Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Initial thoughts on the GCR progress report

As promised, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force delivered their Progress Report to the SBC Executive Committee last night in Nashville. You can now watch chairman Ronnie Floyd's report for yourself, or read the transcript here.

Currently, there are six major components to their report to the SBC:

Component #1: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to rally towards a clear and compelling missional vision and begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Component #2: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that our North American Mission Board needs to be reinvented and released. Therefore, in order to do this, we will ask Southern Baptists that the North American Mission Board prioritize efforts to plant churches in North America and to reach our nation’s cities and clarify its role to lead and accomplish efforts to reach North America with the Gospel

Component #3: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.

Component #4: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to move the ministry assignments of Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and return them to being the work of each state convention since they are located closer to our churches. Our call is for the state conventions to reassume their primary role in the promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education, while asking the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to support these efforts with enthusiasm and a convention-wide perspective

Component #5: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to reaffirm the Cooperative Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries; but in addition, we will ask Southern Baptists to celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving that goes directly through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, a state  convention or a local association.

Component #6: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the  fulfillment of the Great Commission, that a greater percentage of total Cooperative Program funds should be directed to the work of the International Mission Board. Therefore, we will ask Southern Baptists to support  this goal by affirming an intention to raise the International Mission Board allocation for the 2011-2012 budget year to 51%, a move that is both symbolic and substantial. At the same time, we will ask Southern Baptists to reduce the percentage allocated to Facilitating Ministries by 1% as part of our initial effort to send a greater percentage of total Southern Baptist Convention mission funds to the nations.

A few initial thoughts:
  • I commend the task force for their integrity and trust throughout this whole process. By not leaking any of this information ahead of time, they have exemplified the very kind of unity they are urging the convention to embrace.
  • I am grateful for their call to repentance over pride, self-reliance, and inefficiency. The Great Commission Resurgence is not merely a pragmatic movement -- another clever program to rally behind. It is a spiritual movement that must begin with prayer, a return to the centrality of the Word, and heartfelt repentance of sin.
  • I am optimistic about their six recommendations. At this stage, the task force has chosen to focus on general principles rather than specifics. They have upheld the autonomy of each SBC entity and state convention, while giving a new overarching vision and direction to the convention. Have they been bold enough and gone far enough? If these components are passed, it will be interesting to see what changes are made over the next few years, or if people will simply nod their heads in agreement and then carry on with business as usual. It will be important for local churches to keep leaders accountable to the recommendations the GCR Task Force has made.
  • I'm very pleased with the idea of releasing the IMB on US soil to engage unreached people groups. This makes very good sense from a missiological standpoint and is good evidence that the GCR Task Force is truly thinking outside the box.
  • Perhaps the most immediate and radical change would be the reassignment of CP promotion and stewardship education back to state conventions, and the resulting transfer of 1% CP funds from the Executive Committee to the IMB. This may cause quite a stir amongst some Southern Baptists, but I believe it does set an important precedent. Realigning ourselves around Christ's Great Commission is going to require us to keep asking the hard questions and cutting funding to areas of overlap and inefficiency. 
As Ronnie Floyd said toward the end, we really have only two choices: "Die a painful death, or live a painful change . . . What our convention chooses to do will determine what God does with this denomination . . . Wilderness wanderings or Canaan conquests." May God help all of us embrace these changes, and may these be the first-fruits of more improvements in the years to come.

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