By: Danny Akin & Steve McKinion
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has proposed the adoption of eight Core Values. We wrote about why we believe the first six of those are important in earlier posts. In this article we want to demonstrate why the final 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 7: Local Church. We believe the local church is given the authority, power, and responsibility to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world
The Southern Baptist Convention is a voluntary association of more than 40,000 local churches dedicated to cooperating for the sake of 1) world missions and 2) the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The agencies of the convention are shared ministries of those local churches created to fulfill these two mandates.
Part of a Great Commission Resurgence in the convention means acknowledging that the agencies of the convention are to be conduits for the churches to accomplish the Great Commission. The seminaries, boards, and other agencies do not exist to do the churches’ work; rather, they exist to be the means by which the churches do their work. Southern Baptist seminaries, for example, do not provide theological education for churches’ pastors and missionaries. Instead, seminaries are a particular means by which the churches educate their pastors and missionaries.
The associational pattern of theological education and missions sending is a genius concept in which the churches fulfill their mission through cooperation and shared resources, both financial and otherwise. We agree that we as Southern Baptists must value the role of the local church in the Great Commission and not attempt to supplant it with a para-church-like system of agencies in interdependent relationship with the local churches. The IMB has neither the authority nor the responsibility to send missionaries. Local churches send missionaries. The IMB is the vehicle the local churches employ to get them on the field. We believe this point is often lost and misunderstood.
Southern Baptist churches must recognize their responsibility in the Great Commission. In the Great Commission found in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 24:44ff), Jesus describes a time when his disciples would be empowered by the Spirit, after which they would proclaim redemption and the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. This is the final marching orders given to the church by its commander-in-chief.
That promise, which Jesus says was actually made in the Old Testament, was fulfilled in Acts 2, when those disciples in Jerusalem were filled with the Spirit and began to be witnesses to the Gospel. Local churches are the gathering of Christ’s followers who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim salvation to the nations. That proclamation began in Jerusalem in Acts 2, and now continues all around the world. Our churches are the gospel-preaching, Spirit-empowered communities Jesus promised would be the means by which God makes a people for Himself from all nations.
Value 8: Kingdom. We join other Christ-followers for the Gospel, the Kingdom of Christ, and the glory of God
For Southern Baptists to be Great Commission Christians we must recognize our partners in other evangelical denominations and associations who share our core theological convictions and are likewise committed to the proclamation of the Gospel to the nations. We value other Great Commission Christians as participants in the single mission of God to make a people for Himself.
Our partnership with other evangelicals does not in any way diminish the importance of our doctrinal distinctives or our voluntary association as Southern Baptists. As committed as we must remain to those principles and practices that make us Southern Baptist, we must likewise be committed to the notion that the Kingdom of Christ, which is not of this world, is greater than our own Convention.
While we work together with Southern Baptists to plant Southern Baptist churches, we join other Great Commission Christians in proclaiming the Gospel. We hold to our distinctives with tenacity in ecclesiological dealings, but recognize and value the work of other Christians in fulfilling the Great Commission. While international ecumenism seeks unity through the abandonment of theological and practice distinctives, we believe greater Christian unity is achieved through commitment to the Gospel. We value what it means to be Southern Baptists, but agree with the Task Force that other evangelicals are participants in the Great Commission as well. We therefore want to join them in this effort, not by lessening our commitment to being Southern Baptist, but by partnering with these other Christians in the work of the Gospel.
The eight Core Values that the GCR Task Force has proposed for the Southern Baptist Convention to embrace express to the boards and agencies of the convention, to the churches that comprise the convention, to the state conventions and local associations, and to our Great Commission partners our firm and abiding commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Such Gospel-centeredness in our mission, our structure, and our funding will reveal our unequivocal commitment to the Great Commission. We encourage Southern Baptists to embrace these Core Values for the sake of the Gospel.