On GCR Myths (And Those Who Spread Them)

In recent days Danny Akin and now Ronnie Floyd have addressed what they believe to be myths about the Great Commission Resurgence, or at least the work of the GCR Task Force. A few bloggers and at least one state paper editor have responded. A common theme in these responses is that the blogger or other interlocutor claims he has not heretofore heard of the myth. Some have asked for evidence of the myth in either hard print or in the blogosphere. Presumably if Akin or Floyd cannot (or at least will not) provide such evidence, that calls the existence of the myth into question.

In light of this, I thought I would take my own stab at myth-busting. So here’s the myth: It is always necessary to provide a link to some blogger or other writer when addressing inaccurate interpretations of (fill-in-the-blank). Now don’t misunderstand me. If someone has perpetrated one of the GCR myths in writing, I think it is perfectly appropritate (thought not necessary) for Akin and/or Floyd to link to that myth and debunk it. But that’s just it–nobody is putting these myths into writing, or at least writing that is public in nature.

Each of the myths Akin and Floyd mention are primarily oral myths, “water-cooler” talk, if you will. Or even more accurate, they are “Convention hall” and “email” and “conference calls” and “snail mail” and “lunch meeting” myths. And I’ve heard every single one multiple times from multiple individuals, though I am unaware of a blogger or other writer who has publicly promoted any of them. I suspect this is because if someone did put at least some of the myths in print, they would have their lunch handed to them by folks who know the facts. Those facts can be pesky things, after all–especially among those who overemphasize the value of denominational politics.

The fact that the GCR myths are not on blogs or other print or electronic media doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It simply means nobody is passing the myths along via those particular forms of media. You may be wondering why, if the myths are not in print, Akin and Floyd have responded in print. The answer is simple: people read what these men write. They are widely recognized SBC leaders, and for that reason (among others) their opinions carry weight. They counter the myths in a public way because more people will read their words than will listen to the myth-mongers. And that’s what matters.

I think it is perfectly legitimate for anyone to engage Akin and Floyd, even in criticism. Their ideas are out there for public consumption, and the public should feel free to consume. If you think the GCRTF meetings should be open to the public, then by all means, state your opinion on the matter. But the demand for written evidence when almost everyone knows that none exists rings hollow, and I suspect most readers see right through it. We all know the myths are out there, and we all know they are being spread like most gossip and innuendo is spread–by word of mouth, lest there be a paper trail.

I sincerely hope that one day some folks in the SBC will look back and regret that they were complicit in myth-mongering and other types of “cloak-and-dagger” tactics like character assassination, spurious interpretations of Baptist history, misuse of authority, and misrepresentation of the opinions, actions, or priorities of others. I believe this type of stuff is the single biggest reason so many have left the SBC or on the verge of doing so. And I don’t blame them.

I am very thankful for success of the Conservative Resurgence. I am hopeful for the success of the Great Commission Resurgence. But I hope and pray we can also experience a Great Commandment Resurgence in the way we interact with one another. (I know I read the term “Great Commandment Resurgence” on a blog somewhere, but on whose blog I can’t recall.) If we don’t, it really doesn’t matter which of the competing visions for the SBC wins out at the end of the day, because we will have forfeited our right to be a meaningful part of all that God is doing to redeem a lost world unto himself through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Myths Concerning the GCRTF: A Postscript

In June at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, I had a conversation with my father in the ministry and hero in the faith. That man is Dr. Paige Patterson. My love for this man cannot be measured in human words. My gratitude for his investment in my life is impossible for me to express. Now, I know he does not always agree with me, but I have never doubted he loves me and wants God’s best for me. That is why I am always ready for him to speak into my life. That is why I am always eager to hear what he says and to know what he thinks on almost any issue.

As we were talking about the SBC and the GCR Declaration that had gained more than 4,000 signatures he asked me, “Danny, what do you see as the end game in all of this? What is it that you personally hope to see come to pass?” My response was quick and simple. I said, “Dr. Patterson, it is about what you taught me when I was your student at Criswell College in the late 1970’s and the Conservative Resurgence was just getting started. It is about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 6 plus billion people on planet earth.”

He then said, “Is that it?” I responded, “that’s it.” He then inquired if I had a strategy for all of this and I responded with one word: “no.” I went on to say I am not smart enough to come up with anything like that. I did say that I believed there were men and women in the SBC who could help us get there, and that I prayed that if Southern Baptists authorized brother Johnny Hunt to appoint a GCRTF they could lead us in getting there.

