For many people, April 24, 2005 is a day that will go down in infamy—that was the day of the final voyage the U.S.S. Enterprise, the mythical space vessel from the Star Trek television series. No, I am not a “trekkie,” technically. For me the new crew ruined the legend. Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, better known as Spock and Captain Kirk, were the real thing, in my mind. The new guys, Scott Bakula and company, were just actors.
But, I digress.
Today may be another day that will go down in infamy—or ignominy for some, depending on your point of view and your use of those words. But today is the day of my final article related to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) report. Some of you will be glad to read something else in the days ahead. I will be just as glad to write something else. Some of you have expressed gratitude for the important information contained in my last four Pathway articles. I have tried to be open-minded but truthful, to the point but thorough, fair and balanced as I have written on these very important matters.
And now, the GCRTF Final Report is out. Southern Baptists will be asked to vote on the recommendations contained in it on Tuesday, June 15, at 2:45 p.m. As expected, the final report of the GCRTF changed from the progress report. While the changes are welcomed, they are, on the whole, superficial. The GCRTF has changed some of the wording in the report and in so doing they have changed the mood of the report. I am grateful for the changes.
The changes are not numerous—just two major changes:
The decentralization of the North American Mission Board (NAMB):
Recommendation [item] D. in the final report was derived from component #2 in the progress report. The progress report called for the decentralization of NAMB. The final report continues to call for the decentralization of NAMB. The difference is that in the progress report the GCRTF attempted to micromanage the trustees of the NAMB by dictating that seven regional offices be established. The final report leaves the process of the decentralization to the NAMB trustees. It is appropriate that NAMB trustees be those who make that decision. We elected them to make those kinds of decisions.
I applaud the wisdom of the GCRTF in removing the stipulation to establish regional offices. We understand that the GCRTF continues to assert that the establishment of those regional offices will best accomplish the decentralization they desire. And, decentralization, including regional offices, may very well be the best way to organize the NAMB. Time will tell – time and a thorough study concerning the cost and potential effectiveness of regional offices. Time that will come through the passage of a motion to delay final convention action on the GCRTF report.
The time allowed in the process of ending the cooperative agreements between NAMB and the state conventions:
Component #2 in the progress report also called for the cooperative agreements to be phased out over a four-year period. Component #4 in the final report allows seven years for the ending of the cooperative agreements. I appreciate the new attitude demonstrated by the GCRTF in this revision. In response, here is my commitment to you. With the understanding that it is the Executive Board that sets direction for Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) ministries—my personal goal will be to move the MBC to function without cooperative agreements in five years or less.
I continue to insist that the cooperative agreements are valuable tools for reaching North America for Christ. Does that mean that we are as effective as we should be and could be in evangelism and church planting? Certainly not. Are there some changes that need to be made in the organizational structure of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and/or the MBC? Yes. We ought to be ever vigilant, continually searching for better, more efficient methods of extending the Kingdom. Through the Organizational Study Group the MBC is doing just that. We will change the way we do Kingdom business in the MBC. However, unlike the current proposals offered by the GCRTF, we will walk watchfully rather than run recklessly toward those changes. We intend to count the cost prior to making changes. Nevertheless, if Southern Baptists choose to do away with the cooperative agreements—as a loyal Southern Baptist, I will do everything I can to make it happen quickly in Missouri.
Earlier, the GCRTF indicated that the final report would come in a series of recommendations. As they stand currently, I will vote yes on some of those recommendations. But I will be forced to vote no on some of the recommendations. I have been discussing the recommendations in this series of articles. I won’t repeat those previous articles in this column. My basic positions have not changed. You can review the articles at www.mobaptist.org. Click on the Executive Director’s Blog; all four previous articles will come up.
I intend to make a motion at the SBC annual meeting next month. The MBC Executive Board has unanimously endorsed the motion calling for final action on the GCRTF report to be delayed for one year while the affected SBC boards and agencies study the recommendations and report on all the ramifications, including the costs of implementation.
That motion is grounded in Biblical principle and common sense: Common sense asks the question, how can Southern Baptists act on recommendations that have the potential to change everything about us without full understanding of the ramifications? The Biblical Principle is recorded in Luke 14:28 where Jesus asked “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost.” The conclusion is that true disciples of Jesus do not enter into business, especially Kingdom business, without full information. It really is that simple.
Every Missouri Southern Baptist I know is anxious for a Great Commission resurgence. We are praying for it and we are working toward it in the Show-Me state. Will the recommendations of the GCRTF bring about a genuine Great Commission resurgence? We don’t know and we will not know by June 15. Again, I am grateful for the changes, especially the change in attitude, I see in the final report. But there are still questions … questions about the full impact of the report on worldwide missions and ministry … questions that must be answered before the vote is taken if we are to be good stewards of God’s blessing and/or if we are to expect God’s continued blessing on Southern Baptists.