As our readers should now be aware, following a decisive vote at the annual Convention meeting, SBC president Johnny Hunt has appointed a Great Commission Task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” That task force will begin meeting next month.
Of the number of particular issues that can be subsumed under such a study, one is of great interest and importance to me. While it is up to individual churches to put into practice many of the axioms in the GCR document, this issue addresses a collective problem – namely the stewardship of Cooperative program resources. Specifically, many people, myself included, believe that not enough of our cooperative program dollar makes it to the foreign mission field.
The issue is plain enough on the surface: More money is needed for international missions. Many unreached and unengaged peoples remain who need the light of the gospel. More laborers to help bring in the harvest among receptive peoples. At the same time, the need and missionaries willing to fill that need nearly always exceeds available resources. In a bad economy, financial resources become tight and difficult decisions must be made – missionaries are not appointed, short-termers whose time expires are not reassigned, whole people groups and locations continue to be left without a gospel witness. Even in a good economy, we are not able to fund all that we could or would like. Yet, in the midst of this great need, our beloved Cooperative program sees little of the overall pie actually being used to fund international missions.
Of course, the issues are not as cut and dry as I and others would like to make them. Just saying we need more money for international missions does not answer the question of where that money should come from. Many of the good things we do now with CP money may not get done if the money is redistributed to international missions. Every possible solution –changing the CP distribution on the national level, increasing the percentage forwarded from the states, reeducating churches to increase CP giving, restructuring entities for greater efficiency, eliminating redundancy and duplication among the entities, etc. – is wrought with significant implications, will have real consequences for the parties involved, and is sure to be resisted by some of those affected by the change. While such changes may be needed, they should not be undertaken without much prayer, careful consideration, and an honest assessment of the consequences of such decisions.
My hope and expectation is that the GCR task force will take up this issue. I pray that the Lord will give the committee and its members godly wisdom as they consider how to best cooperate together in Great Commission work and as they weigh the various issues and implications accompanying whatever proposal they bring forth. I pray they will come up with a solution that reflects the priority of taking the gospel to the nations.
In the end, I do think a change is needed. I do believe that international missions ought to take a higher priority than it does now and such priority ought to be reflected in our financial stewardship as a denomination. I am thankful that we have a Great Commission task force that will include this issue in their deliberations. I do not envy them for the task they to which they have been entrusted, but I am thankful for their willingness to serve. As they meet, I will commit to lifting them up in prayer with the hope and expectation that God will use them as we together seek a more faithful and effective partnership in Great Commission work.