Let the record show that I am in favor of the Great Commission! If there is anything that characterizes Christianity, it is the parting earthly words of the Lord Jesus Christ. He said as we are going into the world to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to observe the Word of God. This was given to the church as a mandate to extend to all cultures, languages, and ethnicities until Jesus returns.
With the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Louisville June 23 and 24 the hot topic is the Great Commission Resurgence document. There is no little controversy surrounding the proposal. I feel sort of like the politician who wanted to stay in good graces with a conflicting constituency when he said, “Some of my friends are for it and some are against it. Me? I’m for my friends!” Godly men differ as to the need, scope and interpretation of the GCR document.
Johnny Hunt is right about the Southern Baptist Convention needing a shock to the system. The SBC has been in a decline for years in baptism ratio to membership. Now the SBC has shown a decline for three years in the actual number of baptisms. Something is seriously wrong. Giving has dropped in real dollars for decades. With the recent national economic downturn, Cooperative Program giving is short of budget demands. We need to act immediately.
Can associations, state conventions, and SBC ministries be run more efficiently? I answer with a resounding, “yes.” The biblical principle of church autonomy presents a challenge. It is good that there is no connectionalism in SBC life, but it is a hurdle when you want to accomplish something quickly. While some good ideas might be reached by a national committee, it is unlikely state conventions and/or associations will easily adopt recommendations that they perceive to adversely affect them. In the 1950s a convention-wide emphasis could have perhaps been organized that would have eventually permeated all areas. This type of response is very unlikely today. On the national level trustees make decisions for the various entities. Even messengers voting for worthy proposals may not legally bind trustees to take certain actions.
Any task force discussion needs to be an open dialogue airing the proposed solutions to organizational issues. Let us be frank in exploring what is best for the Kingdom of God and the Churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we need to close a ministry down, re-tool a ministry or start something new, let’s be open to what God has for us as a convention. Change is desperately needed. I agree with President Johnny Hunt.
Morris Chapman is right. Unless we have an old-fashioned Holy Ghost, heaven-sent, hell-shaking move of God the SBC will only be a shell of its former self in just a few years. The SBC is made up of churches. Churches are made up of people. Churches and the members that comprise them are more like thermometers than thermostats. We reflect the culture rather than alter it. The gospel is the dynamite of God. If we will unleash the power, God will do a work that will not only salvage our convention but our nation.
Spiritually we are called upon to seek the face of God. My heart is broken to see the carnality in our churches. This examination begins with my own life. I have to get right and stay right with God. Ultimately what the SBC needs will not come from a task force studying org charts but a bubbling up from individual hearts with a true desire to see God move in a mighty way. We need a spiritual awakening. I agree with Morris Chapman.
I experienced a personal Great Commission Resurgence last month. It was my privilege personally to lead several people to Jesus and see them publicly profess their faith. During the process I was convicted of sin in my life as I drew closer to the Lord. I pray that Southern Baptists will experience the renewing of our Lord’s presence. Let us pray for God to give wisdom to those who lead the Southern Baptist Convention as they seek to find solutions that will honor Jesus.
A postscript for Axiom Eight
It is unusual but I would like to add a postscript to the article on the Great Commission Resurgence document. Most of the hubbub about the GCR document has centered on Article Nine. I have a concern about Article Eight that addresses Methological Diversity.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention affirms Methodological Diversity. We have affiliated churches that use diametrically opposed methods in reaching people for Christ. Some have a praise band. Others have choirs. Some preachers wear ties. Others do not. Some are Calvinistic. Some call themselves Cowboys. Some are Purpose-Driven. Some don’t have any purpose at all (a little tongue in cheek humor, please). There are too many methods for me to list. Almost all of them are legitimate.
While almost everyone I talk with assures me the article is about worship style I am concerned about elements of the emergent church that may be sanctioned in the statement. Some advocate in the name of methodological diversity profanity and sexually inappropriate language, as well as the use of alcohol and tobacco as witnessing tools. Some methods do eventually change your message. Grace is not antinomianism. I didn’t have to grow my hair long, get tattoos or learn to ride on a skate board to win a teenage skater to Christ last month. There are as many opinions on the GCR document as there are Baptists. Nevertheless, Article Eight must not be used to misa