Monday, May 17, 2010

A Great Commission Resurgence End-Vision

I’d like to express deep gratitude for the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. They have demonstrated courageous leadership in helping us evaluate how we move forward with greater focus. I support each recommendation of the GCRTF Final Report and pray we will embrace the challenges.

I’d like to suggest our SBC family also consider adopting a “SBC 2020 End-Vision”. An end-vision can be called a picture of a preferred future. While not comprehensive in detail, such a picture revealed to us from the Lord could give us a target to know where we’re heading. I do not mean to suggest that the GCRTF does not include elements of such an end-vision. They recommend some immediate and phased changes and have hinted at some key future elements. I’d like to suggest a few others, including them in one package. Such an “End-Vision” would enable us to take the necessary steps together to arrive at a desired destination.

I propose an end-vision that depicts a “simple denomination.” What I hear most from SBC pastors and church members is a desire for a simple but effective denominational structure and strategy. They want a denomination that enables cooperative missions, ministerial training, and compassionate response to disaster on a large scale. They want their cooperative giving mission dollars to support these three areas. They support associational and state level ministries that they believe are effective and add value, but they also see redundancy. They want their 14 largest, old-line State Conventions to forward much more of their CP/Mission dollars to national and international ministry.

I hear from many pastors and church members that they don’t want an Executive Committee staff whose salaries are not transparent and who create their own ministry programs such as Empowering Kingdom Growth and a Global Liaison office. They don’t believe a political Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is a priority for our cooperative mission dollars.

In short, I believe most Southern Baptists want what the GCRTF wants…a leaner, more effective and efficient denomination that is reprioritized and refocused even more around the Great Commission. They want a denomination that has strategic mission priorities and works well with other evangelicals in the work of the Kingdom of God. They want a denomination that assists local congregations in doing whatever it takes to reach the unreached of the world with the gospel of Christ! I concur. Let us adopt the GCRTF Recommendations along with a “SBC 2020 End-Vision” in Orlando, June 15-16, 2010.

A “SBC 2020 End-Vision” would seek to answer the question,

“What would the SBC look like in 2020 if we were maximizing our resources and effectively pursuing fulfillment of the Great Commission in the 21st century?”

I propose the following end-vision or targeted picture of a simpler, even more Great Commission-focused SBC in 2020.

Without restating it here, the GCRTF Report contains a wonderful, biblical call to repentance and spiritual renewal we desperately need to heed. A concrete schedule of reviving and renewing “Promise Keeper” type rallies and solemn assemblies could be held around the SBC over several years to encourage spiritual renewal, along with the challenges presented in the GCRTF Final Report.

The report follows the call for repentance and renewal with an excellent vision statement and values with which to pursue it. The vision statement is well aligned with what Southern Baptists have stood for and rally behind. I wholeheartedly concur and urge adoption of their vision, values, and challenge statements.

We need a new name in the 21st century that reflects what we value and the scope of our ministry. We need a name that no longer reflects a regional conference of churches. We need a new name that is relevant, not misunderstood, and not a potential barrier nationally or internationally.

In 2020, we need our leadership and staffs of the newly named SBC and its entities to more fully reflect the diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicity of our churches.

By 2020 Southern Baptists should develop a new global mission agency, replacing both NAMB and IMB. We need to recognize that our world has flattened, globalization is a given, and the Great Commission is already “from everywhere to everywhere”. We must internationalize our missionary force and remove old barriers to strategic advance no longer pertinent to our multicultural, interconnected world. It would certainly need regionalized, affinity group structure and strategies and perhaps different departments. But we need a common vision, macro-strategy, and creative synergy.

Disaster Relief is a great strength of SBC life already developed. While adjusting as needed to ongoing contextual changes, it can be carried forward by the Global Mission Agency in cooperation with other entities such as Baptist Global Response and regional resource networks of Southern Baptists.

A collaboratively produced strategic framework of shared vision and priorities for reaching all peoples and cities in the U.S. should be developed. Representatives of the new Global Mission Agency, LifeWay, Seminaries, States, Associations, and local church pastors could develop such a strategic framework proposal for denominational adoption.

