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It’s easy to be confused about the recommendations of the Great Commission Task Force. Through state papers, blogs and websites, the conversation about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention has been going on at a furious pace.

Whenever two points of view become overly politicized, the rhetoric heats up. Hype can eventually obscure reality, leading to misunderstandings and miscommunication on the part of both camps. GCR supporters have sometimes spoken as if this resolution will be the spark of a worldwide revival which will send renewal through the SBC. GCR detractors have sometimes spoken as if these resolutions would end the SBC as we know it and destroy all our cooperative efforts.

In this article, I wish to cut through the hype by briefly summarizing the final GCR proposal and the contending viewpoints, providing clarity regarding these recommendations.

1. Getting the Mission Right

SUMMARY: In the first recommendation, the Task Force encourages the Convention to adopt the following mission statement: 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.

DEBATE: There has been no debate about this recommendation.

2. Making Our Values Transparent

SUMMARY: The Task Force recommends that Southern Baptists seek a healthy culture within the Convention by committing to the following core values: Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church, Kingdom.

DEBATE: There has been very little debate concerning these values.

3. Celebrating and Empowering Great Commission Giving

SUMMARY: The Task Force affirms the Cooperative Program as the central means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach. The Task Force also encourages Southern Baptists to celebrate the total dollar amount given to Southern Baptist causes (such as the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings) . Churches will report “Great Commission Giving” by recording their gifts through the Cooperative Program as well as their gifts to other Southern Baptist causes.

DEBATE:

>>> Those who oppose this recommendation believe that the sum total of “Great Commission Giving” will dilute the value of the Cooperative Program by elevating designated gifts for specific ministries. The result will be a return to societal giving. By celebrating designated giving, churches will have less reason to support the Cooperative Program, leading to the dismantling of the current structure and the rise of special interests.

>>> Those who support this recommendation believe that the Cooperative Program is already weakened and needs to be strengthened, not by chastising churches for giving designated gifts, but by celebrating all Great Commission giving. Once churches become convinced that the ministries funded by the Cooperative Program are worth their Great Commission dollars, they will rise to the occasion and increase giving in all areas.

4. Reaching North America

SUMMARY: The Task Force recommends that the North American Mission Board (NAMB) prioritize church planting in metropolitan areas and among under-served people groups. Currently, 2/3 of CP dollars are directed to 1/3 of the population. In order to penetrate the lostness in other areas of North America, the Cooperative Agreements between NAMB and the state conventions should be phased out within seven years so as to free up NAMB for a new pattern of strategic partnership and effectiveness in church planting.

DEBATE:

>>> Those who oppose this recommendation believe that national Southern Baptist entities will be pitted against state conventions and local associations, causing them to compete for funds. By withdrawing NAMB’s financial support from newer state conventions, many good ministries will be significantly weakened, if not forced to shut down – including work in the pioneer states where lostness is the greatest. The remaining state conventions fear their evangelistic efforts will also be weakened by the lack of resources.

>>> Those who support this recommendation believe that everyone – whether at state or national entities – must be prepared to sacrifice in order to get more resources to underserved areas and the gospel to the nations. Though good ministries may be cut or altered, supporters believe it is a question of good versus best. By shifting resources to the places with least access to the gospel, frontier ministries will receive more attention. The Task Force recommends new strategic partnerships, not severing of relationship between the states and NAMB.

5. Reaching Unreached and Underserved People Groups within North America

SUMMARY: The Task Force recommends that the IMB be free to focus on underserved people groups wherever they may be found. Since large numbers of many of these people groups now reside in U.S. cities, the IMB should be free to work alongside NAMB in utilizing its linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to penetrate the lostness among these people groups, regardless of geographical location.

DEBATE:

>>> Those who oppose this recommendation believe that there could be significant overlap between the existing efforts of NAMB among underserved people groups and the IMB. Despite the claims that these two boards would work alongside one another, the possibility exists for one of the two boards to become irrelevant, which could eventually lead to one centralized board engaging in missions both at home and abroad.

>>> Those who support this recommendation believe that the IMB is better equipped to reach ethnic groups on American soil. Once the IMB’s personnel, trained in the language, culture, and religions of these people groups, begin to collaborate with NAMB and local churches, there will be a church planting movement among foreign people in North America’s urban centers. The SBC will then better reflect the truth that the gospel transcends socio-economic, national and cultural barriers.

