NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Acknowledging that many Southern Baptists have mixed feelings about the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s recommendations, the task force chairman said May 20 he hopes people will approach the matter with an “open heart” when they travel to Orlando to vote on it.
“Here’s the thing we’ve got to come to: What does God want us to do? How can we get there together? Is this going to give us an opportunity to at least move toward change?” said Ronnie Floyd during a conference call sponsored by the Network of Baptist Associations.
Floyd was responding to results of an online poll conducted by NOBA that showed members of their network in favor of some elements of the report, opposed to others and divided over most.
The poll, which program host Bobby Gilstrap, director of missions for the Huron and Southeastern Baptist associations in Michigan, acknowledged was not based on a scientifically reliable sample, indicated:
— About 60 percent of the respondents are not satisfied with what they currently understand about the GCRTF report.
— About 65 percent would vote against the report if it was brought to a vote as one item.
— More than 80 percent of respondents support the new mission statement and core values proposed in the report.
— More than 60 percent oppose the proposals on “Great Commission Giving” and refocusing the North American Mission Board.
— More than 60 percent favor the idea of increasing the International Mission Board’s share of Cooperative Program dollars to 51 percent.
— By a 53/43 split, respondents support the proposal to allow the International Mission Board to work in North America.
— By a 50/45 split, respondents support the idea of giving state conventions primary responsibility for promoting Cooperative Program giving and stewardship.
When asked to respond to the high percentage that would vote against the recommendations if presented as a single item, Floyd said all he could think to say was to ask how many of those people “were employees of Baptist entities.”
Floyd also said he felt people were forming their opinions without reading the report.
“The only thing I am seeing that does concern me is that so many people have not taken time to read the final report,” Floyd said. “They are determining what they believe about it based off what they read in one of our Baptist papers or in the blogosphere or what some Baptist employee determines he is going to share with them. We want people to base their convictions on the report itself, not off someone else’s interpretation of it.”
Task force member Mike J. Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla., said concerns are misplaced that a new emphasis on “Great Commission Giving” will diminish support for Southern Baptists primary giving channel, the Cooperative Program.
“I am convinced it will increase Cooperative Program giving,” Orr said. “In our church family, we are giving almost 20 percent to the Cooperative Program. We are giving over 4 percent of our undesignated receipts to our local association…. This report is a challenge to all Southern Baptists to give sacrificially to the Cooperative Program.”
Floyd said that in spite of much discussion about the health of Cooperative Program giving over the past decade, contributions remain in a “downward trajectory” and are an indication of the need for change.
“Do we think that keep doing the same thing is going to change it?” he asked. “No. We’re going to give an opportunity for Southern Baptist leaders within our associations, our state conventions, our national convention — we’re going to give them an opportunity to go out here and give the message of the Great Commission in a brand-new way, with actions that are going to get more dollars and cents to the mission field….”
Floyd said the change, if adopted during the annual meeting in Orlando, would give church and denominational leaders an opportunity to re-educate Southern Baptists about the Cooperative Program.
“This is going to be an incredible moment, if we can seize the moment,” he said.
Floyd also questioned why people keep raising questions about the percentage level of Cooperative Program giving of congregations like his.
“Why are we not asking the thousands of churches in our SBC that have not given anything to the Cooperative Program?” Floyd asked. “What about the autonomy of the local church? Where does that fit in? I thought we believed in that.
“Why don’t we start asking, ‘How many people did your church baptize last year?'” Floyd said. “Let’s ask the question, ‘How many churches did you plant last year as a church?'”
A different measure of commitment is needed, Floyd suggested.
“We need to gauge commitment to the Great Commission on the basis of what Jesus said in the Word and that is penetrating the lostness of the people groups around the world,” Floyd said. “We have perhaps hundreds, maybe thousands of churches that baptize little to no one and yet they give X percentile to the Cooperative Program and they are lifted up in the SBC.
“The local churches of the denomination will change the region and North America — and ultimately will change the world — because God has called churches to plant churches and we’ve got to get them involved in that.”
Floyd closed the hour-long conference call with an appeal for Southern Baptists to “come together for the Gospel.”
“This is bigger than me. It’s bigger than our committee. It’s bigger than our churches, our associations, our own state conventions,” Floyd said. “We just ask that you come [to Orlando] with an open heart, with a willing spirit, and let’s just lay it before the Lord Jesus and let’s just see where He leads us to go together.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. An audio recording of the conference call and details about the survey results are available on the NOBA website, www.nobasbc.org. The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report is available at www.pray4gcr.com.