The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) has made its initial report to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. I must admit that the task force has done a good job of keeping the report close to the vest and should be commended for not breaking confidence.
My commitment is to support as many of the recommendations as possible. I have read and re-read the document. I have also spoken with members of the task force to ask for clarification on several points in the report. Understanding the motivation and intention is nearly as important as the recommendations themselves. I am giving the task force the benefit of the doubt. I believe them to be good men and women who really do want to see Southern Baptists take a major role in world evangelization.
I applaud several things in the report. Moving responsibility for promotion of biblical stewardship and Cooperative Program to the states is a good thing. The Executive Committee of the SBC will no longer be responsible. In the early years of the Cooperative Program, states were the sole promoters and collectors of the Cooperative Program. Doing it that way again will require larger and more developed states like Oklahoma to help the newer and smaller conventions with the development and delivery of high quality materials and strategies. No problem.
A major thrust of the report is aimed at engaging the great cities of North America through evangelization and church planting. I applaud this emphasis, while acknowledging that the steps to achievement will be difficult. Reassignment of resources and personnel will be necessary. To accomplish this task, the GCRTF is proposing the appointment of missionaries like those who serve with the IMB. This is a major shift since most NAMB missionaries are church planters and state convention staff who are jointly employed. NAMB staff will be dispersed to approximately seven regions that will strategize and lead in church planting and evangelism. To do this, agreements currently in place with state conventions will be ended, and stronger states will be expected to cover the dollars now spent. In total that is about $50.6 million. States like Oklahoma will have to absorb their share, which in our case is more than $1 million—not a small task when state budgets are contracting. It may not be possible to accomplish this without some retaining of dollars.
The task force is advocating a new term, “great commission giving.” This recommendation calls on us to support CP enthusiastically, but proposes that when churches choose to give money directly rather than cooperatively through traditional channels, they should be applauded. I think this is troublesome.
Another major step is in regard to the International Mission Board. It is recommended that we increase the IMB share of the SBC budget from 50 percent to 51 percent. The idea is to step over the line to give greater dollars to international missions rather than the work at home. This is more symbolic than real, but symbols help us to move forward. In addition, the IMB will be released in the United States to reach people groups who come from foreign lands. Perhaps a clearer approach would be for the IMB to train NAMB missionaries to reach these peoples. This would keep the IMB focused beyond our borders while utilizing its expertise.
As a state leader, I find substantive changes in the report that may well help us move forward in reaching our nation and world. I do fear that while the state conventions are being asked to take larger chunks of the work, we are at the same time being asked to send more CP dollars beyond the state. That can become a double dip in a small bucket.
One last word. The GCRTF has given us only preliminary recommendations. Much of what has been set forth has no clarity or detail. My experience across the years has been that the devil is in the details. We look forward to the full report on May 3.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.