Delivered by Dr. Ronnie W. Floyd
Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force
of the Southern Baptist Convention
I want to thank Dr. Johnny Hunt and each of you for extending us the privilege of serving on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Our entire task force has joined me in believing this was not a request to dialogue about denominational matters, but a calling of God to respond to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
When we meet, we pray and we share the Word of God together. The first action in our first meeting was to get on our knees for a while before anything else was done and cry out to God. We also share our dreams and visions for the churches and work of Southern Baptists. We share our passion to see the Gospel advanced globally. Our task force is very diverse. In June of 2009, we started as 22 individuals with all kinds of varying thoughts and desires. In February of 2010, we are one in Christ and one in heart in what I am going to share with you tonight. As Chairman, I thank the members of this task force and our President for their great service to Jesus in this assignment.
To Dr. Morris Chapman and Chairman Randall James, thank you for the privilege of speaking to the Executive Committee. To the members of the Executive Committee, I have been where you are. I served on this committee for ten years and served as Chairman for two of those years. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of sharing our vision with you tonight. To the leaders of our SBC national entities, I am grateful to each of you and have appreciated dialoguing with you. To the leaders of our state conventions, thank you for meeting with our task force and sharing your heart and vision. To the members of the press here tonight, thank you for helping us share our work with Southern Baptists and thank you in advance for your work in helping us share our journey and future actions with Southern Baptists and beyond. To everyone here tonight, thank you for coming to share in our time together.
When I was asked to embrace the chairmanship of this task force, I told Dr. Hunt the first thing I wanted to do was to support this movement with prayer; therefore, we asked God to give us at least 5,000 prayer partners to walk with us in this journey. We established a website where each prayer partner could register their commitment to pray daily for the work of the Great Commission as well as for the Task Force. On August 1, we launched www.pray4gcr.com and asked God to call at least 5,000 prayer partners to join us in praying daily for the Great Commission. Within just 35 days, God raised up at least 5,000 prayer partners, and today we have 6,218 GCR prayer partners from 1,574 cities, 49 states, and 30 countries of the world. We pray this number continues to increase all the way to Orlando. If nothing else would occur from our work, this Great Commission Resurgence would already be on the way to success because we are praying daily for it to occur. Without a strong commitment to prayer, we will never see a resurgence of the Great Commission in our personal lives, churches, and through the work of Southern Baptists.
In our 2009 annual meeting, over 95% of our messengers approved with great enthusiasm the following motion: That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 23-24, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky, authorize the President of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a Great Commission Task Force charged to bring a report and any recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission. This was a significant moment that began a grassroots spiritual movement called the Great Commission Resurgence. We believe the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando expect change and expect the leaders in our Convention to lead us towards the changes that are needed.
As we have listened to Southern Baptists, read their vast correspondence to us and considered over 137 items they have recommended for us to do, we have tried to keep our focus on one thing: the Great Commission. We have been asked to bring a report and any recommendations concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission. There has been a strong pull away from this focused assignment. Much noise has been generated about our work, but we have stayed focused on Great Commission matters.
In our last meeting together, I began our time with words from the book of Joel. I had shared with our task force that in days of praying and fasting, I had asked God for a word about our work. When I shared with our group what I believed God had shared with me about the Great Commission Resurgence, there was an immediate unanimity about this word from the book of Joel. In fact, when we spent time talking about what to share in our progress report to you, they believed I needed to share these words with you.
The Bible records in Joel 2:12-17 the following words, and I am reading from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Joel 2:12 Even now – the LORD’S declaration — turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Joel 2:13 Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster.
Joel 2:14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, offer grain and wine to the LORD your God.
Joel 2:15 Blow the horn in Zion! Announce a sacred fast; proclaim an assembly.
Joel 2:16 Gather the people; sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom, and the bride her honeymoon chamber.
Joel 2:17 Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers, weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say: “Have pity on Your people, LORD, and do not make Your inheritance a disgrace, an object of scorn among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
The urgency and call from God was for His people to return to Him in total surrender, complete humility, and with a new attitude. God told them it was not good enough to simply rip your garments when something is not good. God wants our hearts broken before Him, returning to Him with praying, fasting, weeping, and mourning. The call from God was to return to Him now and they would realize that He was full of compassion and grace, willing to release them of judgment, and once again bless them. He called them to respond to Him individually and together. He called them to fast together, to worship together, and to come before Him together. He called them to do this now, with urgency, even calling newlyweds to leave their bridal chamber before they consummated their marriage so they could repent and return to God.
