(Written on the morning after the report after a sleepless night of prayer and re-reading of the report)
Can I be so wrong? Last night, I heard men of God, whom I admire and respect come and give a report to changes in the way we, as Southern Baptists, should be doing things. Granted, the SBC is not perfect -Jesus Himself is the perfect one; and His Bride is not….. We will be cleansed only in the last days – until that time, wheat and tares grow together. As I reflect back, I think everyone in the Executive Board auditorium had the same goal in mind – Let’s do God’s will in reaching the world the best way we can. But as the report was delivered, I became aware of and saddened by a divide: the divide of “how to”….
Last night, I was expectantly hoping for a report from the Great Commission Task Force that would unite Southern Baptists. Instead, the report brought to mind the second missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, two Godly men who argued over taking John Mark with them. The difference was so great that they went their separate ways. I think I saw, Monday night, a gauntlet thrown down – instead of an olive branch of peace and unity. A bold plan, to be sure: with six components – only half of which I could accept, endorse, and champion.
I saw no humility in the messengers who delivered the report. I sensed no brokenness, although the report was laced with the right words, I felt no spirit of grace, or trust, or humbleness. Such a report should be brought with tears and weeping – not exclamations bordering on anger and resentment.
There was no celebration of anything that Southern Baptists were doing right. No softening of the report with anything in recognition of the achievements we have made as a people who are committed to God, to the expansion of the Kingdom of God, or to one another.
I wanted a Jeremiah and got Elijah. I fear the die has been cast. My prayers, although feeble, were not enough to see what I wanted. So I must question myself once again. Can I be so wrong? God show me where I am wrong. Show me in the depths of my soul, in my mind, in my spirit. Help me to see how I could miss you and your will so completely – For I do not agree with some major things said in the GCR Task Force report.
The report, up unto the second component, I can support. I pray we find our knees and repent of our failures. The right words are said, although my spirit was uneasy – tension in the room was palpable. Component two of the report, however, calls for a reinvention and release of NAMB. This is something that I need to get my head around – dismantling and retooling – decentralized - new emphasis on church planting in new areas. Some of that is palatable – it is not wrong to want to plant new work in areas where vast numbers of lost people live. In fact, it is an admirable goal. But at the expense of what we are doing now? We are talking about the lives of people who are committed to a vision and a strategy and a purpose now. We are talking of the loss of ministries and uprooting of literally thousands of called committed people whose support would vanish in the reinventing of NAMB. We had better be sure we are right before we do this. Much of what the GCR envisions is already being done. I have a problem with dismantling the current structure to fulfill a dream that could wither and die from nonsupport from those who prefer old wine to new wine.
Component 5 is a big problem for me - I do not see how “celebrating designated giving” is going to do anything but reduce support for the CP instead of enhancing it. If I am wrong, then I am wrong and I pray that Lord reveal this also to me – I do appreciate the gifts given to the association, to the state, to other mission causes – but if we put these along side of the CP as equal partners – then we will find that diamond of the CP will be lost in the setting of a host of other jewels – too numerous to count, for everyone has their own favorite mission enterprise. In fact, this is already part of the problem in the loss of CP giving which facilitates what we do as Southern Baptists. We do not need to add more pieces to the pie – just enlarge the pie.
Component 6, on the surface, is symbolic and ground breaking. It is an effort to make a statement that we care about the nations. It is a rallying cry for a newer, younger generation of Southern Baptists. I think this component can be achieved. Do I agree with it? Not sure yet. I have reservations about how without affecting existing ministries. Taking 1% from the “facilitating ministries”” (code word for the EC) will only achieve a part of the 1% of the whole budget. We will have to cut ministry somewhere else to make up the rest.
I am tired of observing a type of Christianity that most Southern Baptists do not live, what I call “Armani” Christianity. I am tired of analyzing things, I am tired of rhetoric. I am tired of statements that we are not getting the job done. I would rather focus on what we are doing rather than what we are not doing. Most Southern Baptists I know who are committed to doing what God would have us to do are constantly looking for the best way to get the job done – I cannot but think it is a presumptive thing to say “We know a better way” after less than a year of study. I do not think the GCR report will have the desired effect that the Task Force wished for among many Southern Baptists, I know it hasn’t with me.
Steve Loggins, Director of Missions
North Jefferson Baptist Association