The new watchword in the Southern Baptist Convention is Great Commission Resurgence. These words don’t refer to a movement as was first intended, but to a denominational task force called to bring change in denominational structure to ignite a greater focus on the Great Commission.
As I have stated numerous times, I am not afraid of nor put off by a hard look at the way we do business. Finding ways to streamline our work and be more efficient is to be applauded. Being good stewards at every level of denominational life is desirable and ought to be expected.
But think with me for a moment. If our denomination improved our efficiency by 25 percent, would it produce a dramatic resurgence to Great Commission advancement? I would propose that the answer to that question is a resounding NO!
Why? If we believe our own declarations as Southern Baptists—that the base and center of all ministry is the local church—then it seems to me we are starting at the wrong place. We state routinely that the Great Commission was given to individuals specifically and the church collectively. No denominational entity I know baptizes anyone. The work of going, baptizing and making disciples is the work of the believer serving through the local church.
I would contend that any dramatic change in our commitment to and living of the Great Commission must start with the believer and the local church. Our churches are filled with thousands of believers who have no intention or heart to share their faith with anyone. Believers not only don’t plan to witness, they also do not see any connection whatsoever with a responsibility to do so. The energy of believers and the church collectively is spent on keeping the church going rather than adding to the church by witnessing and reaching lost people.
Our “attractional” approach to ministry garners crowds to watch the show rather than participate in the living witness of the church. Further, a practical universalism has found its way into the church. Many people who sit in the pews do not believe that people without Christ are lost and bound for a Christless eternity. I would suggest that unless one believes that all must come to faith in Christ to go to Heaven, there is little motivation to declare the Gospel to lost people.
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary, in a recent chapel address made a very instructive statement regarding the church of today: “We are more like gardeners working the window boxes than farmers working the fields. We are the grandchildren of farmers keeping harvest stories alive over coffee and dessert at family reunions.” He is right. The church has lost its harvest mentality.
While we should pray for and long to see the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force bring recommendations that will cause our cooperative efforts to be more effective and efficient, we are barking up the wrong tree to expect a Great Commission resurgent movement to begin at that point. Our only hope is repentance and returning to a passionate worship of the Savior—a spiritual awakening in the heart of individual believers and the local church.
Repentant saints who are filled with the Holy Spirit will become Great Commission Christians. Spirit-filled believers will become “my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.”
It seems to me that it is far more necessary to focus the energy of our denomination and of the task force on repentance before a Holy God, crying out to Him alone to purify His church and fill it once again with His Holy Spirit. That will result in a Great Commission Resurgence.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.