Wednesday, March 3, 2010

GCR Report Impressions, Part 8

It has been several days since I began posting on the GCR Interim Report. I have elaborated on my opinion of five of the six components of the report.

Component #6 raises many of the same questions I have already asked concerning funding and the Cooperative Program. As the report says, it is more symbolic than substantive. It cannot be fully addressed outside the context of the completed budget presentation.

Despite this passage of time, I still have many concerns and questions. Once again, I will say that I have been and will continue to be a proponent of SBC self-examination and restructure for the purpose of working to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. Because all things trend toward decay, all organizations must continually assess and evaluate their processes to insure they are effectively and efficiently accomplishing their mission. Our convention is no different.

My purpose in these posts does not come from the position of one who is resistant to change. I welcome and encourage necessary change. My intent in these posts has been to learn, and hopefully teach, by questioning. Certain philosophical underpinnings have been claimed in the report that I whole-heartedly affirm (denominational humility, decentralization, local church priority, effective stewardship, necessity of cooperation, urgency of the lostness of our nation and world). My concern stems from the fact that certain elements of the individual components do not appear to match the purported philosophy of the report. For example, direct appointment of associational missionaries by NAMB does not seem to be decentralization. The creation of a “Leadership Center of North America” to assess and equip church planters seems very far removed from personally accountable mentoring relationships within the local church.

Do not mistake my questions as blind defenses of the status quo. Personally, I do not hold any denominational institution as sacrosanct. Scripture never declares Christ’s love for State Conventions, Local Associations, NAMB, IMB, ERLC, any of our seminaries or the Executive Committee—but the Bible clearly declares Jesus’ love for the local church. The mission of the Great Commission is the mission of the local church. Insofar as Southern Baptist denominational institutions and entities facilitate and assist that mission, they are extremely beneficial. On the other hand, whenever they circumvent or attempt to replace local churches in accomplishing that mission, they are counterproductive, wasteful and potentially destructive.

It is my sincere desire that the questions I have raised in these posts will be answered and the concerns assuaged in the coming months. I am a Southern Baptist by conviction, not by convenience or regional default. I love and admire the work of the people who have ably served on the GCR Task Force and have led my church in praying for them regularly. I know that they have a heart for the Gospel and a love for the lost. It is my prayer that in the coming months, rhetorical battle lines will not be drawn, fiefs will not be barricaded and vocational territory will not be protected. It is my prayer that honest questions will be asked and answered, inconsistencies clarified and decisions, even though they may be difficult, will be harmoniously reached. We know that Jesus loves His local church. We know He has given her a mission. And we know that mission will never be accomplished by confusion, discord or strife. With that, I am looking forward to the final report on Monday, May 3rd, and the Convention in June. I agree with the Task Force when they said, “We believe this could be one of the most critical moments in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

1 comment:

proudpappa said...

Jim, I think you are missing the point on the NAMB proposal just a bit. The goal of the report is to free up NAMB to focus more on planting local churches where few exist. In the present structure, much of the $ is being little used for the sake of planting thriving local churches. Instead, that effort is being diluted - much of the $50 million in question ends up funding the equivalent of additional state convention posts. The GCR recommendation as I understand it to this point, gets the funds target directly, rather than indirectly (and in a diluted way) on planting thriving gospel churches in places where none exist. We do not have to have robust conventions on the ground in pioneer areas to reach the lost, but we must get some gospel-centered church planters there who are not in denominational offices but are on the ground planting churches. This is actually a win for pioneer state conventions over the long term - more money comes into their state for direct church planting (albeit not funneled through a state convention). Nevertheless, if the strategy works, the state sees the growth of the gospel in their state, the birth of more thriving churches, and then more people to support both the work of the state and national conventions. It is because of the GCR's understanding that disciples are made in thriving local churches that they have encouraged us to take the $50 million in question to plant churches as directly and simply as possible.

This does not for one moment preclude partnerships w/ state conventions and local assocations, but it does mean that issues of control do not become convoluted and that resources do not become diluted by funding, essentially, more state convention staff who are not on the ground planting churches.

This also does not prevent the church planter from being engaged wiht other local churches. This is, from cover-to-cover, a recommendation consistent with the GCR task force's presuppostions.