Southern Baptist #GCR lacks local flavor
Recent critiques of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) progress report are raising serious doubts about the effort as discussion focuses on the need to revitalize local churches.
The report has been discussed, debated and analyzed since it was released in February. The task force continues to work with plans to release a final report in May that will be voted on at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June.
The initial progress report included a proposal to add new terminology to SBC funding efforts that drew an official response from a state convention and questions from a state editor and others. Some observers said a plan to end cooperative agreements between the North American Mission Board and state conventions amounted to a death sentence for smaller state organizations. Other issues were raised as well.
Alan Quigley, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Greenwood, S.C., says in effect that the GCRTF is a rhetorical trap:
I would not want to risk being on the side of failure to reach the world with the gospel; therefore the only option the report gives me is to accept it hook, line and sinker. However, the problem I have is, it’s a rotten strategy wrapped in sumptuous rhetoric that will make everyone sick.
I was one who hoped the strong words of Danny Akin in his axiom sermon would start a movement in the SBC toward gospel-centered, Christ-exalting ministry. I had hopes to see a movement toward participating truly in the Great Commission by living out the Great Commandment. I had hopes that leaders would rise up and point our convention of churches toward Christ, His commands and His commission with great humility and great zeal. I still hold some hope…but it is fading.
Elam notes the difference between the opening discussion in the task force’s report, which calls for “a renewed emphasis on the local church,” and the recommendations themselves, which “seem to be primarily concerned with the top level of cooperative life in the SBC.”
Alan Cross, pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., asserted on his Downshore Drift blog that the task force should “start their thinking with the local church in mind.” In a view shared by others who take issue with the report’s top-down approach, Cross says the task force members “got things backwards.”
“If they had started with the local church and worked their way up, they would be in a much better spot right now,” he said. “But, they went the way that the SBC has been going for the last 60 years and they took a top-down approach.”
Cross offers 10 “concrete proposals” on how to have a “real” Great Commission Resurgence. He says the plan should start with churches that are willing and working effectively:
The GCRTF will say that they cannot mandate anything to the local church. That is true. But, NAMB is autonomous as well, and that hasn’t stopped them from completely reorganizing NAMB in their recommendations. If the GCRTF used their SBC-given platform to put forward a plan like this, many local associations and state conventions would pick it up and begin to do it.
Paul Littleton, pastor of the Faith Baptist Church in Sapulpa, Okla., says the church can be the greatest potential weakness or strength.
This is where we Baptists face our greatest challenge. Our greatest challenge is not figuring out how we will turn NAMB into something we can finally be proud of. It is not in revamping the IMB or revitalizing (or doing away with) the ERLC. Our greatest challenge is in figuring out how we can move a significant number of our 45,000 churches from conflicted, inbred, inwardly focused, self-serving and self-preserving social gatherings to loving, reaching, kingdom-focused, other-serving, world-preserving outposts alive with and for the mission of God. I’m not saying all of our churches are that way. Many are.
Littleton suggests that task force member pour their “considerable influence” into their churches and other churches.
“If the local church really is where it all begins and ends, then give us something tangible in your recommendations for the local church,” he said. “If you’re going to recommend the restructuring of entities then gear the restructuring to best assist the local church.”
Cross said the problem in the SBC is not primarily a funding crisis, but is instead a “vision crisis.”
Every local church has to go it alone. What if we partnered and networked a bit? What if the entities of the SBC lined up BEHIND the local church and helped us? What if the church really did become the frontlines of SBC mission work and every member of every SBC church was considered a missionary because they were directly engaging in the mission of God? What if we flipped everything around?
Can the task force write a report that will start such a turnaround? Doubtful. A good beginning will be careful consideration of suggestions from local leaders who minister in areas where any great commitment to the Great Commission will begin.
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