ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–The other night I had the joy of watching my 5-year-old granddaughter Jayden play tee ball. The game, for me, was better than the major leagues because, of course, my granddaughter was on the field. When you have someone you love in the game, the more concern you have for the results. My granddaughter’s tee ball team had some wonderful rules for 5-year-olds. Everyone bats, there are no outs and no one keeps score. I often wish that life would be so simple. In fact, I wish that decisions were so simple.
For the past year, a group of godly men and women have been meeting to bring a report that will be formally presented at the June meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report for me has some similarities to my granddaughter’s tee ball game, like “everyone bats.” It would be foolish for anyone who knows Southern Baptists to believe that a report of this magnitude would not be batted around by people who make up the local congregations of our churches, and rightly so. In fact, I believe that every Southern Baptist has the freedom to not only bat the ideas presented around in their churches, local associations and state conventions, but also every cooperating church has an opportunity to send messengers to the SBC where this report should be openly debated. I want to say that every person who debates the issues should be free to speak openly and never be demonized for either agreeing or disagreeing with the report. In my opinion, the people involved in the debate will also be godly people.
I remember attending my first SBC many years ago and learning about our polity. I asked my pastor how I should vote as a delegate. He helped me understand that at the SBC, unlike political conventions, there are no delegates. Churches send messengers to the convention who are to be knowledgeable about the issues, hear the discussion and vote what they believe to be the will of God concerning the matters presented. Everyone bats in the SBC, and that’s the way it should be.
THERE ARE NO OUTS
One reason that I am very much interested in the outcome of the GCRTF report debate and vote is because it directly affects people that I love and highly value. Much like my granddaughter’s tee ball game, jointly funded North American Mission Board missionaries who are part of our New Mexico family have “skin in the game” [personal investment]. This report calls for a phasing out over a seven-year period of the mechanism that has been used for 50 years to jointly fund missionaries in each of our 42 state conventions. The discussion on Great Commission Giving and the Cooperative Program are more than close to home for Southern Baptists. We can, and should, debate the wisdom of this report without fear that anyone will be called out for sharing his or her convictions. The fact is, there are times when godly people disagree on some matters, and that is not necessarily bad. We should continually ask and discuss if we are doing the very best we can with the resources God has placed in our stewardship. That should not create division; it should foster understanding and cooperation. Remember, we are all on the same team.
NO ONE KEEPS SCORE
Several people have asked me about the outcome of this year’s convention. How do you keep score, or are we really in any position to attempt to score this? The lost people of this world are dying and going to hell all around us. I pray that the debate on how to do the Great Commission does not take our focus off the Great Commission. I remember another day in the history of our convention. It was referred to as the Conservative Resurgence. Folks in the church that I pastored back then would ask me, “Preacher what is happening in our convention and how will this affect us?” I would tell them that the family was having a big discussion about where we were going, but they could rest assured that we were having church Sunday! This new big discussion will impact us, as it already has, but remember who we are. We are not a denomination; we are a convention of churches that relate in many ways. Churches relate at the local associational level, the state convention level and the SBC level. But don’t ever forget the thread that holds us together is our desire to do mission work cooperatively. Each church is autonomous, and no one but the Lord should ever attempt to tell the local church what to do. I also think that we will continue to discuss ideas for many years to come. That is the way Baptists do it, and I am happy that I am part of that family.
We should read the report for ourselves (at www.pray4grc.com) and feel free to bat it around, but remember, we are all on the same team (family). The bottom line for me is this: Will what is being proposed be the best way to reach the lost and grow the family? The local churches will decide this.
Whatever happens at the SBC, remember, we are having church Sunday.
Joseph Bunce is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.