Our six, Great Commission focused SBC seminaries would complement their residential training with further decentralized theological and ministerial leadership training delivered in partnership with local churches. I believe the Leadership Development component currently assigned in the report of the GCRTF to NAMB should be moved to the Seminaries in partnership with local churches and LifeWay.

We should reassign the development and publication of ethics and religious liberty materials and training to LifeWay and the Seminaries, eliminating the ERLC as a separate entity. The ERLC budget should be reassigned to the new Global Mission Agency.

LifeWay is already moving in the direction of a digital age resource. They will be tasked with providing biblically faithful, digital age deliverable resources and equipping in partnership with SBC Seminaries and States/Associations.

We should consider how to flatten our denominational structure into a simpler, more efficient form. In the future it is highly unlikely that three levels of denominational work will be funded or relevant. There is already too much overlap in services and resources offered among association, state, national, and international SBC entities. Strategies and tactics for implementing A Great Commission vision and priorities should be developed and implemented as close to home as possible. Providing resources and expertise to local churches with local understanding is a must. Of course, the churches can and will draw on national and international resources as well. But we need to flatten our organizational levels to be more effective and efficient in assisting our churches.
Such a flattened network must be large enough for excellence, make sense strategically, and nearby/local enough for relationship, understanding, customization, and contextualization. There are already a few piloted attempts in the spirit of this proposal in Southern Baptist life. We could study and perhaps utilize or adapt these restructuring efforts, remembering that one uniform size or approach may not fit all contexts.

I have proposed elements of an SBC End-Vision for 2020. If adopted, we need to work toward that preferred picture of the future while allowing it to shape our responses to current issues.

One current issue is the soon to be selected leadership of the SBC Executive Committee, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, and next SBC President. In addition to adoption of a GCRTF report and its recommendations, I believe the selection of these leaders to be the most significant decisions facing the SBC. Nothing will have more import and impact upon our collective ability to pursue a GCR than these new leaders. They must be God-called men in alignment with the priorities, convictions, and spirit put forth by Dr’s Akin and Hunt in their Great Commission Resurgence Declaration.

What kind of leaders do we need? I am in agreement with Mark Morris’ blog entry of March 1, 2010 on “Time for G.R.I.T.T.Y. Leadership in the SBC” at He offers insightful encouragement regarding the need for younger, new wineskin, missional leadership for new times.

With such G.R.I.T.T.Y leadership traits in mind, the new President of the IMB also needs to be in alignment with the declarations set forth by Dr’s Akin and Hunt. He needs to be able and willing to lead the transition to a new Global Missions Agency. Additionally, he must be a capable missiologist, able to inspire and mobilize missionaries, a strategic thinker, capable of leading change and able to collaboratively develop a strategic framework for Great Commission fulfillment involving all levels of SBC life. IMB policies also need to be in alignment with Dr’s Akin and Hunt’s Great Commission Resurgence Declarations.

Likewise, the new President of NAMB should have the above qualities. He should be willing to work toward a new Global Missions Agency. The retooling and refocusing of NAMB should be in alignment with the GCR. This should include a refocused Trustee Board that does not revisit us with another quick dismissal of a President. NAMB’s policies should also be in alignment with Hunt and Akin’s GCR Declarations.

The Executive Committee also needs to be refocused. We need an ExComm to continue to handle administrative matters, financial processing, business plan oversight, and convention planning functions. However, we don’t need an Executive Committee that creates its own ministries and hides the salaries of its executives from its constituents. While good men head the initiatives created by the ExComm, the EKG and Global Liaison ministries should be phased out and their budget line items transferred to IMB and the new Global Missions Agency for the sake of the nations.

