Here we go again.
Some of you may be echoing the words of the late, great President Ronald Reagan. Presidential Candidate Reagan was speaking to then President Jimmy Carter during the 1980 Presidential Debates. President Carter had just answered a question, and he seemed to be going on and on about (ironically) national health insurance. He had misquoted his opponent and misrepresented Reagan’s views on various issues. When he finished his diatribe, Reagan came back with the now famous line “There you go again.” When asked about that line, President Reagan, referring to President Carter’s words, said, “Well, it felt kind of repetitious, [like] something we had heard before.”
I don’t want to be repetitious. But I am intentionally being thorough in my response to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) Progress Report. This is the second in a series of articles pertaining to the report. We are in the process of looking at the report and the impact of the report on Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) life by considering each component of the report. In the last issue of Pathway, we discussed the first component.
We begin now where we stopped.
Component #2: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that our North American Mission Board needs to be reinvented and released. Therefore, in order to do this, we will ask Southern Baptists that the North American Mission Board prioritize efforts to plant churches in North America and to reach our nation’s cities and clarify its role to lead and accomplish efforts to reach North America with the Gospel.
I do not support component #2.
Rather than challenging the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to new and more effective priorities, this component merely delineates the current, ongoing priorities of NAMB. With a cursory review of current NAMB priorities and strategies, the GCRTF could have discovered the three current priorities of NAMB—Sharing Christ, Starting Churches, Sending Missionaries. Slightly more study would have revealed that those priorities are not equally shared, rather the lion’s share of the missionaries (many of them jointly funded through cooperative agreements with state conventions) are church planters. When NAMB speaks of sending missionaries, they are talking, primarily, about sending church planters. As well, NAMB’s primary avenue for sharing Christ is through church planting. The fact is NAMB already is prioritizing efforts to plant churches in North America.
Late in the progress report, GCRTF Chairman Floyd offers an appropriate Winston Churchill quote, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Amen. But it occurs to me that similar logic ought to apply to the GCRTF concerning the recommendations they are asking you to ratify. The GCRTF has demonstrated a serious lack of understanding concerning the work of NAMB and the relationship of NAMB to the state conventions, associations, even the churches of the SBC.
It has to be noted that the statistics utilized by the GCRTF to formulate component #2 have been shown to be incorrect. The justification of component #2 includes erroneous information that two-thirds of NAMB missionaries and resources go to the southern states while one-third goes to pioneer states. A related story in the last issue of Pathway revealed that just the opposite is true. While the GCRTF is not responsible for the incorrect information, they continue to expect Southern Baptists to approve a report that will forever change who we are as Southern Baptists—a report based on false information. The fact is the progress report, as presented will devastate the pioneer areas of America. Every western state Executive Director has expressed strong opposition to the report. It is often true, that NAMB sends more Cooperative Program (CP) dollars in to the pioneer work areas than those state conventions send on to Nashville through the CP. But that is the purpose of the CP—to place resources in those areas of the world, including the United States, where the needs are greater than the resources.
The progress report, as presented, also will devastate the work of Missouri Baptists. Make no mistake, Missouri is the Show-Me State and we will not quit—we will continue to plant and build healthy churches and reach this state for Christ. But we must acknowledge the truth, and I so wish the GCRTF understood, that NAMB is an invaluable partner in reaching the Show-Me State.
The progress report contains defamatory rhetoric about the cooperative agreements that exist between NAMB and the state conventions. And admittedly, at first glance it would seem that the only group benefitted by the cooperative agreements is the U. S. Post Office who sends the checks back and forth across the nation. But let me suggest another perspective. The cooperative agreements provide a check and balance system that enables state conventions, associations, even NAMB itself to be more efficient. The cooperative agreements spell out the parameters of ministry. Those boundaries reduce the risk of failure. In short, MBC achievements in church planting, collegiate ministries, missions and evangelism are due, in large part, to our partnership with NAMB. I thank God for their partnership in the Gospel.
Contained in the defense of component #2 are some specific instructions concerning the “… reinvention and release” of NAMB. On page 20, the report states “… The North American Mission Board and the state conventions have operated for several decades by what is called cooperative agreements and cooperative budgets.” That is true. Since coming to the MBC Executive Board Staff, I have learned the great value of our partnership with NAMB and those cooperative agreements. Through those cooperative agreements, you are involved in evangelism training/ministries, partnership missions, Men’s and Women’s Ministries, Disaster Relief ministries, even conflict resolution. NAMB assists the MBC and the churches and associations of the MBC in missions education, including our relationship with the Women’s Missionary Union. The churches and associations of the MBC are in partnership with NAMB to do church planting and collegiate ministries. And frankly, that is as it should be.
The report also infers a lack of accountability regarding cooperative agreements and the state conventions. Continuing to read on page 20 of the report states “… through the years they [referring to the cooperative agreements] have become complex and at times cumbersome, resulting in a lack of accountability.” That is not true! That statement, in fact, is offensive and nowhere near the truth. But, turn the page on the progress report and the GCRTF restates “… this process [the cooperative agreements/budgets] complicates the work … resulting in a lack of productivity and accountability.” Again, not true!
The fact is the parameters established through the cooperative agreements enhance accountability. True, the jointly-funded missionaries who serve you through the MBC are accountable to MBC supervision—ultimately, they are accountable to me. And, I am accountable to the NAMB for their supervision. The cooperative agreements require productivity and specify the conditions of accountability. And, I have been assured by NAMB personnel that, if ever the requirements are not met, the funds will be cut off. The fact is, because of our partnership with NAMB through the cooperative agreements, productivity and accountability are increased.
I have to stop somewhere. I’ll stop here.