LAFAYETTE, La. (BP)–Much has been written, and no doubt will continue to be written, about the final report to be presented from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando. One can read about the strengths and weaknesses of the recommendations from far more knowledgeable — and for that matter more prominent — Southern Baptists than this present author. However, I believe that I do have a unique perspective as a “younger” pastor — if I still qualify as young being a few months shy of 40 years old.
If one believes the rhetoric in some circles, the younger generation of Southern Baptist leaders has little to no use for the cooperative work of the Southern Baptist Convention, at least to the degree that they see the value in leading their churches to give sacrificially and aggressively to the Cooperative Program. Unfortunate phrases like “bloated bureaucracy” have been used to describe the work of some of our denominational entities in general and specifically the work of state conventions.
As a member of the Executive Board of the Louisiana Baptist Convention for the past five years and now president of this Executive Board, I want to be on record for stating my serious objection to such a charge. As with any organization, mistakes have been made along the way, but a pattern of wasteful spending in order to keep some kind of denominational bureaucracy going is blatantly false.
I have learned for myself that only in getting involved with the cooperative endeavors of Southern Baptists can I truly see the value of our planned, systematic giving through the Cooperative Program. For example, an organized state convention produced an immediate response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when even our federal and state governmental agencies were slow in responding. In more recent days, an organized network and partnership of Southern Baptists allowed our church to send 12 medical professionals to Haiti only days after the earthquake. Moreover, the organization of our state convention’s evangelism team — in partnership and in response to a challenge from the North American Mission Board — provides the planning and encouragement for a coordinated effort like “Sharing the Peace of Jesus,” an effort to present the Gospel to every home in Louisiana.
Bloated bureaucracy? No! Great Commission results? Yes!
As a result of seeing the Cooperative Program in action, I have serious concerns about the language in the GCRTF report regarding “celebrating Great Commission Giving.” While I am pleased with the acknowledgement that the CP should continue to be the main avenue of giving, I see little reason and little good that will come from the additional language of “Great Commission Giving.” To say, as does the report, that one method is preferred implies preference above all others. To leave room then for an alternative — not to mention even a call to celebrate other methods — is confusing at best and deceptive at worst.
One of the members of the GCR Task Force, Robert White, is now suggesting that the intent of the language is to call the combination of CP giving and special offerings for SBC mission endeavors “Great Commission Giving.” I am particularly grateful for this clarification, because this is certainly never said in the written report.
I admit that I am still confused as to why we have to have a call to celebrate. My church celebrates our giving not because of a need to be recognized, but because we want to give and have a biblical mandate to give toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The bottom line in celebrating non-Cooperative Program forms of giving is that celebration can only really happen when a local church is at the same time aggressively, passionately and sacrificially engaged in Cooperative Program giving. I will be looking for the members of the task force to unequivocally state this in future correspondence and lead their churches to higher patterns of giving to the CP in future years.
My fear is that some will see my opinion as wanting to remain status quo. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not want status quo. I do pray for resurgence in all matters related to the Great Commission. I do pray for and preach toward a revival that will result in evangelistic impact to all the nations.
I just believe that we do not have an allocation problem, but rather we have an obedience problem. The people in the pew have a giving problem, and the preachers in the pulpit, I am afraid, have a spending and an ego problem. We have become overly consumed with getting the credit for penetrating lostness, rather than making sure that whatever is accomplished is all for God’s glory.
What then is the answer? First of all, do not believe the scare tactic that if the recommendations of this report do not pass, the younger generation will bypass the Cooperative Program in order to send their church’s money directly to the mission field. I know plenty of younger generation pastors that are deeply committed to the Cooperative Program. Second, we all need to contemplate a higher level of giving both to CP and our special offerings. To simply redirect our current level of giving is obviously not going to solve our financial issues of fulfilling the Great Commission. Finally, we must all agree that our greatest need is authentic revival.
God, help us to take the Gospel to the next generation and to all the nations, all for the glory of God.
Steve Horn is pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette, La., and president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention executive board.