Extreme Makeover: SBC Edition [pretty outcome not guaranteed]
The “progress report” released Feb. 22 by Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is “strategically naive and historically ignorant,” a denominational expert says.
George Bullard, strategic coordinator for The Columbia Partnership consulting group, made the comment on Twitter just after the report was released. Bullard, who retired as associate executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and also served on the staff at the South Carolina convention, made more than a dozen observations about the report on his Facebook fan page.
In a video presentation that’s as much sermon as report, task force chairman Ronnie Floyd went over the document’s six components, including a new vision statement supported by eight core values. (A downloadable pdf file of the report is available here.)
In his observations on Facebook, Bullard commends parts of the report, but questions other portions. He supports the call to reach cities, but doubts that it can happen with the national strategy dictated by the report.
Bullard agrees with the emphasis on church planting, but says the committee’s call for “implementing a direct strategy” for planting churches in North America shows that it does not understand denominationalism.
When asked, via a comment on Facebook, to explain the comment Bullard said he believes “the committee does not understand what makes a complex denominational system work with effectiveness.” Committee members “show a narrow understanding of the role of state conventions and associations,” he said. Also:
They are right about the focus on congregations and urging them to be missional. They are wrong about what type of denominational structures will best empower and support them.
They are right about the primacy of church planting, but not about doing so from a national and direct strategy. Passion is essential for great church planting, and you cannot push that from a national perspective. It must be grassroots.
They do not understand that national strategies must be frameworks that focus around principles, and that the best specific strategies of locally-owned, custom-made, and open-ended.
In one of his Facebook postings, Bullard said that regarding the report’s call to work with other Christ-followers, the SBC has traditionally wanted to “go it alone.”
“Working with other Baptists in North America has even been a challenge; even though some are more conservative and evangelistic than SBC,” he said.
Tony Cartledge, a contributing editor for Baptists Today, posted on his blog that he found the frequent mention of “missional” in the report interesting since that term has been used by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for years. He notes that while CBF uses the term more as a “holistic call for churches to live and minister to all as Jesus did,” the GCR task force defines it as merely evangelism.
“Whether you define “missional” in terms of holistic ministry or propositional evangelism, it’s easier said than done, and certainly can’t be implemented by decree,” Cartledge said.
Cartledge points out potential areas for disagreement in several parts of the report. He notes that the report says “envy, strife and division” need to become unacceptable in the SBC.
“Given the major structural shifts, blurring boundaries, and financial redirection called for in the task force’s preachy-toned report, the outcome is likely to be more strife and division in the SBC, not less,” he said.
Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor and prominent Baptist blogger, talked about the report in light of an International Indian Conference in 1843 that led to lasting peace among warring tribes.
“One of these days, hopefully soon, there should be a similar conference among Southern Baptists,” he said.
Burleson commended the GCR Task Force for trying to accomplish the difficult task of finding common agreement among Southern Baptists.
“But as long as some groups see other groups as the enemy (and want them gone from the SBC), it will be difficult to focus on the Great Commission,” he said.
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