Reflections on the 2010 SBC in Orlando

The record may reveal that the 2010 Convention in Orlando was a historic moment for the churches of the SBC. Only time will tell. From my perspective it was a wonderful Convention as Southern Baptists affirmed overwhelmingly how we wish to chart our future. What were the crucial happenings and their significance at this year’s convention? Let me highlight several.

First, and by far the most important, was the adoption of the GCRTF Report. By a 75%-80% majority vote the report was passed with only a minor amendment, one that I believe actually strengthened recommendation #3 on “Celebrating & Empowering Great Commission Giving.” (For those wishing to read the final report go to ). The adoption of the report was a small but major step in the right direction. I agree with my good friend David Platt. Adopting the report was a small step forward in the right direction. Rejection of the report would have been a giant step backward in the wrong direction. Now we must ALL get about the business of implementing the report from the local church level to our national entities and agencies. I pledge Southeastern’s enthusiastic commitment to see that the report and its recommendations will permeate a campus known already for its Great Commission passion.

Second, Johnny Hunt completed two years of outstanding leadership as our president. History will identify him and his legacy with the GCR. This is most fitting. He was clearly God’s man for this time. It was a joy to work alongside of him, Ronnie Floyd and many other wonderful brothers and sisters on the Task Force. It also was a thrill to announce to our alumni that we have fully endowed the Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching at SEBTS. This will be a wonderful way to honor this man of God until Jesus returns.

Third, strong evidence for the GCR received additional support with the election of Bryant Wright as our new president. That the two men who were strongly pro-GCR were thrown into a runoff is significant. It sends a strong signal where Southern Baptists want to go in terms of what we emphasize and what we support. In the “Axioms of a GCR” message, it was stated that Southern Baptists could come together and would support that which promotes 1) International Missions, 2) Aggressive Church Planting and 3) Healthy Theological Education. Here is a 3-prong vision that transcends generational and methodological differences. Here is a captivating agenda that can lead us into our greatest days as a Great Commission people if God would be so gracious as to allow this to happen and to let us partner with Him in what He is doing in bringing the nations to Himself.

Fourth, Frank Page was elected as the new president of the Executive Committee. The vote was closer than many would like, but Dr. Page accepted the call and has promised to work hard to be a team player and build a healthy consensus. He clearly deserves a chance to do exactly that. He also deserves our prayers as he implements the GCR recommendations at the Executive Committee. He will have both from me.

Fifth, the Resolutions Committee, under the excellent leadership of Russ Moore, brought strong and pointed resolutions which subsequently passed on The Oil Spill in the Gulf, Gospel Centrality, the Scandal of Divorce in the SBC, and Family Worship. Many thanks to Russ and the committee for their superb work.

Sixth, we say goodbye to the long tenured leadership of Morris Chapman and Jerry Rankin. Though I obviously disagree with Dr. Chapman’s opposition to the GCRTF report, I love him and respect his passion for the convictions he holds. I know he only wants what he believes is best for the SBC. I gladly applaud that. Dr. Rankin has become a good friend and encourager, especially since I returned to SEBTS 6 1/2 years ago. He has been a visionary leader at the IMB. I believe he and Bobbye will continue to serve our Convention of churches well as they champion the call of getting the gospel to all the nations.

As we move on from Orlando, we need to pray fervently for the search committees at both the IMB and NAMB. Both need God’s man to lead them in the crucial days before us.

Finally, what lies ahead for Southern Baptists? Of course only our sovereign and omniscient God knows. Will we be seduced by the non-biblical sirens of the emergent church? I do not think so. Will we be divided over the “bogey man” called Calvinism? No. Will we be distracted from our main assignments by differences in worship style, names on church marquees, and other methodological issues that are biblically neutral? Let’s hope not. These are interesting and challenging days to be sure. However, of these things we can be certain:

Jesus is Lord.

The Bible is True.

Salvation is by grace alone thru faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

God is Building His Church.

All the Nations will gather to worship the Lamb.

Our Savior is coming again.

In the end our God wins.

This is more than enough to give me hope. This is more than enough to keep me going until I see my Master face to face and worship at His nail scared feet. What a God we have. What a Gospel we preach. What a family we enjoy. What a Savior we serve!

Funding Great Commission Faithfulness

Over the past three days, Dr. Danny Akin and I have published three blog articles interacting with Morris Chapman’s recent anti-Great Commission Giving white paper. We have adapted our articles into our own white paper titled “Funding Great Commission Faithfulness: A Response to Morris Chapman.” We hope that you find this material helpful as we continue to debate the recommendations of the GCRTF in anticipation of the Orlando Convention next month.

Why We Believe the GCRTF Report is Good for the Future of the SBC (3c): Celebrating and Empowering Great Commission Giving

By Danny Akin and Nathan Finn

Dr. Chapman’s seventh concern with Great Commission Giving is what he calls “the law of unintended consequences.” His concern is that CP budget shortfalls will result if GCG is embraced. SBC ministries would then be forced to raise their own funds like they did in the days before the CP. We have to confess that this is indeed a possibility. But Dr. Chapman makes two key assumptions that we would contest. The first assumption is that Southern Baptists ought to continue doing everything we are currently doing. The GCRTF has suggested that every ministry needs to be examined and some ministries may need to be altered or perhaps even dropped. It is not a question of whether or not all our ministries are good; undoubtedly they are. It is rather a question of whether or not we are investing our resources in the most important things: ministries which aid churches in penetrating lostness.

