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Who  could  be  against  the  Great  Commission?

 Certainly  no  Southern  Baptist  who   understands  his  or  her  Bible  would  be  against  that.  But  is  being  against  portions  of    the   report  of  the  Task  Force  on  Great  Commission  Resurgence  (GCR),  which  is  being  debated  in   the  Southern  Baptist  Convention,  really  being  against  the  Great  Commission?   I  am  not  against  the  Great  Commission.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  I  have  spent  the  bulk  of   my  adult  life  and  ministry  trying  to  follow  God’s  leading  in  accomplishing  the  Great   Commission.  I  know  that  what  we  as  Southern  Baptists  have  done  is  not  perfect.  But  I  do   know  that  we  are  part  of  a  larger  problem  in  American  church  life.  That  problem  is   spiritual,  not  structural.  We  are  living  in  a  time  of  spiritual  disobedience,  and  Southern   Baptists  are  as  guilty  of  disobedience  as  any  other  Christian  group  in  America.   Without  a  doubt,  this  disobedience  must  change.  But  do  we,  as  Southern  Baptists,   need  radical  structural  change  to  “fix”  our  commitment  to  the  Great  Commission?  Will   fundamental  changes  in  the  structure  of  our  Cooperative  Program  arrangement  really  solve   what  is  essentially  a  spiritual  problem  and  magically  bring  us  back  to  the  right  track?     I  am  fearful  that  the  proposed  structural  change  will  bring  change  that  hurts,  rather   than  helps,  our  situation.  Do  we  really  want  to  make  radical  changes  that  may  lead  to   disastrous  consequences  for  us  and  for  the  Kingdom  of  God?   Let  me  examine  each  component  of  the  initial  report  of  the  GCR  Task  Force  and  lay   out  some  of  the  specific  issues  that  cause  me  to  wonder  if  we  are  moving  in  a  dangerous   direction:     GCR  Component  #1:   This  component  describes  the  spiritual  condition  of  the  United  States  and  Canada.  In   the  first  twelve  pages  the  Task  Force  outlined  for  us  the  problem  of  lostness  in  North   America  and  the  need  for  planting  more  churches,  for  effective  discipleship  and  for   leadership  training.  The  Task  Force  rightfully  challenged  all  Southern  Baptist  churches  to   repent  of  our  disobedience  to  the  Great  Commission.  In  my  opinion,  we  need  to  begin  here   by  confessing  our  sin  of  disobedience  and,  at  the  very  least,  humble  ourselves  and  pray   earnestly  for  God  to  renew  our  passion  to  be    “missional.”  We  must  become  a  people  who   are  outwardly  focused  and  must  repent  of  our  self-­‐centered  religion.     However,  I  have  a  significant  disagreement  with  the  direction  of  the  recommended   solution  for  the  problem.  Having  described  a  spiritual  problem,  the  GCR  Task  Force   proceeded  to  outline  organizational  and  structural  changes  as  a  solution  to  correct  the   spiritual  problem.  For  me,  it  is  like  identifying  a  spiritual  need  and  then  trying  to  fix  that   need  on  our  own  without  a  renewed  heart  and  a  refreshed  soul.  In  my  simple  way  of   thinking,  we  need  a  movement  of  God  in  the  heart  of  His  people  and  nothing  less.  If  we  try   to  fix  our  spiritual  problem  ourselves,  the  solution  will  be  as  effective  as  rearranging  the   chairs  on  the  Titanic.  In  my  opinion,  we  cannot  reach  North  America  without  absolute   dependence  on  a  Holy  God.     GCR  Component  #2:     This  component  describes  a  major  restructuring  of  the  responsibilities  of  NAMB  and   the  relationship  between  NAMB  and  state  conventions,  associations  and  churches.   One  of  the  things  that  many  in  the  missions  community  have  feared  is  the  desire  on   the  part  of  some  to  have  one  mission  board,  even  though  NAMB  and  the  International   Mission  Board  (IMB)  operate  with  totally  different  philosophies.  The  use  of  the  terms  