I believe with all my heart that God is calling us to return to Him now in deep repentance of our sin, in brokenness over our sin, denying our pride and selfishness and returning to God with complete humility. The boasting, ego, and pride that goes on in our lives, our churches, and our denomination is unacceptable to God. The disunity in our churches and in our denomination is so wrong and sinful. We need to repent and return to God.
With rhetoric we bemoan our dismal baptism numbers, our declining and plateaued churches, and our economic selfishness. The casting of criticism has resulted in a caustic cynicism that just adds to our rhetoric and writings. We attempt to treat symptoms rather than the root issues of sin and carnality. The rhetoric needs to cease and the repentance personally and corporately must begin. We need to repent of our sins and return to God.
While tonight you will hear our vision that does ask Southern Baptists to considering changing some things, we realize our number one need is to return to God in deep repentance and experience a fresh wave of His Spirit upon our lives, ministries, and work of our denomination. We need a fresh and compelling vision that will only come when we are right with Him.
In order to understand the power of Joel 2:12-17, you have to understand it within the context of the entire book.
Joel 1:1-14 A present crisis was occurring as God was judging His people for their sinfulness. He took away His provision to them, His protection of them, and their personal joy.
Joel 1:15-2:11 A future crisis was predicted to occur which Joel called, “The Day of the Lord,” a time of judgment occurring apocalyptically, at the end of time of which no person would be able to endure.
Joel 2:12-17 The people of God returned to God in prayer, fasting, and repentance.
Joel 2:18-27 THEN God answered their prayer and saw their change in heart and once again provided for them, protected them, and granted them joy.
Joel 2:28-32 AFTER THIS the Lord gave them a word about the Holy Spirit of God coming upon all people everywhere. Joel prophesied there would come a day when the Holy Spirit would come upon all people and God would do miraculous things in their midst. The initial fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 began on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. However, the complete fulfillment of it will take place the nearer we are to the return of Jesus Christ.
Joel not only said that God will pour out His Spirit upon all people, but He would pour out His Spirit in the final days. Joel says, “in those days,” there will be an outpouring of the Spirit released as the Gospel increasingly is shared prior to the coming of the Lord and the final judgment. I believe we are on the brink of the mightiest outpouring of the Holy Spirit to have ever occurred in the world. There are certain parts of the world where we are now seeing a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, resulting in gospel sharing, gospel preaching, gospel churches, and gospel change.
How else would you explain that in an Al-Jazeera interview, the Libyan Sheik talked about how six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually? How else would you explain a church planting movement in a northern Chinese province that has 20,000 new believers and 500 new churches in less than five years and at the heart of this has been one of our workers?
How else would you explain another church planting movement in China that started in 2001 and today is the fastest church planting movement in the world to date? They have seen nearly two million baptisms and more than 80,000 new church starts in less than a decade. All of this has been assessed and validated. How else can you explain that people are coming to Christ from virtually every religious background including Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims? Be encouraged, God is also pouring out His Spirit mightily in Asia, the Orient, Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe as well as other places around the globe.
The invitation of God that Joel wrote about in Joel 2:32, Peter talked about in Acts 2, and Paul wrote about in Romans 10:13, was that there would come a day when, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” The closer we get to the coming of Jesus Christ, the more the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will come upon the world. This outpouring will result in an ever increasing sharing and explosion of the gospel message globally. In this climactic and cosmic moment, as this outpouring of the Holy Spirit and gospel explosion occurs simultaneously and globally, we will see an ever-increasing, exceeding number of people responding in unprecedented ways to Jesus. The result will be the greatest worldwide harvest in human history as God bestows in this final moment an unusual wave of grace upon the world in His final call to every person across the globe to declare Jesus as Lord.
I believe we are on the brink of this global harvest. It is a great day to advance the gospel to every people group in the world. I have a question for you. How else can one explain that Revelation 5 and 7 both verify there will be redeemed people giving praise to Jesus who are, “from every tribe and language and people and nation?” The Great Commission will be fulfilled, the gospel will be advanced, people from every tribe, language, and nation will be saved and worshipping at the Throne of God. While God can fulfill His Great Commission without us, I pray we will return to God and get in on this mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will result in the greatest worldwide harvest in human history.
