Why We Believe the GCRTF Report is Good for the Future of the SBC (2b): Making Our Values Transparent (Unity, Relationships)
By: Danny Akin and Steve McKinion
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has proposed the adoption of eight Core Values. We wrote about why we believe the first two of those are important in an earlier post. In this article we want to demonstrate why the next two Core Values are key to ensuring that the agencies and institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention will be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Value 3: Unity. We work together in love for the sake of the Gospel
Southern Baptist churches have chosen to cooperate with one another through our common agencies and institutions. For example, rather than expecting each individual congregation to raise the funds to send and support families on the mission field, we pool our resources and direct the International Mission Board to coordinate getting our churches’ missionaries to the field. The IMB does not send missionaries; they appoint the missionaries that our churches send. In that way, our structure is associational: we have organized ourselves into and around an associational unity.
But unity in our structure is simply not enough. The demonstration of our love for Jesus – and more importantly His love for us and for the world – is our love for one another (John 13:35). Pooling our resources in our voluntary association is not a sufficient demonstration of the transforming power of the Gospel. It is only when our common effort is rooted in love of God and love of neighbor that we will be living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, unity is more than simple agreement or cooperation. Unity is working together in genuine and authentic love for one another for the sake of the Gospel.
This love for one another is the motivating factor in our work, and the glue that holds our cooperative arrangement together. If we do not love one another, there is no trust. We can only truly cooperate as partners in the Gospel when we love God and love each other. Our willingness to act deferentially and selflessly is itself a work of love. Speaking of his own substitutionary death, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
And the Gospel itself is the greatest demonstration of God’s love. Romans 5:8 reminds us, “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” To act unlovingly toward one another is to distract from the Gospel and call others to question its veracity. We agree with the Task Force that only by working together in love can we really be partners in the work of the Gospel. It is that same love that motivates us to proclaim the Gospel to the nations. If the Gospel is the message of God’s love in sending His Son to die and be raised from the death for our salvation, then we are hypocrites to preach it without practicing it.
Moreover, sniping at other Southern Baptists, misrepresenting their opinions, and refusing to listen carefully to their concerns are not examples of loving behavior. First Corinthians 13 – the famous “love chapter” – describes a much different type of relationship than that. As 1 John 3:10 tells us, “the one who does not love his brother” is not of God.
Value 4: Relationships. We consider others more important than ourselves
Genuine and authentic love for one another will lead Southern Baptists to deferential and selfless living. Having been transformed by the Gospel we have abandoned ourselves wholly and completely to the mission of God in Jesus Christ. Our single purpose as Southern Baptists is to partner in that mission. That partnership requires that we strive for the best interests of others. In painting the picture of Christ’s work on our behalf, the Bible implores us to have the same selfless attitude that Christ had: he lowered himself to our condition in order to raise us to new life (Philippians 2:1-11).
Gospel-centered, missional living for the Christian means abandoning self. For Southern Baptists our relationships must be characterized by the same attitude of selflessness that puts to mission of God in the salvation of the nations (the Gospel) above our own interests. Our cooperative relationships seen in our structure, or priorities, and our giving patterns should reflect this deference. Where we as Southern Baptists find ourselves committed to giving away more of our finances, for example, to fund our common work in underserved areas, we are demonstrating this deference.
Southern Baptist churches in the South spend more than a little bit of money. Authentic selflessness would demand of us that we give more of our collective resources to fund work in those areas where the resources are fewer. Do we love those Southern Baptists who labor in underserved areas of North America? Do we love those who labor internationally? Even more importantly do we love those among whom these laborers serve? If so, then we should demonstrate that love through selfless and deferential giving, spending our pooled resources consistent with that love.
Just this week a pastor shared a sad and unfortunate encounter he had with a member of his church. He told me there are a number of employees of the state convention in his church. Recently one of them came to him and asked what he thought about the GCR. He told her he was voting yes because it means more money going to people who have no Gospel presence/access. Her response, “Well, what about my job? And, I also have a family member who works for a state convention and he will lose his job too!” I responded to her by humbly but honestly saying, “I have gladly taken a cut in my salary so that we could specifically send money to the IMB. I would rather lose my job than for people to lose a chance to hear about a wondrous Savior.” She responded, “I so disagree.” And she walked away.
There are a number of ways to respond to this. Suffice it that we say this. If it costs us to get the gospel to the underserved and unreached, then so be it. We can find another job if necessary. They have no hope of another gospel. We give so others may go. We sacrifice that the nations might be saved! We, as devoted followers of Jesus, must consider others more important than ourselves.