Great Commission, not 'old wars,' will be focus of GCR task force, chairman says
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP)--Ronnie Floyd knows many Southern Baptists had reservations about the "Great Commission Resurgence" declaration and some are concerned the "Great Commission Task Force" appointed during the annual meeting in June will turn the Southern Baptist Convention structure on its head.
But Floyd, who is chairman of task force, told the Arkansas Baptist News wants to assure Southern Baptists he simply wants everyone to focus on the Great Commission.
"The emphasis ultimately is let's have a Great Commission resurgence -- period," said Floyd, who is pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and The Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers. "I think that's where the group is going to operate. This isn't about anybody being against anybody else. This is about us joining forces to ... effectively serve together as Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission around the world.
"We're not talking about some of the old wars of the past here. We can all get together on the Great Commission," Floyd added. "We are talking about the biblical mandate to take the Gospel to the lost people of this world. That is how we will navigate through this process. We have got to understand we are in a critical and urgent hour, and we cannot sit here and do business as usual and expect change."
The task force will meet twice in August, once Aug. 11-12 in Atlanta, Ga., and then Aug. 26-27 in Rogers, Ark. The Arkansas meeting will be preceded by a luncheon at The Church at Pinnacle Hills for area pastors and staff, laypersons serving on SBC entities and "anyone who wants to come."
"I have asked Dr. Hunt [Johnny Hunt, SBC president] to come in early, and he and I will address these leaders about the GCR and the future of the SBC," Floyd explained. "We will open it up for questions and try to provide an entrée for them to interact with us. ... I want this to be one of our listening sessions and an opportunity to speak to the people about the SBC."
Invitations to the luncheon will be mailed in early August to SBC leaders within a two-hour driving radius of Rogers, including eastern Oklahoma and southern Missouri, but Floyd also said anyone else who wants to attend need only contact his office at (479)751-4523.
Floyd urged every pastor, lay leader and denominational employee to develop "a new fervor" for the Great Commission.
"The Great Commission was given to the church of Jesus Christ, and that's where we must start a resurgence," he said. "Yes, there are things we can do denominationally to better service our churches for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission ... but we have to understand that local church, that pastor, that lay leadership team has got to come up with a new fervor for the Great Commission, beginning locally where God has them," then spreading the Gospel regionally, nationally and across the world.
"Every denominational entity is there for one purpose: to assist those churches to be Great Commission churches," Floyd added. "That's it. ... It's about how local churches can reach the lost, pagan world for Jesus Christ through their churches and together with Southern Baptists through the structures God has given us.
"We can't assume we can keep on doing it the way we've been doing it anywhere," he added. "If you want a different result, we're going to have to do things differently. ... What are those things? I have no idea what they are."
The motivation behind the Conservative Resurgence launched 30 years ago among Southern Baptists was that the SBC would be more evangelistic and more committed to the Great Commission.
"While some of that has gone on in pockets of the country, that has not gone on ... all together as the Southern Baptist Convention," he said.
Floyd said it was a "great question" whether the "Great Commission Resurgence" declaration issued April 27 by Hunt and Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, would give total direction to the task or whether it was just a starting point. The declaration, which is posted at greatcommissionresurgence.com, sparked lengthy discussion of its clarity, tone and content, especially a section that called for restructuring the denomination "at every level." Although messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., voted overwhelmingly in June to appoint the task force, the declaration itself was never presented for discussion and adoption.
"I can honestly tell you I don't know the answer to that right now," Floyd said. "Our group has to decide that. I do believe ... the document served as the catalyst for the motion that received such a high commitment at the SBC. So to minimize the document would not be wise. At the same time, the convention did not vote the document in.... It will have a significant place. But I don't think it will chart everything by any means."
Floyd said no change can be implemented unless messengers vote to approve whatever recommendations emerge from the task force study.
"I would encourage people to come to Orlando [site of the 2010 SBC annual meeting]," he said. "I can't wait to see what it's going to be, because I haven't got a clue. I told the task force on e-mail, 'We're going on a journey.' ... We're headed toward the Great Commission, we just don't know how we're going to get there."
