What’s in a Name? Thoughts and Reflections on the SBC Name Change Discussion

What is in a name? A great deal I would argue. Parents spend a great deal of time selecting just the right name for the newborn. A name that would be a blessing and sense of encouragement rather than a burden later in life. Businesses go to great lengths to make sure the name of a company reflect their purpose and passion. Auto makers assign names to their companies and brands to ensure they are interesting and appealing. As a society, we assign names to buildings, roads, bridges, ball fields, and wings of hospitals to communicate and celebrate the accomplishments, successes, and heroism of those who have made meaningful contributions in life. Names are important. Names matter.

I pastor a Southern Baptist church. This means our church has made a choice to affiliate and cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. Although we are first an Evangelical Christian church, our choice to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention is found in the values, commitment to cooperation, and theological stance that the SBC is known for. In September of 2011, Dr. Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention appointed a presidential task force to study the prospect of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. A name which has been in place for 166 years. A final report, along with any recommendations would be made to messengers at the 2012 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Two reasons form his rationale.

“First, the convention’s name is so regional,”  “With our focus on church planting, it is challenging in many parts of the country to lead churches to want to be part of a convention with such a regional name. Second, a name change could position us to maximize our effectiveness in reaching North America for Jesus Christ in the 21st century.”

Much speculation, discussion, and debate surrounded this upcoming announcement. Feelings were strong on both sides. In February of 2012, the task made its interim report to the SBC Executive Committee. A February 21st Baptist Press article says in part,

“The task force appointed to study a possible name change of the Southern Baptist Convention is recommending the convention maintain its legal name but adopt an informal, non-legal name for those who want to use it: “Great Commission Baptists. The recommendation would mean that the legal name of the convention would remain “Southern Baptist Convention” and could be used by any church which wishes to use it. But other SBC churches could call themselves “Great Commission Baptists” if they wish. Draper said the new term would be a “descriptor.” Dr. Jimmy Draper, Chairman of the presidential task force said, ‘We believe that the equity that we have in the name Southern Baptist Convention is valuable.’ ‘It is a strong name that identifies who we are in theology, morality and ethics, compassion, ministry and mission in the world. It is a name that is recognized globally in these areas. We also recognize the need that some may have to use a name that is not associated with a national region as indicated by the word ‘Southern.’ We want to do everything we can to encourage those who do feel a name change would be beneficial without recommending a legal name change for the convention. We believe we have found a way to do that.’  The goal from the beginning, Draper said, ‘was to consider the removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ.’”

This issue of name change has come before us in years past. Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention heard similar motions entertaining the possibility of a name change in 1965, 1974, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1998, and 2004. Each time messengers decided to leave the name of the Southern Baptist Convention as is. I want to share my thoughts here on this issue. I am not in favor of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe it has served us well all these years and that it will continue to identify us as champions of biblical conservatism in the decades to come. At present, the Southern Baptist Convention has something that is very valuable: name recognition. When you hear the name “Southern Baptist Convention”, you know what you are getting. The same is true when you hear the names Harley Davidson®, Apple ®, Coke®, and Starbucks ®. I want to share with you the three reasons why I believe the name “Southern Baptist Convention” is worth retaining.

1. The Southern Baptist Convention has led the way in caring for the physical needs of those introduced to disaster, both here and abroad. When it comes to ministering to those who have been affected by tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis, no one does it like Southern Baptists. Often the first on the scene with feeding units, showers, and chaplains, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and Baptist Global Response (the disaster relief arm of the International Mission Board) are on site to meet the physical needs of people with the desire to meet the spiritual needs. Relief and compassion are synonymous with Southern Baptists. This kind of “equity” if you will, can’t afford to be lost through a name change.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention has led the way in the defense of biblical truth and religious liberty. Whether or not everyone agrees with the stance the Southern Baptists takes on doctrinal matters, at least they know where we stand and that we will remain consistent. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Southern Baptists took a stand against the liberalism that was infiltrating our seminaries. Southern Baptists took a stand for the inerrancy of sufficiency of the scriptures. We are still reaping the benefits today. We owe a tremendous debt, one we can’t repay, to Southern Baptist statesmen such as W.A. Criswell, Jerry Vines, Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, Ed Young, Tom Elliff, George Truett, R.G. Lee, and many others. Southern Baptists have been a consistent voice “crying in the wilderness” of mainstream media against the laws and practices that seek to curtail the freedoms to practice our religion. We owe a debt as well to the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. I am fearful that a name change would call into question the integrity of all that has been accomplished in our 166 years.

