Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Final Thoughts on the GCRTF Report.

Because of the alarming statistics that show our convention's plateauing and declining trends in evangelism and baptisms, I voted last year in the Annual Meeting to allow our SBC President to appoint a Task Force to study the situation and come back this year with recommendations. I was one of the first 1,400 of the 6,594 persons who signed on to be a GCRTF prayer partner. I have prayed for these men and women who have worked long and hard to bring us recommendations as to how we may be able to better "Penetrate the Lostness" on this planet. I applaud them for their dedication and their efforts. I find the report to be through and positive, and I am especially moved by the "Challenges to All Southern Baptists" on pages 17-26 of the report. I truly believe that if each of us stepped up to these spiritual challenges, we would, indeed, see a resurgence in our success in accomplishing our Christ given mission!

The Task Force will bring seven recommendations to the Convention when we meet in Orlando in less than a month. I fully intend to vote for five of them, vote against one of them (component 3), and the jury is still out on the other (component 4). As a Southern Baptist Pastor, here are my major concerns.

On Component 3, I take issue with the concept of "Celebrating Great Commission Giving". I will not go into the details of my opinion here as I have already done so in a previous post Drs. Hunt and Floyd, Jerry Rankin, and others have made a big deal about the fact that the Cooperative Program will be reemphasised, and that really this wording changes nothing about what we are already doing. Dr. Floyd's email today sets out several "facts" regarding Great Commission Giving and the Annual Church Profile. In "Fact # 5, Dr. Floyd states, " Great Commission Giving is a simple change to the Annual Church Profile Report that on last year’s report was called “Total Mission Expenditures.”

My questions are these. If nothing really changes, then what is the point? Furthermore, how will the new nomenclature have any impact on "Penetrating the Lostness"?

The issue I am still concerned about is Component number 4. The phasing out of Cooperative Agreements between the North American Mission Board and State Conventions. I was privileged to serve two years as President of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, and I am very much aware of how important the NAMB Cooperative Agreements are to our small state work. Keep in mind that there are only just over 200 SBC churches in West Virginia, and many are very small churches in very rural areas. It is also interesting to note that the entire annual budget of the WVCSB is ONE FIFTH the size of the budget of Dr. Johnny Hunt's First Baptist Church of Woodstock, GA. This should put into perspective, how small the work in West Virginia is by comparison, not just to some other state conventions, but to one single mega church!

The West Virginia Convention could not operate at the level it does without the NAMB Cooperative Agreements, or our valued partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention.

If the NAMB Cooperative Agreement were to end today, and the other recommendations of the GCRTF were implemented, the following things would happen to the West Virginia Convention:

  • Our funding formula of 80/20% for many of our state convention staff salaries would collapse.

  • NAMB would have the authority to unilaterally appoint people to work in WV and put them in place, with no cooperation with our state convention.

  • A "new and liberated NAMB" would develop a strategy for West Virginia, apart from input from our state convention and it's churches (page 10 of the report) We presently develop mission strategy and confer with NAMB for approval.

In West Virginia, if the agreements ended today, we would lose major funding for:

  • 9 of our 10 local association Directors of Missions

  • The State Convention Director of Missions

  • The State Evangelism Director

  • The State WMU/Women's Ministry Director

  • All three Campus Ministers

  • Our Resort Missionaries

  • 12 Church Planters

  • Our State Missions Volunteer Coordinator

  • 35% of our state convention budget

As you can see, this would be a true crisis for our state convention if it were to happen today. The report recommends phasing out the agreements over seven years. Even then this would be a difficult pill for the Mountain State to swallow.

Members of the Task Force have assured some of our state pastors, that we "don't have to worry about West Virginia. It will be taken care of." That is all well and good, but the report does not address how the agreements will be replaced. We are facing a lot of unknown out there and to some of us it almost smacks of the verbiage that we heard with "Obamacare". "Just trust us!"

We want to trust these men that we have long held deep respect for, but it is asking a lot, to just go along with the recommendations, with no firm answers to our questions anywhere in sight. Seriously, the whole thing is just open ended enough to cause concern, and that is why I say the jury is still out on this component.

These are my basic disagreements with the report. Many folks are in agreement with me on these points. That doesn't make us bad Southern Baptists, it just means we have a difference of opinion. Unfortunately I have already seen subtle charges that paint those who may disagree with portions of the report to be negative, and somehow opposed to "Penetrating the Lostness" in America and around the world. I can't answer for everyone who may have issues with the report, but I can say unequivocally that I love the SBC. I love lost people. I love the members of the GCRTF. I believe in the Great Commission, and I am committed to continue to lead my congregation in maintaining and growing in its 95 year history of being a Great Commission Church. We have planted other churches in the past, and we look for opportunites to do so in the future. We will continue to give 10% to the Cooperative Program We will continue to support our local association. We will continue to give to Annie, and Lottie, and Ola Cox. We will continue to be involved in Disaster Relief, and short term overseas mission trips. We believe in the Great Commission!

I'll vote my conscience on the seven recommendations from the GCRTF, but if I happen to vote "No" on two of them, don't tell me I'm not in favor of "Penetrating the Lostness".

That is one West Virginia pastor's opinion, "For What It's Worth".

1 comment:

Mike O said...

Another excellent post on the GCRTF Report. Have both enjoyed and been challenged by your blogs related to this major issue. Obviously, I have a large dog in the fight with my son being one of the campus ministers you mention in the blog. I agree with your assessment and your concerns. I am praying for the outcome of all of this and for us to truly penetrate the lostness!