by James A. Smith Sr.
NASHVILLE , Tenn.—When Southern Baptists meet in Orlando June 15-16, they will be faced with the choice of retreating to the past, preserving the present or rising to a future of advancing the Gospel to the nations, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd told the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 22 in Nashville.
In describing the SBC meeting as a “moment that will define the future for generations to come,” Floyd said it could “show that Southern Baptists are a unified people, Bible-based, Gospel-centered and set on fire by the Holy Spirit, believing we must join together like never before in presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
Underscoring the interest in the GCR report, Floyd spoke to a packed 400-seat auditorium in the SBC building, which included in the audience Executive Committee trustees, various denominational leaders from national and state convention entities, pastors and laypersons.
During the 90-minute presentation, Floyd said the GCRTF is offering six “components” of a “new and compelling vision for the future.”
Floyd was joined by five other members of the task force in assisting with the presentation, billed as a “progress report.”
During its deliberations, Floyd noted the task force has received 137 specific recommendations, receiving “vast correspondence” from Southern Baptists. The task force Web site has 6,128 prayer partners from 1,574 cities, 49 states and 30 countries.
Before outlining the specific recommendations, for 30 minutes Floyd elaborated on Joel 2:12-17 and passionately described the need of Southern Baptists to grasp the “staggering” lostness of North America and the rest of the world, as well as to face their ineffectiveness in impacting that lostness.
“I believe with all my heart that God is calling us to return to Him now in deep repentance of our sin, in brokenness over our sin, denying our pride and selfishness and returning to God with complete humility,” Floyd said.
He decried the “boasting, ego and pride” that too often characterizes Southern Baptists and said the “disunity in our churches and in our denomination is so wrong and sinful.”
Although the task force is recommending changes, Floyd said that’s not enough.
“We realize our number one need is to return to God in deep repentance and experience a fresh wave of His Spirit upon our lives, ministries and work of our denomination,” Floyd said. “We need a fresh and compelling vision that will only come when we are right with Him.”
Citing examples of Christian conversions in the Muslim world and other advances of the Gospel around the world, Floyd said, “I believe we are on the brink of the mightiest outpouring of the Holy Spirit to have ever occurred in the world.”
Answering the question of why a GCR is needed, Floyd said, “The lostness of North America and the entire world is staggering.”
Of the 340 million people in North America, he said 258 million are estimated to be non-Christians. In seven western states, 92 million live, 82 percent are lost and only 3,983 Southern Baptist churches exist, 2,276 in California. In nine northeastern states, nearly 55 million people live, with 83 percent non-Christian and only 1,068 Southern Baptist churches.
Globally, Floyd said, 5,845 people groups have no access to the Gospel—4 billion of the world’s 6.8 billion are unreached. An estimated 90 percent of the world’s population is non-Christian.
In the midst of such lostness in North America and the rest of the world, Floyd cited various statistics demonstrating Southern Baptists are less effective today than in the past.
Although the U.S.’s population has doubled since 1950 and the SBC has more than 17,000 more churches since then, Southern Baptists baptized 33,887 less people in 2008 than in 1950.
The task force has been given a vision by God, which the SBC will be asked to “accept,” “endorse” and “champion,” Floyd said. He then outlined the six components of the GCRTF’s vision.
Southern Baptists will be asked to endorse a “missional vision and to begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture” in the SBC, Floyd said.
The vision: “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.”
Asserting, “we need to learn how to get along with each other,” Floyd said the task force is recommending eight “core values” of Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church and Kingdom that will “articulate what we stand for, how we should work together, how we govern our personal relationships and how we should be guided in making decisions.”
Floyd spoke at length about a “reinvented and released” North American Mission Board (NAMB), arguing for a prioritization of church planting and clarification of NAMB’s leadership in North American missions, including the “appointment of direct missionaries.”
The task force desires that “at least 50 percent” of NAMB’s work be focused on church planting, he said, with priorities given to the cities because 200 million Americans live in the nation’s top 100 metropolitan regions and 80 percent of Canada’s 33.7 million live in metropolitan regions.
