Task force report includes 'challenges'
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--They're called "challenges" in the final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
They encompass nine pages in the report, apart from seven GCRTF recommendations to be presented to the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 15-16 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
A new "missional vision" for the Southern Baptist Convention is proposed in the first GCRTF recommendation reflecting the Great Commission of Christ as recounted in Matthew 28. Eight "core values," such as Christ-likeness and truth, are proposed in the second recommendation. The other five recommendations propose various structural changes to the SBC.
The report also includes a 1,700-word section on the GCRTF's assessment of the urgent need for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists and what they feel it will take to spark such a spiritual renewal.
The GCRTF report asks: What will it take to see a Great Commission Resurgence launched? The answer, it suggests, lies in "a Great Commission theology" and "a renewed commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of missions and evangelism, the message that is found only in Jesus Christ and His atoning death for sinners."
A Great Commission Resurgence also depends on local churches catching "a new missional vision ... to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations" and on Southern Baptist entities at every level of denominational life acknowledging they exist solely "to serve our churches in this missional vision." The "primacy and centrality of the local church in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention" must be affirmed, but each church "must accept the responsibility to reach their village, community, town, or city with the good news of Jesus Christ," the report says.
"Every pastor must be a missionary strategist, and every church must be a missionary sending center," the report says. "Every congregation exists to replicate itself and to plant other Gospel churches."
A Great Commission Resurgence can only happen as God's spirit moves among His people, the GCRFT acknowledges. At the same time, however, "our Lord has given this assignment to His church, and we are commanded to get to this work. The Great Commission is a command, not a suggestion."
The nine-page challenge section encompasses 10 different groupings, from individual Christians, to churches and pastors, local Baptist associations and state Baptist conventions, various SBC entities and SBC leaders.
The GCRTF, in an explanatory note regarding the challenges, states, "We hold to an ecclesiology that honors and affirms both autonomy and cooperation. The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is well aware of this, and we realize that we cannot direct individual Christians, local churches, associations or state conventions to take any particular or specific action. This is as it should be. However, our doctrine of the church does not prevent us from challenging and encouraging, admonishing and advising, one another at all levels of SBC life for greater passion and effectiveness in pursuing the Great Commission. We are a convention of churches with a missional vision to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. With all of this in mind, we wish to put forth the following as challenges for the future of the SBC that we might bring greater glory to the Lord Jesus as we seek to disciple all nations in the fulfillment of Matthew 28:18-20."
The full list of categories and challenges follows:
Challenges for Individual Christians
* Return to God in deep repentance of and brokenness over sin, denying self, and coming to God with complete humility.
* Commit to the total and absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of your life, understanding that Christ's lordship is inseparable from all aspects of the believer's life, including family obligations, business and profession, and recreational or leisure pursuits. We especially call on men to respond to this challenge.
* Devote yourself to a radical pursuit of the Great Commission in the context of obeying the Great Commandments of loving God and loving others.
* Participate in a local church sponsored evangelism training class sometime during 2011 and make this a regular component of the discipleship process in your life.
* Develop strategies as an individual for praying for, serving, sharing the gospel and discipling neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom you come into regular contact.
* Bear witness to the Gospel through personal evangelism, seeing every individual as a sinner in need of the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone.
* Participate in a North American or international mission trip sponsored by your church or association at least once every four years.
* Grow in giving as a faithful financial stewardship with at least 10% of your income going to your local church. However, see 10% as a place to begin in grace giving but not the place to stop.
* Determine to exercise a greater level of stewardship through estate planning and planned giving, leaving a percentage of your estate to your local church, the Cooperative Program, and to a faithful Baptist entity such as NAMB, IMB, a Baptist college, or our seminaries.
* Devote yourself to a radical pursuit of the Great Commission in the context of obeying the Great Commandments of loving God and loving others.
* Give serious consideration to adoption and orphan care as a component of Great Commission living.
* Determine to develop a well-rounded Christian worldview that allows you to clearly articulate both what you believe and why you believe.
* Repent of any and all sin that has prevented you from being fully used by our Lord in fulfilling the Great Commission. This includes sins of idolatry, pride, selfish ambition, hatred, racism, bigotry and other sins of the flesh that dishonor the name of Jesus.
