GCRTF Report Challenges to all Southern Baptists (5): Challenges for LifeWay, ERLC, and Guidestone
By Danny Akin and Ryan Hutchinson
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) has challenged LifeWay, GuideStone Financial Resources, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to never forget their service to the local church. Each one of these ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, whether receiving Cooperative Program (CP) funds or not, all stand in the place as a form of a parachurch ministry to serve the churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Two of the entities, LifeWay and Guidestone, represent that largest financial components of Southern Baptist’s national ministries, and do not receive any CP funds. Total assets for these two organizations combined are approximately $8 billion based on their 2008 financial statements. Therefore, Southern Baptists have made significant commitments to both of these organizations even without the support of CP dollars. While LifeWay & GuideStone represent the largest national ministries, the ERLC represents the smallest financially, but not the smallest as the voice of Southern Baptists to the leaders of our nation.
While Lifeway has many different areas of ministry, the GCRTF focuses on their core efforts of the development of materials for use by the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. The challenges regarding the development of materials do not represent a call to create new avenues of material focus, but the strengthening of what already exists. The challenges focus on materials for Sunday School/Bible Study, growth in personal evangelism, growth in understanding of the Great Commission’s worldwide call, and for Christian schools and homeschoolers. LifeWay has the ability through the materials they develop to greatly impact the biblical and theological knowledge of the people sitting in Southern Baptist churches. One way that LifeWay could enhance these materials is to closely examine the reasons why some Southern Baptists make a conscious decision not to use their materials in these arenas. We all can find testimonials of people that love us, but we can often times learn more from the people that are our detractors.
GuideStone has a unique relationship with Southern Baptists since a vast number of pastors and staff members, both active and retired, have their retirement investments with GuideStone. The GCTRF’s challenge to GuideStone does not focus on better management of funds, the expansion of investment options, or assuredness of competitive insurance programs. Instead the GCRTF challenges GuideStone to engage those receiving retirement benefits to not retire from Great Commission ministry. Too many times after someone’s retirement from a church staff or a denominational post the retiree transitions to “me” or “us” time. It is time to travel, time to see the world, time do the things we always wanted to do but active ministry kept us from accomplishing. It is not that a retired minister shouldn’t be able to do things like travel, but imagine the impact for the Great Commission if the retired minister and his or her mate did not view the event as retirement, but a transition into a new phase of personal ministry. Therefore, the challenge to GuideStone is to utilize their unique access to the retired ministers of the convention to encourage them towards an even stronger personal commitment to the Great Commission both at home and abroad.
The ERLC is challenged to call the people of the convention towards Christlikeness in their interaction with the lost world around us. The challenge also calls for an emphasis on teaching the people in the pew the importance of preserving religious freedom. A belief in and stand for religious freedom is one of the hallmarks of Baptists. Therefore, Baptists should be at the forefront of not just preserving the rights for Southern Baptists to have religious freedom, but for anyone to not experience persecution for or restraint from their personal beliefs regardless of their religion. Through these efforts we can not only support religious freedom, but use the opportunity in standing for others to communicate why salvation through faith in Christ is one’s only hope for the forgiveness of their sins and hope for eternity in Heaven.
The challenges from the GCRTF to LifeWay, GuideStone, and the ERLC are calls for a renewed emphasis on existing efforts. However, it is not just to continue existing efforts, but to serve Southern Baptist by helping them understand the vital role of each and every person in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. These are worthy challenges worth heeding.