Seminary head calls for Great Commission resurgence, streamlining denomination
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--The lordship of Christ and the centrality of the Gospel in Christian ministry must be the foundation of a Great Commission resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, Daniel Akin declared April 16 in a chapel message at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Akin, the seminary's president, has been spearheading a movement for several months that he hopes will lead to a "Great Commission Resurgence" in the SBC to follow the "Conservative Resurgence" of the 1980s and 1990s. Akin has said the natural outcome of a return to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture in churches should be a renewed commitment to local and world evangelism that leads to partnership in ministry.
Akin opened his message with a reference to Acts 1, when the disciples asked Christ when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. This question, he said, was interesting; but Christ's answer indicated that it was not the important issue of the time.
"Like the disciples, Southern Baptists today run the risk of being distracted from the main thing," Akin said. "Many of the issues we are emphasizing and debating are interesting things, but they are not the most important things. They don't line up well with the priorities we find revealed in Holy Scripture. The result is that we are fractured and factionalizing. We are confused, having lost our spiritual compass."
Akin continued by noting that his agenda for a "Great Commission Resurgence" is positive and forward-looking, emphasizing the key doctrines of the faith that will call SBC churches to radical obedience.
Akin then outlined 12 "axioms of a "Great Commission Resurgence."
Axiom 1: Churches must be committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ in every area. To overlook this, he said, is to miss the point entirely.
"When the world thinks of us, they should think first, 'those are the folks in love with Jesus. They are the people obsessed with Jesus. Those people talk and act and serve and love like Jesus.' Southern Baptists are Jesus people!"
Axiom 2: Gospel-centeredness controls every aspect of any endeavor, for the glory of God. Being Gospel-centered, Akin said, means being grace-centered, loving those who are scorned and rejected by others. It also means that everything Southern Baptists do should proclaim the substitutionary death of Christ and his victorious resurrection.
"Too many of our pulpits have jettisoned the proclamation of the Gospel," he said. "Too many of our people have lost the meaning and therefore the wonder of the Gospel. We must get it right once again if we are to experience a Great Commission Resurgence. No Gospel, no Great Commission Resurgence. It really is that simple."
Axiom 3: Southern Baptists must continue to stand on the firm foundation of the inerrant and infallible Word of God, affirming its sufficiency in all matters.
"Wonderful men of God like Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines spilt their blood and put their ministries on the line because they saw what the poison of liberalism was doing to our Convention and its institution. These men are heroes of the faith and what they did must be honored and never forgotten," he said. "A younger generation of Southern Baptists will eventually face this challenge, and you must not squander away precious theological ground that is absolutely essential to a Great Commission Resurgence."
Axiom 4: The pursuit of the Great Commission must be done in the context of the great commandments of Matthew 22.
"The ultimate motivation for the Great Commission is love of God and a passion to be on mission with him," Akin said. "But flowing out of love for God also will be a genuine love for people, something too many of us have lost somewhere along the way. The results have devastated our witness."
Among other things, the implications of this axiom are that a "Great Commission Resurgence" does not depend on political activism.
"Governmental legislation will not stop the moral plunge of our nation and the world, but the Gospel will," Akin said. "Our hope is not in Republicans or Democrats, Congress or Capitol Hill. Our hope, the world's hope, is in Calvary's hill and a crucified and risen Savior named King Jesus. Love for God and love for our neighbor demands that we not get sidetracked by political machinations."
Axiom 5: Affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a healthy and sufficient guide for building a theological consensus for partnership in the Gospel, and a refusal to be sidetracked by theological agendas that distract churches from the Great Commission. This means celebrating the many areas of agreement, he said.
But it also means that issues like the precise constitution of the human person, the exact nature of congregational church governance, the timing of the rapture and the number of tenets of Calvinism one claims, should not lead Southern Baptists to splinter.
"Our agreement on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is an asset, not a weakness," Akin said. "It is a plus and not a minus. If I were to pen my own confession it would not look exactly like the BF&M 2000. But then I do not want nor do I need people exactly like me in order to work together for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the building of his church."
Axiom 6: A passionate pursuit of the Great Commission's command to go to the United States and all nations, to disciple, baptize and teach. Starting at home, this means racial reconciliation in every Southern Baptist church and a commitment to reach those of every race and social class in their own communities and elsewhere.
"We must pursue a vision for our churches that looks like heaven," Akin said. "Yes, we must go around the world to reach Asians and Europeans, the Africans and the South Americans. But we must also go across the street, down the road and into every corner of our local mission field where God, in grace, has brought the nations to us.
