ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–On April 5, Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, and six members of the task force initiated a meeting with eight state executive directors. David Hankins, LBC executive director, participated in the dialogue.
In an e-mail to the other members of the GCR task force, Floyd stated, “We met for six hours on Monday, April 5, 2010 at the Stephen Olford Center of Union University in Memphis, Tennessee…. We had a great time of honest and substantial conversation about our common concerns and, even more importantly, our common commitment to the Great Commission.
“These were serious men who met together in a great spirit. We talked honestly, heard each other, and made some real progress,” Floyd said. He also stated that he was tremendously encouraged by the passions and vision of the leaders.
He said they were “extremely helpful in clarifying the GCR aims and moving to a set of recommendations that will get us to Orlando together. We spent most of our time talking about the issues that have been of greatest concern and interest to the state conventions. These guys believe in their state conventions and their work for the Great Commission, and we do too. They want to see the world reached for Christ, as we do too. On that common ground we made real progress.”
In response to the report from Floyd to the task force, LBCLive, a publication of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, interviewed David Hankins, the state convention’s executive director, to gain additional insights about the GCRTF, which is scheduled to give its report on June 15 in Orlando, Fla.
LBCLive: What was the purpose of this special meeting?
Hankins: After the task force progress report in February, Chairman Floyd invited reaction from Southern Baptists. While I could affirm many things in the report, there were some recommendations that caused me and others concern.
The most significant problem was the recommendation (called Component 2) that NAMB suspend the funding for cooperative agreements with Baptist state conventions within four years. The idea was for NAMB to assume responsibility for directly managing church planting and missionary activity, especially in the underserved areas of North America with only limited partnership with the state conventions.
In my opinion, this is an unsuitable recommendation for both strategic and financial reasons. Strategically, such an action undervalues the good work being done by our state conventions and assumes that some future unilateral NAMB strategy would accomplish more. This brought suspicions that the GCR Task Force was too influenced by certain voices in the SBC who have little use for the state conventions. From a financial perspective, this four-year plan would decimate most smaller state conventions and would force many larger state conventions to either cut joint ministries they currently have with NAMB or retain more Cooperative Program dollars in the state. Neither of these scenarios is ideal.
I am grateful the leaders of the task force, after further evaluation, are willing to make an improved recommendation. In this meeting we were assured that the task force purposes to restate the principles of cooperation that have prospered our work in our cities, our states and the nations of the world. The GCR Task Force recognizes the strategic work of state conventions and encourages its continuation.
They are recommending a renewed partnership with the newer state conventions, including the possibility of shared ministries, and are willing to recommend NAMB allow a longer phase-out period for larger conventions, like Louisiana, so that neither the ministries nor the CP will be harmed.
LBCLive: What is the implication of this recommendation for Louisiana Baptists?
Hankins: We currently receive about $825,000 matching funds annually from NAMB for various mission work in Louisiana. Over the next seven-eight years, we will need to replace these funds through increased Cooperative Program giving and the Georgia Barnette Offering. This is easier than the originally stated four years, and I believe Louisiana Baptists will rise to the occasion. This will allow those NAMB moneys to be re-deployed into newer work areas of the USA and Louisiana Baptists will carry the load for our work on our own.
LBCLive: The task force also recommended a new category of giving to Southern Baptist causes called “Great Commission Giving.” What is your response to this?
Hankins: I have had some reservations about this. “Great Commission Giving” is supposed to be a term that includes Cooperative Program and designated giving to official Southern Baptist causes at associational, state and national levels. Some have seen this as a de-emphasis on challenging churches to give primarily through the CP. They worry it will be used as justification for reducing CP in favor of a “societal” approach to missions.
While churches are free to give as they wish, I believe the SBC ought to elevate the CP as the most helpful and thus the preferred method for the churches to support our common work.
The task force has assured us they believe CP is the main method for our mission support. They will make it clear in their final report that all churches ought to give more though the CP and will encourage a national emphasis on increasing CP support by the churches. I am cautious about this and am listening to hear what Louisiana Baptists think about the category called “Great Commission Giving.”
LBCLive: The GCRTF report calls for the SBC Executive Committee to diminish its role in promotion of the Cooperative Program and give that task to the states. How does this work when more education is needed about the role of the Cooperative Program-supported ministries?
Hankins: In Louisiana we are constantly working at ways to communicate our cooperative message. We are convinced that building positive relationships with our pastors and churches is the number one method for communicating the value of cooperative missions. At the same time we want to give our pastors the resource materials to train their people with the message of cooperative ministry.
One thing to consider is that the production of those materials takes huge resources. Currently, the SBC Executive Committee collaborates with the states and facilitates the preparation of customized, state-specific materials. LBC uses those materials because it is good stewardship of God’s resources. If there is not a central location for development and production, the cost goes up tremendously. This will be very difficult for smaller state conventions comprised of young churches.
I don’t believe the task force has finished its work on this item. I believe the Executive Committee is going to need to have a continued, even if modified, role in CP and stewardship education and promotion.
LBCLive: In the report, the SBC Executive Committee was challenged to reallocate its portion of the Cooperative Program so that 1 percent more is sent to the International Mission Board. Is that a good plan?
Hankins: I favor more allocation to the IMB. In my opinion, it would be better to make the allocation from the total budget rather than just the Executive Committee. I think we ought to let the regular budgeting processes make these recommendations to the convention rather than an ad hoc committee.
LBCLive: You have expressed concern that the GCR process will focus too little on spiritual revival and focus an inordinate amount of attention on structural changes. After this conversation, do you see how the task force plans to reshape the focus toward the Lordship of Christ?
Hankins: When we met with the task force members, everyone in the room believed strongly that our churches desperately need a fresh movement of God’s Holy Spirit in our midst. We must have a revival that is evidenced by humility, repentance and restoration of the lordship of Christ over all things in people’s lives, in the local churches, in the state conventions and in our SBC entities.
There is still the danger that we will get caught up in minutia, but the task force members genuinely want to see spiritual renewal among Southern Baptists that will lead to a Great Commission harvest. Everyone recognizes that no improvement in strategy will, by itself, produce a Great Commission resurgence.
LBCLive: Do you have a summary evaluation about the GCR Task Force proposals?
First of all, I need to say that the leaders of the task force have been very gracious. They acknowledged that they have learned a lot, and in many ways, have come to a new appreciation for the way our conventions work and the value of Southern Baptist partnership. They do not wish to be associated with those voices wanting to do away with state conventions and associations and wanting to eliminate our cooperative missions and cooperative giving. This is good news for our efforts to ignite a bona fide Great Commission resurgence.
I know they are continuing to receive input from various constituencies, and I would imagine there might be other modifications or clarifications to their work. I am looking forward to their final report and trust that the expected modifications to the progress report will be apparent and will find widespread support among Southern Baptists.
I would encourage all Louisiana Baptists to continue to watch and pray. Plan to attend the SBC in Orlando where we will seek an enthusiastic affirmation of the Great Commission enterprises that the Lord has laid before us.
Reprinted from LBCLive, a publication of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.