3. The Southern Baptist Convention has led the way in pushing back the darkness through intentional missions efforts. Again, synonymous with Southern Baptists is missions and well-trained, well-prepared, and well-equipped missionaries. Some of our North American missionaries have expressed concern that the name “Southern Baptist” is a hindrance to the church-planting efforts in certain parts of North America. That concern is the genesis for the Dr Wright’s decision to study the name change again. Although there may be some merit to this concern, overall I believe the integrity and track-record of the Southern Baptist Convention will serve us well in future church-planting movements.

What is in a name? A great deal. We have in the Southern Baptist Convention a name that has served us well, is trusted, and respected. Although the committee studying the name change does not recommend a formal change, they do offer an alternative. Dr. Draper writes, “other SBC churches could call themselves ‘Great Commission Baptists’  if they wish. This new term would be, in Dr. Draper’s words a ‘descriptor’. From where I stand, this ‘descriptor’ will be more confusing. I understand the desire to draw attention to our efforts in fulfilling the Great Commission. In light of the past Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations, this has become more of a focus than ever before. But, it is possible for Independent Baptists to be committed to the Great Commission. It is possible for American Baptists to be committed to the Great Commission. For one, I will stick with the Southern Baptist Convention. It is that name that identifies us as a people of doctrine, a people of conviction, and a people of missions. I agree wholeheartedly with the with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Report of 1999 where they gave their rationale for not changing the name of the Convention. They wrote,

“The name Southern Baptist Convention” and term “SBC” have become brand names meaning more than just the sum of their parts. The Southern Baptist Convention no longer denotes a region as much as it does a position. It has come to mean missionary zeal, staunch Bible defense, moral rectitude, adherence to faith, and dependence upon the Lord.”

Annie Armstrong Easter Offering; A Missions Offering That Goes To Missions

Spring brings many things. Some wanted and some unwanted. This time of the year we see the blooming of flowers, warmer weather, and baseball. Spring also brings pollen and a time change. I look forward to spring because we have the opportunity and privilege to participate in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missionaries. Our Southern Baptist missionaries serving in North America are supported by the gifts that Southern Baptist churches give through the AAEO. I’m very proud to serve in a denomination where the work of our missionaries on both home and foreign soil continues uninterrupted. Think about this for a moment. Our missionaries don’t have to leave the field to travel back to their home churches, or set up speaking engagements, in order to raise the funding for the work they have been called by God to do. Through the cooperative efforts and gifts of all Southern Baptist churches to this missions offering, the fields are not vacated and the message of Jesus Christ remains present and consistent. I think this is truly amazing.

As a pastor, I am comforted by the idea that I can stand before the people that I lead and with confidence assure them that every penny that is given to the AAEO in the name of missions actually goes to mission work in North America. From the North American Missions Board’s website, “When people give to the offering, 100 percent of their gift will be transformed into missionary salaries and ministry supplies. Those missionaries and supplies will help others hear the message of Christ and respond in faith to His offer of salvation. Time and again our missionaries relate how the offering is their lifeblood. They know that behind each penny given, there is a Southern Baptist who believes in what they do and are affirming the need to equip them to share the gospel with those who need a Savior.” This is critical to the local congregation. The people of God who pray and give sacrificially to this effort, and other missions efforts, deserve this kind of confidence. The confidence of knowing that missions gifts are used solely for mission work accomplishes at least two things.

 First, the local congregation can give, with a sense of peace, and what may already be limited funds, knowing their gifts can positively affect the need presented to them.

 Second, when funds are used for the stated purpose, a greater sense of trust is established between the local congregation and the leadership who encourage them to give.

