EDITOR’S NOTE: Terry Robertson is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New York.
EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention is falling far short of fulfilling the Great Commission and that fact is painfully clear in the Baptist Convention of New York. If nothing else, I believe the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report should serve as a wakeup call for New Yorkers and Southern Baptists that we are not getting the job done.
Rather than minor adjustments to our structure, bold changes are needed and needed now! The growing number of lost people in North America is within and immediately surrounding the territory served by the BCNY. Our multi-state territory, once home to the Great Awakenings, is now home to more than 500 people groups and a record-high percentage of unsaved. I’m ready for a new approach, bold ideas and a better plan.
I believe the progress report is on the right track. The current system is broken and denominational employees should stop defending what is not working just to keep a paycheck. And I count myself among that number. You cannot simultaneously have your heart in the mission and your head in the sand.
Too much has been made out of what has not yet been fleshed out rather than embracing what has. The task force report is an opportunity to strategize together for the cause of Christ. Let’s affirm them. All the talk about “devastating” this work or that state is unhelpful. We should be devastated that we are not getting the job done.
So, here’s my take on the GCR report:
— Local churches must embrace the Great Commission.
— We must aggressively reach lost people and rekindle the urgency Southern Baptists have shown in past decades. The task force is right; we need to take seriously the urban centers of North America.
— We must start new churches that will purposely have in their DNA the desire to reach lost people and lead them to Christ. These new churches must be intent on making strong authentic disciples who are then ready to lead in the operation of the new start. Throughout history we have relied almost completely on the strength of transplanted believers as the core group. This approach will never lead us into the future.
— There is a great need to raise up indigenous leaders in every community throughout the country. The pastors and leaders across our movement, especially in new work areas, have few indigenous representatives. It is time for that to change and for the SBC to welcome and affirm the diverse leaders from places other than the South.
— A leadership team is needed with representation from local churches, associations, state and multi-state conventions, NAMB and IMB to further promote and evaluate cooperation. The current system does not work and a new plan is needed.
— An evaluation process is needed for all missionary personnel. It would be used as a uniform tool to determine the effectiveness of all personnel who fall under the agreements with state and multi-state conventions.
— In order to evaluate effectiveness, new checks and balances are needed to not only hold state conventions accountable, but NAMB as well. NAMB has tried regional offices before through the Strategic Focus Cities Initiative and most leaders know it needed a better evaluation process and a more effective model of cooperation.
— Cooperative Program giving must continue to be the primary source of funding for mission outreach. Great Commission Giving is a new name which is worthy of consideration in the future. Now is not the time for the introduction of such a name.
It’s time for Southern Baptists to be more concerned with reaching the lost than maintaining jobs, state convention structures and cooperative agreements. Let’s get the job done. The GCRTF has initiated a conversation that I pray will help usher us into a time of unprecedented success in reaching this lost world with the Gospel.