Floyd said “stark realities” need to be addressed, including the fact that two-thirds of Southern Baptists’ CP money is spent on the one-third of the U.S. population, mostly in the south, with 36,605 SBC churches, while one-third of CP is spent in the region of America where two-thirds of the population live, mostly the northeast, midwest, west and northwest, with only 8,243 churches.
Among “needed specifications” for NAMB, the GCRTF believes NAMB should be “streamlined” and “decentralized” with seven regional offices, and “must be released to budget for a national strategy.”
Floyd said cooperative agreements with the state conventions over the years “have become complex and at times cumbersome, resulting in a lack of accountability.”
He noted that state conventions on average retain 63.45 percent of CP funds and NAMB supplies $50.6 million to state conventions.
The GCRTF will urge the SBC to grant NAMB the “freedom to budget for a national strategy,” with the state convention cooperative agreements phased out over a four-year period at 25 percent per year, and the “state conventions will manage their budgets accordingly.”
In the future, NAMB would only fund those projects in keeping with its national strategy and fulfilling its “direct mission and priorities,” Floyd said, adding that another “major specification” for the reinvented NAMB is to “commission missionaries focused on fulfilling the tasks of the board.”
The task force also recommends NAMB create a Leadership Center of North America, as well as work with LifeWay Christian Resources in developing discipleship and pastoral leadership development.
Because “globalization has flattened the world,” Floyd said the task force recommends a “bold and needed change” of allowing the International Mission Board to “reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations,” permitting the IMB to operate in North America for the first time.
“Most of the 586 people groups that do not speak English in the United States have strategy coordinators working overseas with the same groups,” Floyd said. “With geographical limitations removed, a new synergy can be created in international missions.”
Calling state Baptist conventions “Great Commission partners,” Floyd said the GCRTF believes the ministry assignment for Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship should be returned to the states, since they are “closer to our churches” and, historically, the states had this assignment.
Since 1997, the SBC Executive Committee has held the CP promotion assignment, and later was given the stewardship assignment.
Floyd said the task force envisions a “consortium” of state conventions working with the EC.
Floyd bemoaned a recent study that found the average church member gives only 2.56 percent of his or her income to charitable causes.
“Christians need to repent of the sin of not honoring God with at least the first-tenth of their income,” Floyd said, noting it’s the responsibility of churches to educate their members on stewardship.
Floyd said the GCRTF will ask Southern Baptists to “reaffirm” CP without redefinition as “our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries,” while also celebrating Southern Baptist churches’ gifts to “Great Commission Giving” beyond the CP.
“We believe and call upon every church to work diligently at giving more through the Cooperative Program,” Floyd said, while adding that denominational leaders should “celebrate whatever amount a church gives through the Cooperative Program” rather than lecturing churches.
Churches will give more through CP, he said, “when they are presented a compelling gospel vision that will result in global advance.”
The creation of the new category of giving, “Great Commission Giving,” will not compete with CP, but will complement it, he said.
Great Commission Giving will include CP giving and designated gifts to the SBC, states or associations.
Calling it “both symbolic and substantial,” Floyd said the GCRTF recommends the SBC increase the IMB’s share of the CP budget from 50 to 51 percent in the 2011-2012 budget, with the additional percentage point to be funded by reducing “facilitating ministries” of the Executive Committee budget by one percent.
The funds of the EC budget’s facilitating ministries will be made available by the re-assignment to the state conventions of the Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship, he said.
“This means for the first time in our history, more than one-half of all monies that come from our churches through the SBC Cooperative Program will go to the reaching of the nations,” Floyd said.
With no action requested or needed, the Executive Committee meeting was the stage for the report. Floyd noted the final report of the body will be posted to the GCRTF Web site (www.pray4GCR.com) on May 3.
The GCRTF was created by action of the Southern Baptist Convention last June, empowering SBC President Johnny Hunt to appoint the group to recommend how “Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”
Hunt appointed himself and 22 other persons to serve on the task force, representing various constituencies in Southern Baptist life, including pastors, seminary presidents, state convention executive directors, a director of missions and laypersons. Hunt named Floyd, pastor of Springdale, Ark., First, chairman.
James A. Smith Sr. is editor of
the Florida Baptist Witness.