Reflections on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Initial Report : Part #3

I am continuing my thoughts on the initial report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. What I thought would be three posts, will more likely be four or five.

 Component #3: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.

 The task force envisions the International Mission Board taking on the responsibility of assisting the North American Mission Board with reaching the lost across the North America. A large number of the world’s identified people groups that do not speak English are represented in major cities across the North America. Many of these groups have strategy coordinators working overseas with the same group. The task force seems to believe that a more effective reaching of these people groups would be accomplished by allowing the overseas coordinators to work in North America.

 I believe this is a terrible idea. One statement from the report seems especially ambitious. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, GCRTF chairman wrote, We are confident that the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board can communicate with one another effectively about their respective work and communicate with our state conventions and local associations about what God is doing in their gospel work. I don’t understand how improved communication at denominational, state, and associational levels can be accomplished through this “unleashing” of the IMB on North American soil. I tend to believe the opposite will occur. Here are a few of the concerns I have about this particular component.

 1. The IMB has more than enough one their plate. With the number of unreached people groups around the world growing almost daily, their concern, efforts, and energy should be spent pursuing these groups. I believe with all of my heart that moving the IMB to North America will lead to a less-effective IMB. I would hate to see the IMB get so spread out that they would suffer the same ineffectiveness that the North American Mission Board is seeing now.

 2. North America should be the responsibility of NAMB. I believe the responsible thing to do would be to restructure NAMB in order to reach these same goals. Of course, I’m just one pastor.

 3. I believe this movement of the IMB to North America will blur the lines of responsibility  between these two mission boards. I can also see a funding nightmare as it relates to the Cooperative Program.

4. Does this mean that NAMB will be “hands-off” in the areas of North America in which the IMB is working? Who will have the ultimate responsibility of reaching North America?

 I would rather see the North American Mission Board strengthened through new structure and vision than to see the International Mission Board weakened by taking up the slack of the North American Mission Board.

Reflection on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Initial Report : Part #2

Component #2: “We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that our North American Mission Board needs to be reinvented and released. Therefore, in order to do this, we will ask Southern Baptists that the North American Mission Board prioritize efforts to plant churches in North America and to reach our nation’s cities and clarify its role to lead and accomplish efforts to reach North America with the Gospel.”

 The GCRTF envisions a restructure of the North American Mission Board. NAMB has had its share of problems over the past few years that have led to a decreased effectiveness. Constant turnover of leadership at the top, duplicated ministries (down the associational level), and a broad focus have contributed to this ineffectiveness. Many would say that NAMB is broken. I would not go that far as to agree. This envisioned restructure is centered around the belief that the planting of healthy new congregations is the most effective way to reach North America. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor of FBC Springdale, AR and Chairman of the GCRTF said, “This reinvention of the North American Mission Board that we envision will implement a direct strategy for planting churches in North America with a priority to reach metropolitan areas and under-served people groups. We desire for the North American Mission Board to encourage Southern Baptist churches to become church planting congregations. Regardless of the size or location of our churches, we want each to have a vision for and get involved in planting churches some way, somewhere in North America. It is our desire that at least 50% of the ministry efforts of our North American Mission Board be given to assist churches in planting healthy, multiplying, and faithful Baptist congregations in the United States and Canada.”

 The task force is calling for the following specific actions to be considered, including church planting, pastoral leadership development, local church assistance in evangelism and discipleship, and putting more Cooperative Program money where it will be most effective. The task force is also recommending the dissolving of “cooperative agreements” between NAMB and state conventions, where NAMB forwards portions of their CP budget dollars back to the state. Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and task force member states, “The idea of Cooperative Agreements is simple – the North American Mission Board (and originally, the Home Mission Board) established agreements with each state convention in order to avoid overlap, confusion, and duplication of work. When the Great Commission Task Force recommends the phased elimination of these agreements, we are calling for the North American Mission Board to rethink how it should relate to the state conventions so that the mission board retains a more focused ministry of assisting Southern Baptist churches to reach North America. In the year 2009, about $50-million dollars was routed through these Cooperative Agreements. Many of these dollars were spent on the salaries of workers in the state conventions and associations. The monies are allocated and channeled in way that are difficult to trace, much less prioritize.”

