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…