Have you ever noticed that when a man says he agrees with you “… in principle”, he is probably getting ready to argue with you? I hope you don’t feel that I am arguing. But I admit, I am expressing concern about the ramifications of the GCRTF Progress Report.
Let’s begin where we stopped last time.
Component #3: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to geographic limitations.
I tentatively support Component #3. However, it is very important that Southern Baptists understand the ramifications of this recommendation.
Since the initial release of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) Progress Report, I have spoken with one current and two former international missionaries. I realize that is not a legitimate polling group, I am just trying to be very open about my research. I have also been involved in conversations with national missionaries—we used to call them Home Missionaries, and I have spoken with some who work with various people groups within the United States. I can tell you that missionaries, both national and international, are divided on this issue.
It makes sense that international missionaries who have worked in Bosnia have greater expertise to work with the Bosnian people who have settled in St. Louis. Why not utilize the insight of international missionaries in Latin American countries when working with the Hispanic peoples of north Missouri? Likewise, Missouri Baptists/NAMB missionaries working with Japanese people in Kansas City could benefit from the knowledge and experience of international missionaries who have served in Japan.
On its face, component #3 sounds like a good idea. But there are some concerns.
One issue is that many people who immigrate to the United States do so because they have chosen to leave the cultures of their homeland to adopt the culture and lifestyle of America. People who are adopting a new lifestyle generally do not wish to regress to their old lifestyle. They have moved forward. Therefore, outreach methods that are effective in their homeland will not necessarily be useful in their new home. The work of an international missionary to Bosnia may or may not be similar to the work of national missionaries working with Bosnian people in the United States.
A separate concern is the money needed to implement component #3. One of the concerns driving the GCRTF is the need for additional dollars for the international mission field. During their last report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, International Mission Board (IMB) representatives revealed that more than 500 missionaries had to leave the mission field because funds to support them were not available. IMB representatives decried the fact that hundreds of missionaries have been called and approved for missionary service but cannot go to the international mission field because funds are insufficient to support them.
Now the GCRTF is asking Southern Baptists to add to IMB’s assignment. How will we fund the additional work?
Let me repeat that I am tentatively supportive of component #3. However, the need for additional information is obvious. It is imperative that Southern Baptists know the ramifications of this component prior to being asked to approve or disapprove of it. Prior to embarking on any kind of major undertaking, the church is admonished in Scripture to count the cost “… lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him.” In the first article in this series of articles pertaining to the GCRTF Progress Report, I reminded us all about the lack of caution exhibited during New Directions within Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) life. Through New Directions, Missouri Baptists spent much time, energy and missions dollars establishing a new and innovative denominational ministries delivery system—only to spend an equal amount of time, energy and more missions dollars to undo the system a mere three years later. I am still praying that the GCRTF will see the wisdom of delay while Southern Baptists count the cost.
Component #4: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to move the ministry assignments of Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and return them to being the work of each state convention since they are located closer to our churches. Our call is for the state conventions to reassume their primary role in the promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education, while asking the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to support these efforts with enthusiasm and convention-wide perspective.
I support component #4.
But, like the first component, I am looking at component #4 and wondering—did we really need a Task Force and several national meetings to come up with this? The fact is this component will not change anything currently taking place in the Show-Me state. Five years ago, I came to the staff of the MBC to serve you as the Cooperative Program Specialist. My assignment then was to promote the Cooperative Program (CP) to the associations and churches of the MBC. Before me, Mike Dennis had that assignment. Today Spencer Hutson is the MBC CP/Stewardship Specialist, and he is doing a great job.
The state conventions already are doing the work of CP promotion and stewardship education. Now, to be clear, we enjoy an excellent relationship with the staff of the SBC Executive Committee. They provide some of the materials we utilize in CP/Stewardship promotion—for a price. It’s a fair price. I am not complaining about the price. But, the SBC is just one of a couple of sources for the materials we utilize in CP/stewardship promotion and education. Under the current system, the CP/stewardship resources used by and/or furnished by the MBC are already either purchased or created by us, specifically for Missouri Baptists.
There is nothing new in component #4. Whether or not Southern Baptists vote to enact component #4, at the MBC, we will continue to promote the CP because the CP is the Southern Baptist way to reach the lost world.
More about that in my next column and our discussion of component #5.