 The goal of dissolving these agreements is to streamline the work of NAMB, increase productivity, and improve accountability of CP dollars. There are parts of this component that I like and some I don’t like. I agree with the focus on church planting and leadership development. Aspects of these cooperative agreements trouble me greatly. Also in the initial report the task force envisions giving priority to the top 100 metropolitan areas of North America. While I understand that these large urban centers require more effort and resources (due to population), what about the other areas of North America? What about the pioneer regions of North America where lostness is just as real? What about the rural areas of North America? Will funding to reach these types of areas be sacrificed for the sake of reaching the top 100 metropolitan areas? There are still many questions left to ask, and answer.

Reflections on the Great Commission Resurgene Task Force Initial Report : Part #1

Better than a month ago, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force released the interim report of their work leading up to the final report to be given at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Orlando this summer. This report was the first of two to be made public (the other in early May) sharing their progress. I have written on the origin and function of this task force. You can read it here. Simply, the purpose of the GCRTF is to examine ways in which the SBC can more effectively carry out the Great Commission and report its findings to the messengers at the annual meeting in June.

This highly anticipated initial report has prompted much discussion across the SBC. Many articles have been written about it the state newspapers. Bloggers have critiqued it, giving  their own reasons why it will and will not be beneficial to the church. State convention executives have even gave reasons as to why they can and cannot support the recommendations contained in the report. In the grand scheme of all things SBC, my opinion won’t make any difference. Denominational structure won’t shift because of what I write. My words won’t change the course of current policy.  However, being the pastor of a small church (defined by the SBC as having fewer than 200 in the primary worship service), which is the make-up of approximately 85% of all SBC churches, my opinion may matter after all.

The initial report contains six components which may or may not be presented in the form of formal recommendations that require a vote for passage. When the final report comes out in May, there may be more or less than these initial six. Over the next three posts, I want to share each component, what it means, and my thoughts on each one.

Component #1: “We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to rally towards a clear and compelling missional vision and begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Basically, this component calls for all SBC churches to come together around one central vision that is missional in nature. The term missional basically means to take on the mindset, attitude, and practice of missionary living in everything you do, instead of just “doing” missions. The task force calls for the SBC to embrace and pursue eight core values as part of this new vision: Christlikeness, truth, unity, relationships, trust, future, local church, and kingdom. I believe this is a good starting point. Unless the convention comes to terms with where it wants to go, the remaining components do not matter. Every local church has their own vision based on their local context. Embracing this vision and these core values will collectively give the convention a unified direction to move in.

Coming Attractions

As my three-week time-out comes to an end, my mind is full of thoughts that I wish to put into words. Over the next few weeks I will be writing on topics such as church ministry, Southern Baptist life, and matters of inspiration and encouragement. Here is a preview of what is to come.

1. I will continue my weekly “Friday Is For Scripture” article.

2. I will be writing about the purpose of and effectiveness of the local Baptist association.

3. Over the past three weeks, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force released their preliminary report. The task force shared six recommendations that will be presented to SBC messengers for approval in Orlando in June. I will be sharing my thoughts and reactions in a three-part series.

4. I am awaiting the arrival of two books for review. For Thomas Nelson Publishers, I will review John Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”. For Tyndale House, I will review Matt Mikalatos’ “Imaginary Jesus”.

Stay tuned.

The SBC Will Not See One United Missions Board, For Now

The Florida Baptist Witness is reporting the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force will not recommend to the SBC a merger of its two missions boards. During the pastors conference at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville on Tuesday, the GCRTF held a Q&A session with pastors, staff, and others in attendance. Task force members were asked if a merger was likely, to which task force chairman Dr. Ronnie Floyd answered, ““But I can tell you, our sights are set on having the North American Mission Board and our sights are set on having an International Mission Board,” he said. “There was great, great, great discussion studying, planning and even to the point of having strategic formation of the possibility of the other. But we just really sensed in our heart that wasn’t right at this time.”

The GCRTF had been given the mission and responsibility to discover ways in which the SBC could more effectively carry out the Great Commission. Among many ideas being considered by the task force, the possible merger of the IMB and NAMB seemed to be the most talked about. Personally, I am relieved to hear they will not be making a merger recommendation. I believe that a merger of our two mission boards would have a negative effect upon our overall missions efforts, both stateside and worldwide. My belief is based upon the following.

