A GREAT COMMISSION RESURGENCE END-VISION
By Dr. Rodney L. Hammer
I’d like to express deep gratitude for the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. They have demonstrated courageous leadership in helping us evaluate how we move forward with greater focus. I support each recommendation of the GCRTF Final Report and pray we will embrace the challenges.
I’d like to suggest our SBC family also consider adopting a “SBC 2020 End-Vision”. An end-vision can be called a picture of a preferred future. While not comprehensive in detail, such a picture revealed to us from the Lord could give us a target to know where we’re heading. I do not mean to suggest that the GCRTF does not include elements of such an end-vision. They recommend some immediate and phased changes and have hinted at some key future elements. I’d like to suggest a few others, including them in one package. Such an “End-Vision” would enable us to take the necessary steps together to arrive at a desired destination.
I propose an end-vision that depicts a “simple denomination.” What I hear most from SBC pastors and church members is a desire for a simple but effective denominational structure and strategy. They want a denomination that enables cooperative missions, ministerial training, and compassionate response to disaster on a large scale. They want their cooperative giving mission dollars to support these three areas. They support associational and state level ministries that they believe are effective and add value, but they also see redundancy. They want their 14 largest, old-line State Conventions to forward much more of their CP/Mission dollars to national and international ministry.
I hear from many pastors and church members that they don’t want an Executive Committee staff whose salaries are not transparent and who create their own ministry programs such as Empowering Kingdom Growth and a Global Liaison office. They don’t believe a political Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is a priority for our cooperative mission dollars.
In short, I believe most Southern Baptists want what the GCRTF wants…a leaner, more effective and efficient denomination that is reprioritized and refocused even more around the Great Commission. They want a denomination that has strategic mission priorities and works well with other evangelicals in the work of the Kingdom of God. They want a denomination that assists local congregations in doing whatever it takes to reach the unreached of the world with the gospel of Christ! I concur. Let us adopt the GCRTF Recommendations along with a “SBC 2020 End-Vision” in Orlando, June 15-16, 2010.
A “SBC 2020 End-Vision” would seek to answer the question, “What would the SBC look like in 2020 if we were maximizing our resources and effectively pursuing fulfillment of the Great Commission in the 21st century?” I propose the following end-vision or targeted picture of a simpler, even more Great Commission-focused SBC in 2020.
A SBC 2020 END-VISION
Without restating it here, the GCRTF Report contains a wonderful, biblical call to repentance and spiritual renewal we desperately need to heed. A concrete schedule of reviving and renewing “Promise Keeper” type rallies and solemn assemblies could be held around the SBC over several years to encourage spiritual renewal, along with the challenges presented in the GCRTF Final Report.
The report follows the call for repentance and renewal with an excellent vision statement and values with which to pursue it. The vision statement is well aligned with what Southern Baptists have stood for and rally behind. I wholeheartedly concur and urge adoption of their vision, values, and challenge statements.
A NEW NAME
We need a new name in the 21st century that reflects what we value and the scope of our ministry. We need a name that no longer reflects a regional conference of churches. We need a new name that is relevant, not misunderstood, and not a potential barrier nationally or internationally.
In 2020, we need our leadership and staffs of the newly named SBC and its entities to more fully reflect the diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicity of our churches.
A GLOBAL MISSION AGENCY
By 2020 Southern Baptists should develop a new global mission agency, replacing both NAMB and IMB. We need to recognize that our world has flattened, globalization is a given, and the Great Commission is already “from everywhere to everywhere”. We must internationalize our missionary force and remove old barriers to strategic advance no longer pertinent to our multicultural, interconnected world. It would certainly need regionalized, affinity group structure and strategies and perhaps different departments. But we need a common vision, macro-strategy, and creative synergy.
COMPASSION MINISTRY/DISASTER RELIEF
Disaster Relief is a great strength of SBC life already developed. While adjusting as needed to ongoing contextual changes, it can be carried forward by the Global Mission Agency in cooperation with other entities such as Baptist Global Response and regional resource networks of Southern Baptists.
A COLLABORATIVE NATIONAL STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FOR GREAT COMMISSION FULFILLMENT
A collaboratively produced strategic framework of shared vision and priorities for reaching all peoples and cities in the U.S. should be developed. Representatives of the new Global Mission Agency, LifeWay, Seminaries, States, Associations, and local church pastors could develop such a strategic framework proposal for denominational adoption.
GREAT COMMISSION FOCUSED SEMINARIES GIVING CUTTING EDGE THEOLOGICAL, MINISTERIAL LEADERSHIP TRAINING
Our six, Great Commission focused SBC seminaries would complement their residential training with further decentralized theological and ministerial leadership training delivered in partnership with local churches. I believe the Leadership Development component currently assigned in the report of the GCRTF to NAMB should be moved to the Seminaries in partnership with local churches and LifeWay.
ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION
We should reassign the development and publication of ethics and religious liberty materials and training to LifeWay and the Seminaries, eliminating the ERLC as a separate entity. The ERLC budget should be reassigned to the new Global Mission Agency.
A DIGITALLY EFFECTIVE LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCES
LifeWay is already moving in the direction of a digital age resource. They will be tasked with providing biblically faithful, digital age deliverable resources and equipping in partnership with SBC Seminaries and States/Associations.
A FLATTENED DENOMINATIONAL STRUCTURE
We should consider how to flatten our denominational structure into a simpler, more efficient form. In the future it is highly unlikely that three levels of denominational work will be funded or relevant. There is already too much overlap in services and resources offered among association, state, national, and international SBC entities. Strategies and tactics for implementing A Great Commission vision and priorities should be developed and implemented as close to home as possible. Providing resources and expertise to local churches with local understanding is a must. Of course, the churches can and will draw on national and international resources as well. But we need to flatten our organizational levels to be more effective and efficient in assisting our churches.
Such a flattened network must be large enough for excellence, make sense strategically, and nearby/local enough for relationship, understanding, customization, and contextualization. There are already a few piloted attempts in the spirit of this proposal in Southern Baptist life. We could study and perhaps utilize or adapt these restructuring efforts, remembering that one uniform size or approach may not fit all contexts.
IMMEDIATE ISSUES IN 2010
I have proposed elements of an SBC End-Vision for 2020. If adopted, we need to work toward that preferred picture of the future while allowing it to shape our responses to current issues.
LEADERSHIP OF EXCOMM, NAMB, IMB AND SBC
One current issue is the soon to be selected leadership of the SBC Executive Committee, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, and next SBC President. In addition to adoption of a GCRTF report and its recommendations, I believe the selection of these leaders to be the most significant decisions facing the SBC. Nothing will have more import and impact upon our collective ability to pursue a GCR than these new leaders. They must be God-called men in alignment with the priorities, convictions, and spirit put forth by Dr’s Akin and Hunt in their Great Commission Resurgence Declaration.
What kind of leaders do we need? I am in agreement with Mark Morris’ blog entry of March 1, 2010 on “Time for G.R.I.T.T.Y. Leadership in the SBC” at www.missionleader.com. He offers insightful encouragement regarding the need for younger, new wineskin, missional leadership for new times.
With such G.R.I.T.T.Y leadership traits in mind, the new President of the IMB also needs to be in alignment with the declarations set forth by Dr’s Akin and Hunt. He needs to be able and willing to lead the transition to a new Global Missions Agency. Additionally, he must be a capable missiologist, able to inspire and mobilize missionaries, a strategic thinker, capable of leading change and able to collaboratively develop a strategic framework for Great Commission fulfillment involving all levels of SBC life. IMB policies also need to be in alignment with Dr’s Akin and Hunt’s Great Commission Resurgence Declarations.
Likewise, the new President of NAMB should have the above qualities. He should be willing to work toward a new Global Missions Agency. The retooling and refocusing of NAMB should be in alignment with the GCR. This should include a refocused Trustee Board that does not revisit us with another quick dismissal of a President. NAMB’s policies should also be in alignment with Hunt and Akin’s GCR Declarations.
The Executive Committee also needs to be refocused. We need an ExComm to continue to handle administrative matters, financial processing, business plan oversight, and convention planning functions. However, we don’t need an Executive Committee that creates its own ministries and hides the salaries of its executives from its constituents. While good men head the initiatives created by the ExComm, the EKG and Global Liaison ministries should be phased out and their budget line items transferred to IMB and the new Global Missions Agency for the sake of the nations.
Ultimately, why seek God for spiritual renewal? Why realign and reprioritize our convention efforts? We should seek a Great Commission Resurgence for the glory of God, the declaration of the gospel, and the making of disciples among all peoples.
To that end I propose three Great Commission goals. Our simpler, reprioritized convention and its end-vision should include goals of engaging every remaining unengaged, unreached people group with the gospel, a church planting movement for every global megacity, and annually sending 1,000 college and seminary students to serve 2 year terms overseas in compassionate gospel ministry and church planting.
I respectfully submit these thoughts with great appreciation for the GCRTF and for Southern Baptist leaders at every level. I am grateful for our heritage and positive about our future. I pray God will grant us guidance, vision and courage for His glory.
Dr. Rodney L. Hammer
Executive Director of Missions, Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association
Current member of Missouri Baptist Convention’s Organizational Study Group
Regional Leader, IMB, Central and Eastern Europe 1999-2008; 18 total years of overseas service in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe;
SBC church planter and pastor prior to missionary service.