The Great Commission Resurgence Debate
It's easy to be confused about the recommendations of the Southern Baptist Convention's Great Commission Task Force (GCR). Through state papers, blogs, and websites, the conversation about the future of the SBC has been moving at a furious pace.
Hype can eventually obscure reality, leading to misunderstandings and miscommunication on the part of both camps. GCR supporters have sometimes spoken as if this resolution will be the spark of a worldwide revival that will send renewal through the SBC. GCR detractors have sometimes spoken as if these resolutions would end the SBC as we know it and destroy all our cooperative efforts.
Today, the Convention will consider the Task Force's recommendations. If the pastor's conference has been any indication, it appears that there is widespread support for these recommendations. Final attendance numbers are not in yet, but to anyone who has been to the Convention's annual meetings in recent years, it is clear that the crowd is much bigger, much younger, and much more diverse. Most of the speakers at the pastor's conference on Sunday and Monday called pastors and messengers to center their churches upon the gospel and the Great Commission. Several young pastors, such as Matt Chandler (pastor of The Village in Dallas, Texas) and David Platt (pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama), addressed Convention attendees.
Today, Southern Baptists will vote on the recommendations of the Great Commission Task Force. Here is a summary of the report and the subsequent debate:
1. Getting the Mission Right
Summary: In the first recommendation, the Task Force encourages the Convention to adopt the following mission statement: 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.
Debate: There has been no debate about this recommendation.
2. Making Our Values Transparent
Summary: The Task Force recommends that Southern Baptists seek a healthy culture within the Convention by committing to the following core values: Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church, Kingdom.
Debate: There has been very little debate concerning these values.
3. Celebrating and Empowering Great Commission Giving
Summary: The Task Force affirms the Cooperative Program (the churches' undesignated gifts for supporting the various ministries and entities of the state and national conventions) as the central means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach. The Task Force also encourages Southern Baptists to celebrate the total dollar amount given to Southern Baptist causes (such as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missionaries and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missionaries). Churches will report "Great Commission Giving" by recording their gifts through the Cooperative Program as well as their gifts to other Southern Baptist causes.
• Those who oppose this recommendation believe that the sum total of "Great Commission Giving" will dilute the value of the Cooperative Program by elevating designated gifts for specific ministries. The result will be a return to societal giving, in which various entities will be forced to go from church to church, asking for funds. By celebrating designated giving, churches will have less reason to support the program, leading to the dismantling of the current structure and the rise of special interests.
• Those who support this recommendation believe that the program is already weakened and needs to be strengthened, not by chastising churches for giving designated gifts, but by celebrating all Great Commission giving. Once churches become convinced that the ministries funded by the program are worth their Great Commission dollars, they will rise to the occasion and increase giving in all areas.