ROGERS, Ark. (BP)–Southern Baptists need to quit believing what they read about themselves and realize that America is becoming more lost every day, the chairman of the convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force says.
Task force members are being bombarded with information about where Southern Baptists are today, Ronnie Floyd told a group of more than 400 pastors and laypeople Aug. 26 at the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., but complex statistics must be understood if the task force is going to be able to identify where the denomination needs to go.
“Our commission is to reveal the honest and true status of this denomination,” Floyd told the group at the opening of the task force’s first “listening session” for rank and file Southern Baptists. “We can’t go where we need to go if we don’t really understand where we are…. [Southern Baptists] probably need to stop believing all we read about ourselves and take an honest look at who we really are.”
While God is moving in “unbelievable” ways through Southern Baptist missions work overseas, Floyd said the reality is that many churches in the United States are plateaued or declining in membership and the denomination baptized fewer people in 2008 than far fewer congregations baptized in 1950. “We have more people and more resources than we have ever had and we are doing less with it to reach the lost, unchurched people of America,” Floyd said.
Southern Baptists need to re-establish the primacy of the local church and focus on creating a new generation of leaders who can take the convention to new levels of Great Commission effectiveness, Floyd said.
“We need to see that the headquarters of this denomination is not in Nashville or any state convention office but in one place: in every pulpit — whether they have 20 people in the facility or 20,000, that is the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd said.
“Our focus in this denomination must be to release the future generations to do greater things than any of us have done or could ever do,” Floyd said. “If we’re going to be honest today, we’re not even sure that generation behind my generation even wants what we have to offer. If we want to reach future unchurched Americans, we are going to have to create a generation of leaders who want what this denomination can do, has done and will do.”
At the same time, however, Floyd said Southern Baptists need to focus on taking the Gospel to people groups around the world that have yet to hear.
“We want to see a resurgence to the Great Commission resulting in seeing the nations exalting Jesus Christ. That’s the heart of every one of us in our group. That’s where we start,” Floyd said. “As chairman, I have one commitment: I am going to keep our focus on getting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, every people group in the world.”
Floyd told a story about George Fraser, an English missionary who worked among the Lisu people group in China for five years without seeing any results. Fraser was discouraged and on the verge of giving up, but his prayer supporters encouraged him to stay and wait for a breakthrough, Floyd recounted. Fraser saw 600 people saved and baptized over the course of the next four months. When persecution of the church began after the communist revolution, the Lisu believers were scattered and continued making disciples, to the point that today there are an estimated 300,000 Lisu believers in China.
“What if George Fraser had not gone to that unreached people group? What if he had not been sent?” Floyd asked. “Today in the world there are 1.6 billion people who have absolutely no access to the Gospel at all. That’s what this task force is all about.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Additional reporting on the task force will follow in Thursday’s Baptist Press.