That is what the GCR is all about. This is what the GCRTF hopes and prays God will do. He will have to because even with many smart people on the TF we are not smart enough, wise enough, or gifted enough to make it happen. God will do it or it will not come to pass.

There are challenges to be sure. None is more obvious than the distrust and infighting that characterizes too much of Southern Baptists life at the present time. This must stop or we are going nowhere.

The greatest man I believe I ever met was Adrian Rogers. In God’s goodness we developed a very sweet friendship over the years. The last time I was with him we had lunch together in Memphis. Six months later he would step into eternity into the presence of his King and Savior whom he loved so dearly and served so faithfully. As we talked about the SBC he expressed concerns and disappointments at where we were following the Conservative Resurgence. I shared my agreement with his assessment and then asked what he saw as the problem. I will never forget what he said.

Dr. Rogers said the problem was we were no longer on the battlefield fighting shoulder to shoulder the real enemies of sin, Satan, death and hell. Rather, we were back in the barracks standing face to face and fighting one another. We were now squabbling and arguing over things that would matter little if we were out on the battlefield engaging the real enemy as we fought for the souls of men across North America and around the world. Dr. Rogers always had a heart for the unreached peoples of the world. Dr. Rogers said we needed to get back on the battlefield and recognize we are one mighty army, all on the same side, serving under our commander-in-chief King Jesus. What a timely word for Southern Baptists in 2009!

This concludes the “myth series.” It is my hope that they have been helpful in clarifying and making more clear the work of the GCRTF. Feel free to attribute any lingering fog to my shortcomings and inability to communicate well. The responses I have received from so many do encourage me that the time and effort put into all of this was worth the investment.

One more time the bottom-line is simply this: the nations need to hear the gospel. Without it they are eternally lost. We have the gospel and God has graced us with the personnel and resources to get the good news of Jesus to them. The question we all must ask and answer is this: what will I do to see this happen? Let’s not live wasted lives. Let’s not be a wasted Convention of churches. Jesus deserves better. Those who have never heard the gospel deserve better. I believe, by God’s grace, we can step up and be better. Dear Lord, please make it happen!

Myth #8: The GCRTF plans to abolish NAMB or dissolve it into the IMB.

To be fair it is easy to see how this myth has arisen. In fact it only constitutes as a myth as it relates to the current work of the GCRTF. Beyond that, as far as it being an item of intense discussion and interest, it is anything but a myth!

In the “Axioms message” I raised the question of some possible mergers (I was not specific) to increase efficiency and avoid duplication. Tim Patterson, chairman of NAMB’s board of trustees, spoke publicly to this issue. Perhaps no SBC entity has been the source of more confusion, conversation and criticism than NAMB over the past 15 years. There are many reasons for this. Some are probably justified and others most certainly are not. Still, no area of Southern Baptist life has generated more talk and more frustration than NAMB with its multitude of ministry assignments, inter-connected relationship with state conventions, and revolving door leadership at the highest level. So, what are we to make of all of this as it relates to myth #8 and the work of the GCRTF?

First, there are some very smart and godly people looking at the work of the IMB and NAMB both on and off the GCRTF. The fact is the TF has asked for and continues to ask for input as it relates to our mission boards. We welcome suggestions from anyone, including those reading this article.

Second, the TF has made no decisions about recommendations regarding the IMB and NAMB. We are still in the investigation and conversation stage. We still have much work to do, even if it has to be done in all too short a period of time.

Third, we do believe that the IMB and NAMB can work better with each other in the future given the rapid changes taking place around the world and in our nation, especially as it relates to the increasing mobilizations of people groups.

Fourth, I have no idea where the Convention will go in this particular area, but I pray that good godly people who have wisdom and insight in this particular area will lead us to a plan that will result in a great movement that will usher us into our greatest days ever as a convention of churches for reaching all nations with the gospel both at home and around the world. I have heard that “money follows vision.” I believe that is true. I also believe “action follows vision.” Southern Baptists desperately need a compelling vision that will inspire us and move us to give more and go more, to sacrifice more and serve more. We should do all of this not out of guilt, but out of gratitude for a great Savior and a glorious salvation.

If this involves minor adjustments that will bring this to pass then wonderful. However, if this requires major changes that are sweeping and comprehensive then it is my prayer God will give us the courage to make those changes. Again, the non-negoitable for me is that we get the gospel to the 1.6 billion who have never heard the name of Jesus and that we get the gospel to the massive population centers of North America that are underserved and underreached. How we get there does not matter to me. That we do get there does.