Myth #6: Many members of the GCRTF are fundamentally opposed to the work of local associations and state conventions.

The GCR has always been about energizing and mobilizing Southern Baptists to get the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world and the underserved regions of North America, and to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible. Nothing more and nothing less is the goal and agenda of this movement. If something stands in the way or hinders this then it needs to change or be set aside as unhelpful and unnecessary to our obedience in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Our world is changing and it is changing rapidly. It is a herculean effort for all of us to keep up. However, if Southern Baptists are going to be useful to God for the future advancement of His kingdom we will have to change. Again, business as usual is not working and it has not been working for a long time. A changeless gospel for an ever changing world must be a fundamental principle that guides our convention of churches if we are to have a viable future in God’s glorious plan to bring the nations to the throne of the Lamb (Rev 7:9-17).

The members of the GCRTF want to be helpful not harmful to our associations and state conventions. We want to serve them. Further, we recognize that we cannot direct them to do anything. Our polity is clear. We can make suggestions that we believe would be helpful to them that we would hope that they would give prayerful consideration. I suspect that we may do something like this. How they respond will be their decision.

The bottom-line is our local associations and state conventions do many good things. The more important and crucial question for them, as well as all our national agencies and entities is, “are we doing the best things for the advancement of the gospel and the evangelization of the nations? All of us, and again I reiterate all of us, must (we should!) be willing to ask hard questions that our churches, with a growing chorus, are demanding we ask. After all, we serve them, they do not serve us.

The GCRTF is not the enemy of our associations, state conventions or national agencies. I believe we are their friend. And, sometimes friends say hard or tough things to their friends because they love them and are concerned for their welfare. This is our heart for all entities of our convention. We want them to have a significant future. We want them to excel for the glory of God. We want them to experience their best days in the future for the advancement of the gospel and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.

Will that require all of us asking hard questions? Yes. Will that require us making hard but necessary decision? Yes. Will that require us saying no to some good things that we might say yes to the best things? Yes. Does that mean the future shape, ministries and priorities for many of us will have to change? Almost certainly. The time is right for Southern Baptists to move from good to great, from good to better and best.

Our Task Force believes we really have no other option. From what we are hearing across our Convention, so do most Southern Baptists. It is clear that is what 95% of our people thought in Louisville. Our pledge is to respond as best we can to what our people have asked us to do. Our prayer is we will be joining hands across the whole spectrum of SBC life to see great things come to pass for the glory of God and the good of the nations. On this I believe we can all shout “Amen!”

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  11Comments

  1. Pastor Jim   •  

    Maybe I wasn’t reading as clearly as I should have, but this article did not seem to refute the stated myth.

  2. Les Puryear   •  

    Brother Danny,

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but I believe 95% of the people in Louisville voted to have our structure evaluated. Since your axioms were never presented to the messengers I don’t believe one could say they voted to endorse your axioms as you seem to imply by your statement that “it is clear that is what 95% of our people thought in Louisville.”

    Yes, you have a mandate to investigate. It remains to be seen whether or not you will have a mandate to actually do anything.

    Kindest regards,

    Les Puryear

  3. Louis   •  

    I believe that regardless of what the GCR task force recommends that the continued viability and strength of local associations and state conventions will rest on how valuable they are to helping the individual churches accomplish their mission. That is the test of all denominational affiliations – local, state or national.

    With respect to the local associations and the state conventions, churches should be free to participate or not to participate, and to give directly to Nashville (to a common fund, not designated gifts), if that is what they feel led to do. If a church wants to give 80% of its offerings to the local association and state convention, it should be able to do that, too.

    Churches that give generously to and participate in associational and state convention activities should be applauded and encouraged.

    And churches that feel it is best to give to the SBC and bypass the associations and state conventions, in part or in whole, should be applauded and encouraged, as well.

    The autonomy of the local church in its emphases and budget decisions should be respected. Force and guilt should not be the motivators for denominational participation. Love and enthusiasm should be.

    Good luck.

    Louis

  4. Bart Barber   •  

    Dear Dr. Akin,

    I wait expectantly and prayerfully to see what you brothers will devise. I really think that nothing will work better to ease these tensions than for the task force to be ready soon to place specific recommendations before the people of the SBC and give lots and lots of time for the people of the SBC to examine them and grow comfortable with them (if appropriate).

    For example, if the task force is going to recommend that state conventions work toward the 50/50 goal, I think it might calm the waters somewhat to get to the point where you guys can just say so without beating around the bush. Certainly a 50/50 arrangement cannot be characterized as a position dismissive or otherwise in opposition to the work of state conventions-at that level state conventions are still receiving an enormous amount of CP money. And yet, the 50/50 arrangement would also result in an enormous redistribution of monies toward national and international missions.

    So long as you can do no other than speak in vague terms, people are left simply to imagine. Perhaps the task force will enable designated giving to be counted as CP money, all in an effort to allow money to be shifted toward national and international causes? I’m really hopeful (not wild hope, but reasonable hope) that the task force will do no such thing, but you can see how, without specifics before us, people’s imaginations are free to run to such places.

    The best thing that the task force could do today to “dispel myths” in my mind? Announce immediately-today-that the task force makes a solemn promise to the people of the SBC that they will have at least a year to consider the merits of the task force proposals from whenever they are announced. That would take the pressure off of the situation so much. Then you guys could take all the time that you need to put together the very best proposals possible, and you can genuinely encourage people to be patient and refrain from speculation until the task force is finished with its work. For in such a situation, people’s patience would not be coming out of their available time to think about the proposals.

    I continue to pray for you in your medical recovery. Thank you for serving the SBC.

