Thursday, July 30, 2009

Great Commission Resurgence

I pastor a Southern Baptist Church. I have been a member of a Southern Baptist Church my whole life. Denominations are not the "in-thing" today. Non-denominational churches, Bible churches, etc. seem to be in vogue, whereas, to be associated with a denomination may appear, to some, to be a negative thing. Nevertheless, I made a decision to remain a Southern Baptist after I was called to the ministry for several reasons. Here they are:

1. You don't have to wonder what a Southern Baptist believes. Our doctrinal beliefs are clearly laid out. No matter where you travel, you can go into any SBC church with confidence knowing the doctrinal integrity is intact. This is not the case with many other denominations and it certainly is not the case with non-denominational churches. They are all different.

2. I am serious about the gospel of Jesus Christ and so are Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists have the largest most comprehensive missions agencies in the history of the world. Nobody does it better than the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.

3. Disaster relief. Southern Baptists run the third largest disaster relief agency in the world right behind the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. When the world hurts, Southern Baptist are there.

4. Education. Southern Baptists fund six seminaries. I earned my Master's of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and I earned my Doctor of Education from the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Because my denomination subsidizes the tuition for these schools, I received a top notch, first degree education at a fraction of the cost of my non-SBC peers. I graduated with a terminal degree with no debt!

5. Cooperation. There are 42,000 Southern Baptist Churches and we all cooperate. I hear people all the time talking about how churches fight against each other and can't get along. That's the beauty of my denomination! First Baptist Church of Fort Smith is just down the road from my church. We don't fight against each other…we cooperate together! We both give freely to a pot of money called the Cooperative Program that funds everything I listed above. There is power in cooperation.

These are the great things about my denomination and the primary reasons why I am a Southern Baptist. Are Southern Baptists perfect? Far from it! We have our seasons of difference but since 1845, we have been working together to impact the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ – and doing it as well as any and better than most.

But my denomination is also at a crossroads. Our numbers have begun to decline. There are guys like Ed Stetzer who do Christian research and are helping us figure out what is going on and what it means. Southern Baptists have an annual meeting each summer. At this year's annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, our convention president, Dr. Johnny Hunt, challenged all Southern Baptists to consider a declaration that he, along with the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Danny Akin, drafted called The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR). It is a call for my denomination to return to what made us so great in our effectiveness and witness, a return to the Great Commission as our focus.

Dr. Hunt also tapped a mentor of mine, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, to lead a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force of 18 selected members. There are some in the convention that are suspect of the GCR. They think it is some sort of attempt to accomplish the political agenda of a group of people within the Southern Baptist Convention. It is not my place to speak on things that I do not know much about, but I do know this: I have never met anyone who is more driven by the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ than Ronnie Floyd. My first internship was at the First Baptist Church of Springdale in 1989 under Ronnie Floyd. I later served the ministry of FBC for 10 years, working right alongside and observing Ronnie Floyd, before coming to my current pastorate. I can tell you that Ronnie Floyd bleeds the Great Commission. He is the perfect man to lead the largest protestant denomination in the U.S. as we seek to recover our focus on winning a lost world to Jesus Christ. Ronnie Floyd is the real deal.

And so, I am excited. I am excited now, more than ever to be a Southern Baptist. I am excited to be pastoring a Southern Baptist Church. And I am excited to see what we can do when we focus on Jesus' Great Commission.



NOTE: To hear a recent conversation between myself and Dr. Ronnie Floyd, click here.

1 comment:

Tiki Joe said...

This comment is a little late but here in west virginia we are already seeing the results of the gcr. Hard working missionaries are being fired from their jobs. People who have sacrifice a lot of time and effort are being told that they are no longer needed because WV is not an important location for NAMB to spend money. Church planters are wondering where there funding is going to be coming from. The state is even faced with the prospect of firing its collegiate ministers who are on the frontlines of Americas educational institutes reaching students who need Jesus. If this is how Southern Baptists treat their own ministers, missionaries, and servants then who in their right mind would want to become a southern baptist missionary. I've seen nothing good from the great commission resurgence plan. Instead the few large churches in having their way over the vast majority of smaller churches. The GCR is a joke.