6. Promoting the Cooperative Program and Elevating Stewardship

SUMMARY: The Task Force recommends that responsibility of promoting the Cooperative Program among local churches be transferred from the Executive Committee to the state conventions. The Executive Committee would work with the state conventions in developing a strategy for encouraging churches to increase participation and giving to the Cooperative Program.

DEBATE:

>>> Those who oppose this recommendation believe that state conventions will be expected to handle this additional responsibility, but with fewer resources. Additional responsibilities might cause the states to retain higher percentages of Cooperative Program missions money. In order to keep the cost of promotional resources down, the Executive Committee should maintain a continued, though modified, role in stewardship education and Cooperative Program promotion.

>>> Those who support this recommendation believe that state conventions have carried out stewardship education effectively because of their proximity to the churches. Encouraging the president of the Executive Committee to work alongside state convention leaders to execute a strategy for promoting the Cooperative Program will strengthen the partnership between state conventions and the national convention.

7. The Call of the Nations and the SBC Allocation Budget

SUMMARY: Currently, 50% of all Cooperative Program funds received by the Southern Baptist Convention go to the IMB. The Task Force recommends that the Convention increase this number to 51% by decreasing by 1% the budget for Facilitating Ministries. The purpose of this reallocation is to make a statement about the need to reduce denominational infrastructure and strengthen our commitment to reach the nations.

DEBATE:

>>> Those who oppose this recommendation believe that the current allocation of 50% is sufficient if churches would be challenged to set giving goals to the Cooperative Program. The proposed reallocation increases the IMB’s budget by 0.62% while decreasing the Executive Committee budget by almost 30%. Transferring two million dollars from the Executive Committee to the IMB would be unnecessary if churches would reverse the trend of keeping more money under local control.

>>> Those who support this recommendation believe that the key to increasing enthusiastic support of the Cooperative Program is demonstrating that more funds are going to the mission field. The intention behind the proposed reallocation is to make a symbolic statement that the SBC is committed to reducing infrastructure and increasing missions giving, thereby providing local churches a Great Commission motivation to increase their support of the Cooperative Program.

CONCLUSION

At the fundamental level, the GCR Task Force recommendations are about how we can best cooperate in pushing back lostness. Some of the recommendations are missional; others are about SBC culture. Some are about ministry priorities; others are about stewardship and structure. Regardless of one’s point of view, it is our Christian duty to assume the best in our brothers and sisters, seeing in each another the sincere desire for Southern Baptists to be good stewards of God’s money.


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Comments:


15 thoughts on “GCR in a Nutshell”

  1. Rick says:

    Trevin,

    You have done Southern Baptists a great service. This article is without a doubt the most fair and balanced treatment of both sides in the debate that I have read in the blogs or in the press. Thank you for framing the issues so clearly.

    While I possess definite convictions regarding the report, I won’t stain your objective treatment by offering any spin. I believe all messengers would be well served to read the report itself first and then read your excellent summary of the two viewpoints. Then they can consider the issues in an informed manner, spend time in prayer and vote as the Lord leads them.

    Once again, great job!

  2. bh says:

    Well done! Thank you for the time and effort it took to put this together!

  3. David (not Adrian's Son) Rogers says:

    One of my concerns about the GCR taskforce recommendations is the use of the term “Great Commission Giving” for giving to beyond-the-local church denomination level programs. If an individual gives to the local church ministries or if the local church spends monies in local ministry that does not get the label of being “Great Commission”. One gets the “Great Commission” imprimatur only if the monies go to the denominational works. The exclusive co-opting of a long-used historical phrase “Great Commission” by the new strategery of a denominational structure is troublesome.

  4. PJ Tibayan says:

    Thanks for this article Trevin! It’s very helpful for me to see where the others who oppose the recommendations are coming from in our convention.

  5. Tom says:

    Overall you provide an outstanding summary of the debate without the almost inflammatory remarks often posted on this subject. I wholeheartedly endorse most of the report and believe none should be chastised for their giving. The one question many still have is how does the recommendations if adopted assist churches in becoming convinced “that the ministries funded by the Cooperative Program are worth their Great Commission dollars.” and thus “rise to the occasion and increase giving in all areas.”