"This means planting authentically Bible/Baptist churches and filling them with authentic followers of Jesus, irrespective of nationality, race, economic or social status. Genuine discipleship is not negotiable."
Axiom 7: A covenant among families to build Gospel-centered homes that see children as a gift from God and as parents' first and primary mission field. Southern Baptists, he said, have bought into cultural lies about the nature of motherhood, the role of fathers and the blessings of children.
"Will you pray for God to call your children and grandchildren into vocational ministry?" Akin asked. "To go to the nations far away and to the hard places as an international missionary? Will you get a Godward perspective for life, for marriage, for family?"
Axiom 8: The need to rethink convention structure and identity to maximize energy and resources for the fulfilling of the Great Commission. Akin recognized that this point may generate some controversy, but he noted that it remains essential.
"We have become bloated and bureaucratic," he said. "It is easier to move some things through the federal government than the Southern Baptist Convention. Overlap and duplication in our associations, state and national conventions is strangling us. We waste time and resources and many are fed up.
"The rally cry of the Conservative Resurgence was, 'We will not give our monies to liberal institutions.' Now the cry of the Great Commission Resurgence is, 'We will not give our money to bloated bureaucracies.'"
Akin called on Southern Baptist leaders to rethink everything they do -- boards, organizations, agencies, structures -- in light of a Great Commission agenda that maximizes cooperation and minimizes bureaucracy in planting churches and getting the Gospel to all people, everywhere.
Axiom 9: The necessity for pastors to be faithful Bible preachers who teach both the content of the Scriptures and the theology embedded in the Scriptures.
"Today I sense a real hunger in a younger generation for strong Bible teaching and Christian theology," Akin said. "That is a wonderfully positive sign. With the waning of a cultural Christianity that cannot survey the attacks of a sophisticated and growing secularism, only faithful teaching of the Bible will equip 21st century believers to stand strong as defenders of the faith once for all delivered to the saints."
Axiom 10: The need to encourage pastors to see themselves as the head of a Gospel missions agency who will lead the way in calling out the called for international assignments and also equip and train all their people to see themselves as missionaries for Jesus regardless of where they live.
"Our churches do not exist to serve the Southern Baptist Convention," Akin said. "The Southern Baptist Convention at all levels exists to serve the churches, end of discussion. The local church is to be ground zero for the mission of God. Here is the 'spiritual outpost' for the invasion of enemy territory as we reclaim lost ground for its rightful owner, King Jesus. A new vision that I pray will grip the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention is, "every church a church planting church.'"
Axiom 11: A renewed cooperation that is Gospel-centered and built around a biblical and theological core and not methodological consensus or agreement. Among other things, this recognizes the need for different methods and strategies in different contexts.
"Cultivating the mind of a missionary we will ask, 'What is the best way to reach with the Gospel the people I live amongst?'" Akin said. "Waycross, Georgia, will look different than Las Vegas, Nevada. Montgomery, Alabama will look different than Portland, Oregon. Boston will be different than Dallas. Memphis will have a different strategy than Miami. Various ethnic believers and social/cultural tribes will worship the same God, adore the same Jesus, believe the same Bible and preach the same Gospel. However, they may meet in different kinds of structure, wear different kinds of clothes, sing different kinds of songs and engage in different kinds of ministries."
Axiom 12: The need for churches and believers in those churches to "accept our constant need to humble ourselves and repent of pride, arrogance, jealousy, hatred, contentions, lying, selfish ambitions, laziness, complacency, idolatries and other sins of the flesh; pleading with our Lord to do what only He can do in us and through us and all for his glory."
Akin said this means those younger leaders need to repent of their pride and refusal to learn from an older and wiser generation. Seasoned veterans of the faith, likewise, need to repent of their arrogance in refusing to let younger men speak and lead in a meaningful way.
"I would submit that there is plenty of sin for all of us to repent of," Akin said.
Akin concluded by noting that God is about to do a mighty work through Southern Baptists in the 21st century.
"We desperately need the heart of Jesus," he said. "We need the eyes of Jesus. If we can get to that, we will have what we need to move forward as a mighty Great Commission army going forth to do battle for the captain of our salvation and the Savior of souls. If not, we will find ourselves on the sidelines playing silly and meaningless games while God's mighty army moves on without us. Brothers and sisters, I have found the army I want to fight with. It's called the church. I have found the Commander-in-Chief I want to serve. His name is Jesus. I have found the enemy I want to destroy. It is Satan, sin, death and hell. Will you join me? There is victory for the taking!"
Jason Hall is director of communications for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Audio and video of Akin's address is available free for viewing and download at www.sebts.edu.