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GCR Evaluation Task Force recommendations include shelving of ‘Great Commission Giving,’ simplified ACP

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — Final recommendations brought by the Great Commission Resurgence Evaluation Task Force address areas of statistical reporting to and from Southern Baptist churches as well as calls to fulfill a financial pledge to the International Mission Board. Furthermore, the group urges the start of preparations for next year’s release of audio from GCR Task Force meetings held prior to the GCR’s passage in 2010.

The six recommendations come weeks after the final report issued May 13 by the Evaluation Task Force that studied the impact of the seven original GCR recommendations adopted by Southern Baptists 14 years ago. 

In its announcement, the Evaluation Task Force included separate “Words of Encouragement” to the North American Mission Board, SBC Executive Committee and cooperating Southern Baptist churches “for areas of direction and focus that emerged from our study.”

Jay Adkins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Westwego, La., and current SBC first vice president, served as chair of the group. He was joined by Robin Foster, associational missionary for Trinity Baptist Association in Trumann, Ark.; Adam Groza, president of Gateway Seminary; Luke Holmes, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Duncan, Okla.; Chris Shaffer, chief of staff and associate vice president for Institutional Strategy at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Jeremy Westbrook, executive director for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.

“The recommendations emerged from a careful study of the results of the GCR both statistically and culturally in the convention,” said Holmes, also a noted Southern Baptist historian. “We think these recommendations can help strengthen the Convention and grow in trust and transparency as we work together, which in turn will help further the mission of spreading the Gospel across the world.”

“These leaders have both the mind of a scholar and the heart of a shepherd,” said Westbrook. “I am confident that this report will provide a sense of gratitude for the recommendations that have been carried out, but also a sense of urgency to finish accomplishing the will of the messengers from the SBC annual meeting in 2010.” 

In accordance with SBC polity, all six recommendations are directed to messengers attending next week’s SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis. The full document can be read here.

Cease ‘Great Commission Giving’

The first recommendation calls for state Baptist conventions and Lifeway Christian Resources to “cease using the category of, and any language related to ‘Great Commission Giving.’”

The category, which was part of the 2010 GCR recommendations, allowed churches to record financial gifts toward all Southern Baptist causes, even those outside the Cooperative Program. However, the evaluation task force learned, it “was poorly defined and never fully adopted by the broader Southern Baptist family.”

The recommendation calls for the continuing use of language in Article III, No. 3 of the SBC Constitution, which describes the composition of cooperating churches as giving “through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity” as a way of reaffirming the Cooperative Program as Southern Baptists’ primary method for supporting ministries and missions.

Westbrook addressed the role of state conventions and CP since the GCR’s passage.

“While this report clearly reveals the downward trajectory in both Cooperative Program and Great Commission Giving for the past 14 years, I am grateful to our state conventions for stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park,” he said. “In 2010, state conventions forwarded on an average of 38 percent to the CP allocation budget that is sent to Nashville. In 2023, state conventions averaged 42 percent that was forwarded onto the CP allocation budget.

“While we still have a clear call to action before us, we also have much to celebrate. For that, I am thankful.”

Simplify ACP

The second recommendation calls for messengers to request state conventions and Lifeway to restructure the Annual Church Profile form so it asks churches to address only six categories and answer only two questions.

Those six proposed categories would ask for the church’s total membership, total number of baptisms, average worship attendance, average Sunday School or small group attendance, total undesignated receipts and total designated receipts.

The two questions address ongoing sexual abuse reporting reforms in the SBC and ask churches about the use of screening processes for staff and volunteers and whether training is available for staff and volunteers to recognize and report suspected instances of abuse.

Annual NAMB survey of church plant health, viability

The third recommendation requests that the North American Mission Board “conduct an annual survey of the status of churches planted, revitalized, or otherwise assisted using CP funds 10 years out from their launch.”

The original GCR fundamentally remade Southern Baptists’ missions-sending agency for North America, where cooperative agreements with many state conventions were exchanged for a focus on church planting.

Specific data requests in the recommendation include the percentage of churches still in existence 10 years from their launch and the percentage of churches still contributing through the Cooperative Program and ACP.

Follow-through of 51 percent, prepare release of GCR audio

The 2010 GCR called for a restructuring of the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget formula to allow for 51 percent to be sent to the International Mission Board, up from 50. That directive was only partially fulfilled. The fourth recommendation asks messengers to strongly request the Executive Committee to meet that goal beginning with the 2026-27 budget year.

In preparing its report, the Evaluation Task Force petitioned for “limited and confidential access” to audio recordings of meetings by the GCR Task Force that will be released on June 16, 2025. Those requests were ultimately denied.

The fifth recommendation asks messengers to request that the Council of Seminary Presidents direct the staff of the Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives, where the recordings are stored, to “begin the process of indexing” those resources in anticipation of their release for those wanting prompt “navigable access.”

Request for two-year reports

From the Evaluation Task Force’s perspective, only two of the original GCR’s seven recommendations “were ever fully implemented.” The rest appeared to receive little to no attention in the ensuing years. 

The group’s sixth and final recommendation calls for the addition of a fourth point under Bylaw 26. Procedures, 1. Method of Procedure for Entities.

The recommendation is for messengers to request the Executive Committee “to consider and propose changes in the appropriate governing documents” that would “require entities, institutions, committees, or commissions of the Convention to report” on actions taken regarding messenger-approved recommendations from a special work group or task force.

In the task force’s proposed language, those reports would be required within two years of adoption by messenger and included in the Book of Reports as well as in the entity’s report from the platform at the subsequent annual meeting.

Words of Encouragement

In a separate section titled “Words of Encouragement,” the Evaluation Task Force thanked NAMB for “addressing organizational challenges” leading up to 2010 while encouraging the entity to “expand evangelistic cooperative efforts by collaborating with state convention evangelism leaders and associational mission strategists.”

Those steps should include building healthy relationships with pastors, associations and churches as well as “provid[ing] clear feedback avenues” to NAMB leadership and an “increase in transparency in the use of church planting funds.”

The Executive Committee was encouraged to focus its efforts on Cooperative Program advancement and promotion “as our best and most effective means of cooperating together through shared stewardship.” The task force noted that 2025 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program.

Two final encouragements were directed at the “cooperating churches of the SBC.” The first was to complete the ACP each year in order to “accurately track patterns and important trends.” The other urged churches to focus on the Great Commission as well as the importance of working together for the sake of the gospel.

The Great Commission Evaluation Task Force Report is scheduled to be delivered to messengers at 6:50 p.m. during the Tuesday (June 11) evening session of the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.