Ultimately, why seek God for spiritual renewal? Why realign and reprioritize our convention efforts? We should seek a Great Commission Resurgence for the glory of God, the declaration of the gospel, and the making of disciples among all peoples.
To that end I propose three Great Commission goals. Our simpler, reprioritized convention and its end-vision should include goals of engaging every remaining unengaged, unreached people group with the gospel, a church planting movement for every global megacity, and annually sending 1,000 college and seminary students to serve 2 year terms overseas in compassionate gospel ministry and church planting.
I respectfully submit these thoughts with great appreciation for the GCRTF and for Southern Baptist leaders at every level. I am grateful for our heritage and positive about our future. I pray God will grant us guidance, vision and courage for His glory.

Dr. Rodney L. Hammer, Executive Director of Missions
Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association

Current member of Missouri Baptist Convention’s Organizational Study Group
Regional Leader, IMB, Central and Eastern Europe 1999-2008; 18 total years of overseas service in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe;
SBC church planter and pastor prior to missionary service.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thoughts On Recommendations From GCRTF

Messengers to the SBC meeting in Orlando this June will be asked to approve a body of recommendations from the GCR Task Force that will change the shape and function of the Southern Baptist Convention. I encourage you to read the report for your self before you go to the Convention. It is important that you give much prayerful consideration to this before the vote. You can find it at

As I read the Preliminary Report and now the final draft, I am left with mixed feelings but also with a definite conviction.

Mixed feelings because I fear what this could mean to our funding and yet I know in my heart that the need addressed by the GCR is real.

What it could mean to our funding? My association receives the equivalence of a little more than half of the salary and 98% of the insurance for our NAMB appointed Church and Community Missionary position as a result of the Cooperative Agreement the SCBC has with the NAMB. Add to that another several thousand dollars that we receive for each New Church Planted in cooperation with the SCBC. (SCBC New Work Funds are a combination of NAMB and Janie Chapman funds) The disruption of these two income streams represents a large deficit that we would have to make up from our churches if we are to continue the ministries that these funds represent. The GCR recommendations call for a 7-year phase out of the Cooperative Agreements so we would have time to figure out a solution. If the economy remains as is, it will take some effort to do this. If the economy comes back, it would not be as difficult. In either case, our churches will need to determine if these funds are necessary and worth the extra support to the Association it will require from them. At the same time, our churches will be considering their increased support of the local missions of the Association they will also be pulled in the direction of increasing their gifts to the Cooperative Program. Leaving us between that “rock and hard place”!

I have heard discussions about the need for the SC State Convention to down size so it can pick up the funding for the 20 or so Missionary positions in SC funded by NAMB. That will be difficult to do. Consider this, The GCR recommendations would require SCBC to shrink its share of the CP and increase the amount sent to the national SBC to 50%. That will mean shrinking the already stressed SCBC budget from 19 million to 16 million and then find another ½ million to make up the deficit from the NAMB Cooperative Agreement. Where will this money be found? Some say the SCBC staff is too large. Perhaps it could be leaner, but it has already been downsized considerably over the past few years. Others have pointed out that SC spends far more per capita on its institutions than other Southern States. So perhaps some could be trimmed from our funding to our colleges and the Children’s and Retirement Homes. Yes, and probably they are in a better position to find funds from fees and gifts that could make up the difference, but do you think the alumni and constituents of these worthy institutions are going to let that happen? I doubt it!

So, we are left with some very hard choices! Fund the Great Commission in the Pioneer and Metropolitan areas of North America at the expense of Great Commission work in the more established Southern States or find more funds so that more can be done without eliminating or downsizing these established ministries? Either way we will be called on to make greater sacrifices than we are comfortable with!

And yet, I am convinced that the need that the GCR is trying to address is very real and must some how be addressed!!! I agree that we must become more intentional about funding the IMB, we must become more practical and strategic in reaching North America, and we must call our church members and churches and associations and conventions to a greater focus on the Great Commission in these last days! Most of all, and I say this with fear and trembling, we must not remain as we are!