We are participating in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering this year. I believe in it. I believe in the work of our North American missionaries. We are fortunate to have a missionary on staff with us in our local Baptist association. We are able to see the some of the results of the gifts given to the AAEO in our local communities through his ministry with us. Our goal this year is $2500. Will we make it? I don’t know. What I do know is this. Whether we raise $2500, $250, or $25 matters less than the knowledge that every dime given goes to actual missions work across North America. To me, that is satisfying.

My Response to the Open Letter by the Alabama Baptist Conference of Directors of Missions

Below is my response to the recent open letter issued by the Alabama Baptist Conference of Directors of Missions dated November 15, 2010 to the Southern Baptist Convention calling for a slowdown of the Great Commission Resurgence. Their letter can be read in its entirety here.

I would like to begin by saying that in the grand scheme of all things Southern Baptist, I am merely one pastor. I am merely one pastor among thousands across the SBC who day in and day out engage our people in the reality that we have been given a mission and that mission involves people. My love for Christ and a burden for the lost motivate me as a pastor to stand before God’s people and proclaim the only certain cure for darkness is light. I am certain that is your motivation as well. I would be amiss if I did not thank you for your service to the kingdom of God. I want you to know that I appreciate all that you do in a position that I can only assume is challenging at best. Your leadership and guidance on behalf of Alabama Baptists has no doubt been selfless and beneficial.

Your open letter dated November 15, 2010 was a letter to pastors. It was a letter to the local church leader. It was a letter to the local congregation. It was a letter to a denomination of churches that had spent a considerable amount of time (nearly a year) considering a request to evaluate themselves. It was a letter to me as a 38 year old Southern Baptist pastor. Therefore, I would like to respond.

I was in the convention hall in Orlando this past June when the GCRTF recommendations were presented, debated, amended, and accepted by a great majority of the messengers. I, for one, studied both the preliminary and final reports. When asked by Dr. Floyd to do so, I committed to be a prayer partner throughout the entire process. After the year-long build up, after all the articles had been written, after all the interviews had been given, after the almost hour of discussion, and after the final vote, it was clear to me that the messengers present that day sensed a need for change in order for Southern Baptists to have any hope of putting a dent in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I left Orlando hopeful, optimistic, and more excited than ever about the future of the SBC.

To the best of my ability, I would like to reply to a few of your statements that I feel are especially troubling. As I read the reasoning behind your letter and the letter itself, there were certain words and phrases that I found not only surprising, but discouraging. The phrases, “pull the plug”, “backed into a corner”, “when the GCR comes to pass”, “causes division”, “knows the devastation GCR will have”, “superseded”, and “dismantled” collectively send a message of fear.

First, Tom Stacey, Salem Baptist Association Director of Missions said he “knows the devastation the GCR will have”. I don’t know how this is possible. I believe that any “perceived knowledge” as to how these recommendations will affect any agency in the future is speculation at best. The recommendations that passed in Orlando are just that, recommendations. The adoption of the report of the GCRTF did not change anything, realign anything, create anything, dismantle anything, or decrease any funding on the spot. These recommendations were referred to the respective entities (Executive Committee, NAMB, etc) for study. These were non-binding and no one fully knows what will happen or what the respective agencies and entities will do. It will not be until June of 2011 in Phoenix that we know how the entities respond to the recommendations.

Second, Steve Loggins, president of the Alabama Baptist Conference of Director of Associational Missions said “we all want to see the Gospel go to the ends of the earth, but we can’t abandon what we have here. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, but a both/and.” In all fairness, your letter does not come to the defense of the nations. Two of the recommendations of the GCRTF deal with NAMB having a greater emphasis on church planting in under-served areas of North America. They also ask the IMB to help NAMB with identified people groups located within in North America. I believe the thrust of the recommendations address your concerns: pioneer areas where there are people, but a lack of churches to serve them. You speak of a “both/and”, but one recommendation dealt with the IMB receiving an additional one percent and this was absent from your letter. Instead, you addressed the areas that would affect you and only defended the funding of those areas.