Now is the time we must experience this Great Commission Resurgence. In Joel chapter three we learn that, in the future, multitudes will be in the valley of decision. They will not be in that valley to be given a final opportunity to make a decision for Christ because it will be too late. They will be in that valley to receive God’s final decision about them.
This is why we must answer the call of Jesus Christ to advance the gospel personally, strategically, and progressively, meaning we must take the gospel to people and places where the gospel has never been before. We must answer God’s call to global advancement.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Why is this needed? Why do we really need a Great Commission Resurgence?” The answer is simple: The lostness of North America and the entire world is staggering.
Do you realize that among the 340 million people living in North America, there are 258,000,000 people estimated to be lost and perishing? Do you realize in the seven states or conventions that cover Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Washington, Oregon, and Canada, there is a population of 92 million plus people with at least 82% of them being lost? Do you realize that we have only 3,983 churches and congregations in this entire region and 2,276 of them are in the state of California? Do you realize that in the nine northeastern states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, there is a population of 54,924,000 plus people with an estimated percentile of lostness of 83%, and we have only 1,068 churches and congregations to penetrate this lostness?
We need to embrace the reality of lostness, but we must also grasp it in a global context. The United States comprises only 4.5% of the world’s population of 6.8 billion people. Of the world’s population, there are 5,845 people groups who have no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. From the 6.8 billion people in the world presently, 4 billion of them have little to no access to the gospel and 1.5 billion of these have never even had the possibility of hearing the name of Jesus and the message of the Good News. Missiologists will tell you that 90% of the entire world is lost without Jesus Christ. Every Christ-follower, local church, local association, state convention, and national entity needs to understand the lost condition of the world.
Please understand: To the degree we grasp lostness will be the degree we are willing to do whatever is necessary to penetrate it. If we do not understand lostness intellectually and theologically, we will not change nor will we do what must be done to penetrate it. I am convinced we have not only forgotten what it is like to be lost, but we act as if lostness does not exist, there is really no hell, and many times conduct ourselves as Universalists. Concerning lostness, it seems we have developed theological amnesia or theological Alzheimer’s disease.
Let me make something very clear: There is no other way to God than through Jesus Christ. Repentance of sin is necessary to salvation. If one does not know Christ, he or she spends eternity in hell. Based upon our theological understanding of salvation, Jesus is the one and only way to God; therefore, we have no alternative but to do whatever needs to be done to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ into places where the gospel has never been before. The level of our urgency will be determined by our understanding and belief in the lostness of the United States and the entire world.
This is why our task force believes we must return to the primacy and centrality of the local church in our denomination. Jesus loved His church and gave His blood for us. The headquarters of our denomination is not in Nashville, Louisville, Dallas-Fort Worth, Richmond, or any other location of one of our national Baptist entities. The headquarters of our denomination is in each one of the 50,000 local churches and congregations in our convention.
In order for this Great Commission Resurgence to occur, each church has to own the responsibility of fulfilling the Great Commission. Each church has to own Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Each church has to own the responsibility of reaching their village or community or town or city with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each church has to own the responsibility of reaching their region, America, and the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We believe that each minister of the Gospel needs to become a missional strategist. Why? If we do not begin to understand the complexity of lostness in our own backyard and strategize to reach them, the lostness will never be penetrated with the Gospel. Business as usual and what we are doing as a whole is not working.
It is said, “Facts are our friends.” This is true, as long as we pay attention to the facts and do not act as though they are non-existent. If we deny the present reality of where we really are, we are jeopardizing our future and the generations who will follow us. We need to return to God and recommit ourselves to advancing the Gospel to all generations.
Let me illustrate: In 1950, our convention had 27,788 churches, while in 2008, our convention had grown to 44,848 churches. In 1950, the population of our nation was 150,600,000 people, while our population today is 306 million people. Even though the population of our nation has more than doubled, and our convention has at least 17,060 more churches than we did in 1950, we still baptized 33,887 less people in 2008 than we did in 1950. This should break our hearts and put us on our knees. If we are honest with ourselves, it is hard to defend that we are holding our own or doing as well as we can. How can we even think this when we are not reaching the present generation of teenagers? In 1972, we baptized 140,000 teenagers and in 2008, we baptized only 75,000 teenagers. May God help us.