  5. Roger K. Simpson   •  

    Dr Akin:

    You have exposed the nub of the issue: “will that [fulfulling the Great Commission] require saying no to some good things, that we might say yes to the best things?” I agree this is asking a “hard question”.

    Let me translate this in more tangible terms. The states do such things as: operate colleges and universities, run children’s homes, run senior citizens homes, and operate youth camps. They have staff people for various ministries such as — music, evangelism, church planting, women’s ministries, men’s ministries, sunday school, communications [state papers and websites], etc.

    Fleshing out your question in a more explicit and tangible way I see the question as:
    Should states cut back on funding some of these areas — from CP sources — in order to beef up other areas that might be more directly related to the Great Commission? Can some of the states’ operations currently funded by CP funds used be funded instead through endowments and/or user fees and/or scaled back?

    I don’t know the answer to this “hard question”.

    However, I agree with Dr. Barber that whatever recommendations come out of the task force have to vetted for discussion prior to Orlando.

    I think the meeting next week in Dallas with the state execs is an excellent first step in beginning to see how Southern Baptists at all levels — local churches, associations, state conventions, and national SBC agencies — can come together to agree on what is the tangible outworking of the GCR.

    At some point the task force is going to have to shift from “information gathering” to “joining in a conversation”. I believe most of us are ready to participate in the discussion.

  6. Louis   •  

    Dr. Akin:

    Here’s a way to avoid the myth and lots of other pitfalls.

    Just do the investigation, lay out what is going on with state/national giving percentages, and simply recommend that all money given to the SBC ministries budget be counted as cooperative program giving, whether or not it comes through the state.

    If I were on the task force, I would NOT get into recommending percentages. Just tell the truth, and let churches make their choice where to give. If they give to Nashville, it is cp giving.

    Each church can then do whatever they want to do.

    There is nothing that hard about this one.

    Louis

  7. Nathan   •  

    I wish we could dump the local associations. I have never been impressed with them or their long, boring meetings. The meetings, which seem to be their primary function, consist of: roll call, reading of mundane reports about numbers, and the associational missionary fussing to the people who did show up about the people who did not. The old people seem to enjoy it. Maybe that’s why I am 30 years younger than the next youngest person in the room, and I am almost 30 myself. We can kill it now and use the money for real outreach and missions, or wait 20 years and my generation will do it for you guys anyway. My local baptist church ministers locally. The local association is irrelevant in this function.

    Sincerely,

    a frustrated 29 year old (lifelong SBC)

  8. Larry Felkins   •  

    Dr. Akin,

    You have implied that State Conventions and Associations, as a whole, are not very effective nor are they very good financial stewards. I would like to know how involved you are in your state convention. Do hold any office or serve on any board or committee. How long has it been since you attended an association meeting of any kind. When is the last time you had a conversation with you DOM.

    You obviously know very little,if anything about the Alabama Baptist State Convention. If you did you would know that the state staff has been reduced by 20% and staff salary increases have been few and far between over the past several years. In most cases that has been due to an effort to be the best stewards possible and not because of the economy. Giving in Alabama has been very good even in the poor economy.

    I know for a fact you know nothing about my Association. If you did you would be aware that I have been doing MY BEST over these past twelve years to lead the Association to do the kind of things you and the GCR Task Force are calling for. We have been asking the HARD QUESTIONS and making HARD DECISIONS. I have the scars to prove it! I have paid a dear price in my attempt to move the Chilton Association from doing good things to doing the BEST things. And, I am not the only one. I know several others like myself who have fought the good (best) fight and will continue to do so. So, don’t insult us! Don’t lump all state conventions and associations together. And, come on down to Chilton County Alabama where I work and live every day and check it our for yourself. THEN you can judge me and our pastors and churches.

    I am not opposed to the GCR. It can be a good thing. Just don’t lump everybody in the same pile and start making charges. Don’t judge me until you know me and YOU DON’T KNOW ME!

  9. Bruce Ashford   •  

    Larry, I think you would be happy to know that Dr. Akin already does what you’ve encouraged him to do. He doesn’t judge people he doesn’t know, and consistently recognizes (as he did in the blogpost above) that state conventions and local associations do many good things. That actually is the point of the post.

    Further, you’ll be happy to know that he has asked all of the same questions about our own seminary. We are continually asking how we can be more effective in what we are called to do. This is has been positive and constructive.

  10. Larry Felkins   •  

    Bruce, I am glad to hear all that. I guess I am still having a hard time forgetting his original statement in which he accused us of being bloated and bureaucratic. That may be true in some places but not everywhere.

    The Alabama Baptist State Convention, under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Rick Lance, made the decision to tighten its belt and do more with less several years ago. And, it has been a very successful effort. They are indispensable partners with the associations of our state. No other entity in the SBC has the ability (and probably not the desire)to come along-side and support us and our local churches like they do.

    The small churches of the SBC (which are the majority)would suffer greatly without the support and partnership of the local Association. Not to mention that most of them would not have a clue what is going on in the SBC if the association did not keep them informed. Without the encouragment of the association their support of the Cooperative Program and the SBC as a whole would suffer and decline. They know their DOM and at least in Alabama, they know their State Convention staff. But, most of them have never heard of most of the members of the GCRTF.

    Without the partnership of the local association and state convention the the IMB and SBC would loose far more dollars that they may gain if churches bypassed the association and state and sent their missions dollars directly to their favorite SBC entity.

    Please understand that I am not mad. I’m just very concerned.

  11. Bruce Ashford   •  

    Larry, it sounds like you and Rick Lance are good men. I hope to meet you one day. I grew up in a small church (less than 100 attenders) and served on staff in a small church (100-125 attenders). I’ve never served on staff at a large church. Those churche are significant in God’s eyes and the GCR task force has them in mind just as much as larger churches.

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