“release”  and  “reinvent”  in  this  context  echoes  the  current  philosophy  of  the  IMB.  This   makes  me  wonder  if  we  are  being  “set  up”  for  a  uniting  of  the  boards  in  the  near  future.   The  report  calls  for  a  renegotiation  of  cooperative  agreements  and  the  elimination   of  current  cooperative  budgets  over  a  four-­‐year  period.  Cooperative  agreements  have   defined  the  relationship  between  NAMB  and  the  various  state  conventions.  In  the  current   agreements,  NAMB  provides  strategic  support  for  missions  while  state  conventions,   associations,  and  churches  have  partnered  to  develop  local,  culturally  relevant  strategies.  If   component  #2  is  implemented  as  stated,  NAMB  will  become  the  author  of  local  strategy   while  state  conventions,  associations  and  churches  will  not  necessarily  even  be  consulted.   Local  strategy  will  be  entirely  NAMB’s  prerogative  as  indicated  by  the  continued  use  of  the   seemingly  (but  not  really)  benign  word,  “direct.”   Another  problem  with  the  elimination  of  the  cooperative  agreements  and  with   NAMB’s  control  of  strategy  is  that  they  will  also  supervise  and  assign  missionaries  in  our   convention.  We  will  likely  have  no  say  in  who  is  assigned  or  where  they  are  assigned.   Previously,  the  state  conventions,  associations  and  churches  have  defined  needs,  recruited   personnel  and  provided  onsite  supervision.  That  will  not  be  true  in  this  new  structure.   Current  state  staff,  DOMs,  church  planter  strategists  and  other  missionaries  may  be   reassigned,  relocated,  or  released  as  NAMB  sees  fit.     The  cooperative  budget  between  the  state  convention  and  NAMB  is  a  detailed   explanation  of  how  we  will  fund  state  missions  within  Nebraska  and  Kansas.  Presently,   NAMB  provides  80%  of  the  funding  for  missionaries  assigned  to  our  convention  and  we   provide  20%.  This  funding  formula  is  not  unique  to  our  convention  but  is  a  common   formula.  According  to  component  #2,  the  cooperative  budget  will  be  phased  out  in  four   years.  That  means  the  elimination  of  about  one  third  of  our  state  convention’s  budget  and   more  than  one  hundred  personnel  currently  serving  in  our  two  states.  The  current  system   is  perceived  by  the  Task  Force  to  be  ineffective  and  broken.  In  my  opinion  it  is  not,  but  only   needs  some  fine-­‐tuning  as  we  move  into  the  future.         In  summary,  what  does  this  mean  for  us  as  a  state  convention  and  associations?   What  are  the  proposed  changes  and  how  will  they  affect  us?   • The  potential  loss  of  our  working  agreement  with  NAMB  (cooperative  agreement).   • The  gradual  decrease  of  our  cooperative  budget  (four  years)   • The  potential  loss  of  state  convention  staff,  associational  missionaries,  church   planter  strategists,  language  missionaries,  collegiate  ministers,  church  planters,  and   church  and  community  missionaries.  All  will  move  to  the  direct  supervision  of   NAMB.    Mission  personnel  potentially  could  be  allowed  to  stay  in  our  convention,  be   relocated  or  be  released.   • The  potential  loss  of  our  ability  to  determine  local  strategy  with  NAMB  directly   controlling  our  strategy   In  my  opinion,  these  potential  consequences  are  unacceptable.     GCR  Component  #3:   This  component  calls  for  the  IMB  to  be  tasked  with  reaching  unreached  and  under-­‐ served  people  groups  without  regard  to  any  geographic  limitations.   With  this  proposal,  IMB  will  begin  working  with  unreached  people  groups  and   under-­‐served  people  groups  in  the  United  States.  Both  NAMB  and  IMB  currently  work   alongside  each  other  in  Canada.  From  conversations  with  my  Canadian  friends  it  does  not  

work  well  there.  My  experience  tells  me  this  is  unlikely  to  work  here  either.  I  have  been  in   denominational  life  for  more  than  35  years,  and  I  know  how  poorly  NAMB,  IMB  and   LifeWay  have  communicated  with  each  other  in  the  past.  If  this  practice  comes  to  the   United  States,  there  are  many  questions  to  be  answered.  What  will  be  the  working   relationship  between  NAMB  and  IMB?  How  will  IMB  work  with  state  conventions?  Who   will  determine  who  the  unreached  people  groups  are  and  where  they  are  located?  Who  will   determine  who  the  under-­‐served  people  groups  are  and  where  they  are  located?       