This is why we believe that every local church needs to begin to operate as a missional strategy center. After the church gathers for worship, the church must scatter and send the people to advance the Gospel. When ministers see themselves as missional strategists and churches begin to operate as missional strategy centers, releasing and sending our people to advance the gospel regionally, nationally, and globally, we will begin to penetrate the lostness in our world.
As one member of this task force, through this GCR journey, God has changed my life. I believe that most, if not all, of the members of our task force would testify the same. We have been gripped by the reality of the lost condition of our world and about our condition as a denomination, but through this journey we have also been set on fire by the call of God to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through intense times of prayer and seeking God, we believe God is giving us a vision for the future of our convention of churches. On this 22nd day of February, 2010, we desire to begin to unveil this vision. While tonight is a substantial progress report, our work is not yet done.
As we begin to unveil our vision for the future, we pray it is clear and compelling. We believe Southern Baptists asked us to address this question: What needs to be done? What needs to be done in order for us, as Southern Baptists, to work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission? What needs to be done to assist our churches in their Great Commission work? What needs to be done to reach North America for Jesus Christ? What needs to be done to advance the Gospel to every people group in the world? What needs to be done to build our missionary force in number and strength, rather than see them have to be brought home due to financial challenges? Therefore, we are going to begin to unveil to you tonight some of the things we believe need to be done.
We are asking our Southern Baptist Convention to act on what we believe needs to be done. Surely Southern Baptists can agree that we need a new and compelling vision for the future. We have been asked by this convention to give a report and recommendations about how we can more faithfully and effectively work together to advance the Gospel and it is our intention to do just that. This June, we are asking our convention to accept this vision, endorse this vision, and champion this vision. We are asking each of you to join us in this vision. It is our prayer tonight that God continues to build a coalition of Christ-followers all the way to Orlando. We urge you to come around this vision as we share it and continue to unfold it as our work progresses toward its conclusion.
We ask you to re-imagine with us ways we can better fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Our progress report tonight will speak to six specific components of this vision we are asking Southern Baptists to champion for the future.
Component #1: 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 rally towards a clear and compelling missional vision and begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention.
We believe our missional vision needs to be the following: As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
Can you imagine what would happen if the Southern Baptist Convention and its entities would begin to be compelled by this missional vision? This missional vision should drive the entire work of Southern Baptists. We are a people who believe we are called to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. If we want to see solidarity occur and execution take place, we need to rally our Southern Baptist Convention entities around this missional vision. Our churches will be thrilled to be a part of a convention with such a compelling missional vision.
We also believe that if this missional vision is to be embraced longterm, we need to create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention. We believe the following eight core values can help create this new and needed culture. These core values articulate what we stand for, how we should work together, how we govern our personal relationships, and how we should be guided in making decisions. Therefore, we desire that these eight core values be embraced:
We depend on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and prayer to make us more like Jesus Christ.
We stand together in the truth of God’s inerrant Word, celebrating the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
We work together in love for the sake of the Gospel.
We consider others more important than ourselves.
We tell each other the truth in love and do what we say we will do.
We value Southern Baptists of all generations and embrace our responsibility to pass this charge to a rising generation of every age, faithful until Jesus comes.
We believe the local church is given the authority, power, and responsibility to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world.
We join other Christ-followers for the Gospel, the Kingdom of Christ, and the glory of God.
If we are going to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and make disciples of all the nations, we need to learn how to get along with each other, creating a new culture among us. Our present culture represents 1 Corinthians 3 much more than 1 Corinthians 13. Envy, strife, and division needs to become unacceptable. Instead, let this world know us by the depths of our love for Jesus, the Gospel, and one another. If we are going to keep our people engaged and give hope to a future generation, we need to create a culture built upon these core values.
How can we not conduct ourselves with Christ-likeness? How can we not live out the Truth of God’s Word we so valiantly stand upon? How can we not be passionate about unity, working together for the sake of the Gospel? How can we not trust one another when trust is the key to all relationships? How can we not pass on the charge of the Great Commission to a rising generation, giving them a compelling, missional vision and creating a culture that operates by biblical values? How can we not have a denomination that responds to the local church, serving and assisting it at all times? How can we not embrace other Christ-followers for the Gospel, the Kingdom of Christ, and the glory of God? The Southern Baptist Convention is not the Kingdom of God, but is a part of the Kingdom of God.