1. It is no secret  the constant turnover in leadership at the North American Mission Board over the last ten years has greatly decreased its overall effectiveness. There is something within this agency that needs to be addressed, whether in its organization or its strategies. I feel it would be counterproductive to take a somewhat anemic NAMB and merge it with a healthy IMB. The result would be a less than effective missions agency. The SBC should invest in NAMB, to the point it is as healthy as the IMB.

2. Language and culture demand separate mission boards. Within our current two board structure, new language and people groups are being discovered on a regular basis. It required people who are trained in bridging language barriers, navigating hostile cultural environments, and pushing into regions where the gospel witness has not yet been. A missions board exclusively devoted to training missionaries in international languages, cultures, customs, and strategies is vital to the effective advancement of the gospel. 

What do you think?

SBC Annual Meeting Predictions

Currently, I am planning to attend the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Orlando on June 15-16th. Call me strange, but I enjoy this kind of stuff. I have attended two of these meetings in the past: Greensboro, NC and Nashville, TN. This year’s annual meeting is one of the most widely anticipated in recent memory. Not only is it an election year, messengers will also hear the recommendations from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force elected last year in Louisville. You can read about the purpose of the task force here. I feel their recommendations will shape the direction of the SBC for years to come.

As a Southern Baptist pastor, I do my best to keep up with the current state affairs across the convention. I feel this is my responsibility toward the church that I pastor. So, based on past annual meetings, baptist news over the past year, and personal experience, I would like to make the following predictions for this year’s annual meeting.

1. I predict that a pastor from the state of Florida will be elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

2. I predict that a motion will be made to amend the SBC operating budget in order to allow a greater percentage of Cooperative Program dollars to be forwarded to the International Mission Board.

3.  I predict that a motion will be made to allow alternate forms of missions giving to be counted as Cooperative Program giving.

4. I predict that a resolution will be offered in recognition of the Disaster Relief efforts in Haiti.

5. I predict that a motion will be made to ask Lifeway Christian Resources to not carry the TNIV version of the bible in their stores.

6. I predict that a motion will be made to remove “Southern” from the official denominational title of the Southern Baptist Convention.

7. I predict that a motion will be made to establish an agency within the SBC whose primary responsibility will be resourcing and supporting the small church (those under 200 in primary worship).

8. I predict that, in terms of enrolled messengers, this year’s annual meeting will have the highest attendance in the past 15 years.

9. I predict that a motion will be made for a study to be conducted on the effects of Calvinism across the SBC.

10. I predict that a motion will be made asking the SBC to consider FBC Decatur, GA out of fellowship as a result of them calling a female pastor.

11. I predict that a motion will be made asking the SBC to explore ways in which technology can be used to increase the participation of all churches during the annual meetings.

12. I predict the report from the International Mission Board will be the most passionate and emotional report in many years.

13. I predict someone will ask the convention to boycott something.

Track of Cooperative Program Gifts

In yesterday’s post, I made several observations relating to the Baptist Press article on the budget shortfall at the IMB. Due to these shortfalls, there may be delays in some missionaries arriving on the field. One of the observations I made was that I believe it may be necessary to change the percentages of Cooperative Program giving to allow more funds to arrive on the mission field. The Cooperative Program is the Southern Baptist’s unified giving program for funding missions that has been in place since the early 1900’s. The CP is about percentages. The local church designates a percentage of the undesignated receipts to be given to the CP through the state convention. The state convention then designates a percentage (based on messenger vote) to retain in the state and a percentage to forward to the SBC for the mission boards, seminaries, and other entities. It is along these lines of designated percentages that funds make their way to our missionaries.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention retains 59.56% of CP dollars coming from the local church and forwards the other 40.44% to the SBC. It is best to look at this through a real-life example. Let’s say that a church gives $100 to the CP in the state of South Carolina. 59.56% of that $100 stays in the state. This percentage is broken down as follows:

30.4% – South Carolina Baptist Convention Ministries
25.56% – South Carolina Baptist Institutions
2% – Womens Missionary Union
1.6% – Church Staff Retirement Plan

40.44% of that $100 is forwarded to the SBC. The SBC has a consistent distribution plan for all CP dollars that are collected from the state conventions. Here is that plan:

50% – International Mission Board
22.79% – North American Mission Board
22.16% – Six Seminaries
3.4% – SBC Operating Budget
1.65% – Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission

The local church’s gift of $100 at the SBC level amounts to $40.44. The gifts, at their final dispersed amount, look like this: International Mission Board ($20.22), North American Mission Board ($9.21), Six Seminaries ($8.96), SBC Operating Budget ($1.37), Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (.66).

