Here we are. Southern Baptists have been on a very long trip from last year’s annual meeting to May 3rd, 2010 – the date of publication for the final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. As a Convention we find ourselves a little over a month and 1/2 from our next annual meeting at which we will act as a body on this very report.
What the GCR task force has produced comes to us in a fairly timely fashion, giving us more than 40 days to chew on, discuss, and debate the document that so many are hoping will reorient and revitalize our convention around the gospel and our responsibility to make disciples of all nations.
Here’s my .02 contribution to the conversation (and I’m sure the actual value is far less than that sum).
1. I was glad to read the GCR report’s explicit statement about the central importance of the Cooperative Program in fulfilling the Great Commission: “The greatest stewardship of Great Commission investment and deployment is giving through the Cooperative Program.”
My church is small, out of the way, uninfluential, and far from wealthy. Left to our own devices we’d barely be able to contribute to the work of a single missionary, let along broadly participate in world-wide mission work. Yet through the Cooperative Program we are connected with a global missionary endeavor that multiplies our contribution exceedingly. I’m thankful for the Cooperative Program and remain convinced that it is far and away the best system for participating in missions, regardless of the size of the church involved.
2. One of my concerns about how the SBC allocates funds going in to the Louisville was the relationship between the NAMB and the IMB regarding spheres of responsibility. I was primarily concerned with overlap; it appeared to my Southern Baptist eyes that in the domestic U.S. a great number of people were employed between the two entities working overlapping jobs. It is encouraging to see the GCR put in print what common sense should have dictated all along – namely that the IMB would partner or cooperate with the NAMB in reaching unreached people groups within the boarders of the United States. Having read the final GCR report I see that there is language speaking to ways in which the NAMB and IMB should be directed but I’m concerned that the language remains vague to the point that I don’t see anything practical that will remove the overlap between the two agencies (and the resulting inefficient use of funds). To my eyes the GCR focuses primarily on the NAMB, less so the IMB. I’m quite fine with that if the proposed system is the best way to utilize Cooperative Fund money. What I’m not clear on is who does what and why. For instance, if the NAMB is going to be the agency charged to “implement a missional strategy for planting churches in North America with a priority to reach metropolitan areas and underserved people groups” what do we then anticipate when we read later that “[The IMB] has the charge to develop strategies for reaching these unreached and undeserved people groups around the world” which is followed by “We need to allow the IMB to utilize those skills and that knowledge within North America as well.” Even more confusing, the very next sentence declares that it “makes no sense to duplicate this effort and work with an artificial separation of mission.”
How can we charge two entities to reach underserved people (the same terminology use for both the NAMB and IMB) and no create overlap and duplicate effort? Since I don’t imagine the NAMB will just close down because the IMB is freely operating in the U.S. and I assume that, continuing in operation, the NAMB will also continue to participate in missions in North America – you know, reaching unreached/underserved people in the U.S. – I can see no reason that inefficient overlap (and even competition) won’t continue.
Yes, I realize that the GCR report says “[The NAMB] retains the leadership mission of reaching North American with the gospel” but what does this really mean, practically speaking? The ideology of the GCR on the NAMB and IMB relationship is fine but in the absence of specific parameters for this relationship I don’t anticipate much change taking place.
3. The GCR reproduces our current myopic emphasis on planting new congregations as the solution to any and all problems. Let me say up front that I’m in favor of planting new congregations… where they are needed. I am adamantly opposed to planting new churches in areas well saturated by established churches that aren’t being utilized to their fullest potential. Until language is in place encouraging the implementation and revitalization of established churches in a given area as a priority equal to or – *gasp* – even greater than planting a new congregation we’re going to be unnecessarily locked into a one-size fits all approach that isn’t wise or efficient. Revitalizing existing churches will require dollars, just like planting new ones. As long as a financial commitment to implementing reinvigorated established churches is missing from the GCR (and by extension the SBC) we aren’t going to have a resurgence of the great commission.
4. The GCR began as a grass-roots groundswell to see a greater investment of Cooperative Program resources invested in spreading the gospel worldwide. The perception is that the SBC is more bloated bureaucracy than missions agency, a situation that led many to question whether or not the SBC was more of an aid or hindrance to the Great Commission. In response the best and brightest amongst us were appointed to a year-long task force that would address and trim the fat from the SBC so that our denomination would be refined into a lean, mean, gospel-sending machine. And what now do we see as the product of our efforts at missional reformation? If followed the GCR taskforce will lead the SBC to increase Cooperative Program to the International Mission Board (and, implicitly, foreign missions)…
1 percent more than current levels.
The sound effect in cartoons when something disappointing happens sounds something like Wahmp-Whamp-Whamp-Waaaaaah. It is hard not to hear that sound effect in your mind when reading the final recommendation. Someone said this works out to an increase of $3 Million dollars which sounds much better than 1 percent but I have strong concerns about whether or not this is enough.
One, the question about whether or not the 1 percent increase is enough rises from the need. You can read the GCR report for yourself for an accounting of all the unreached people groups with no exposure to the gospel or the scores living in our own borders who have never heard the gospel. The need is great. I’m not sure that a 1% increase – even if it represents $3,000,000 extra dollars going to the field – is enough to meet the need.
Two, I don’t know if 1 percent is enough to satiate the court of public appeals. The GCR is supposed to be a REVOLUTION, man. It was going to trim out all the excess – kill the bureaucracy and oust the bureaucrats.
But on paper we get 1%.
Look, I’m a realist. I know that a ship as large as the SBC takes a loooooong time to turn. I realize that some of our members, particularly those who have been in SBC life for many years, need and deserve a bit of time to adjust. I can see that the GCR is a necessary first step, an articulation of ideology that will guide further action. I also realize that even small budget percentages in an organization as large as the SBC amounts to drastic real-world differences.
However, I’m also realistic about my generation. I know the ones most loudly talking (and Tweeting and blogging) about being missional are the ones hardest to satisfy. Frankly speaking we’re arrogant, self-confident beyond reason, and iconoclastic to the core. 1% won’t satisfy the thirst of those who think they know a better way to support missions. I’m afraid that a significant percentage of them will head off in any number of directions not realizing that separate we can’t accomplish even a portion of what we could together. As individuals my generation thinks we are the next Luther, Calvin, Wilberforce or Spurgeon. Well, if not that then at least the next Driscoll. We never realize that we’re much more likely to be unknown than well known. I’m afraid this inappropriate self confidence will cause us to break apart the greatest system of supporting mission work that has been produced in the name of new ventures that won’t touch the significance of what we sacrificed to attempt them.
I hope I’m wrong.
In Louisville I voted for the GCR taskforce and I’m glad I did. While I have concerns about the impact of the final report I stand behind what the GCR report represents. I only hope we have enough time to work out the bugs in the process before we kill the golden goose.