We began with our desired Missional Vision and Core Values because they have to drive and sustain our Great Commission work together.
Component #2: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards 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.
What does all this mean? We believe the North American Mission Board can be a catalyst in helping our churches develop a stronger and more strategic vision to reach the United States and Canada.
The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention exists to assist Southern Baptist churches in their task of reaching North America with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through ministries of evangelism, church planting, and to mobilize Southern Baptist churches as a missional movement. How will this be done?
This reinvention of the North American Mission Board that we envision will implement a direct strategy for planting churches in North America with a priority to reach metropolitan areas and under-served people groups. We desire for the North American Mission Board to encourage Southern Baptist churches to become church planting congregations. Regardless of the size or location of our churches, we want each to have a vision for and get involved in planting churches some way, somewhere in North America. It is our desire that at least 50% of the ministry efforts of our North American Mission Board be given to assist churches in planting healthy, multiplying, and faithful Baptist congregations in the United States and Canada.
Why should priority be given to the cities? Do you realize that close to 200 million Americans live in the top 100 metropolitan regions of America? Do you realize that for the first time in recorded history, the majority of the entire world is living in metropolitan areas? I want to highlight just one of the major cities in America, New York City. 8.3 million people live in the city itself; however, metropolitan New York City has 18.8 million people. In New York City, there are over 500 different ethnic groups with significant population. Over 60% of New York City residents were born in another country or are children of those born outside of the United States. If we are going to reach a major city like New York City, we need an explosion in church planting to occur. If we could penetrate a city like this with the Gospel, we would penetrate a major international city that exerts powerful influence over global finance, fashion, commerce, culture, politics, and entertainment. Just think what would happen in New York City if we were able to implement an aggressive strategy to mobilize hundreds of our churches to plant gospel churches in this city. I could say the same about other cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, or other major cities in America.
Speaking of reaching major cities, 80% of the 33.7 million people who live in Canada live in metropolitan regions. While we give priority to planting churches in the cities of North America, we cannot forget the nation to the north of us, where there is an estimated 76% lostness and we have only 270 churches to penetrate this lostness.
Besides church planting, we envision the North American Mission Board assisting churches in the ministries of evangelism and discipleship. As this ministry develops an evangelism strategy for reaching North America with the Gospel, we want it to not only encourage churches to do evangelism, but to also embrace discipleship. As we lift up the need for spiritual awakening in our nation, we can realize our missional vision of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
We also believe to increase our involvement in the Great Commission, the North American Mission Board needs to be empowered to assist churches through the development of current pastoral leadership. We desire to equip our pastors for contextual evangelism and church planting. We desire to see pastors connect with other pastors through leadership development. We believe the North American Mission Board can assist our pastors by equipping them to reach their regions with the Gospel. We desire this ministry to build missional momentum among our pastors.
We believe that long-term successful Gospel work in our denomination in the future must have trusting and flexible partnerships. We believe that the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources can work together to deepen our commitment to disciple making and heighten our commitment to equip current pastors to missional leadership.
In our vision for the North American Mission Board, we desire for them to assist churches by the appointment of direct missionaries. As the North American Mission Board appoints, approves, supports, supervises, and deploys missionaries who are assigned to accomplish the ministries of the board, they are accountable to the North American Mission Board and become a major missionary force.
We also desire for the North American Mission Board to assist churches through missional impact in our churches, our convention, and the cultural context of North America. As they educate Southern Baptists for mission involvement and commitment, they will direct and facilitate disaster relief ministries and Christian social ministries, endorse chaplains, communicate with associations and state conventions, and assist volunteer mission involvement.
If we are going to penetrate the 233,000,000 lost people in the United States, we are going to have to address one of the stark realities that exists in our convention.
At the present time in the United States, we spend two-thirds of the Cooperative Program dollars on one-third of the population. We currently have 36,605 churches and 3,515 missionaries and spend $316.6 million on reaching 108.7 million people.
Conversely, we spend one-third of Cooperative Program dollars on twothirds of the population in the United States. We have only 8,243 churches and 1,735 missionaries and spend $71.5 million on reaching 195.3 million people.
We need to see this change dramatically if we are going to penetrate the lost and dark areas of America with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow, some way, more churches have to be planted, more missionaries allocated, and more dollars direc