In my opinion, here in where the answer rests. It is not so much as the amount the church itself sends, it has to do with the amount that the state keeps. Now, I understand that each state, including our state of South Carolina, have ministries and programs the leadership deem important and worthy of Cooperative Program dollars. When it comes to the funding of missionaries where their only source of support comes from the local church, through the state convention, can’t we do better? Again, in my opinion, I believe we will see a recommendation come from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force in June of 2010 relating to this area of CP percentages. Listed below is what other state conventions retain/send to the SBC as a matter of comparison.

Florida Baptist Convention  (60%,40%)
Georgia Baptist Convention  (58.6%, 41.2%)
Alabama Baptist Convention  (58%,42%)
Mississippi Baptist Convention (66%,34%)
Hawaii Baptist Convention  (69.4%, 30.6%) 
Tennessee Baptist Convention (58%, 42%)
California Baptist Convention (72.1%, 27.9%)

Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

At the SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville of 2009, the messengers voted to establish what has come to be known as the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. The genesis of this task force was a chapel message shared by Dr. Danny Akin at Southeastern Seminary. He and SBC president Dr. Johnny Hunt worked together to draft the Great Commission Declaration. A motion was made by Dr. Al Mohler for the convention as a whole to respond to this declaration. Subsequently, Dr. Hunt appointed the members to this task force. The purpose of this task force is to study the ways in which the SBC and its entities (seminaries, agencies, boards, etc) can better carry out the Great Commission. They were asked to bring these recommendations to the messengers of the SBC Annual Meeting in June 2010. The make-up of this task force is rather diverse. It is made up of twenty-two members ranging from pastors to (2) seminary presidents (Southeastern and Southern) to state convention executive directors.

The work before this task force is great. They have been charged with taking a hard look at the SBC and determine what can be done that will allow more effectiveness in carrying out the Great Commission. This is harder than it sounds. Here is the problem the task force faces, as I see it. Each SBC entitiy, agency, and seminary make their own decisions and cannnot be directed to change the way they operate or change their structure. Only messengers can direct this type of action. If the task force finds that a particular agency would be more effective by changing its structure, they can only reccommend the change. Their recommendations are non-binding.

Further complicating their work is the recent resignation of the president of the North American Mission Board and the announced retirement of the preseidents of the International Mission Board and the SBC Executive Committee. The leadership of our mission boards will be critical in our continued efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. Effecting significatnt change across the SBC will be alot like stopping a fully loaded freight train. It is no easy task. The SBC has been around for ovr 150 years. There is alot of tradition. There is alot of programming in place. In my opinion, there is duplication of some ministries and programs across national, state, and associational levels that do not make the best use of personnel or Cooperative Program monies. Rumors have circulated as to what the task force will do. A casual reading of state baptist newspapers show these. Some are saying that one of our seminaries will be closed. Some are saying that a merger of the North American Mission Board the International Mission Board will be recommended (big mistake). Others are suggesting that an overhaul of the Cooperative Program will be recommended. I don’t know. The task force chairman (Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Pastor, FBC Springdale, Arkansas) and the SBC president (Dr. Johnny Hun,Pastor, FBC Woodstock, Georgia) have been out front and proactive in putting rumors to rest and sharing the purpose of the task force.

Why is this important? Why does this matter? First, I am a Southern Baptist pastor leading a Southern Baptist church. I believe in the SBC and its commitment to missions, doctrinal integrity, and cooperation. Second, the latest research shows that nearly 89% of all SBC churches are plateaued or declining. It is the right time, as I see it, to take a look and determine if we have put too much focus on programs and structure and not enough focus on people. If it is found that we would be better able to reach people with a restructure or realignment, I am in favor. Third, I believe in the Cooperative Program. The CP is the best vehicle for funding mission work here and around the world. As we give collectively through the CP, we are helping to fund missionaries, train and equip future leaders at our seminaries, and provide resources for church planters to birth churches in places and among people where no church exists. Yes, the work of this task force is important. What this task force recommends and suggests will have an impact on us for years to come. I feel the best days for our SBC are ahead. I am excited to lead our church to do our part in carrying our commission. Pary for this task force.