Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GCR Update: "Sharper Focus" from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Christie Storm of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on the Great Commission Resurgence within the SBC.

Sharper Focus
In June, Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting will concentrate on a disputed report urging rededication to evangelism.

By Christie Storm

LITTLE ROCK — A report urging Southern Baptists to re-energize efforts to spread the Gospel and plant churches will top the agenda at the denomination’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., next month.

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report not only presses for a revival of evangelism in the face of declining baptisms but also outlines new responsibilities for the denomination’s missions organizations - the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. It also calls for increased giving by all Southern Baptists.

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale and The Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, is the task force chairman.

He said he believes the recommendations, crafted after a year of discussion across the country, reflect the wishes of Southern Baptists.

“We believe we have our finger on the pulse beat of the vast majority of leaders and people in the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “But June will tell.”

With 16.1 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. But membership has dropped in recent years.The number of Baptisms climbed slightly from 2008 to 2009, but have dropped sharply in recent decades.

Bloggers and commentators have dissected the report and many have voiced opposition to the changes online and in Baptist publications across the country. Even leaders within the denomination, including Mor-ris Chapman, president of the powerful executive committee, have expressed concern with portions of the report.

Others, however, support the recommendations and think the changes will streamline the denomination’s efforts to reach the world for Christ.

“I think the report is crucial and essential to the future of our denomination, because the structure our convention is operating under is a model that is antiquated,” said Jeff Crawford, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith. “This report refocuses who we are and what the No. 1 focus of the church needs to be and that’s the Great Commission, taking the Gospel around the entire world.”

Crawford, 40, will attend his first convention annual meeting this year. In the past he hasn’t felt compelled to make the journey. This yearis different.

“I find the Great Commission relevant,” he said. “I can get excited about the Great Commission and I think it will strike a chord with many other pastors as well.

“I think there’s a general consensus that we need to do something different. People can get nervous about what that means but I think everybody realizes we can do better and we need to do better.”

Crawford’s hope is that the report will unite convention members under one common goal - sharing the Gospel. He said the very relevance of the denomination is at stake.

“We can’t afford to be irrelevant,” he said. “We need to send a message that the denomination can be relevant and the right way is to make sure we are centered on the Great Commission.”

Thousands of delegates, called messengers, will gather June 15-16 in Orlando to consider numerous resolutions, elect a president and other officers and hear from the task force.

To read the whole article,
click here.

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