Over the past two months, there has been a major push for a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. For the record, I am in favor and advocate others to sign on to this vision for the future of Southern Baptist life. However, unlike years past, I have not been as informed or interested in all the chatter on the internet from blogs and punditry for a myriad of reasons. Nevertheless, I have tried to stay tuned into the ongoing flurry of articles about the small corner of the evangelical block that is the SBC.
What I want to call your attention to in particular is an interview published by Baptist Press about Jerry Vines and his caveats regarding signing the GCR document. Last week, SBCToday guys shared that Vines “has allowed his name to be added” to the document with “caveats” (it should be noted that 3100+ other Southern Baptists “allowed” their names to be added without fanfare). But the media hype behind Vines’ caveats has served a great purpose by affording The Christian Index to make a wonderful confession.
Nestled in softball questions and the context of Article IX in the GCR document (dealing with the bureaucracy), readers found this gem of a statement:
INDEX: Is this document more about the Great Commission or more about reshaping our denomination? Denominations do not fulfill the Great Commission, churches do. We had a kind of restructuring in our denomination 15 years ago with the Covenant for a New Century. Are we better off for having done so? (emphasis mine)
This is a startling revelation. Denominations and all the structures therein cannot and do not fulfill the Great Commission. State conventions do not fulfill the Great Commission. Local associations do not fulfill the Great Commission. The Executive Committee does not fulfill the Great Commission. Even the North American Mission Board does not fulfll the Great Commission. Churches of the Southern Baptist Covention are entrusted and responsible for the stewardship of the Great Commission. Period.
So here’s the $64,000 question? Why are our Great Commission dollars (i.e., the Cooperative Program) stuck in a system that is inherently incapable of fulfilling the Great Commission? If state conventions cannot do it, why are they hoarding on average more than 60% of our money while IMB missionaries are being held back because of lack of funding? In the year 2008, over $329,000,000 was kept in state conventions from Cooperative Program money. Just think of that. All of it sunk into a denominational bureaucracy boldly admitting its inability to do what those dollars are being sent to do.
The irony, of course, is that state convention representatives (The Christian Index included as seen in this interview) have repeated criticized the GCR document and have attempted to discredit it through the underwritten support of very Cooperative Program money provided by churches of the SBC. CP money from local churches have given denominational “servants” the platform to criticize those who are having their eyes opened to the fact that the SBC is broken.
The ability of Southern Baptist churches to cooperate together to advance the cause of Christ in world missions is a fantastic thing. The Cooperative Program has enabled us as Southern Baptists to do things other Christians have simply not been able to do. However, this “program” needs attention on how it is administered, especially if now we have denominational newspapers coming out and admitting their existence is at best tangential to the Great Commission.
Southern Baptist churches should send the same message to the SBC bureacracy. We churches can and should take responsibility for the Great Commission, and this begins with where and how we will spend God’s money entrusted to us. Brothers and sisters, denominations do not fulfill the Great Commission, and the stewardship of the Cooperative Program should not give the impression that it does. There is no excuse for missionaries not being able to go to unreached peoples when every year $300 million is arbitrarily direct-deposited into the piggy banks of state conventions.
There are so many positions, programs, and platforms in the SBC denomination that aren’t necessary to the Great Commission. Imagine what $530,000,000 each year of Southern Baptist giving could do when it was invested in true Great Commission causes. I join the desires of others to see renewal and revival in our day. But what we really need is reformation. Revival sounds Southern Baptist and always gets an “amen,” but when we start taking about “reformation,” the SBC guardians question our political correctness. If the day comes when the prophetic mantle is substitute for political compromise, we may never see a true outpouring of God’s Spirit among His people. It begins with repentance, and it begins with taking seriously the confession The Christian Index made . . .
Denominations don’t fulfill the Great Commission, churches do.