NASHVILLE (FBW) — When Southern Baptists meet in Orlando in June they will be faced with the choice of retreating to the past, preserving the present, or rising to a future of advancing the Gospel to the nations, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd told the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 22 in Nashville.
In describing the SBC meeting as a “moment that will define the future for generations to come,” Floyd said it could “show that Southern Baptist are a unified people, Bible-based, Gospel centered, and set on fire by the Holy Spirit, believing we must join together like never before in presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
Underscoring the interest in the GCR report, Floyd spoke to a packed 400-seat auditorium in the SBC building, which included in the audience Executive Committee trustees, various denominational leaders from national and state convention entities, pastors, and laypersons.
During the 90-minute presentation, Floyd said the GCRTF is offering six “components” of a “new and compelling vision for the future”:
> a “missional vision” with eight “core values,”
> a “reinvented” North American Mission Board,
> the authorization of the International Mission Board to work in North America,
> movement of the ministry assignment for Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship from the Executive Committee to state conventions,
> affirmation of the current Cooperative Program definition while creating a new category of “Great Commission Giving,” and
> increase of the IMB’s CP budget share by one percent by cutting the Executive Committee’s budget by the same percentage.
Floyd was joined by five other members of the task force in assisting with the presentation, billed as a “progress report.”
During its deliberations, Floyd noted the task force has received 137 specific recommendations, receiving “vast correspondence” from Southern Baptists. The task force website has 6,128 prayer partners from 1,574 cities, 49 states and 30 countries.
Before outlining the specific recommendations, for 30 minutes Floyd elaborated on Joel 2:12-17 and passionately described the need of Southern Baptists to grasp the “staggering” lostness of North America and the rest of the world, as well as to face their ineffectiveness in impacting that lostness.
“I believe with all my heart that God is calling us to return to Him now in deep repentance of our sin, in brokenness over our sin, denying our pride and selfishness and returning to God with complete humility,” Floyd said.
He decried the “boasting, ego and pride” that too often characterizes Southern Baptists and said the “disunity in our churches and in our denomination is so wrong and sinful.”
Although the task force is recommending changes, Floyd said that’s not enough.
“We realize our number one need is to return to God in deep repentance and experience a fresh wave of His Spirit upon our lives, ministries and work of our denomination,” Floyd said. “We need a fresh and compelling vision that will only come when we are right with Him.”
Citing examples of Christian conversions in the Muslim world and other advances of the Gospel around the world, Floyd said, “I believe we are on the brink of the mightiest outpouring of the Holy Spirit to have ever occurred in the world.”
Answering the question of why a GCR is needed, Floyd said, “The lostness of North America and the entire world is staggering.”
Of the 340 million people in North America, he said 258 million are estimated to be non-Christians. In seven western states, 92 million live, 82 percent are lost and only 3,983 Southern Baptist churches exist, and 2,276 in California. In nine northeastern states, nearly 55 million people live, with 83 percent non-Christian and only 1,068 Southern Baptist churches.
Globally, Floyd said, 5,845 people groups have no access to the Gospel — 4 billion of the world’s 6.8 billion are unreached. An estimated 90 percent of the world’s population is non-Christian.
“Please understand: To the degree we grasp lostness will be the degree we are willing to do whatever is necessary to penetrate it,” he asserted, noting many Southern Baptists are practical Universalists, acting as if “lostness does not exist.”
In the midst of such lostness in North America and the rest of the world, Floyd cited various statistics demonstrating Southern Baptists are less effective today than in the past.
Although the U.S.’s population has doubled since 1950 and the SBC has more than 17,000 more churches since then, Southern Baptists baptized 33,887 less people in 2008 than in 1950.
Floyd said he and his task force have been “gripped by the reality of the lost condition of our world and about our condition as a denomination.”
The task force has been given a vision by God, which the SBC will be asked to “accept,” “endorse” and “champion,” he said.
Floyd then outlined the six components of the GCRTF’s vision.
Southern Baptists will be asked to endorse a “missional vision and to begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture” in the SBC, Floyd said.
