I am excited about the opportunity next week to attend the Southern Baptist Convention 2010 in Orlando, FL. It will be my first opportunity to attend in several years, so that only adds to the excitement. Unfortunately I was not able to be there last year when the vote to establish the “Great Commission Task Force” was passed. While, I still believe Southern Baptists are one of the most effective organizations of evangelical churches in cooperatively fulfilling the Great Commission, I was surprised to see so many opposing the idea of researching our effectiveness as a cooperating body. Why would anyone burdened for the unreached peoples of the world not want to do whatever it takes to more effectively seek to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8)?
On May 3rd when the report was released, I read it early in the morning, and I saw nothing that concerned me, but only a few encouraging steps and a reaffirmation of the task that our Lord set before his followers as he prepared to ascend to the Father. The Report (Read the GCR Report Here) is composed of seven components. I will make a brief summary statement on each:
Component #1 of the report states: GETTING THE MISSION RIGHT–As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
This statement is clear and concise and it states what should be the purpose of every church in the world. Any group or organization that fails to support this component cannot claim to be an evangelical church.
Component #2 of the report states: MAKING OUR VALUES TRANSPARENT—All Southern Baptists are encouraged to embrace and adopt these core values:
- LOCAL CHURCH
How could anyone oppose the idea of Christians everywhere adopting these important values for believers? Each of these should be common themes preached regularly from Bible-Preaching Pulpits! Each person’s personal walk with Christ can have either a positive or a negative effect upon those who question the authenticity of the Gospel. As someone once said, “Your life may be the only Gospel some people ever read.” They must see Jesus in it!
Component #3 of the report states: CELEBRATING AND EMPOWERING GREAT COMMISSION GIVING–Thus, we will call upon Southern Baptists to give as never before, to support the Cooperative Program as never before, and to celebrate every church’s eager and sacrificial support of Great Commission Giving at every level.
If Southern Baptists are going to fulfill the Great Commission within this generation, we must give more to efforts to reach those who are unreached. I was shocked in Seminary to learn how little of our percentage of giving through the Cooperative Program is actually used to support church planting efforts. It disturbed me, and I knew then that something needed to change in regards to that system. The percentage of giving some state conventions are withholding seemed like thievery. I applaud the GCRTF in addressing this issue, and I hope cooperating churches within the SBC give more generously to all cooperating efforts, but GREAT COMMISSION GIVING must INCREASE dramatically!
Component #4 of the report states: REACHING NORTH AMERICA–we will ask Southern Baptists to unleash the North American Mission Board for a new era of leadership and service to Southern Baptists, pushing back against the lostness of the United States and Canada.
Some have stated that NAMB exists to subsidize state programs, but I have always felt that the main reason for NAMB is to plant churches and establish witnessing opportunities in those communities in our great nation which have little access or virtually no access to the Gospel. The restructuring hopefully will provide more opportunities for established churches to send out Great Commission families to new mission fields in our own nation where they can establish churches which will also be mission sending centers!
Component #5 of the report states: REACHING UNREACHED AND UNDERSERVED PEOPLE GROUPS WITHIN NORTH AMERICA–we will ask Southern Baptists to entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry of reaching unreached and underserved people groups without regard to any geographic limitation.
With the great diversity of people groups in the United States, giving the IMB the responsibility for reaching the international groups within our own borders is a brilliant move. They already have the structure for training and reaching many of these people groups, and it provides another cheaper alternative to reaching some of those unreached people groups in our world. If we can win them while they are here, when they return to their own people, they can take the Gospel with them!
Component #6 of the report states: PROMOTING THE COOPERATIVE PROGRAM AND ELEVATING STEWARDSHIP–The Cooperative Program is a partnership, and both the SBC and the state conventions have important work to do. This means an important and continuing leadership role for the SBC Executive Committee as well.
As I have already stated, giving must increase. Churches must cooperate more intimately and combine resources more effectively to reach more people as quickly as possible. Jesus is coming soon!
Component #7 of the report states: THE CALL OF THE NATIONS AND THE SBC ALLOCATION BUDGET–an intention to raise the Cooperative Program SBC Allocation Budget percentage received by the International Mission Board to 51 percent.
I am very pleased with the decision to increase the normal CP allocation given to the IMB from 50% to 51%. This should have been done long ago. Most of the unreached people in the world live in the international community. Why would we keep half of the money given through the CP inside the United States when 90% of the world’s unreached population lives across the seas? My only regret in this is that it’s not more than 51%.
CONCLUSION: It is difficult for small churches like the one I pastor to feel greatly involved in the great task of fulfilling the Great Commission apart from the organizational structure of the SBC. I am pleased with the report delivered by the GCRTF, and I look forward to supporting their proposal next week at the SBC in Orlando. Hopefully as our churches become more burdened for our world, the action taken by the SBC to reach each person in our world with the Gospel will become even more effective and more dramatic! It’s time to tell the world about Jesus!