EDITOR’S NOTE: Joseph Bunce is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–This week I was in Nashville, Tenn., attending meetings of our beloved Southern Baptist Convention. Monday night I heard the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, a special committee appointed by Johnny Hunt, president of the SBC.
I listened with interest to the progress report of this committee. You might wish to watch a pre-recorded video of the report at www.pray4gcr.com. In my opinion, the recorded report was delivered with a very different flavor Monday night than what is recorded and the response is what I would describe as polite. I want to ask that we here in New Mexico pray for wisdom and discernment as to how best navigate the ministries that God has called us to in fulfilling the Great Commission.
There are areas in the report that I am in complete agreement with. One is we need to repent before our Holy God and ask that He forgive us for a lack of concern for the lost of this world. The report speaks about the vast areas of our continent and the world where lostness is overwhelming. New Mexico is clearly seen as being a fertile field for scattering the Gospel seed. I am in complete agreement with this element of the report.
There are areas in the report that are of great concern to me, however. I would rather not take my concerns item-by-item at this point, but highlight one area that, if the report is adopted as-is, would create a huge dilemma for our state convention and dismantle other Western state conventions. The Baptist Convention of New Mexico size-wise is somewhere in the middle of the pack. When it comes to missions giving for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, for example, we have consistently been No. 20 in dollars given, compared to the dollars given by the other 41 conventions.
The progress report (note that we do not have the finished report) said that the funding of North American missionaries working in state conventions and associations, in an agreement known as cooperative agreements, would be reduced to zero in a four-year time frame. At that time, NAMB jointly funded missionaries would be under the direct supervision of NAMB, rather than the state conventions they have historically served. This is huge for New Mexico and is a death sentence for other Western state conventions. For example, if jointly funded missionaries were removed from the Wyoming Convention staff, only one out of the eight people serving in their leadership could be supported by the Wyoming Convention.
A solution that was offered by Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the task force, was to realign and adjust our budgets, reducing the amount of monies that are being forwarded on through the Cooperative Program from our state convention. I find it very difficult to understand this logic, as state conventions have been chided for not sending on more gifts for work outside their respective states. Now we are told to keep more dollars in-state to pay for our own staffs, rather than have jointly funded missionaries.
With all this said, allow me to say as clearly as I possibly can, I agree with the diagnoses of our spiritual malady but I disagree with the prescriptions in this first report. I pray that the task force will not bring back a report that does not afford each state convention the opportunity to remain in a collaborative, mutually agreed upon mission funding strategy. I value the wonderful working partnership with NAMB, and I affirm their expectations of accountability. I praise the significant resources and expertise that their ministries have brought to our state convention and the SBC as a whole. However, unless directed by our BCNM executive board or state convention meeting in October, I will not, as executive director, release the supervision of our state staff directly to NAMB or any other SBC agency.
In closing, let me ask three things of each person reading this article. First, repentance from us and respect for others, even those we disagree with, is what God would want from each of us. Second, this report will not be finished until May, and then it would require the SBC in June to accept the report, before any structural changes would be made. I would ask that we diligently work together to not create rumors about what might be in this report until we have seen the final report, as I am certain there will be adjustments made. Third, and most of all, I want to ask you to pray that we here in New Mexico will not allow the rhetoric that goes on to take our focus from reaching New Mexico and touching the world for Christ.
We here in New Mexico are working on our own objectives for the future, titled “Directions to Our Destiny.” This progress report from the task force will simply allow us many more options as to how we might do ministry here.
Joseph Bunce is the executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (www.bcnm.com).