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SBC messengers overwhelmingly approve Great Commission Task Forcecomment (0)

July 2, 2009

By Bob Terry

Overwhelming approval of a Great Commission Task Force climaxed 25 minutes of discussion during the Tuesday evening session of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting.

Messengers authorized SBC President Johnny Hunt to appoint a task force to determine how “Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” The task force is to report its findings and recommendation to the 2010 annual meeting of the SBC in Orlando, Fla.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., offered the motion for the task force. He told messengers there is no reason to fear asking if there is a better way for Southern Baptists to work together. He called the present “a turning point in history” and said churches need to be more active in getting the gospel to the ends of the earth. 

California messenger Ron Wilson offered a substitute motion calling for the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board each to study how better to reach its respective assignment with the gospel.

The substitute motion failed after Mohler countered that the thrust of his motion was not to address how the two boards should do their work but how to get the resources needed by the boards.

Jerry Nash, a messenger from Florida, called the task force motion “a waste of time, funding and other resources.” He charged Southern Baptists no longer are agreed on the “heart of the gospel.” He pointed out that 30 percent of seminary graduates are Calvinists and Calvinists occupy leadership positions throughout the SBC.

“If we cannot agree that God loves everyone and that Jesus died that everyone may have the opportunity to hear the gospel, how can we expect evangelical churches to support the convention?” he asked.

Former SBC President Frank Page responded that the Great Commission Task Force rises above any single contentious issue. He reminded the messengers that more than 20 years ago, messengers asked the SBC president to appoint a peace committee to examine a difficult issue.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Hunt said Southern Baptists face a defining moment in history. Anticipating adoption of the task force motion, he told reporters, “Southern Baptists need a Great Commission Resurgence to re-emphasize reaching the lost, to inspire us to do more church plants, to penetrate the darkness of lostness.”

While he has led the charge for the recent Great Commission Resurgence effort, Hunt said he has never been alone. He noted an influx of e-mails from international missionaries urging him to “stay the course” in its support.

Hunt said he has no desire to touch the structure of the SBC. He declared his respect for the responsibility of trustees who are charged with directing the various SBC ministries and said he has communicated that position to state executives with whom he has talked.

Hunt said he wants the Great Commission Task Force to come to its work “at ground zero and begin there.” He added he is encouraged that the IMB and NAMB had already started to examine their work to see how more funds could be directed to primary responsibilities.

Still Hunt said he expects to find overlap of programs and services in the denomination. He called some overlap good and other overlap bad because it takes money that could go to “piercing the darkness of lostness.”

Associations and state conventions also will be examined. Hunt said he expects to find some state convention models to celebrate. He added that the task force will challenge others to do more.

When asked if a 50–50 division of Cooperative Program funds between the national and state conventions was a goal, Hunt said that would be a good place to start.

“When can a state convention or a church say, ‘Enough is enough. We are big enough. Now we can give to penetrate the darkness’?”

Hunt said the starting point is with the local church. It will be asked to examine its priorities, he said.

In a theme interpretation Tuesday afternoon, Akin, author of the Great Commission Resurgence document that led to the task force motion, urged approval of the motion.

“Southern Baptists are compelled to get the gospel to the places where the gospel is not known,” Akin declared. He added that figures provided by the IMB indicate 1.6 billion people have never heard the name of Jesus.

“That is not acceptable,” Akin said. “We have to loose the passion of Southern Baptists for the lost.”

In the Tuesday morning opening session of the annual meeting, Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, raised questions about the Great Commission Resurgence proposal.

“Is a Great Commission Resurgence more about the Great Commission than about the Southern Baptist Convention?” he asked. “Does [the GCR] seek to bring together all Southern Baptists — at the national, state and associational level — or does it unnecessarily alienate certain demographics?”

Chapman also questioned whether the proposed task force honored the long-established principles of trustee governance of entities.

Finally he asked messengers to consider whether the proposal seeks “personal transformation of our hearts or institutional transformation of our structure.”

For more information, visit www.greatcommissionresurgence.com.

Task Force members
Ronnie Floyd, pastor from Springdale, Ark.; chair
Jim Richards, executive director, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
Frank Page, former SBC president from South Carolina
David Dockery, president, Union University, Jackson, Tenn.
Simon Tsoi, International Mission Board trustee from Arizona
Donna Gaines, pastor’s wife, Cordova, Tenn.
Al Gilbert, pastor from Winston-Salem, N.C.
Tom Biles, executive director, Tampa Bay Association in Florida
J.D. Greear, pastor from Durham, N.C.
Danny Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Al Mohler, president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
John Drummond, layman from Panama City, Fla.
Harry Lewis, senior strategist, North American Mission Board
Mike Orr, pastor from Chipley, Fla.
Roger Spradlin, pastor from Bakersfield, Calif.; vice chair of SBC Executive Committee
Bob White, executive director, Georgia Baptist Convention
Ken Whitten, pastor from Lutz, Fla.
Ted Traylor, pastor from Pensacola, Fla.; Alabama native

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