Why does the President of the West Virginia Baptist Convention support the GCR?
1) The GCR says out loud, what I have been thinking for a long time.
The Southern Baptist Convention is losing ground in an increasingly lost culture. In the United States, we baptized 33,000 fewer people in 2008 than in 1950, and we have 17,000 more churches than we did then, while at the same time the population has effectively doubled. The demographics and population centers of North America have changed rapidly and we have not kept up. Two thirds of Cooperative Program dollars are remaining in states with one third of the population. Furthermore, globally, there are now nearly 7 billion people, 3.5 billion of whom have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We must do more to be obedient to the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His church. Business as usual cannot be classified as obedience. To keep doing the same thing the same way and expect different results is the common definition of insanity. The question is not, will things change? Things are changing all around us. The question is not, will God’s kingdom move forward? The question is, will we be blessed to be a part of it?
2) The GCR is positive in that it recognizes the good work that is being done by many churches in growing, baptizing, and sending. Yet it issues a challenge to see the greater vision and answer the call.
There is much that is right with the Southern Baptist Convention. We have a rich heritage and there are many things we can affirm and celebrate for the glory of God. We cannot rest on this while the world around us is lost without Jesus Christ.
A renewed challenge and vision to embrace the historical roots of the SBC will allow the people of the convention to once again place personal and corporate responsibility of the Great Commission in the arms and reach of the local church.
3) The GCR calls every believer to be a part of taking the Gospel to the nations.
“Are we not confirmed in our knowledge that every single believer is called to be a part of taking the Gospel to the nations? If so we will be ready to do whatever it takes to see a GCR change our priorities, reshape our plans, and fuel our lives for God’s glory.” (pg. 5)
I cannot depend on someone else to be obedient to the Great Commission for me. I will answer to God for the stewardship of the Gospel in my life. I must focus my priorities and plans on glorifying God.
4) The GCR states that the foundation for a GCR is the truth of the Gospel.
“The foundation for a Great Commission Resurgence is the truth of the Gospel.” (pg. 5)
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Without the power of the Gospel, no methodology will be successful. A focus on the Gospel enables God’s people to maintain a clear focus. We do not have time to be bogged down in secondary issues of no eternal significance. The truth of the Gospel has to be priority one.
If the Gospel is not central, other things begin to clutter our priorities and we sacrifice the best for what is good. There are many good things, but the focus of God’s people should be on what is best.
5) The GCR affirms the primacy and centrality of the local church in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We must return the local church to the primacy and centrality in the life and work of our denomination at every level.” (pg. 5)
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that many local churches have passed off their responsibility to denominational agencies, and there has been a disconnect. The church is central to God’s plan as the bride of Christ. Churches made up of individual Christians do the work of the kingdom. Churches plant churches. I believe we can accomplish more together than we can alone, but the local church has to remain central to the mission. Remember, there is no such thing as the Southern Baptist Church. There are Southern Baptist churches.
6) The GCR presents a missional vision statement that is clear, concise, and challenging.
“The missional vision of the church is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations- nothing less.” (pg. 6)
This is the mission, and we cannot afford to settle for anything less.
7) The GCR reaffirms the Cooperative Program, and champions the Cooperative Program as our core method of channeling our resources, and challenges churches and state conventions to increase their commitment to it.
There has been much discussion about how this report will ultimately affect the Cooperative Program. If you will carefully read what is stated, I believe it could ultimately actually strengthen it. I do not believe the Cooperative Program should be treated as a sacred cow, or elevated to a position of idolatry. Remember, as a convention, we existed for 74 years without it from 1845-1919. However, it has proven to be a very effective method of working together to channel resources and carry out the work of Southern Baptists.
“We call on Southern Baptists to honor and affirm the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach.” (pg. 8 )
“The greatest stewardship of Great Commission investment and deployment is giving through the Cooperative Program. We call upon all Southern Baptists to recommit to the Cooperative Program as the central and preferred conduit of Great Commission funding, without which we would be left with no unified and cooperative strategy and commitment to the Great Commission task.” (pg. 8 )
“We reaffirm the definition of the Cooperative Program adopted by action of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. We honor and affirm the Cooperative Program as the most effective and efficient means of channeling the sacrificial support of our churches through undesignated giving which funds both the state conventions and the work of the Southern Baptist Convention.” (pg 9)
“We call upon the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to increase the percentage of their Cooperative Program giving.” (pg 9)
“We call upon the state conventions to increase the percentage of Cooperative Program funds directed to the Southern Baptist Convention.” (pg. 9)
The Task Force has repeatedly affirmed their support for CP. I would encourage you to listen to the Baptist21 panel discussion at SEBTSrecently. There is a helpful discussion regarding this.
