GCRTF Report Challenges to all Southern Baptists (1): Introduction
By: Danny Akin & Bruce Riley Ashford
[Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of an eight-part series commenting on the GCRTF’s “Challenges Addressed to All Southern Baptists.” In the series, we will address individually the GCRTF’s challenges to individual Christians and families, to local churches and pastors, to local associations and state conventions, to LifeWay, Guidestone, and the ERLC, and to all Southern Baptist leaders. We believe the GCRTF Report is a critically important and historically significant step, and pray that the Convention adopts it as a step on the way toward a Great Commission Resurgence.]
Through four centuries of history, Baptists have displayed a remarkable continuity in doctrine and practice. With historic Christianity, we have confessed that God is Triune, that his Son is fully God and fully Man, that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that the Scriptures are the Word of God written in the words of men. In addition, however, we have held that the church is regenerate in its membership, autonomous under the headship and Lordship of Christ, and free from state control. These last three distinctives relate to the doctrine of the church. Baptists have always been serious about the Church and specifically about the local church. It is through his churches that Christ disciples his children, directs his mission to the lost, demonstrates his glory to a watching world, and extends his kingdom.
What does this mean for the Southern Baptist Convention? It means that we ensure that our network of cooperating churches are continually having primary and formative influence on the Conventions’ mission in general, and on her local associations, state conventions, and entities in particular. The SBC was formed as a network of local churches who partnered together for the sake of mission. In the last 50 years, however, she has become more and more of a denominational bureaucracy, with her associations, conventions, and entities taking on lives of their own. We must help return her to her roots. The SBC of the twenty-first century must be a missional network, just as the churches of Acts were a missional network. Our focus must be the gospel, and our means of cooperation must be primarily “churches partnering for the sake of mission.” Thom Rainer has urged our churches to simplify and streamline so as to maximize their effectiveness, and we think that this applies to our convention as well. The roadmap for revisioning the SBC and her associations, conventions, and entities will always involve two ideas: local church and missional cooperation.
This part of our series, is a commentary on the GCRTF’s “Challenges Addressed to All Southern Baptists,” which calls Southern Baptists and SBC churches to remain vigilant in their missional cooperation, particularly in regard to SBC associations, conventions, and entities. Danny Akin continues his general editorship over the series and partners with other authors in addressing the final section of the GCRTF report. He joins Alvin Reid concerning challenges for individual Christians and families; Steve McKinion and Jon Akin about challenges for local churches and pastors; Nathan Finn about challenges for local associations and state conventions; Ryan Hutchinson about challenges for LifeWay, Guidestone, and the ERLC; Bruce Ashford about the challenges for seminaries; and finally, Nathan Akin about challenges for all Southern Baptist leaders.
The great crisis of the SBC in the late 20th century was that biblical revelation itself was being attacked. We met that challenge and will continue to do so. The challenge of the 21st century is not only to hold the ground won in the Conservative Resurgence, but to foster a Great Commission Resurgence. Evangelical Baptist theology goes hand-in-hand with mission. Evangelical Baptist history is inextricably intertwined with mission. There is an inherent theological and historical connection between being Baptist and being missional. If this connection is severed, we lose God’s blessing and its attendant spiritual power. If this connection is strengthened, we receive God’s blessing and its attendant spiritual vitality. We want Southern Baptists to be on mission with God. By His grace and for His glory, we pray it will happen!