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.”