SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–If you are a regular reader of Baptist Press, you’re probably familiar with the national committee studying the effectiveness of the Southern Baptist Convention. Appointed at last year’s SBC annual meeting, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force issued a progress report Feb. 22. If approved and implemented, the report could impact the Illinois Baptist State Association, where I serve, as well as many other state conventions and local associations.
I was in Nashville, Tenn., for presentation of the progress report by task force chairman Ronnie Floyd. I participated in a news conference that evening with Dr. Floyd and then interviewed him the following morning. I’ve stayed abreast of almost daily GCR developments as SBC leaders seek to understand the report, and as the task force prepares its final report prior to its release May 3.
Following are three questions I am praying the task force will address in that final report.
1) What can we do to revive our membership? In the interim report, Floyd convincingly characterizes the declining effectiveness of many SBC churches as a spiritual problem. Using Joel 2:12-17, he emphasizes the need for “God’s people to return to Him in total surrender, complete humility, and with a new attitude … denying our pride and selfishness.”
He writes, “I pray we will return to God and get in on a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will result in the greatest worldwide harvest in human history.” Amen!
Yet the report’s recommendations are not about how to address the spiritual failings of our members — it’s about what changes need to be made in the SBC’s budget and structure. According to the report, we need to change ministry assignments. We need to change who plans the mission strategy for North America. We need to increase the International Mission Board’s budget by less than half of 1 percent. We need a new vision statement for the denomination. (Anybody know what the current vision statement is?) And we need to develop a new category of mission giving so those who give designated gifts will be appropriately “celebrated.”
I know we can’t program revival, but I believe when some of the wisest, most Godly, most gifted leaders in the SBC meet for nearly a year, they could propose something that might help us call our people back to the Lord.
2) How can we retain productive partnerships between the North American Mission Board, state conventions and associations? The progress report asserts that cooperative agreements between NAMB and state conventions are inefficient and result in a lack of accountability. Their solution is to end the agreements — and the accompanying funding — over a four-year period. This will devastate small state conventions in new work states, drastically change mid-sized state conventions and have significant short-term effects even on larger state conventions.
There are vague references in the report to “future partnerships,” but it is much more clear about what needs to be stopped than how those agreements and budgets will be phased out — and about what could replace them.
In the last couple of weeks, task force members have made statements that seem to indicate they have heard the concern of state convention executive directors and associational directors of missions. Several members have affirmed formal agreements between NAMB, the states and associations. If so, the final report needs to include a clearer statement affirming those partnership ministries.
3) What will happen to current North American Mission Board ministry assignments that are not prioritized in the GCR report? NAMB currently has nine ministry assignments from the SBC, but the interim report recommends only five: church planting, evangelism and discipleship (discipleship is new for NAMB), develop current pastoral leadership (a new assignment), appoint missionaries and “assist churches through missional impact” (also new).
The “missional impact” assignment seems to consist of six of the current assignments lumped into one: mission education, disaster relief, Christian social ministries, endorsing SBC chaplains, supporting associations and supporting volunteers.
Where will resources for these ‘missional impact’ ministries come from if, as is depicted in a draft organizational chart of the new North American Mission Board, 50 percent of NAMB’s resources are devoted to church planting, and 25 percent each goes to evangelism and leadership? The final report needs to address the priority of these vital ministries.
I believe the task force members are very well-intentioned and that they are working and praying very hard as they finish their work. We need to support them with dedicated prayer of our own.
Marty King is editor of The Illinois Baptist (ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.