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.”

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.

The SBC in Orlando

Messengers from SBC churches will be headed south to Orlando for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 15th-16th. I have been able to attend several of these meetings and really enjoy them. However, I have missed the last three (San Antonio, Indianapolis, and Louisville). One highlight of the trip is the Pastors Conference on the front end of the meeting. This conference is a great opportunity to sit, relax, and decompress while listening to some of the nation’s greatest preaching and teaching. Pastors rarely have the opportunity to sit and be “preached to”. This conference allows for a recharging and re-energizing. The theme for this year’s conference is “Greater Things”. You can view the schedule of speakers here. In my opinion, this is the best line-up of speakers in recent memory.

The annual meeting itself is a mixture of business, music, and preaching. The business sessions include the election of officers, offering of resolutions, agency and entity reports, and miscellaneous business items. There is really no way to know what the messengers will be voting on. Motions can be offered on most anything, and usually are. This year, there is one item of business the messengers know they will be voting on. The recommendations from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force will be presented for approval.

This year is an election year. Messengers will electing a new president. As of today, there are four candidates in the race. Recently all four candidates were asked a series of questions about their candidacy covering subjects such as SBC vision, future challenges, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, and the Cooperative Program. Here is a brief description of the four.

1. Dr. Bryant Wright:  Dr. Wright is the Senior Pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in  Marietta, GA. You can read his interview here.

2. Dr. Jimmy Jackson: Dr. Jackson is the Senior Pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL and the president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. You can read his interview here.

3. Dr. Ted Traylor: Traylor is the Senior Pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL and is a former president of the Florida Baptist Convention. You can read his interview here.

4. Dr. Leo Endel:  Endel is the Executive Director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and a former president of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. You can read his interview here.  

As of today, I am planning to vote for Ted Traylor. I was a Florida Baptist for eleven years. Dr. Traylor gave solid leadership to the state convention and I believe he will lead well at the SBC level.  This year’s meeting  will be eventful and meaningful. It is also a meeting that will set the course of our convention for years to come.

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 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.

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.

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.

Taking The Lead

 Now that the SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville is over it is time to digest and give great thought to the events and decisions made over those few days. I will not take time to make my observations now. I will detail them in a post later, I have other things going on right now. I will make a comment one one of the major topics of the meeting, which is the Great Commission Resurgence. There was a motion made for the SBC president to appoint a task force to study the Great Commission Resurgence, which you can read here, on how Southern Baptists can  work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

I am a big fan of Dr. Thom Rainer. I enjoy reading his work. Essential Church, Simple Church, Surpiring Insights from the Unchurched are just a few of his titles that I have enjoyed. There has been alot said about the GCR through all the news outlets and other blogs. Dr. Rainer made a powerful statement regarding the GCR. You can read it here.  Dr. Rainer states that any success that the GCR will have will be when it begins with each one of us. He has taken the lead and committed himself to a personal great commission resurgence. I applaud him being out front and calling for this resurgence to begin personally. Lord, give us the desire for it to begin with us personally.