Within this, there is a call to recognize all Southern Baptist giving as Great Commission giving. Some have been opposed to this, and I had initial questions about it, but upon closer examination I think it is a good idea. Presently, at the end of each church year, churches are called on to report their “Total Mission Giving” on the Annual Church Profile. This category can actually currently include non-Southern Baptist giving. Under the proposed Great Commission Giving category, all monies given through Southern Baptist channels will be taken into consideration at the association, state, and national level. This move actually narrows the parameters of what is counted rather than broadening them.
8 ) The GCR calls for an end to cooperative agreements between the state conventions and NAMB over a 7 year period, yet at the same time calls for a new partnership.
“We recognize that in order to accomplish its mission for Southern Baptists, NAMB must work in partnership with the state conventions, and we affirm the need for this partnership to be based in cooperation and basic agreement concerning strategies. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the Cooperative Agreements must be replaced with a more appropriate structure and pattern of cooperation.” (pg. 11)
The fear from many in new work states, has been that they will lose their funding. I think the exact opposite will take place. I believe the new work states that are focused on evangelism and church planting will actually see additional assistance in penetrating the darkness. Nobody on the Task Force has at any point advocated draining the new work states of money. In fact, as I see it, the impetus behind much of this effort, is to direct money into the new work states where we need to be impacting the lostness.
In West Virginia for example, we operate on a very tight budget. We know nothing of bloated bureaucracy. Our state staff, missionaries, and entire focus, is on missions and church planting. We are not a large population state, but less than 20% of people here attend a Gospel preaching church of any kind on any given Sunday. There is no way we could presently do what we do as a state without a partnership with NAMB and the support of the SBC.
Even with this partnership and support however, our goal as a state should not be to remain as we are and stay dependent on outside funds until Jesus returns. Our goal must be to work toward self funding as we plant Gospel centered churches that give back to the kingdom. It doesn’t matter if you are in a new work state convention, or an old work convention, nobody should have a welfare mentality of entitlement. This is detrimental to the Great Commission.
The GCR advocates that we “establish a new pattern of strategic partnership with the state conventions that will penetrate lostness.” (pg. 11)
There are currently multiple layers in appointing missionaries and church planters that could be streamlined, without compromising the essential input of and partnership with the state conventions. This continued input and partnership will be essential to contextualize. I do not believe there is an effort to bypass state conventions, nor do I believe this movement will cause this to happen.
The language of decentralizing NAMB into 7 geographical regions was softened in the final report with the intent of decentralization still being present. Some think that more direct involvement by NAMB will take away cooperation with the state conventions. I believe the opposite is intended. The focus is on more effectively and efficiently planting churches and contextualizing where they are, which is difficult unless the people closest to the efforts are involved.
Streamlining the process will allow the local church to be more involved in the process of appointing missionaries. One of the goals of the GCR should be to have the local church more involved in the missionary appointment process. It is a shame to me that local churches have farmed out the missionary sending responsibilities to an organization. While I see the IMB and NAMB as essential for the scale of work we are doing, a reconnection to the local church is essential if buy in is going to take place. Otherwise this is just going to be about money. This must happen with both IMB and NAMB.
9) The GCR advocates increasing support for the IMB and NAMB.
The report calls for an increase of 1% of giving to the IMB from 50% of Cooperative Program funds to 51%. This is a step in the right direction. It also advocates for $200 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $100 million to the Annie Armstrong Christmas Offering for North American Missions. It is estimated that there are 586 unreached and underserved people groups in the United States alone. It will take a greater commitment to impact these people groups. IMB should not be constrained in reaching people groups here in the United States with the Gospel.
10) The GCR is a strong statement that Southern Baptists are serious about the Great Commission.
We cannot continue on “as is” or we will look like the mainline denominations after 50 more years have passed if Jesus tarries His coming. We will be but a memory, a shadow of our former selves, if we even exist at all.
I pray to God that we are not in our present condition like the Church at Sardis. If we are, I pray that we will heed the word and warning from Jesus and repent.