Referring back to the declaration, Floyd said: "The real call in the document was that we would evaluate and examine where we are as a convention, all that we do as a convention, to try to get more dollars, more people, more resources, more everything toward the actual fulfillment of the Great Commission, specifying three important things: pioneer global missions, church planting in North America and theological education, which is building leaders in order to do that very task."
He said a web site will be launched in August to help enlist at least 5,000 prayer volunteers, help people know how to pray for the task force, encourage input and provide updates.
"We're going to ask people to sign their name," Floyd said. "It's going to be interactive. They can get updates on what's going on. They can hear most if not all of those on the task force say what they believe God may be up to in all this, which will help them know how to pray better. They can follow us on Twitter when we get that established."
Floyd said he wants people making a commitment to pray. If 4,000 people signed the document with conviction, "they ought to be praying about it," he said. "Even if you don't like what the document said, you ought to sign up and say, 'I'm going to pray for you guys.' Who knows? God may use the prayer element to begin a movement now."
Floyd urged prayer for the first two meetings.
"We need clarity. We need direction," he said. "We need to know how to get our arms around this process. ... Pray for me. I'm living with this every day. I feel burdened about it every day. Pray for Dr. Hunt.... Go to that web site and commit to pray. If we can't pray, we can forget about the Great Commission."
Floyd wants to ease the minds of state convention and association employees who feel the original document devalued the impact of their ministries.
"We have two state convention directors on the task force, one which is in a new SBC convention out of Texas and the other out of a more traditional, yet innovative convention down in Georgia," he said. "You've got two men there who believe in state convention work and who I am sure will make that voice known. We also have a director of missions from Tampa, Fla.... Those people are certainly going to represent at least some of what [critics] would say."
Floyd said the task force welcomes input, comments and suggestions. He said that although he has been involved in SBC life for a long time, "I don't live there every day. I need to go back to school on some matters. But I'm all ears. They can write me, call me, e-mail me. I want to do what's best.... There is a lot of stuff we do that's good, but is it best? Is it necessary? How much of it really makes the lost and the unchurched and the lost people groups of this world come to faith in Jesus Christ?"
Floyd promised listening sessions would be held in other places as well. He said he plans to encourage task force members as they travel to various engagements to set up listening sessions wherever they go to hear what people have to say.
When it is launched, the web site will include a way to contact the task force, or concerned individuals may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Have a sweet spirit. Submit it with as much clarity as possible," he suggested. "Try not to write us an encyclopedia. Just go straight to the issue and we're going to evaluate it. We've already gotten a few letters. They are going to be shared with our group. The group will decide what is good and what it is we just can't do."
He noted the group will follow procedures and SBC bylaws. Changes in structure or other major changes have to go through a proper procedure. "The SBC bylaws protect the convention from anything radical," he said.
Floyd responded directly to various concerns people have raised regarding the task force agenda:
-- Some have said the objective is to pull Cooperative Program dollars from state conventions to send to the SBC. "Every state convention determines what they send to the national convention," Floyd said. "The national convention doesn't decide that."
-- Some have said it's about merging the North American Mission Board with the International Mission Board. "I have heard that for years," Floyd said. "Is that the purpose of this? I don't think it's the purpose of this at all. The purpose is to find one thing: how we can better serve the Great Commission as Southern Baptists."
-- Others have said the task force is more about reshaping the denomination than about the Great Commission. "I'm committed as chairman to do more for the Great Commission, whatever that is," he said. "There's more lostness in America than ever before -- the diversity, the religious pluralism, ethnicities, completely different than the culture you and I grew up in.... You don't have to go overseas to do the Great Commission, but at the same time, we've got to understand we've got to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth." Floyd also noted the International Mission Board currently lacks funds to send all the missionaries who are ready to go. "That's unprecedented and I would say it is inexcusable," said. "We've got to do something about it."
-- Some have said the task force is stacked with mega-church pastors and not representative. "There are several young pastors on there in their 30s," Floyd explained. "Church size: we have a pastor on there whose church runs 125, one that runs 300. We've added one in the Northeast. His church has grown, but it is an 8-year-old church in the Philadelphia region. We've added another woman." Noting that members are from SBC entities, state conventions, associations and the West, he said, "I think we are quite diverse."
The task force, Floyd said, just wants to "talk about something great. It's the 'Great' Commission."
Charlie Warren is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.