By David Roach, Florida Bapatist Witness correspondent
NASHVILLE (FBW)—The first “Component” of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s interim “progress report“ calls Southern Baptists to rally around a missional vision focused on the Great Commission and to “create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
However, a vice president at the SBC Executive Committee says the task force is wrong to suggest that convention leaders and meetings have failed to champion such a vision in the recent past.
The report, released Feb. 22, proposes a “missional vision” to “present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
To that end, the “progress report” lists eight core values the GCRTF says will help create a changed culture: Christ-likeness, truth, unity, relationships, trust, future, local church and Kingdom. It argues that the present SBC culture is very different from the ideal.
“Our present culture represents 1 Corinthians 3 much more than 1 Corinthians 13,” the report reads.
GCR Task Force chairman Ronnie Floyd went further in comments to Florida Baptist Witness, suggesting the Convention’s website and many of its meetings fail to emphasize the Great Commission and the eight core values it has determined to be essential to Southern Baptists.
“The core values we want our Convention to embrace can help us create a new culture in the way we talk to and relate to one another personally and in the way we conduct our business together,” Floyd said. “When one cannot find easily the content of a component of this nature on the Convention’s website and never hear our missional vision referred to in our meetings together, it is evident that it does not exist to a point that it is important enough to have visibility in our Convention.”
The SBC lacks clarity on this issue and the GCRTF wants “to see this changed radically,” he said.
Floyd said response to Component #1 of the report has been overwhelmingly positive with only one change suggested. The GCRTF is not considering any changes to this component at present, he said.
But Roger S. Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention relations, said the Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) initiative, adopted by the SBC in 2002, sets forth a vision that is very similar to that of the GCR Task Force. Denominational leaders have referenced EKG repeatedly since its adoption and gave it a prominent position on the SBC website (www.sbc.net), he said.
Oldham categorized Floyd’s criticism of the SBC website as misguided and ironic.
“In order to make room for the Pray4GCR.com banner that is now in the place of prominence on the front page of sbc.net, the EKG banner was moved to the bottom of the column,” Oldham told the Witness.
“Here is the irony: we moved it from its former prominent position in order to encourage prayer for the Great Commission Task Force,” he said.
Oldham added, “We will be glad to move the EKG heartbeat back to its position of prominence. It once was very easy to find on sbc.net. It can be again.”
Oldham also said that many Southern Baptists have renewed their focus on the Great Commission and the Kingdom of God because of EKG. He believes the GCRTF would do well to tie its vision in with EKG rather than criticize the SBC for failing to articulate a missional vision.
“Given that thousands of churches, dozens of associations, and several state conventions have already developed EKG strategies, I think it would strengthen the GCRTF’s Component #1 if they chose to link their newly articulated missional vision with EKG,” Oldham said. “New is not always better simply because it is new. New prominence? Absolutely. Stronger promotion? Definitely. This is what energizes people, no matter what the precise wording of the vision may be.”
Ed Stetzer, missiologist and president of the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources, told the Witness the word “missional” has become a widely accepted term in evangelical circles during the last decade, though it may be unfamiliar to some.
“At its core, ‘missional’ is generally defined as joining God on His mission,” Stetzer said. “In other words, the church and Christians do not exist for themselves, but rather they are here to join Jesus on mission and to live sent for God’s agenda. We reorder our priorities to be focused on what God is doing rather than what we want.”
Greg Wills, professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., told the Witness the call to join God on His mission has long been a feature of Southern Baptist life. But he said the task force is right to call the Convention to renew its commitment to missions and evangelism.
“These emphases—or at least several of the emphases—are not new. They are a renewal of traditional emphases,” Wills said of the eight core values.
Now is an appropriate time for renewal because the SBC’s success and size have driven Southern Baptists to complacency, he said, adding that man’s sinful nature gives him a propensity to drift from God’s purposes.
Wills noted the Convention has called itself back to Great Commission fulfillment many times in the past. Notable examples include the 75 Million Campaign of 1919, when Southern Baptists sought to raise $75 million for missions and ministries, and the inception of the Cooperative Program in 1925.
The GCR “represents the same kind of impulse because there was a growing recognition in the early 20th century that we were not being efficient in our stewardship of the Great Commission,” Wills said. “We were not fulfilling our responsibility as a communion of churches to get the Gospel out to the world in a way that was effective, in a way that was faithful to our resources and opportunity.”
As in the 1920s, Southern Baptists today must make all necessary adjustments to reach the nations for Christ, according to Wills. State conventions have a special responsibility to reexamine their priorities, he said, because they have the first opportunity to decide how CP funds are distributed.
Most Southern Baptists “feel that at least 50 percent of our Cooperative Program dollars should be going overseas, should be going to international missions,” he said.
In the end, Floyd believes adopting the task force’s recommendations is the best way to unite the SBC in evangelism and missions.
“We want the pastors and Convention’s employees of all of our entities to be able to say and live our missional vision,” he told the Witness. “We want them to be familiar with the core values where they call all of us to be more responsible and accountable to one another. Everything we do as a Convention should flow from this missional vision.”