely we’re all okay with them having meetings where everything they say is amongst themselves. They’ve been charged with a serious task of bringing a report to the SBC in Orlando. This takes a gut level honesty between a diverse group that probably works best in private, even leaving out BPnews. I don’t think they have to provide us a running tab, reality television, version of how they arrived at their conclusion. Like you, I’m glad that they were so transparent with us, both in when they were having their meetings, several Q&A’s along the way, and offering a preliminary report.
1. I don’t think that there any sacred cows, including seminaries. But the seminaries have already been making significant job cuts. They’re already doing the things that other ministries say will “devastate” them. Also, seminaries get a very small piece of the CP dollar. This doesn’t mean they are perfect. It does mean they are doing a pretty good job in my estimation.
2. I think that this is a serious concern. But, I think it is important to note that the Task Force is not recommending that NAMB should simply receive a lot more money. They are recommending how that money should be spent by focusing their church planting efforts on the under served and un-reached people of North America, especially in the massive urban centers. If NAMB takes both cues, I think we’ll be in a great spot. Of course, whoever NAMB selects as president will play a significant role in the success or failure of this.
3. Not sure I understand you, but I think the idea is that the money from NC would go towards reaching the Northeast and Northwest, not other Southeastern states.
4. I hope you’re wrong about this! You’ll be right though if we all wait and watch to see if “it” will change anything. We all have to do our part in order to make this thing happen.
Thanks again for the feedback.
You are right. The report does not call for societal giving.
However to the extent that the SBC moves away from cooperation to something else then I think the trend is 180 degrees out of phase with what should be happening.
People will disagree whether the report, taken as a whole, tends to move us more towards cooperation or tends to stress initiatives of individual churches rather than the CP. This is very difficult for me to come to grips with. So I have not yet formulated a comment or opinion on the subject of the task force’s bullet item regarding new terms which describe giving in addition to the historical term “cooperative program” giving.
I believe cooperation and societal giving are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Any move we make — at any level — in the SBC that short-circuits cooperation will turn out to be a regressive step back to a pre-1925 model.
One comment: Given the public feedback that has happened since the release of the interim report, I don’t see how any impartial observer could conclude that the make-up of the task force represents a cross section of all SBC stakeholders.
I’d like to also read your idea…if you don’t mind.
…not that I’m a “leader in the SBC”…just a member with opinions!
I’ll send both you and Jon my writeup, via E-mail, tomorrow evening.
Warning! The views expressed in the brief proposal I’ll issue are my own. I do not hold any leadership position in any agency of the SBC.
Thanks for the feedback. If you are at all familiar with my SBC writings over the past few years either on my blog or the old SBCOutpost, you know that I am in favor of a GCR and am no defender of the status quo. However, my concern is that the proposals will not do enough to address the real problems. I do like what Jon put forward about a church planting network led by NAMB. I think that he articulated that more clearly than the task force did.
There are a lot of things I liked about Ronnie Floyd’s report, but here is what concerns me:
1. Money. Everything seems to be driven by how we get more money to places that we deem are more important. I believe in good stewardship, but everything seems to be focused on taking dollars from one area and putting them another. When you are dealing with a shrinking pie, that is only a temporary approach. We should he dealing with vision, mission, and true cooperation between churches in things that matter. As long as the primary means of cooperation in the SBC consists of sending money to the CP and volunteers to state and national entities, you will continue to see the pie shrink no matter how much you move stuff around.
2. A top-down approach. NAMB should not be directing a national church planting strategy. NAMB should assist and help facilitate local churches and associations in carrying out their strategies. If the responsibility rests with NAMB and everything goes through them, it will bottleneck. We need to fan the flames of a movement and five assistance where we can, not run it. Perhaps that is the plan, but it needs to be more clearly articulated.
3. State Cooperative Agreements. This is a problem. You have to have a strong transition plan for this that is more involved than just saying “4 years.” I talked with a church planter strategist on the West Coast funded by NAMB yesterday who is doing great work. They will lose their job if the state agreements are cut. They’ve been their almost 15 years and are doing great work. How will you replace them? Multiply that story 100 fold and the cure might kill the patient. This is not to day that we don’t need to fix things, but the recommendations of the GCRTF are not taking into account unintended consequences very well.
I very much appreciate your interaction on these issues. I think we think very similarly. I also appreciate you raising your concerns. I hope that you will address them to the TF so they have an opportunity to consider the consequences of the report and tweak things if necessary. We are hosting a GCR panel at SEBTS on April 28th. Please let us know if there are specific questions/concerns you’d like raised in that meeting.
The report may not have been as clear about NAMB being a church planting network that is local church focused, but I do think the TF has been casting that vision in Q&A’s, conference calls, etc. since the report was released and will continue to do so as we head towards Orlando.
