ST. PETERS—The four speakers at the Southern Baptist Founders’ Conference Midwest at First Baptist Church here Feb. 22-23 tackled the weighty matter of “Whatever happened to the Great Commission in modern day, North American evangelicalism?”
Curtis McClain, professor of Bible and director of Christian Studies at Missouri Baptist University and a member of the host church, was the visionary behind the conference. McClain, 55, encouraged the speakers to address the topic from exegetical, philosophical, historical, and managerial perspectives.
“If nothing else, I pray it is a call for you and I to get down on our knees and say if the Lord doesn’t bless it, I don’t want to be near it, and if the Lord has called me to it, bless me in it,” he said.
“Ask yourself the question, when you know you’re where God wants you to be, and it gets hard, and you’d rather be somewhere else, where do you go out of the will of God? You don’t.”
The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) in Southern Baptist life is in the process of birthing sweeping reforms throughout the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and International Mission Board (IMB). Cooperative agreements with state conventions are being rewritten, and personnel moves that are intended to carry the Gospel to large cities in pioneering areas are being executed. The GCR train is real, and it certainly has left the station, but McClain in his messages kept pointing toward the need to define the term “Great Commission,” not to merely assume that we already know what it means.
McClain put forth a few pointed questions.
Does “go” mean go or try to get people to come to church? Does “make disciples” mean make disciples or converts? And does “baptizing” mean baptizing or becoming part of a club with a card membership?
He expressed concern about the church losing the battle to remain pure.
“The world’s philosophy has been misdirection, miscommunication and outright falsehood, and we’ve bought it hook, line and sinker, and we don’t even know how to evaluate whether it’s right or not, or even how they know whether they’re right or not,” he said.
The other conference speakers were: Bill Ascol, pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Owasso, Okla.; Curt Daniel, pastor, Faith Bible Church, Springfield, Ill.; and Jim Elliff, founder, Christian Communicators Worldwide, Parkville, Mo.
ALLEN PALMERI / associate editor