The second assumption we would challenge is the assumption that CP giving will either remain stable or decrease if Great Commission Giving is adopted. As we have argued, we believe the Cooperative Program will substantially increase if local churches are convinced the CP is the most effective means for them to fund our denominational ministries. We believe this is true regardless of what happens to the GCG proposal. We are firmly convinced that no denominational ministry that is effectively assisting our churches in fulfilling the Great Commission will face any financial shortfalls. Frankly, if a ministry is not doing its part to help us be a Great Commission people, it does not deserve our money. Southern Baptists will rally around the Cooperative Program and every ministry it funds if they are convinced we are more effectively rescuing the perishing among all the peoples of the earth. It is this very concern that leads so many churches at the present time to designate giving directly to individual denominational ministries instead of giving more through the CP.

Dr. Chapman also rehashes the tired argument that our problems are spiritual rather than structural. We strongly disagree with this false dichotomy which has so often been introduced into the debate over the Great Commission Resurgence. The spiritual and the structural are intimately related. Our structural problems reflect our spiritual problems, and our spiritual woes are only exacerbated by our structural shortcomings. Both need to be addressed and both need to be corrected. The GCRTF addresses both in “Penetrating the Lostness.”

Dr. Chapman’s eighth concern is that adequate budget planning will be hindered if the SBC adopts Great Commission Giving. He reasons that since the budgets of the denomination’s ministry are based in large part upon CP allocation, GCG introduces greater uncertainty into the equation. He recounts how the CP allowed Southern Baptists to give generously to New Orleans Seminary, NAMB, and three state conventions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He argues this could not have been done without the budgetary stability provided by the Cooperative Program.

We have already expressed our disagreement with Dr. Chapman’s contention that Great Commission Giving undermines the CP. We believe the CP will become even stronger if the SBC embraces a Great Commission Resurgence. We believe that, for whatever reasons, Dr. Chapman has embraced a doomsday scenario for the CP which colors a number of his concerns, including this one. We prefer to trust our people and the churches to do what they believe is best with their missions money. The fact is the CP will continue to play a central role in budget planning, and some churches will continue to give directly to individual SBC ministries. In other words, what is happening right now will continue to happen. But if the GCRTF recommendations are adopted (and this is a crucial point many seem to be missing), we will recognize only gifts to Southern Baptist ministries, call it Great Commission Giving, and stop criticizing churches who exercise their freedom to determine how their missions money is used.

Dr. Chapman’s final concern is that GCG will lead to a fractured spirit in the SBC because the Cooperative Program will die and Southern Baptists will no longer know how to cooperate. Some entities will go bankrupt and agency heads of financially viable ministries will be tempted to pander to churches that designate high dollars to those ministries. Again, we disagree. Dr. Chapman continues to assume that Great Commission Giving will kill the CP, even though the practice is basically going on right now, albeit by a different name (e.g. “Total Mission Giving”). We continue to believe that the key to a healthy future for the CP is not to bemoan designated giving, but for the CP to make a compelling case that it is the best means of funding our Great Commission priorities. Agency heads already receive contributions from some churches, some of which are substantial. Would Dr. Chapman argue that present agency heads are sycophants who lead their agencies in such a way as to please these churches? We trust he would not.

Dr. Chapman also argues that there will be tensions between pastors who support the CP, state conventions, and associations, and those pastors who do not. We have several questions about this claim. Does Dr. Chapman believe that there are many SBC churches that do not support any of the ministries he mentions, or does he mean they do not support them at the level he thinks is necessary to qualify for authentic cooperation? At what level of CP giving is a church considered unsupportive of the denomination? Does Dr. Chapman believe that every association and state convention is deserving of equal and unquestioned support? For example, does Dr. Chapman believe that churches who cooperate with the Baptist General Convention of Texas should give at the same level to the CP as churches that cooperate with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, even though the former only forwards about 22% to the SBC while the latter passes on over 57%? Does Dr. Chapman believe that churches should give generously to a local association that is unwilling to disfellowship affiliated churches that embrace the homosexual lifestyle or ordain women to pastoral ministry?

This gets to the heart of our disagreement with Dr. Chapman. He seems to imply that the way forward for the SBC is to simply give more money to the Cooperative Program. We want the CP to flourish, but we argue that this will not happen without asking some hard questions about Great Commission stewardship of CP dollars. His position amounts to a tacit endorsement of the status quo. We believe the status quo is unacceptable and will neither sustain the SBC long term nor effectively plant Baptist churches among all the peoples of the earth. He implies the CP is the sine qua non of the SBC. We believe the CP is a fantastic strategy that is almost on life support because of stewardship concerns that many denominational servants are unwilling to address. He suggests more is better. We believe that better is better, and that will lead to more.

As we conclude our posts on this topic, we wish to make crystal clear our wholehearted support of the Cooperative Program. We were both converted and nurtured through the ministries of CP-supporting local churches. We were educated in various CP-funded institutions. We presently serve at a CP-funded theological seminary and have served at other CP-funded ministries in the past. We believe that the Cooperative Program remains the best strategy for Southern Baptists to fund Great Commission ministries. So does the GCRTF. But we also believe the Cooperative Program is not the only strategy for pursuing these ends. We further believe the CP faces an uncertain future, and that the movement known as the Great Commission Resurgence could bring needed renewal to the Cooperative Program and extend its effectiveness for at least another generation. We hope Southern Baptists will not be misled by the bombardment of biased reporting and the misinformation campaign being perpetuated by some denominational servants. It is unfortunate this is happening. It is unfortunate we needed to respond.