Thirdly, you stated in your letter, “in our understanding, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and documents proceeding from the task force essentially have: superseded the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists main funding for working together.” There were no new funding mechanisms put forward by the GCRTF. The GCRTF did not offer one channel of funding in exchange for another. You mentioned the “documents proceeding from the task force”. On page number nine of the pamphlet entitled Penetrating the Lostness; Embracing a Vision for a Great Commission Resurgence Among Southern Baptists, under Component number three, the following is written, “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. We call upon the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to increase the percentage of their Cooperative Program giving.” Although the GCRTF put forth a category of giving entitled Great Commission Giving in order to recognize all categories of missions giving, the Cooperative Program appears to have remained center stage for cooperative funding. In Orlando, the GCRTF embraced an amendment to their own report that added language of further support and recognition of the Cooperative Program as the main avenue of cooperative missions giving. The wording of the amendment and the willingness of the task force to listen to the messengers should put to rest your fears of the “dismantling” of the Cooperative Program. If nothing else, their spirit of cooperation should at least give you an inclination that their motives as pure.

Lastly, Stacey said again, “We’re praying [NAMB President] Kevin Ezell will start understanding more and more that these entities and agencies will do some studies before they pull the plug on whatever they are going to pull the plug on. We’re backed into a corner and we are trying to be as gentlemanly as we can.” Who backed you into a corner? Why is there a need to be so defensive? As leaders, we should always evaluate how our ministries are being carried out in order to determine if there if there is a better way to utilize personnel, resources, time, and the Cooperative Program monies that sacrificially flow from the pews of the local congregation. As leaders, evaluation and introspection should not frighten us. At its base level, the GCRTF has asked us all to do that very thing. In all fairness to Dr. Ezell, he has just begun his duties at NAMB. He has stepped into a difficult position. He has been given recommendations from the messengers of the SBC that call for a serious look at how NAMB does business. Please give him some time to understand his office and duties before any assumptions are made. You mention that you hope some studies are done before the plug is pulled on “whatever they are going to pull the plug on.” I would like to remind you that you are a part of “they”. What I mean by that is this. Any final action will be made by messengers who come from the local Baptist church.  The recommendations that were passed in June are the studies you hope that will be done. The GCRTF gave some detail to each entity as to what to “study” to better carry out the Great Commission.

I would like to ask two things of you as an association of directors of missions and as influencers of Baptists nationwide.

First, please let the process work before you make any drastic decisions. I believe that asking for a slow-down on a renewed passion and desire for the fulfillment of the Great Commission is counter-productive and not our place. How dare we ask such a thing?

Second, please keep in mind the nearly six billion lost people throughout the nations when drawing territorial lines. Turf wars are not God-honoring and never advance the gospel. We must never become fixated on our areas so as to miss what God is doing elsewhere.  

Many challenges lay ahead of us as Southern Baptists. We are challenged to put the welfare and future of the nations first. We are challenged to seek the kingdom of God first. We are challenged to seek unity first.  There are going to be issues and positions that we don’t agree on. It is impossible to believe that everyone will always agree on everything.  Although we don’t agree, we have to remember that we serve the same Lord and it will be our ability and willingness to bridge our differences that will determine how long we travel in separate directions hoping to reach the same destination.

Let’s Be Fair About This

The season of state convention annual meetings is upon us. Our annual meeting in South Carolina is scheduled for November 16th-17th in Columbia. All across the SBC, states are gathering for times of worship, encouragement, inspiration, and difficult decisions during business sessions. Many of the state conventions are in the beginning phases of making adjustments after the passing of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations this past June during the SBC annual meeting in Orlando. The task force asked for SBC churches to shine the light upon how we as Southern Baptists can do better in fulfilling the Great Commission. So, state conventions, wrestling with struggling economies and fulfilling the desire of its messengers, are beginning to adjust their budgets accordingly.

