By Mark Kelly
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists must be gripped anew by the lostness of the world, repent of their self-centeredness and focus their local churches on taking the Gospel to those who have yet to hear, the chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force said Feb. 22.
Toward that end, Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., presented a “progress report” to the SBC’s Executive Committee on the task force’s work that included six “components” of a vision they believe Southern Baptists will rally around and experience renewed passion for the Great Commission — making disciples of all the world’s people groups.
To open his 90-minute presentation, Floyd drew on Joel 2:12-17 to deliver a challenge about the need for urgent, wholehearted repentance if Southern Baptists are to participate in the evangelistic harvest that will accompany the outpouring of God’s Spirit in the last days — and can be seen already beginning in some parts of the world.
“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,” Floyd said. “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,” Floyd continued. “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.
“e 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,” Floyd said. “We need a fresh and compelling vision that will only come when we are right with Him.”
Southern Baptists need to understand the “staggering” lostness of North America — where 258 million of 340 million residents are estimated to be lost — and the entire world — where 4 billion of 6.8 billion people have little to no access to the Gospel, Floyd said. Penetrating such massive lostness requires each of the 50,000-plus Southern Baptist churches to become its own “missional strategy center,” Floyd added.
“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,” Floyd declared. “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.”
Floyd said he hoped the progress report the task force was bringing would be “clear and compelling” as it unveiled “some of the things we believe need to be done” to help Southern Baptists work together more faithfully and effectively to advance the Gospel. At the SBC annual meeting in Orlando next June, Floyd said, the task force will ask the convention “to accept this vision, endorse this vision and champion this vision.”
The six components of the task force’s vision Floyd presented involve:
— Calling 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.” The “missional vision” is “as a convention of churches, … to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.” The eight core values are Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church and Kingdom.
— Recommending 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.” The North American Mission Board needs to be “reinvented and released” by implementing a direct strategy for planting churches in North America “with a priority to reach metropolitan areas and under-served people groups,” Floyd said. The plan also calls for NAMB to assist churches in evangelism, discipleship and developing current pastoral leadership. It calls for NAMB to decentralize operations into seven regions and recommends releasing the entity from “cooperative agreements” with state conventions over the course of four years to free up money for national strategy.
— Requesting Southern Baptists “entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.” “Globalization has flattened the world,” Floyd said. “While years ago a people group was located within a specific geographical location, this is no longer reality. Reality today is that these people groups are located all over the world, including the United States…. Most of the 586 people groups that do not speak English in the United States have strategy coordinators working overseas with the same groups. With geographical limitations removed, a new synergy can be created in international missions.” Floyd added: “We believe that with this bold and needed change, we are positioning our convention of churches for a major evangelistic harvest, a discipleship revolution and an unprecedented, exponential explosion in church planting.”
— Moving the primary responsibility for Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education ministry assignments from the Executive Committee to the state conventions. Historically, promotion of the Cooperative Program was seen as the responsibility of the state conventions, Floyd said. The task force’s plan envisions state convention leaders creating a consortium that, in cooperation with the president and CEO of the Executive Committee, would “plan and execute an annual strategy that will promote the Cooperative Program to our churches as well as challenge our churches in biblical stewardship.” While the plan envisions state conventions reassuming the stewardship assignment, “it is the responsibility of local churches to challenge their people to walk in obedience to God by honoring Him weekly with at least the first tenth of all income as well as additional offerings to our local churches,” Floyd said.
— Reaffirming the Cooperative Program “as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries” and establishing a broader category of “Great Commission Giving” to celebrate all the financial support — CP giving and designated giving — local congregations provide for Southern Baptist missions. “We are not recommending any changes to the Cooperative Program but are reaffirming it as our central means of supporting the Great Commission ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd said, saying the task force calls upon every church “to work diligently at giving more through the Cooperative Program.” At the same time, however, “we also believe our local associations, state conventions and national entities should celebrate whatever amount a church gives through the Cooperative Program. In the spirit of one of our desired core values, which is unity, we need to work together in love for the sake of the Gospel.”
— Raising the percentage of Cooperative Program funds received by the International Mission Board in the 2011-2012 budget year to 51 percent and funding the increase in part with monies previously allocated to the SBC Executive Committee for Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education. The proposal would reduce the SBC Operating Budget allocation of 3.40 percent by 1 percentage point, or roughly $2 million, and add it to the IMB’s budget, currently at nearly $320 million. Calling the proposal “both symbolic and substantial,” Floyd said, “This means that for the first time in our history, more than one-half of all monies that come from our churches through the SBC Cooperative Program will go to the reaching of the nations…. We believe this is a great move forward and we need to do all we can to reach the nations.”
The task force will release its final report May 3, in anticipation of presenting it to messengers to the SBC’s June 15-16 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., Floyd said. In the meantime, he said, Southern Baptists must individually and corporately turn to God.
“e know our greatest need is for a mighty spiritual revival to sweep through our churches across this nation. We must repent of our sins and return to God in order to see this great movement of God,” Floyd said. “As we near the coming of our Lord Jesus, we want all of our strategies to position us to be a part of this coming great Gospel harvest.
“We believe this vision we are unfolding to you tonight provides major momentum for the continuation of this Great Commission Resurgence movement and vision,” he said. “However, a real, long-lasting Great Commission Resurgence must happen personally, as well as in our churches, and in all of our Southern Baptist local associations, state conventions and national entities.”
The Orlando meeting “can become a watershed moment for the reaching of the nations,” Floyd concluded. “May June 15-16, 2010, be the moment that will define the future for generations to come and show that Southern Baptists are a unified people, Bible-based, Gospel-centered and set on fire by the Holy Spirit, believing we must join together like never before in presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.