KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Merging the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board is a key question Southern Baptists must address if a much-prayed-for spiritual awakening comes to their network of churches.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd raised the question during his address at a symposium on “The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment” Sept. 28-29 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
“Spiritual renewal leads to strategic reinvention,” Floyd said in an address titled “Kindling Afresh the Gift of God: Spiritual Renewal, Strategic Reinvention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“Structure and systems flow from the work of God; they do not create the work of God,” said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas who was among the symposium’s seven featured speakers.
“I do not speak as one who does not understand our history nor as one who is a newcomer asking questions that are not truly relevant,” Floyd said, citing numerous ways he has been involved in Southern Baptist life since the late 1980s. Among them: chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, president of the Pastors’ Conference and, most recently, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
“Yet, I have always been one who has never been afraid to challenge us in what we are doing, why we are doing it, and even the way we may still be doing it,” Floyd said, noting, “We do not need to demonize any of our people who ask questions in the right spirit.”
Floyd set forth several “challenging questions” that Southern Baptists will face “as we kindle afresh the gift of God and experience moments of renewal.”
“I will propose more questions than my opinion, even though I do have a view on probably most of them,” Floyd said. “Most of these questions people have heard already, but some may never have made it to a public arena,” he continued. “I believe it would be negligent of me in dealing with my assigned topic if I chose not to share some of these important questions for this generation of Baptists to consider.”
Among Floyd’s questions:
— “Do we exist to preserve our present brand, structure and systems, or do we exist to advance the Gospel together regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally?”
The Southern Baptist Convention, founded in 1845, could drift into a focus on structures, budgets and competing projects “rather than keeping our focus on our mission to reach the world,” Floyd said. If, over time, Southern Baptists lose “our identity and our reason for being … this leads to people and leaders leaving us and taking their support and vision to other places and ministries,” he said.
— “For the sake of gospel advancement, should the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board become one mission board, the Global Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention?”
One reason why a single mission board has never been created, Floyd said, stems from the specific roles of IMB and NAMB. But he pondered whether the dual roles are needed “within the global culture we experience daily and with the reality that ethnicities live everywhere across the world…. [W]ith an undeniable global mindset in America today, is this still the right strategy?”
The future of the SBC’s two mission boards, Floyd said, will involve a decision on how best to “fast-forward the mission of our churches” to advance the Gospel among the ethnicities of the world.
— “Do state conventions and associations have a future in Southern Baptist life?”
There is a need for “boots on the ground” to help churches fulfill their mission, Floyd said, suggesting that state conventions and local Baptist associations will have relevance by optimizing their mission to “serve our churches in reaching their God-assigned responsibility of going, baptizing and making disciples of all the nations.”
State conventions, associations and SBC entities, he added, “must find a way to cease duplication and triplication locally, statewide and nationally.”
— “How will we finance our work together in the future in the most effective way?”
Floyd noted that Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program for missions and ministry support in each state and across the nation and world was founded 90 years ago. “I don’t think our forefathers would fear churches asking serious questions about our financial future and the Gospel work we do together,” he said. “If they had not asked the question … there would be no Cooperative Program today.”
To strengthen the Cooperative Program, Floyd called for “a renewal in teaching biblical stewardship to our people, calling them boldly to 10 percent giving through their church”; for churches “to give more sacrificially than ever before through our Cooperative Program annually, beginning as soon as possible”; and for state conventions to “consider going 50-50 [in budgeting for their state and the SBC] by the end of the year 2020 or even before.”
“If we did these specific things simultaneously … we would see a mission explosion statewide, nationally and internationally,” Floyd said. “What God has given to us biblically and missionally we must refuse to lose financially.”
Floyd added a call for “an intentional strategy to enlist other churches in America to join our convention” because many churches “have the capacity for us to become their home.”
“If they agree with us biblically by adhering to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, agree with us missiologically in the way we advance the Gospel regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally, and agree with us cooperatively in the way we support our work financially and are willing to join us in this grand task, then we need to open our doors to them,” Floyd said.
“I would even suggest that we go online with this strategy, creating a ‘Join the Southern Baptist Convention’ website and place a link on the websites of each of our state conventions and our [Southern Baptist Convention] website,” Floyd said. He also suggested that state convention and SBC websites “create online giving for our churches … in this online world.”
— “Is there anything new we need to create for today and for the future that will help our churches in their mission of going, baptizing and making disciples of all the nations?”
Baptists must not be thwarted by “How much will it cost?” but focus on “Who will it reach?” Floyd said.
“What if we had a compassion arm in our convention that brings all we do presently and all we could do in the future into one entity?” he asked in reference to disaster relief, hunger relief and other Southern Baptist initiatives. “I submit to you, if done effectively, it may have the capacity long-term to pay for itself sufficiently. Why? Because Baptists are supporting some of this now through what we are doing already, and they are helping pay for it through others that are non-Baptist ministries.
“Additionally, it would place our powerful Gospel message into this Christless culture that is usually open to appreciating ministries of compassion,” Floyd said.
In his conclusion, Floyd noted that Southern Baptists gave “just over $7 billion over the past decade” through the Cooperative Program and the annual mission offerings for IMB and NAMB.
“Knowing what we know about our past and present, as well as having the resources of churches, people, influence, reach and dollars,” Floyd asked, “how can we leverage all for the purpose of advancing the Gospel in an unprecedented manner into places where the Gospel has never been before regionally, statewide, nationally and globally?”