Part of the budget decisions facing many state conventions is not just whether or not to increase or decrease their budget based on projected income from the member churches over last year. Another decision that states face is what to do with their percentages as it related to the Cooperative Program. The bare-bones question is this: “How much do we keep in state and how much do we forward to SBC causes?” Messengers from member churches make this decision. Historically, the percentage goal for allocation of CP dollars has been 50/50. At the beginning, Southern Baptists saw this as the ideal. In 1934, the SBC approved a distribution of receipts which called for “50% for Southwide (SBC) purposes and 50% for statewide purposes” 1

The 50/50 goal has not yet been embraced consistently across the SBC. Since that time, states have taken on their own buildings, agencies, schools, staff, and ministries. As a result, the distribution percentages have slowly but steadily shifted in favor of the state conventions. Since 1930, the division of CP funds between state conventions and the SBC has averaged 63.55% to the state and 36.45% to SBC causes.

Each state is autonomous. They can set their own budgets, choose which ministries to pursue, what and how much staff to employ, and decide what percentage of CP fund to retain. Currently, our South Carolina Baptist Convention retains 59.6% and forwards 40.4% to the SBC. Messengers to the SCBC annual meeting this year will see a proposal of (59% retain and 41% forward). I believe that our state convention is retaining too much of the CP dollar. Over the past years, and especially now with states being called upon to put more CP dollars to work on the mission field outside North America, the thought and necessity of a 50/50 split is being heard again. The state conventions of Kentucky, Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee will be at least considering  recommendations to move toward a 50/50 division of CP funds.

I am in favor of such an allocation. To my knowledge there has been no mention if South Carolina Baptists will hear a proposal to move toward a 50/50 split. I hope we do. I hope the messengers get a chance to speak to such a recommendation in the future. Here is why I feel this way. Even if our messengers approve a 59/41 split, proportionally it seems out of balance. Here in North America, the barriers to the advancement of the gospel are fewer. Think about it for a moment. Physically reaching the lost across North America is easier. Days of difficult travel to reach people groups do not exist in North America. Technology has made a variety of delivery methods available. It has also made communication between workers quicker and more efficient. Networks of church planters and those who provide resources and training to them are already in place. For the most part, the language barrier is not as great a battle here as it is in other parts of the world.

The barriers to the advancement of the gospel are greater overseas. Travel to and from remote cities and villages s difficult, time-consuming, and potentially hazardous. Limited technology in many parts of the world makes it more difficult for missionaries to communicate with each other and with those whom they serve. In turn, this limits the ways in which the gospel can be delivered. We have the luxury here in North America to be able to use social networking (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc), video, unnumbered styles and varieties of gospel tracts, different Bible versions, and advertising to get the gospel message out. At times, our missionaries are the only “professional” in a particular area. I worked on several work and witness teams with an IMB missionary who was responsible for the Miskito people group. His area of responsibility covered the coastal and inland sections of both Honduras and Nicaragua. Contrast this with North America where we seemingly have churches on every corner with pastors and planters having each other to give encouragement, support, and resources in order to better reach people.  The language barrier hinders any kind of work. Although our missionaries spend time in language school before arriving on their field, it still takes time to effectively communicate the gospel, especially when some of our words don’t even exist in native tongue.

 Despite the contrast, we are sending more money and resources to North America, and more especially our state, and less to the foreign mission field. If we have clearly been given a mandate to reach all the nations with the gospel, and I believe that we have, then our funding should reflect the priority. Lostness is lostness, here and abroad. Should we not be funding our missions efforts equally? I believe there are a number of our state convention agencies that have the ability to gain funding outside of the CP channel. I firmly believe that the missions agencies of the SBC whose sole support is CP monies should have what they need in order to active in pushing back darkness around the world.

Would our state convention in South Carolina have to make adjustments in order to get to a 50/50 split in Cooperative Program giving? Without a doubt. Would a 50/50 split challenge the state convention and its leadership to make hard decisions and sharpen their focus on the lost beyond state lines? Absolutely. Would this be the right thing to do? I believe so.


