On a show of ballots, Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 23 overwhelmingly approved a motion authorizing SBC president, Johnny Hunt, to appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can work "more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission."
The motion, presented earlier in the day by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, survived an effort to amend it before being adopted by an overwhelming margin.
The opportunities for advancing the Gospel are unprecedented and many Southern Baptists are looking for a visionary missions challenge, Mohler said as he spoke on behalf of his motion.
"We are looking at an unprecedented set of opportunities before us, especially when it comes to reaching the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. We sense from our churches an incredible desire to be even more active in the task of getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth," Mohler said. "It's the task of this generation to be responsive both to the opportunities that are before us and to the conviction and commitment of our churches. We need to set that passion loose and in this generation Southern Baptists will either move greatly ahead or we will fall more tragically behind."
Although some had expressed concerns before the annual meeting that the task force proposal was targeted at reorganizing Convention structures, Mohler asserted, "This is not an effort to reinvent the Southern Baptist Convention."
There is "absolutely no reason to fear asking that question (about how to be more effective in obeying the Great Commission)," Mohler said. "We have every reason to feel an excitement and an enthusiasm about asking in every single generation, indeed in every season, is there more we can do and can we do even more if we are more faithful in the task of deploying the conviction and the passion of Southern Baptists in service to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ?"
Noting that the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 "for the solitary purpose of getting the Gospel to ends of the earth," Mohler declared: "There is a generation ready and waiting to be challenged to do something great for the cause of Christ. I say we take this opportunity."
One messenger who spoke against the motion asserted that the decline in baptisms reported by Southern Baptist churches could be attributed to a rise in Calvinist convictions. Another messenger argued that it didn't require a task force to discover the Bible's call to witness and minister to the lost. A third messenger offered a substitute motion to have the SBC's North American and International Mission boards conduct the study themselves, rather than incurring the expense of creating a task force.
The effort to redirect the proposal failed, however, and a final messenger, who identified himself as "a young Southern Baptist," called on messengers to vote for the proposal "for the sake of the younger generation and the future of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Great Commission Resurgence."
The motion calls for the task force to study key issues and bring their report, along with any recommendations, to the 2010 SBC annual meeting, June 15-16 in Orlando, Florida.
Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt initially appointed eighteen people to the "Great Commission Resurgence Task Force" the next day during the morning session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.
"I trust you will be encouraged by the balance that will be representing Southern Baptists in their assignment," Hunt said before he read the list of names.
Appointed to the committee were:
• Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas, chairman.
• Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
• Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina.
• David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
• Simon Tsoi, trustee of the International Mission Board and retired pastor.
• Donna Gaines, pastor's wife at Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tennessee.
• Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
• J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
• Tom Biles, executive director of the Tampa Bay Baptist Association.
• Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
• R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
• John Drummond, a layman at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida.
• Harry Lewis, senior strategist for partnership missions and mobilization at the North American Mission Board.
• Michael Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Florida.
• Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, California.
• J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
• Ken Whitten, pastor of the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida.
• Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida.
Following the Convention, Hunt added four more members, saying, "After announcing the names of the GCR task force, I received feedback about the need for greater representation," Hunt said July 8 in a statement to Baptist Press. "I have added an African American who is a church planter, a Hispanic, an additional woman who also is familiar with the western region of the U.S., and a representative of the Northeast region.
"I want Southern Baptists to know I heard their concerns and have responded," Hunt said.
Added to the task force were:
• Larry Grays, senior pastor of Midtown Bridge Church in Atlanta. "This young, inner-city, African American church planter is being used by the Lord greatly," Hunt said. "I know him really well and have heard wonderful things about his life and leadership from other people as well."
• Ruben Hernandez, associate Spanish pastor at the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. "This Hispanic evangelical leader served in fulltime evangelism until he joined the staff of Prestonwood and is now preaching their Spanish service, serving the people of Prestonwood," Hunt said.
• Kathy Ferguson, a women's ministry speaker whose late husband Rick was a pastor in Denver before his accidental death seven years ago. In August, she will marry Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist in North Mobile, Alabama, who lost his wife in an accident two years ago.
• John Cope, senior pastor of Keystone Community Fellowship in North Wales, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. "Pastor Cope planted his church eight years ago this fall, is now touching 1,100 people weekly, and also has started five additional churches in these almost eight years," Hunt said. "With 25 percent of the American population living in the Northeast, we wanted a pastor-leader from that region."
"We promise to represent you well," Hunt said, "and you pray for us that God would use us to be an impetus that can help us to even do a better job of what we've been doing in the area of the Great Commission."
Hunt told the Convention that he would also serve on the task force. He elaborated on this pledge with Baptist Press saying he would "lead the task force, giving them direction, as I promised the convention," but that Floyd would chair the group in its deliberations.
Prior to the convention, Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, pledged that if the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention empowered the president to appoint a task force or study committee, he would, "work diligently with that committee to supply them all the information they may need from the Executive Committee." Following the historic vote, Chapman reaffirmed his readiness to work with the task force, saying, "We at the Executive Committee stand ready and look forward to assisting the GCR Task Force in whatever ways we can."
Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, has announced the launch of a Web site promoting prayer for the task force. The group is asking for 5,000 "prayer warriors" to sign up on the Web site at www.PRAY4GCR.com, pledging to pray for the work of the task force each day.