Tulsa area pastors welcome GCR priorities during session

Hess Hester, senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Tulsa asked the task force to encourage the kind of unity that Jesus soughtfor his disciples as a witness to the world of God’s love.

BROKEN ARROW–The appeal for a Great Commission Resurgence found a warm reception among the 100 or more Oklahoma pastors and laymen gathering at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow for a GCR Task Force listening session Oct. 22. “The bottom line is that we need a Great Commission resurgence that begins in our hearts, our churches and in North America that will extend to the ends of the earth,” insisted GCRTF chairman Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., and the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark.

“It is time for us to take a step back and look at our denomination–not just the structures and organizations and things of that nature–but look at ourselves, and where we are and have a call, once again, to spiritual renewal,” said Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards, one of 22 members tapped by Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt to discover ways the SBC can more effectively and faithfully fulfill the Great Commission.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler joined the discussion via SKYPE, an internet videoconferencing service, as the three task force members fielded questions for over an hour. Hosted by Tulsa Metro Baptist Association as part of their annual meeting, the men heard from a crowd that expressed a high level of agreement with the task force’s stated goal, sharing a desire to take a missions mandate seriously.

With 80 percent of churches plateaued or declining and only 10 percent experiencing growth through conversions, Richards expressed hope that the resurgence of interest in the Great Commission will stir the hearts of individuals, churches and the SBC to seek a spiritual awakening.

“God has used Southern Baptists up to this point in tremendous ways,” he added, noting that the tools and resources are still available and many of the methods and modes used in the past can advance the Great Commission.

“Our denomination is experiencing a spiritual crisis,” SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told a Tulsa gathering during a listening session for the Great Commission Resurgence task force. He and GCRTF chairman Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Ark., answered questions at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., Oct. 22. “It’s timefor God’s people tocome back and see the Great Commission as a personal assignment from the Lord Jesus and wake from the lethargy and apathy we have had.”

As the newest state Baptist convention, Richards said the SBTC sends 55% of undesignated Cooperative Program receipts from the nearly 2,200 affiliated churches to the SBC for worldwide missions and ministry. The remaining 45 percent is prioritized for missions and evangelism and supports ministries such as colleges and children’s homes as “a contributing partner rather than a sustainer,” he explained.

Richards said the SBTC had “the luxury and the challenge of starting from scratch,” launching a confessional fellowship with a Great Commission focus “in our DNA and core values.”

He added, “We made some pledges in the beginning–that we would not have a large-numbered staff. Our commitment was that we would seek to send more [CP dollars] on and do more [in-state] with less.”

As the task force envisions how the SBC can more effectively accomplish the Great Commission, Richards said, “There are new models and new ways for us to do ministry together,” urging Southern Baptists to stay on task together, allowing for disagreement on finer points.

Oklahoma pastor Doyle Pryor of First Baptist, Sapulpa, who serves as a trustee of the International Mission Board, remarked, “There seems to be so many definitions of the Cooperative Program right now depending on who you talk to.” He asked task force representatives for their working definition and “any foreshadowing” of “an effort to redefine that for Southern Baptists at large.”


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