1 – SBC Annual 1934 (pp. 38-49)

My Thoughts on the Final Report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

One week ago, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force released their final report, including recommendations to be made to the messengers in June at the SBC Annual Meeting. I had written previously on the initial report that was released back in February. This final report was greatly anticipated across SBC life. There was a belief that that final report would contain recommendations that were not listed in the initial report. That did not happen. There was however a new wording of the previous recommendations with some additional explanation of the task force’s thoughts on their work. Also, one of the original components was divided into two separate recommendations. New to this report is a series of challenges set forth by the task force. There are challenges issued to the individual Christian, individual families, local churches and pastors, local associations, state conventions, Lifeway, our seminaries, the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, Guidestone, and all Southern Baptist leaders. These challenges reflect how each group can do their part in carrying out the Great Commission.

The final report includes seven recommendations written out in the form that each will be presented to messengers in June. As parliamentary rule goes, this report, including all seven recommendations will be voted on as a whole, unless a motion is made to divide and vote on each one individually, which is 99.9999% likely. I hope this is the case. I believe that an up/down vote on the entire report would not be in the best interest of the convention. However, I am just one pastor. Listed below are the recommendations exactly how the messengers will receive them. If presented as a whole, I would still have to vote no.

Recommendation #1:

“That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, adopt the following as the mission statement of the Southern Baptist Convention:”

As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.

I plan on voting yes on this recommendation. I feel this is a good solid vision for the convention as a whole while allowing the church to keep their individual visions.

Recommendation #2:

“That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida,  June 15-16, 2010, adopt the following as Core Values for our work together:”


We depend on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and prayer to make us more like Jesus Christ.


We stand together in the truth of God’s inerrant Word, celebrating the faith once for all delivered to the saints.


We work together in love for the sake of the Gospel.


We consider others more important than ourselves.


We tell each other the truth in love and do what we say we will do.


We value Southern Baptists of all generations and embrace our responsibility to pass this charge to a rising generation in every age, faithful until Jesus comes.


We believe the local church is given the authority, power, and responsibility to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world.


We join other Christ-followers for the Gospel, the Kingdom of Christ, and the glory of God.

I plan on voting yes on this recommendation. These are solid value to pursue.

Recommendation #3:

 “That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida, June  15-16, 2010, request the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to consider recommending to the Southern Baptist Convention the adoption of the language  and structure of Great Commission Giving as described in this report in order to enhance and  celebrate the Cooperative Program and the generous support of Southern Baptists channeled through their churches. We further request that the boards of trustees of the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board consider the adoption of the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offering goals as outlined in this report.”

I plan on voting no on this recommendation. I personally believe that creating another description of giving in order to recognize and celebrate churches that choose designated giving over CP giving will only lessen the emphasis on Cooperative Program giving.

Recommendation #4:

” That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15-16, 2010, request  the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to consider any revision to the  ministry assignment of the North American Mission Board that may be necessary in order to  accomplish the redirection of NAMB as outlined in this report; and that the Board of  Trustees of the North American Mission Board be asked to consider the encouragements  found within this report in all matters under their purview.”

I plan on voting yes on this recommendation. I share the concern for a re-emphasis of the North American Mission Board.

 Recommendation #5:

“That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15-16, 2010, request  that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention consider a revised ministry assignment  for the International Mission Board that would remove any geographical limitation on its mission to reach unreached and underserved people groups wherever they are found.”

I plan on voting no on this recommendation. On the surface this recommendation makes sense. With the recent funding issues of IMB missionaries, it seems appropriate to me to keep their focus, time, and resources committed to people groups around the world.

Recommendation #6:

 “That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15-16, 2010, request the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to consider working with the leadership of the state conventions in developing a comprehensive program of        Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education in alignment with this report.”

I plan on voting yes on this recommendation. I feel that the state conventions are in the best position to promote and educate the local churches regarding the Cooperative Program.

Recommendation #7:

” That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15-16, 2010 in  Orlando, Florida, request the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to consider recommending an SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget that will increase the percentage allocated to the International Mission Board to 51 percent by decreasing the  Executive Committee’s percentage of the SBC Allocation Budget by 1 percent.”