IMB  is  adept  in  understanding  unreached  people  groups  in  foreign  lands  where   indigenous  people  are  at  home  in  their  own  culture  and  land.  In  the  United  States,  however,   we  have  people  groups  in  a  culture  and  land  other  than  their  own  who  are  in  the  process  of   becoming  Americanized.  What  IMB  does  internationally  and  what  we  do  in  the  US  to  reach   language/people  groups  is  different  in  approach  and  should  remain  so.     This  approach  makes  me  again  wonder  if  we  are  being  “set  up”  for  a  uniting  of  the   boards  in  the  near  future.     GCR  Component  #4:       This  component  calls  for  state  conventions  to  take  over  promotion  of  Cooperative   Program  and  stewardship  education.   I  don’t  believe  this  will  have  a  negative  impact  on  our  state  convention.     GRC  Component  #5:       This  component  reaffirms  the  Cooperative  Program  as  our  “central”  way  of   supporting  our  mission  activities,  but  it  also  calls  for  Southern  Baptists  to  “celebrate”  any   “Great  Commission  Giving”  that  goes  to  Southern  Baptist  causes.  This  would  give  equal   affirmation  to  designated  giving  outside  of  the  Cooperative  Program  channel.       I  do  not  believe  the  Task  Force  language  is  strong  enough  in  its  description  of  the   place  of  the  Cooperative  Program.  The  Cooperative  program  has  been  THE  giving  channel   for  Great  Commission  causes  among  Southern  Baptists.  The  GCR  Task  Force  is  asking  for   Southern  Baptists  to  bless  designated  (or  in  their  words,  “Great  Commission  Giving”)  as   Cooperative  Program  giving.    In  effect  this  will  encourage  individual  churches  to  select  and   support  projects  or  missionaries  that  they  choose.  In  turn,  the  sponsors  of  those  projects   and  missionaries  will  be  inclined  to  campaign  for  funding  for  what  they  are  doing.  This   means  that  we  will  be  returning  to  a  “societal”  form  of  mission  giving  which  has  failed  not   only  Southern  Baptists  in  the  past  and  led  to  the  creation  of  the  Cooperative  Program,  but   has  failed  other  denominations  as  well.  Until  recent  years  Southern  Baptists  have  trusted   our  mission  boards  to  choose  projects  and  missionaries.  “Great  Commission  Giving”  seems   to  say  we  do  not  trust  the  denomination  to  disseminate  our  mission  dollars.  Perhaps  the   churches  think  they  know  better  where  their  mission  dollars  need  to  be  spent.  Is  this  the   beginning  of  the  end  of  the  Cooperative  Program,  as  we  have  known  it?           GCR  Component  #6:   This  component  has  as  its  focus  increasing  the  percentage  of  the  funding  allocation   going  to  International  Mission  Board  from  50%  to  51%.      I  think  all  Southern  Baptists  would  celebrate  increasing  our  mission  dollars  to  reach   the  nations.    

Conclusions:   In  my  opinion,  if  adopted  as  printed  the  Task  Force  report:   • Seems  to  indicate  a  lack  of  appreciation  and/or  understanding  for  state  conventions   and  associations  in  newer  work  areas  of  Southern  Baptist  life.   • Could  have  a  devastating  effect  on  newer  work  state  conventions  and  associations   from  the  standpoint  of  strategy,  staff  and  budget.   • Is  setting  NAMB  up  for  failure.   • Seems  to  be  setting  the  stage  for  a  one-­‐mission-­‐board  reality.   • Seems  to  indicate  that  a  centralized,  distant  mission  strategy  is  better  than  a  local,     culturally  sensitive  strategy.   • Seems  to  think  changing  organizational/structures  will  solve  spiritual  concerns.   • Seems  to  indicate  a  lack  of  appreciation  and/or  understanding  of  the  Cooperative   Program  itself.     My  prayer  is  that  the  Spirit  of  the  Living  God  invades  our  churches,  associations,   state  conventions  and  national  agencies.  We  need  to  be  a  people  who  are  totally  obedient   to  the  Great  Commission  challenge.  The  call  to  be  missional  is  perhaps  the  greatest  message   in  the  Task  Force  report.    We  need  to  be  a  people  who  focus  our  energy  outward  on  a  lost   and  dying  world.  God,  forgive  us  for  caring  more  about  our  agendas  than  Yours.