As fearful as I am of the impact to our funding that this GCR Recommendation may mean, I am much more afraid of what will happen if my denomination chooses to maintain the status quo. We live in an age that requires a Great Commission vision that calls each of us to a greater sacrifice than we have ever known before! I can proudly say that the SBC has been the brightest mission minded denomination in the Modern age! But we now live in a Post-Modern age that requires denominations to be leaner and more intentional about multiplying the Kingdom! God help us if we choose modern maintenance over a post-modern mission!

Mike O'Dell, Director of Missions
York Baptist Association
Rock Hill, SC

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The GCRTF and the SBC Partnership Model

Recently the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) released their initial report. Among other things, it called for dramatic changes in the funding and structure of state conventions and NAMB, including the elimination of the long-standing cooperative agreements between the two entities. My discussion here is not to debate the spiritual reputations of the men and women of the GCR Task Force. They are all talented brothers and sisters in Christ. However, their reputations are not going to be on the floor of the convention in June. It will be the six actual recommendations of their report and the long-term ramifications that will result if adopted.

The Bible tells us to thoroughly evaluate our plans before implementation. Before drastic changes are made, it is helpful to assess the current structure in a realistic manner. Our current SBC Partnership Model, which is the state and national convention, association, and the local sponsoring church working cooperatively together to plant new churches, should be evaluated carefully before hitting the reset switch.

Evaluating Effectiveness
In the secular world, an Industry Standard is the optimum criteria for any industry to measure effectiveness within the respective field of production. When evaluating any missional structure one of the critical questions that must be answered is, “What structures are you measuring it against?

For example, take the Ford Motor Company. Ford does not expect 100% of the population to drive their cars. Rather, performance is measured in how well it does in comparison to, say, Honda in terms of market share. If Ford were outperforming every other car company, it would be unwise to throw out their overall management plan. Improve yes, overhaul no.

It is, alas, unrealistic to expect that any agency will be “100% efficient.” To seek to “do more” without knowing the current levels of effectiveness will end in frustration. Undefined performance standards are unachievable and wastes resources (i.e. unending reorganizations) that should be invested in ministry needs. What is our “Ministry Standard” to measure our current effectiveness?

To what other ministry structures were our SBC missional efforts compared? If the GCR Task Force did any comparisons, they were not in the report.

Benchmarking Effectiveness through California Church Growth, 2000-2008
The American Church Research Project (, led by David T. Olson organized statistical reports from 305,000 congregations by state and county. This research allows us to compare the effectiveness of the SBC Partnership Model against ALL other Christian and Catholic church starting ministries in California for years 2000-2008. This data allows us to move beyond inspirational challenges to numerical measurements of ministry performance. Is the current SBC Partnership Model effective in California? This is key because many SBC churches across the country support this work as they contribute to the Cooperative Program. Are their resources well spent?
Unfortunately, church planting is falling behind the tremendous population growth of California; however, evangelical churches (this includes SBC churches) are the only group in growth mode. How many churches did the SBC model plant during this time period? According to the CSBC, statistical data 1,155 SBC churches were planted between the years 2000-2008. CSBC reports an 80% success rate in its overall church planting efforts. This means that the current SBC model is producing 96% of all church starting efforts in the California evangelical world! Even with its flaws, our current model dominates the church planting structure in California. Every SBC pastor should stand up and applaud this work of God!

If we want to do more to penetrate the darkness in California, I would argue that the last thing that should be done is to start a massive overhaul of this amazing model of partnership. That will take over a decade and cost millions. Invest heavily in what is working right now, the Cooperative Program and the local Baptist association!
The current SBC Partnership Model is highly effective and it is difficult to see what could be gained for the Great Commission in engaging in a complex reorganization of resources. Can we improve? Always! But, those who are calling for SBC structures to produce “more” should provide other efficient ministry models (with data) for Southern Baptists to carefully consider.

Dr. Mike Stewart, Director of Missions
Central Coast Baptist Associations (CCBA)
San Jose, CA
(CCBA is 100% funded by its own ministries.
CSBC and all other SBC ministries are valued partners of the CCBA.
The views expressed here are his and not necessarily those of the churches of the CCBA.)