I plan on voting yes on this recommendation. More funding to the IMB is vital to the effectiveness of missionaries around the world in pushing back lostness. With the task of CP promotion and education taken from the Executive Committee and placed in the hands of the state conventions, it is a good idea to reallocate what the EC used for CP promotion and education and forward that to the IMB.

As a pastor I feel this is an important time in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention. The passing of and rejection of these recommendations can and will have far-reaching effects upon Southern Baptist life as we know, effecting conventions, associations, and local churches. None of these recommendations will be implemented immediately. These proposed changes to the structure of the SBC may be years in the making. What we must do as a local is make an individual commitment to carrying out the Great Commission where we have been planted by God. I believe in the Southern Baptist Convention, but I believe in the local church more.

Reflections on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Initial Report : Part #5

This is the final post in a series on my personal reflections of the initial report from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

Component #6: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that a greater percentage of total Cooperative Program funds should be directed to the work of the International Mission Board. Therefore, we will ask Southern Baptists to support this goal by affirming an intention to raise the International Mission Board allocation for the 2011-2012 budget year to 51%, a move that is both symbolic and substantial. At the same time, we will ask Southern Baptists to reduce the percentage allocated to Facilitating Ministries by 1% as part of our initial effort to send a greater percentage of total Southern Baptist Convention mission funds to the nations.

This component is closely linked to Component #4. The fourth component of the report recommended moving the responsibility of Cooperative Program education and promotion from the SBC Executive Committee and placing it in the hands of the state convention. The task force believes the International Mission Board deserves a bigger piece of the CP pie. Currently, the IMB receives 50% of all CP dollars forwarded by the state conventions. The task force recommend increasing the amount given to the IMB from 50% to 51%. The additional 1% would come from the Facilitating Ministries budget.

In simple terms, the task force is asking for a budget adjustment, a reallocation of funds. The 1% will likely come from the Executive Committee’s budget once CP promotion is no longer an SBC responsibility and is taken on by the state convention. I am in favor this component. I believe the IMB needs more of our CP dollars. They have a huge task before, taking the gospel to all the nations. I applaud the task force for recommending an increase in the IMB budget. This recommendation speaks volumes to the importance of, and the need for, more dollars to the mission field.

Overall, this is a good solid report with the capacity to bring about a needed change across the SBC as it relates the carrying out the Great Commission. I am not sure how these recommendations will be out to a vote in Orlando, if they even get to a vote. There are two options: vote on all six recommendations as one, or vote on each component individually. What would I do? If the report is offered as a whole for consideration, I would have to vote no. If these recommendations are offered individually, right now, I would vote this way:

Component #1: Yes

Component #2: No

Component #3: No

Component #4: Yes

Component #5: No

Component #6: Yes

If you like, you can read the entire initial report here.  

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.

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?

Relief Offering for Haiti

Most everyone knows of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that devastated the tiny island nation of Haiti last Tuesday. It is difficult  and saddening to watch countries like Haiti and others who have been stricken with similar disasters struggle through the aftermath. Weak governments, lack of national wealth, poor military, and inadequate infrastructure make the recovery from the these disasters all the more difficult. It is encouraging to me to see the outpouring of support  that is pouring into Haiti. This help has come form such agencies as the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, Doctors Without Borders, SBC Disaster Relief, and World Vision.

Sad but true, nothing brings the human spirit and heart together like tragedy. The world has seen this time and time again. From Hurricane Katrina to the Southeast Asia Tsunami of 2005, tragedy stirs the hearts of people. As we watch the recovery efforts unfold in Haiti, our hearts are burdened and hurting. We want to do something tangible.

At Port Royal Baptist Church, we will be doing our part. This coming Sunday we will take a Relief Offering for Haiti, giving our people an opportunity to help those who are hurting and displaced. Along with our monetary gifts, the people of Haiti need our prayers, both now and in the future. Haiti is a dark place spiritually. I truly believe the hands-on work of clean-up and rebuilding will serve as the hands and feet of Jesus before the people of Haiti. Perhaps through the simple acts of love more avenues for the gospel will open up.