Challenges for Individual Families
* Emphasize biblical gender roles with believing fathers taking the lead in modeling Great Commission Christianity and taking the primary responsibility for the spiritual welfare of their families.
* Recognize that parents have the primary responsibility of educating their children and helping them to cultivate a Christian worldview way of thinking and living.
* Build gospel saturated homes that see children as a gift from God and our initial mission field. Consider, in this context, the vital ministries of adoption and orphan care.
* Make prayer for and the evangelism and discipleship of children a family priority that begins with parents and is assisted by local churches.
* Develop strategies as a family for praying for, serving, and sharing the gospel with neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom family members come into regular contact.
* Adopt a different unreached people group each month and pray as a family 1) for IMB missionaries working with the people group, 2) for the conversion, baptism and discipling of countless individuals within the people group, and 3) for the establishment of biblical churches among the people group.
* Adopt a different North American church plant each month and pray as a family 1) for the church's leadership team, 2) for the conversion, baptism and discipling of countless individuals in the church's region, and 3) for the birthing of future church plants from the church.
* Spend a family vacation participating in a local church or association sponsored mission trip.
* Consider setting up a mission's savings account for each of your children that would enable them to spend six months to a year in a North America or International Missions context soon after graduating from high school.
Challenges for Local Churches and Pastors
* Lead your church by calling a Solemn Assembly in January 2011 for the purpose of calling Christ's people to return to God, to repentance, and to humility in service to a renewed commitment to Christ and the Great Commission. We request that the newly-elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention lead Southern Baptists in this effort.
* Become knowledgeable of the mission field of your specific region, identifying the various people groups and developing a strategy to penetrate the lostness in your region. Be intentional in working with your local association, state convention and NAMB in pursuing this task.
* Work to cultivate a Great Commission atmosphere that is contagious in your church and becomes the DNA of the pastor, staff, adults, students, youth and children of your local body of Christ.
* Working with the IMB and NAMB, set goals for Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong that will enable us to send $200 million to the IMB and $100 million to NAMB in annual gifts by 2015.
* Strengthen missions education for believers of all ages, working with the Woman's Missionary Union and other missions education programs. Every believer must be made aware of the global missions challenge.
* Lead your church to grow and increase in sacrificial Cooperative Program giving.
* Make sure every sermon, devotion, or other type of teaching is gospel centered and driven by the inerrant and infallible text of Scripture with emphasis on how to apply the text to the lives of different kinds of people.
* Make sure every sermon, devotion, or other type of teaching clearly articulates and applies the gospel message and is centered in the grand narrative of Scripture.
* Call your people continually to a radical devotion and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
* Preach passionately for the conversion of the lost and extend consistently the gospel call for persons to be saved.
* Honor the role of the evangelist, affirming the calling and witness of those who give their lives to the call of the Gospel.
* Challenge people to identify with Christ and testify to Him through believer's baptism by immersion.
* Call people passionately and consistently to surrender their life to full-time ministry. Include in this call the challenge to a career as a missionary through the IMB or NAMB.
* Preach regularly and passionately on Christian stewardship helping your people see this as a vital component of discipleship and life lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Undergird this with lessons on biblical stewardship in your church's Bible Study ministries.
* Cultivate an atmosphere of evangelism, missions, discipleship and biblical theology that permeates every aspect of the church's ministry.
* Give particular attention to the evangelizing and discipling of children and youth.
* Get involved in a regular church planting program at some level of your congregation's capability. This can include specific partnerships with another church, your association, state convention or NAMB.
* Adopt an unreached people group and an underserved megacity in North America and regularly inform the membership about them, pray for them, and when applicable work toward short-term mission trips to serve them. Encourage families to consider moving to those cities to be part of the core group for that plant.
* Plan at least one evangelism training course annually for your church members; consider inviting members of other churches in your association to participate, especially smaller churches.
* Plan at least one North American or international mission trip a year and/or encourage members to participate mission trips sponsored by a local association.
* Develop a comprehensive strategy for sharing the gospel with every person in your community with no regard to racial, social or economic status. This may include elements such as home-to-home evangelism, neighborhood block parties, servant evangelism projects, one-on-one mentoring, after-school programs, university campus outreach, innovative outreach events, neighborhood Bible studies, evangelistic mercy ministries, etc.
