Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Wrong End of the Bus

For the past months there has been much discussion concerning the need in Southern Baptist life for a "Great Commission Resurgence". The phrase as such was coined by Dr. Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway. Last Thursday, Dr. Daniel Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached in their chapel service and laid out Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence.” Allow me to first position myself. I am in favor of Southern Baptist experiencing a renewed commitment to winning our world to Jesus. We desperately need to be more effective, more aggressive, and more passionate about winning our world to Jesus.

As I have considered the need for a Great Commission Resurgence, I have come to several conclusions. First, the centerpiece of most of the discussion seems to revolve around a restructuring and or streamlining of the Southern Baptist Convention at large. It would seem to me that this is beginning at the wrong end of our polity. Can you imagine a mechanic who was assigned to work on a large bus that had engine problems and proceeding to make repairs to the rear axle of the bus? Surely, he might do some good but he would not resolve the basic problem that he was responsible to repair.

A Great Commission Resurgence will begin in the heart and life of local churches. I would agree that we can be more efficient with the mission’s dollars that are provided through the sacrificial gifts of God’s people. However, being more efficient will not necessarily create a Great Commission Resurgence. We discovered this when we adopted "A Covenant for a New Century" in 1995. From the perspective of the denomination we need to develop programs and emphases that will assist the church in experiencing genuine renewal and then to develop a deeper commitment to the Great Commission. Only when our local churches become mission stations will we see our evangelistic results turn around.

Second, the Great Commission was not given to the Southern Baptist Convention. The Great Commission was given to local churches (more specifically, to the members of the local church). The Southern Baptist Convention does not exist to fulfill the Great Commission. It exists to assist the churches that comprise the cooperating fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention to fulfill the Great Commission. I believe whole heartedly in the efforts of our Southern Baptist Convention, the Florida Baptist Convention, and the Southwest Florida Baptist Association. The church I pastor has a cooperative relationship with each of these entities. However, it is the task of these bodies to develop programs and strategies that will assist the church I pastor in fulfilling the Great Commission under the leadership of the Lord.

Third, the genius of Southern Baptist life is cooperation. This cooperation is not based in coercion but in common mission, common theology, and common commitment. The spiritual value of this cooperation is fellowship and encouragement. The practical value of this cooperation is training and inspiration. The financial value of this cooperation is the gathering of our mission’s resources under one budget. This allows the church of 10 or less as well as the church of 10,000 or more to participate in the preaching of the gospel in our precious country and around the world. Do I agree with every decision our beloved denomination makes? No! I don’t even always agree with the decisions I make. However, the greater gain of cooperative ministry far outweighs the challenges created when I might disagree. Eighty four years ago God gave Southern Baptists the Cooperative Program as a tool to assist our churches in the fulfilling of the Great Commission. Our cooperative approach to missions support is the envy of every other denomination. I would be concerned with any approach which would de-emphasize cooperative missions support. We do best what we do together.

Again, I affirm the need for a resurgence in winning lost people to Christ. May God give us wisdom as His people and may God give Southern Baptists a renewed commitment that counts no price too great to reach our world with the gospel.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?"

-- David Livingstone


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