  6. Thank you for this article. This is the best information I have found up to this point on this matter. I am pointing my SBC friends to this article.

    Ken

  7. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Trevin,

    Good word and fair analysis. I must not be hearing from as many as you are hearing from. You have provided me with more debate fodder than I was aware was out there. I knew that other components were resisted but I have only heard Component #3 being the main sticking point. I honestly believe, and have an article over at SBC Today explaining such, if the GCRTF will remove the Great Commission Giving aspect of this report the convention is united on the report. Will there be those who still oppose it? Certainly, we are Baptist. However, instead of a 60/40 support level, I believe the removal of that one component will raise the support level to 80% going into the convention.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  8. Tom,

    My question also. In many ways the GCR does not go far enough in addressing changes to keep the SBC viable.

  9. Good and fair presentation of a complex subject. You have brought integrity and clearity to this issue. The real question is that of underlying agendas behind the recommendations. Prayer and discernment is needed by all. You have helped our cause.

  10. Roger Lee says:

    I am in great agreement with the concept of needed change in the way we do business in the SBC. I am in great agreement in the way we allocate the money in SBC life. I was raised in Mississippi, graduated from Blue Mountain College in 1983 and have since spent the majority of my ministry in what would be called the pioneer areas.

    I do not see the GCR as the way of leading the local church to see revival and renewal. While I appreciate the intention of the task force and the work accomplished I do not believe it addresses the most pressing needs.

    For example, the issue of Great Commission Giving is already addressed in the existing ACP (Annual Church Profile). There is a line item that asks about “Total Mission Giving.” If we were concerned about the money we give to the mission effort this line oitem would suffice. Maybe there is something else the task force is seeking.

    If Southern Baptists were truly concerned about reaching the pioneer areas maybe it would be prudent to relocate NAMB from the heart of the SBC to somewhere like Omaha and staff it with people who have dedicated their lives to reaching those in the pioneer areas.

    One scenario regarding the removal of the Cooperative Agreements involves the removal of all the DOM’s in Iowa and the director of Evangelism and the Mission Director. How ironic. Pioneer mission areas depend upon the Cooperative Agreements. The GCR does not address the process after the removal of the agreements.

    The reason for the report was honorable. If obedience to the Great Commission is the desired outcome this report does not get to where we need to be. Change begins in the heart of the people not how we count money. Revival begins with the proclamation of God’s Word, not the reorganization of structure. The structure is only the conduit for the power that flows through it.

    Change begins with the people of God seeking the heart of God, the abandonment of sin and the obedience of God’s people to God’s will.

    RDL

  11. Richard W. Luebbert says:

    Thank you for a succinct and good analysis of the GCR report. I regret that there is nothing in the report about sudying missions. There is nothing in the report about praying for missions and missionaries. There is much about church giving to CP, but nothing about how to motivate individual church members to give more and how to motivate churches to send increases in giving to CP. There is nothing about going across the fence, or going across the street, or going across town to do missions.
    We need to help people in our churches to understand that they are missionaries, or, they are mission fields. Richard W. Luebbert

  12. Mick says:

    Kevin, it seems reasonable to have a study on combining both the IMB and the NAMB. Because there seems to be an overlapping of needs and efforts.

    Within that combination, build in a grace program that would help any current employee should their jobs be an overage as a result of the combining of the two programs.

    I appreciate your balanced survey.

  13. Paul Russell says:

    That’s been the problem in recent years that has led us to this point. Those who have reduced their CP giving have done so because they don’t see the way in which many “good” things we fund are helping us impact lostness. Until we change some of the things we do that are supported through the CP, I’m afraid many will continue to direct their GC dollars elsewhere.

  14. Paul Russell says:

    My recent post was in reply to Tom’s post on June 2. I thought it would indicate that, but it didn’t.

  15. Rene says:

    I appreciate the simplicity in the way you have summarized everything. It’s so hard to follow all the talk that has gone on for so long. What continues to puzzle me at times is the selection of the people on these study groups. It seems we have these guys from huge churches,etc. While I believe them to be well intentioned and have a desire to following God’s direction…. why do we not see people from these pioneer areas on a task force such as this? Would it not be wise to involve people in a task force or study group who are living it now? Just a thought.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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