Last Spring, Dr. Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered a Chapel Message entitled, "Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence". The text of the message can be found here http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/04/16/akin-axioms-for-a-great-commission-resurgence/
By April 28, 2009, several notable Southern Baptist Convention personalities had signed on to a declaration built around Dr. Akin's message. SBC President Johnny Hunt, Senior Pastor of the suburban Atlanta area Woodstock First Baptist Church released a declaration calling for a Great Commission Resurgence, containing the names of the signatories and asking others to sign on as prayer partners. http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=30387 To date, over 6500 men and women across the Southern Baptist Convention have signed that they would prayerfully support such a movement. Unashamedly, I was one of those folks who did so. Many of my friends and people I respect did the same, many others did not.
I saw no problem with committing to pray for a movement of the Holy Spirit among the greatest Protestant denomination in the world. After all, many of our churches are plateaued or declining. The number of our churches have increased, yet reported baptisms are continually decreasing. Obviously, as a Convention, made up of over 40,000 cooperating but autonomous local churches, we do need revival and a fresh anointing from our Heavenly Father. Some were more cautious than I. Perhaps I should have been more suspicious myself. But, I thought, "Who could possibly be against the Great Commission?" Furthermore, when the motion came to the floor of the SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville last June, authorizing Convention President Johnny Hunt to appoint a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, I and several thousand others voted in the affirmative. The GCRTF was tasked to bring their report to the 2010 SBC Annual Meeting in Orlando, June 15th.
When the names of the task force were released, I felt mixed emotions. Most were well known SBC personalities. Some were from large churches, and strong state conventions. Others were employees of convention entities. My personal misgivings revolved around the fact that smaller churches (which far and away make up the bulk of the SBC) were woefully under represented, as were more of the smaller state conventions and pioneer areas.
I had long held Johnny Hunt in high regard. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, an Arkansas mega church pastor, was named to head up the task force. In 2006, Hunt had eschewed the nomination for SBC President at the convention meeting in Greensboro, and threw his support behind Ronnie Floyd for that position. Floyd later lost on the first ballot in a three way race, to a much lower profile pastor from South Carolina. (More on this later) There were two seminary presidents and a college president named to the task force, along with a State Convention Executive Director, a director of missions, pastors, a former SBC President, pastors wives, and other employees of convention entities. I can honestly say I have prayed for this group regularly for nearly a year.
When the task force's preliminary report was delivered to the SBC Executive Committee in their February meeting this year, I was extremely disappointed with what I read. There were lots of platitudes, plenty of preachy language, and new phrases (such as "Great Commission Giving") coined. The preliminary report, in this pastor's opinion, did less to address a Great Commission Resurgence than it did to basically "rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic". I am not qualified to judge the motives of anyone, but some of the points in that report simply appeared to be an attempt to restructure the North American Mission Board, gut the existing NAMB cooperative agreements with the various state conventions, unleash the International Mission Board on American soil, and divert attention from a number of the mega churches who give a very small percentage of their incomes to the SBC Cooperative Program. Some of the recommendations appear to be thinly veiled reactions to the leadership and direction of the convention under the outgoing Executive Committee President, Dr. Morris Chapman.
Knowing this was a "preliminary report", I have written very little about it. However, I have been involved in animated conversations with other SBC pastors in various states, and with our own State Convention leadership, and trustees of several SBC entities. Suffice it to say there have been a large number of my colleagues who were very alarmed about a couple of the components of the preliminary report. While there is good in the report, there was valid cause for concern. Many of us saw this report as being very dangerous to the work of state conventions (especially smaller ones and those in Pioneer areas) and perhaps a death knell to the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program, which (I believe) has for 85 years, been the greatest mission funding mechanism known to Christendom.
Being on the "prayer partner" list, I have been bombarded with communications from several of the Task Force members since the preliminary report came out in February. Basically they appeared to be attempts to "spin" the more controversial proposals, but as dissension continued to rise in the ranks, I sensed an attempt at damage control. As Task Force members heard the concerns from around the Convention, the emphasis was that this was only a preliminary report and that the final draft report would be released on May 3rd. Dr. Floyd told one of my friends who had voiced his concern, "We hear you on this! Please hold your peace until the final report comes out." My colleague agreed to do just that, and I also decided to take a wait and see attitude. The final draft report is now out. You may view the report, and all things GCRTF at the website http://www.pray4gcr.com/
Some changes have been made. I like a good bit of what I read. Yet many of my misgivings still exist. This document holds the possiblity of creating a very interesting Convention meeting in Orlando next month. In future posts to this blog I will share my take on the things that concern me the most, "For What It's Worth".