The vision: “As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
Asserting, “we need to learn how to get along with each other,” Floyd said the task force is recommending eight “core values” of Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church and Kingdom that will “articulate what we stand for, how we should work together, how we govern our personal relationships, and how we should be guided in making decisions.”
NAMB ‘REINVENTED AND RELEASED’
Floyd spoke at length about a “reinvented and released” North American Mission Board, arguing for a prioritization of church planting and clarification of NAMB’s leadership in North American missions, including the “appointment of direct missionaries.”
The task force desires that “at least 50 percent” of NAMB’s work be focused on church planting, he said, with priorities given to the cities because 200 million Americans live in the nation’s top 100 metropolitan regions and 80 percent of Canada’s 33.7 million live in metropolitan regions.
Floyd said “stark realities” need to be addressed, including the fact that two-thirds of Southern Baptists’ CP money is spent on the one-third of the U.S. population, mostly in the South, with 36,605 SBC churches, while one-third of CP is spent in the region of America where two-thirds of the population lives, mostly the Northeast, Midwest, West, and Northwest, with only 8,243 SBC churches.
“We need to see this change dramatically if we are going to penetrate the lost and dark areas of America with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Floyd said. “Somehow, someway, more churches have to be planted, more missionaries allocated, and more dollars directed to reaching the two-thirds of the American population, of which most is lost and perishing.”
Among “needed specifications” for NAMB, the GCRTF believes NAMB should be “streamlined” and “decentralized” with seven regional offices, and “must be released to budget for a national strategy.”
Floyd said cooperative agreements with the state conventions over the years “have become complex and at times cumbersome, resulting in a lack of accountability.”
He noted that state conventions on average retain 63.45 percent of CP funds and NAMB supplies $50.6 million to state conventions.
The GCRTF will urge the SBC to grant NAMB the “freedom to budget for a national strategy,” with the state convention cooperative agreements phased out over a four-year period at 25 percent per year, and the “state conventions will manage their budgets accordingly.”
In the future, NAMB would only fund those projects in keeping with its national strategy and fulfilling its “direct mission and priorities,” Floyd said, adding that another “major specification” for the reinvented NAMB is to “commission missionaries focused on fulfilling the tasks of the board.”
The task force also recommends NAMB create a Leadership Center of North America, as well as work with LifeWay Christian Resources in developing discipleship and pastoral leadership development.
IMB WORK IN NORTH AMERICA
Because “globalization has flattened the world,” Floyd said the task force recommends a “bold and needed change” of allowing the International Mission Board to “reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations,” permitting the IMB to operatie in North America for the first time.
“Most of the 586 people groups that do not speak English in the United States have strategy coordinators working overseas with the same groups,” Floyd said. “With geographical limitations removed, a new synergy can be created in international missions.”
Floyd expressed confidence that IMB and NAMB can coordinate work in North America without duplication.
GCRTF members Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola and chairman of the NAMB presidential search committee, and J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., were called upon by Floyd to speak to this change.
Traylor said the GCR report is hopeful and would “free” NAMB and its new president “to partner with SBC churches to engage in a might church planting movement that could change our land and revive our denomination.”
He added: “We dare not fool ourselves. North America is vastly lost. NAMB must be laser-focused on touching the homeland and the GCR challenge calls for a streamlining of NAMB that would allow us to do that exact thing.”
Greear, a former IMB missionary for two years, said non-Christian internationals are “living in our back yards. So it just seems right that we call on the International Mission Board for help.”
Rather than a merger of IMB and NAMB, the GCRFT seeks to “align” the boards “in such a way that our local churches can be more effective in reaching our nation and taking the gospel to the nations,” Greear said.
CP PROMO, STEWARDSHIP BACK TO STATES
Calling state Baptist conventions “Great Commission partners,” Floyd said the GCRTF believes the ministry assignment for Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship should be returned to the states, since they are “closer to our churches” and historically the states had this assignment.
Since 1997, the SBC Executive Committee has held the CP promotion assignment, and later was given the stewardship assignment.