Your point about $ is well taken. I think the hope of the TF is that $ will follow vision here. You write, “We should he dealing with vision, mission, and true cooperation between churches in things that matter.” I believe the TF thinks that if we shift resources to the places of greatest need then people will give more. This is a response to some churches that are increasingly designating their gifts or decreasing their CP b/c they don’t want so much kept in the south. The TF seems to believe that shifting the $ in this way will show churches we are focused on “things that matter,” and they’ll rise to the challenge and give more b/c that new vision reflects the priority of mission.
On NAMB, I agree that this shouldn’t be a top down strategy, but a local church owned strategy which NAMB assists (I believe that is the hope of the TF but will be dependent on the next president). Let me make a qualification and then try to encourage you.
The TF can only do so much. They’re extremely limited. They can only make substantial changes at the national level. They can’t mandate anything at the local church, assoc, or state levels. So, they can’t mandate that state conventions and assoc start serving the churches in mission. I think what they’re trying to do with NAMB is free them from some things that NAMB told the TF hinders them from focusing on church planting (the cooperative agreements).
I think the plan is exactly what you articulate here, and I hope the TF does articulate that more clearly. Again, that will need to be the vision of the next president of NAMB as well or it will be counteracted.
Also, NAMB is being asked to decentralize so this will not be national or top down, but regional. But the issue I have is that we are not local church driven now in the way we do things.
As for the cooperative agreements there is much that can be said. I can’t speak for every single instance of what will happen (and that may be your point). But, I do think there are some consequences that are intended here.
I think the TF is trying to shift the way state conventions and associations do their work. When they are asked to adapt and manage their budgets accordingly, I think the intended consequence is learn a new way to do things. Learn that your role is to serve the churches not create/sustain status quo ministries. So, things may be more intended than meets the eye.
We will be running stories in the future about ways that associations in some places have shifted their focus and been more effective than ever. I think this is the hope…
Alan, I agree with much of what you say. I think these recommendations can set us in the right direction but then local churches have to own and carry out the vision. I pray it starts with me and my church.
Thanks, Jon. This is very helpful and it gives me insight into what the GCRTF is thinking. It looks like they are trying to force change by changing the landscape. That is not a bad thing and it might be what is needed. I am not against restructuring and in the proper context, what you are saying can be very effective. But, the proper context is the engagement of the local church in the Missio Dei and that is what is missing so far in the GCRTF report. As we have been talking about on multiple comment streams, if you put your eggs in the basket of the local church and it starts to lead the SBC, then these other changes are vitally important because they help to fuel the movement.
The misstep of the GCRTF was to start with the denominational apparatus. I know that they cannot mandate anything. But, their call was to study how the SBC could best align itself for mission. One problem is that we often don’t see local churches as part of the SBC except to send money and missionaries to the national entities or state conventions. The CP has gotten us out of whack on this point. While the GCRTF cannot mandate anything, it can put forward a plan that local churches csn engage in. In that context, address the denominational restructuring that has dominated the GCR conversation the last several months.
Good discussion, by the way. We are basically in agreement, but just looking at things from a different angle, which is good.
Thanks again. I do appreciate your insights. I think we are virtually on the same page. I think we are in some ways reading the recommendations differently.
I think they do start with the local church and the whole document should be read in light of the comments that the local church is the HQ of the SBC not Nashville…
Regardless, the only way a GCR will take place is if local churches own this vision.
Hey Everybody,My apologies for not being able to ircneatt today. I was still involved in orientation and as such did not have the ability nor the time to answer any questions.Where to start?First of all, let me insist that the board itself took absolutely no action except to receive the resignations of Dr. Hammond and the others. I know that everyone would love to hear all of the details of what transpired in the room. That just can’t happen in this case! Again, the only votes that the board took were procedural no votes were cast in regard to Dr. Hammond or the others. Volfan, I don’t think that it would be accurate to say that Dr. Hammond was forced to resign. There were no votes in that regard taken one way or the other. It is my understanding that it is normal for confidentiality agreements to be signed in situations like this. Both parties agree to not talk about it therefore I cannot talk about it!I share Roger’s optimism that some very good things are going to happen at NAMB. Leadership change can be very healthy and I suspect that NAMB will just fine. Doug, having had the opportunity to hear personally from senior leadership at NAMB, I believe that the priorities that you have listed will be emphasized in an even greater way. It was announced today that long-time NAMB leader, Richard Harris will be at the helm until an interim president is named. Richard Harris is cream of the crop and I expect that the short-term leadership at NAMB through Dr. Harris will be tremendous.Though I can’t tell you what was discussed, I can certainly tell you what was not discussed. In my entire time, since arriving in Alpharetta on Monday, I heard absolutely no one discuss the possibility of merging the two mission boards. I certainly do not know the heart of each trustee but I did not hear or overhear any discussion of merging.Tom, good question. Unfortunately, I was not on the board when that statement was issued. I have tried to provide the information about the meeting that I can share which is the mood in the room. It was not an angry shouting kind of meeting. Men were openly broken. I’ve seen political and this was not political! Also, Volfan, nothing was said about Ed Stetzer good suggestion though