By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY—Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Tolliver is like many Southern Baptists in that he has greeted the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force with hope and support. a
However, when Tolliver attended an open luncheon Aug. 26 at the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., he also found common ground with a pair of Missouri Baptist pastors, Scott Gordon of Claycomo Baptist and Jim Wilson of First Baptist, Seneca, who asked some penetrating questions about the task force’s intentions when it comes to Southern Baptist missions funding.
“The two Missouri Baptists who spoke both voiced concern over the lack of focus and loyalty to the Cooperative Program (CP) from the GCR Task Force,” Tolliver said. “I share their concern.”
Tolliver said he came away from the Rogers meeting with a sense that Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Johnny Hunt has both a personal and church-wide involvement in the Great Commission, and that he longs to see all Southern Baptists be passionately involved with it as well. He spoke with Hunt earlier this year and promised he would pray for the task force and its overall objectives—to do worldwide missions and ministry in a more effective and efficient way.
However, the luncheon where Hunt and three other task force leaders shared their visions for the resurgence was not entirely convincing from Tolliver’s viewpoint.
“I got a sense that there is a great commitment to the Great Commission, not a great commitment to the Cooperative Program,” Tolliver said. “I think every person on the platform got defensive when they were asked about the Cooperative Program—and especially about percentages.
“The fact of the matter is, they’re looking for an uttermost-parts-of-the-earth resurgence. They’re not looking at Jerusalem, Judea, even Samaria. They’re looking at the ends of the earth. So it’s not a Great Commission Resurgence. It’s an Uttermost Resurgence. And let’s be real about that.”
Gordon asked a specific question about the CP that was designed to get the platform speakers to honestly assess it. Their responses were confusing. He later told The Pathway that he hopes the task force will reject any move toward scrapping the CP and replacing it with some form of societal missions funding.
“I have a great deal of trust in the task force across the board,” Gordon said, noting, in particular, its emphasis on the role of the local church. “The great thing is there seems to be openness to dialogue and discuss those issues, and to hear concerns.”
Tolliver was certainly tracking with the spirit of Gordon’s question on the future of the CP.
“What has tied us together for years is the Cooperative Program, and now it seems that there are some folks trying to untie that and make that a way to reach the world, but not the only way,” Tolliver said.
Wilson, a small-church pastor from southwest Missouri, said he came away from the meeting “discouraged” after listening to Hunt, Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., respond to his questions.
One of Wilson’s concerns is the comparatively low percentages of CP giving represented by Hunt (First Baptist, Woodstock, Ga.) and Floyd (the Church at Pinnacle Hills). Wilson told The Pathway he has trouble following leaders from churches in a low percentage range of CP giving, as opposed to those from a higher range of CP giving.
Tolliver agreed with Wilson in the sense that while a megachurch may wind up giving a large amount of money to CP missions at 3 percent, a smaller church that may be giving at 6, 9, or 12 is doing its share and more. The percentage of giving from three-quarters of the churches represented on the platform at Rogers, Tolliver said, “demonstrates less loyalty than I would like to see in convention leadership.”
Wilson did say that there are some good men on the task force like Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director Robert White. However, his overall commentary about the group was uncomplimentary.
“We’re so worried about the decline of numbers in our convention that we’re willing to sell our soul out to those that don’t have as pure a doctrine,” Wilson said.