by Lauren Crane
The question isn’t whether or not a Great Commission Resurgence is happening. The question remains, though, whether the Southern Baptist Convention will be a part of it.
So was the consensus among several members of the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, who came together April 28 at Southeastern Seminary to participate in a panel discussion hosted by the website Baptist21. The task force, which was put together by SBC president Johnny Hunt after last year’s convention meeting, has been studying and suggesting changes the SBC can make in order to streamline the denomination’s systems for reaching the nations with the gospel.
“We have been working very hard to figure out ways to challenge individuals, churches, state conventions and national entities to be aggressive about addressing the lostness around the world,” said Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern. Akin, who was an early leader of the movement and the one who coined the term “Great Commission Resurgence,” said, “The task force cannot tell a person, a pastor, a church or an association to do anything. We have to request them to take specific action – and we will – and to rethink and reprioritize so they can make an impact for the Great Commission.”
Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the task force and Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale and The Church at Pinnacle Hills, Ark., said people too often forget that, despite what the task force recommends, there is still the spiritual component. “It’s a both/and situation. We have to have both structural and spiritual changes, I’m convinced,” he said.
The GCR task force can’t do anything to force either structural or spiritual changes said J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.
“The days of bloated, centralized bureaucracy are a-changing,” he said. “We are just acknowledging that.”
Instead, Greear and the others are recommending “flattening” the existing structures and funneling more of the money directly to initiatives that actively proclaim the gospel to unreached and underserved people groups in North America and around the world.
Combating the idea that the task force is recommending the eradication of certain organizations and procedures of the SBC, Floyd said, “We are recommending the continuation of some strategic partnerships, but we are recommending they reach the lostness of the world.” He said the situation isn’t a “good versus evil” one, but rather, that the GCR task force sought to determine what is best in getting the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. Floyd said the task force is recommending the North American Mission Board be given more opportunity and more funds to reach the 238 million in North America by de-centralizing the agency into various regions of the country.
“There is a better way. We’re not looking to have less work go on – we want to see more,” said Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The new structure (we are recommending) needs to be good for the North American Mission Board and the state conventions.”
Akin said people don’t have to pit the Great Commission resurgence against state conventions, as many have been doing at the suggestion of sending more money to the North American and International Mission Boards.
“I have always been for the state conventions,” he said. “The fact is, though, times are changing and the coming generation is very missionally-minded. If you are out there, receiving CP dollars and not doing a good job of penetrating lostness, why should we fund you? No one has the right to hold out their hand and say, ‘Give me the money you’ve always given me.’
“We can work together now to change with less pain, or we can wait 10 years and see Cooperative Program giving continue to decline and be forced to change in a painful way,” Akin said.
Floyd acknowledges the task force’s recommendations cannot accommodate all of the necessary change needed to address the problem of the world’s lostness, but it is a start. They hope the new direction will begin with the approval of their recommendations at the convention meeting in Orlando.
“What happens in Orlando is critical for creating a climate and atmosphere for change,” Floyd said. “We have got to come out of Orlando understanding that this (Great Commission Resurgence) is up to individual Christians and churches. They will have to stand up and not tolerate a lack of Great Commission activity in the SBC.”
It remains to be seen, then, whether or not the Southern Baptist Convention will slide by without becoming actively involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
“A Great Commission Resurgence is happening,” Greear said. “It’s not something the SBC is bringing – it’s something the Spirit is bringing.
“The question is, is the Southern Baptist Convention going to be there, or is it going to pass us by?”
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.