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GCRTF VIEWPOINT (Michael Watson): A likely GCRTF scenario

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In the event the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s recommendations are approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla., the following will likely occur:

The North American Mission Board will notify the states of their breaking the cooperative agreements. This information will reach the associational missionaries, and the pioneer state associational missionaries will seek to encourage the churches of their associations to cover the 80 percent loss in their salary cut by the North American Mission Board and the 20 percent loss in their salary cut by their state convention.

Some associational missionaries will encourage their churches to shift their Cooperative Program giving to the association and to vote to have the association give up 10 percent of their undesignated gifts to their state convention. The pioneer states who will lose 80 percent of the support to the states’ office missionaries will try to make up this loss in order to maintain all their state staff so as to be able to continue their services to the churches of their states.

Unable to maintain these salaries at the reduced rate of income, they will (as suggested in the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report) go to the stronger southern states for help. They will find that the downturn in the economy has hurt the receipts of these states and these states are cutting back on their budget line items and thus their Cooperative Program giving. If the weaker states can duly convey their dire needs to the stronger states and the stronger states feel the obligation to help the weaker states, this too will cut the stronger states’ giving to the Cooperative Program.

The larger churches that are minimally Southern Baptist Convention churches (at least in their giving) will continue to send a small percent of their receipts to the Cooperative Program and the funding of North American Mission Board will decrease significantly.

At the same time all this is going on, the defunded associational missionaries and state staff will be contacting their home churches, associations and state conventions for financial help in the same manner as the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church missionaries. If these larger entities are sympathetic to the smaller entities’ cries for help and send support to the defunded associations and state conventions, this money will in all likelihood come from potential Cooperative Program money.

Some of the stronger states and associations, who will also lose funding for persons in their ministries, may even start designating all their Cooperative Program dollars to support those within who are being defunded and to those in the existing pioneer states and associations. It will, in this manner, continue to go to those missionaries they have been supporting for years. So what is the overall difference?

The missionaries who cannot be supported by their associations or who will not be supported by their associations or state conventions will seek — and many will find — pastorates in larger churches. With a feeling of being deserted by the Cooperative Program, the North American Mission Board and the ex-Southern Baptist Convention — and also with a feeling of being unable to fulfill God’s call on their lives — these pastors will begin to lead their churches neither to support the Cooperative Program nor to be associated with this new Southern Baptist Convention.

The pioneer-state churches that no longer have an associational missionary will, because of the remoteness of the Southern Baptist Convention, decrease their Cooperative Program giving and become more of an independent church. It is possible, if not probable, that all this may result in churches, associations and state conventions breaking away from the ex-Southern Baptist Convention and becoming entities unto themselves. They may even join themselves together to form a new convention or conventions.

At the same time, the southern churches and associations who do not agree with the direction of this new convention may cut support of, withhold support of, or bypass the Cooperative Program. This could replicate in them the Cooperative Program giving model set by the giving of the majority of the churches represented by the members of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, thus reducing their Cooperative Program giving to as little as 1.3 percent.

In the event all the above takes place, this could result in a great reduction in Cooperative Program giving and also money available to the new North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, the seminaries, etc. The new Southern Baptist Convention may increase to 51 percent the portion the International Mission Board receives from the money given to the Cooperative Program. But will that result in an increase in the amount of money they will receive?

A better and more Southern Baptist way to increase the money the International Mission Board receives is for the churches of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to do according to their own recommendations and increase their giving to the Cooperative Program to no less than 10 percent. That would have resulted in an approximate $9.25 million increase in Cooperative Program funds in 2008 and thus an approximate $4.63 million to the International Mission Board.

Why is it that we have no more churches than present in the large cities? Could it relate to a fundamental difference in the people’s lifestyle, when the people of the large cities are compared to the people of the areas where we are strong? Could it be that we better identify with and can more easily lead to Christ the more conservative people in the country and small cities? Most of us agree we should try to lead all people to the Lord. To solely target some is to “un-target” others. If we go after those who will not come and bypass those who will come, we waste time, money and eternal lives.

I would like to see the report that shows we get more converts for the buck, more faithful church members for the buck and more Cooperative Program givers (in order to reproduce money to keep the cycle going) for the buck going after those in the big cities at the expense of those in the country and smaller cities. I have read that the “Focus City” concept is not working very well. If this is wrong, please enlighten me.

A part of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Progress Report states we need to work with other denominations to reach all. If we are stronger in less populated areas and others are more successful in the larger cities, why not work where we are more effective?
Michael F. Watson Sr. is associational director of missions for West Virginia’s Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association.

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  • Michael F. Watson Sr.