Floyd bemoaned a recent study that found the average church member gives only 2.56 percent of his income to charitable causes.
“Christians need to repent of the sin of not honoring God with at least the first-tenth of their income,” Floyd said, noting it’s the responsibility of churches to educate their members on stewardship.
GCRTF member David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and a historical theologian, retraced the history of the beginning of the Cooperative Program in 1925 and the roles of the state conventions and Executive Committee in CP promotion and stewardship education.
REAFFIRMATION OF CP DEFINITION, CREATION OF NEW CATEGORY
Floyd said the GCRTF will ask Southern Baptist to “reaffirm” CP without redefinition as “our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries,” while aslo celebrating Southern Baptist churches” gifts to “Great Commission Giving” beyond the CP.
“We believe and call upon every church to work diligently at giving more through the Cooperative Program,” Floyd said, while adding that denominational leaders should “Celebrate whatever amount a church gives through the cooperative Program” rather than lecturing churches.
Churches will give more through CP, he said, “when they are presented a compelling gospel vision that will result in global advance.”
The creation of the new category of giving, “Great Commission Giving,” will not compete with CP, but will complement it, he said.
Great Commission Giving will include CP giving and designated gifts to the SBC, states or associations.
GCRTF member Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, said, “Your Great Commission Resurgence Task Force affirms—I want you to hear this very clearly—we affirm the Cooperative Program as Southern Baptists’ preferred means of supporting missions and ministries across the world.”
“At the same time, we believe that we should both acknowledge and appreciate what our churches are doing for missions and for ministries by giving designated gifts to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention and state conventions and local associations,” he said.
Rather than a “change in definition,” the task force is calling for an “adjustment in nomenclature,” White said.
INCREASE IMB CP PERCENTAGE SHARE TO 51, REDUCE EC BUDGET
Calling it “both symbolic and substantial,” Floyd said the GCRTF recommends the SBC increase the IMB’s share of the CP budget from 50 to 51 percent in the 2011-2012 budget, with the additional percentage point to be funded by reducing “facilitating ministries” of the Executive Committee budget by 1 percent.
The funds of the EC budget’s facilitating ministries will be made available by the re-assignment to the state conventions of the cooperative Program promotion and stewardship, he said.
“This means for the first time in our history, more than one-half of all monies that come from our churches through the SBC Cooperative Program will go to the reaching of the nations,” Floyd said.
GCRTF member Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and vice chairman of the Executive Committee, told his fellow EC members he endorses the change and urged their support of it.
“I really hope that this next year that we will look at the budget with fresh eyes and that we will find a way, somehow … to allocate at least 51 percent to the IMB for the very first time,” Spradlin said.
Acknowledging such a change will be “difficult,” he said, “I think that if we can succeed in this that Southern Baptists everywhere will rejoice with us in renewed focus on taking the gospel to the nations.”
SBC President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., strongly endorsed the report from the task force, on which he serves as a member.
“What Dr. Floyd’s presented tonight, I believe with all of my heart to be of God. I really do. My heart is in it,” he said.
“God help us to believe Jesus for our greatest days. As for this man, me and my house, we’re going to serve this vision and this Lord,” Hunt said.
Randall James, Executive Committee chairman and associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, ended the meeting noting the words used at the changing of the guard of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C.
“Did you know there are only three words spoken each time they change the guard? Those three words are, ‘Orders remain unchanged,’” he said, “And as Christian soldiers, our orders remain unchanged. And we have a recommitment to go, to baptize, to make disciples, to teach them to obey. I encourage you to do that.”
With no action requested or needed, the Executive committee meeting was the stage for the report. Floyd noted the final report of the body will be posted to the GCRTF website (pray4gcr.com) on May 3.
The GCRTF was created by action of the Southern Baptist Convention last June, empowering President Johnny Hunt to appoint the group to recommend how “Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”
Hunt appointed himself and 22 other persons to serve on the task force, representing various constituencies in Southern Baptist life, including pastors, seminary presidents, state convention executive directors, a director of missions and laypersons. Hunt named Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., chairman.