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Open Letter to Southern Baptists about the GCRTF Recommendations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An open letter to Southern Baptists has been released by Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, regarding issues to be decided at the convention’s June 15-16 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The full text of Chapman’s letter follows assessing the recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force:

Dear Fellow Southern Baptist —

I write to express my central concern and conviction about the recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. You will have placed before you a set of seven recommendations that can be reviewed at the SBC.net site or the pray4GCR.com site. I generally characterize them below:

#1 –- A mission statement (to present the gospel and make disciples)

#2 –- Core Values (eight)

#3 -– New giving category called Great Commission Giving and stated Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong goals

#4 — New ministry statement for NAMB (focus on cities, centralization of church planting efforts, and unilateral assignment and control of domestic missionaries)

#5 -– New ministry statement for IMB (worldwide, not foreign only)

#6 — EC to work with state conventions to develop comprehensive Cooperative Program (CP) promotion

#7 -– CP promotion and stewardship education defunded and CP allocation changed by moving 1 percentage point of CP receipts from EC to IMB

I am concerned that if the Convention approves the task force recommendations, it will be embarking upon a harmful course. I, like the task force, believe that the Convention can and should do better. But unlike the task force, I do not believe the answer lies in the recommendations it proposes.

The solution to our Convention’s greatest need lies in multiple pockets of personal repentance, evangelistic recommitment at the personal and local church level, and willing obedience to the commands of Christ. Real revival will not issue from a mere rewording of our mission statement. Our core values, already recorded in Scripture, are God-breathed and sufficient. Our giving methods have proven their worth by providing for the largest mission forces (overseas and domestic) in history and the most expansive seminary system in the world. In fact, in the past our churches have produced twice the baptisms on half the revenue contributed to the SBC, so merely reallocating a few resources at the SBC level will not solve our underlying problems.

We must concentrate on the only real solution. That solution is not structural, procedural, financial, or methodological. It is spiritual. And if we approve the task force report, we will be saying, as a Convention, that we believe our future performance lies in some realm other than the spiritual.

I have written that I am concerned for the Cooperative Program, and I am (see http://baptist2baptist.net/gcr/articles/MHC-05-07-10.asp). But I am much more concerned that we as God’s people have a proper relationship with the Lord as our highest priority. Designing new harnesses every few years will never substitute for actually getting into them and working the fields as we sow the seed, tend the fields, and harvest the crop.

It can be confusing when strongly expressed positions exist among people who love the Lord Jesus Christ with their whole hearts. But while I fully agree with the preamble of the task force’s preliminary report, I cannot affirm their recommendations. I am firmly convinced that none of the recommendations will move us forward for the kind of spiritual renewal that must take place if we are to see an abundant harvest take place in our local churches. At most, they will merely make us feel as if we have done something, when we haven’t.

“What harm is done if they pass?” you might ask. “Won’t the fact that the recommendations will be referred to the Executive Committee protect us from any mistakes — a sort of ‘no harm, no foul’ scenario?” At a minimum, the harm lies in the continued debate over how to make non-solutions better non-solutions and the very real potential for further division around the very things that ought to unite us, namely a passion for the Great Commission. If we set into motion the series of actions these recommendations call for, it will be very difficult to stem the tide. We will have embarked on a course that will unravel funding mechanisms that work, dismantle collaborative partnerships that produce, and eradicate variety in ministry and methodology.

If you believe adoption of the task force recommendations will change you or the people in your church into more effective soul-winners, you should, by all means, vote for them. But I am not convinced they will make one ounce of difference in personal evangelism. Neither am I convinced they will expand or empower the Kingdom. Instead, I propose we adopt “A Better Way Ahead.” If my concerns strike a chord with you, I ask you to read my companion paper under that title (http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=33073, and consider lifting up one or more of its recommendations as replacements for those of the task force.

I urge you to continue to spend time with the Lord and reverently and prayerfully ask God to reveal His perfect Will to you. Don’t fail to attend as a messenger simply because the issues may be fuzzy to you. Keep praying, attend the Convention, listen to what will be a powerful and persuasive presentation by the GCTF at the Convention, and with a heart for Christ and His church, ask the Lord one last time to guide you as the vote approaches on Tuesday afternoon.

Once the decision is made, I will have made my last report to the Convention and, for the last time, sat on the Convention platform as president of the Executive Committee. I would have wished that these last few months could have been different. Frankly, some encouraged me to “Finish Well” by which they meant that I should slip off into the sunset without conveying my opinion about the GCTF Final Report. When I accepted the responsibility of this office in 1992, I did so with a commitment to keep Southern Baptists as informed as possible about the key issues confronting the SBC. Until September 30, 2010, I have as much responsibility in this regard as I did on October 1, 1992. I cannot shirk my responsibility simply because my time to exit my position is coming to a close.

And I have recently noticed those who deeply desire to remain in service to Southern Baptists softening their objections to “play it safe,” realizing that there will still be ministry to do after June, regardless. But I believe a chief concern for Southern Baptists should be to play it safe for the Convention’s future rather than for their own, because the collective ministry of all hangs in the balance.

As I leave my post, my continued prayer until I go to see Jesus will be that God will blanket Southern Baptists with a spirit-empowered spiritual awakening that shall spread from coast to coast and beyond. If spiritual awakening of this magnitude were to come before I die, I will spend the rest of my years on earth praising God for answering the prayers of His people.

Please read “A Better Way Ahead.” Consider its contents and determine for yourself whether any or all of them seem better alternatives to those promoted by the task force. And if they do, as the Lord leads, feel free to offer one or more of them as substitute recommendations at the appropriate time.

Your brother in Christ,

Morris H. Chapman

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  • Morris H. Chapman