* Enter, if possible, the world of private Christian schooling and Christian homeschooling to provide a Christian alternative for the education of children, especially in areas hostile to the Christian worldview. See this as a complement to the many faithful Christians serving in the public school systems who see their calling to be salt and light in a missional assignment.
* Encourage Christian schools to send each student in their high school year on a cross-cultural missions experience or to an international mission field for at least one week before they graduate, developing a strategy to pay for these trips as a school in order to build a genuine passion and commitment to reach the nations.
* Develop a comprehensive strategy for Great Commission discipling of all church members. This may include elements such as Sunday School and/or small group ministries, mission education programs, one-on-one mentoring, affinity ministries (e.g. women, singles, etc.), pastoral leadership training, diaconal leadership training, etc.
* Develop a comprehensive church-based strategy for reaching and discipling college students, including international students.
* Develop as a comprehensive church-based strategy for reaching and discipling individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.
* Send teenagers and young adults on mission trips with the hope of exposing every young believer to global missions.
* Partner with like-minded ethnic churches or missions in evangelizing immigrants and other underserved ethnic minorities, including migrants and other short-term workers.
* Reclaim the Baptist vision of regenerate church membership, recognizing that this vision is central to our Baptist identity and understanding of the church.
* Reclaim corrective church discipline as the biblical means of restoring believers to healthy discipleship and faithfulness.
* Emphasize meaningful church membership through such practices as decision counseling, believer's baptism, new convert mentoring, membership covenants, prospective member classes, and redemptive church discipline.
Challenges for Local Associations
* Enthusiastically embrace the missional vision and core values of the SBC allowing them to guide your work and set your priorities.
* Adopt the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as your confessional basis of association and adopt some shared core values and priorities that characterize the cooperating churches of your association.
* Organize quarterly associational prayer meetings for the conversion of the lost and the planting of sound churches in the underserved and unreached areas of North America and around the globe.
* Work with state conventions and the SBC to set aside January of every year as a month of prayer for the conversion of unreached people groups around the globe.
* Plan at least one annual foreign mission trip and one annual North American mission trip and encourage all the churches in the association to participate, especially smaller churches.
* Develop associational collections of evangelism and discipleship resources and regularly inform the churches about the availability of such resources.
* Work with cooperating churches to plant at least one new church a year in an underserved area within or near to the association.
* Work with cooperating churches to plan at least one mercy ministry focused outreach event every year.
Challenges for State Conventions
* Embrace with enthusiasm the missional vision and core values of the SBC allowing them to guide your work and set your priorities.
* Adopt the Baptist Faith & Message  as a confessional basis for cooperation and adopt shared core values and priorities that characterize cooperating churches.
* Make church planting a priority and develop church planting partnerships with North American urban centers and underserved regions outside of the Southeast and Southwest.
* Determine to return to the historic ideal of a 50/50 Cooperative Program distribution between the state convention and the SBC.
* Hold state convention colleges and universities accountable to Baptist convictions and an authentic Christian worldview education. Baptist colleges and universities must inculcate a Great Commission mindset in their students and deploy them worldwide in short-term missionary service.
* Eliminate programs that do not directly assist local churches in fulfilling their biblical mandate to make disciples of all people.
* Work with the SBC and local associations to set aside January of every year as a month of prayer for the conversion of unreached people groups around the globe.
* Work with local associations and local churches to plan regional evangelism and discipleship training events on at least a semiannual basis.
* Encourage state convention children's homes to consider deep investment in Great Commission adoption/foster ministries that connect children with Baptist families within the state.
* Recognize the powerful witness of Disaster Relief programs as Southern Baptist have touched millions of lives in the aftermath of disaster and in a moment of acute need.
* Develop and celebrate mercy ministries which can be used as avenues for churches serve others and open doors for evangelism.
* Create materials that our churches can use to teach biblical stewardship through our Sunday Schools and other Bible Study Ministries.
* Create materials our churches can use to teach personal evangelism and the call to each Christian to be involved in fulfilling the Great Commission. Create a simple but biblically rooted disciple-making plan that helps pastors and leaders to multiply themselves.
* Develop materials that assist individuals in their understanding and involvement in the Great Commission, both in North America and the world.
* Strengthen ministries directed to the support of Christian schools and homeschooling families.
Challenges for the Seminaries
* Remember never to lose sight that your calling is to serve the churches of the SBC.
* Maintain fidelity to our Confession of Faith (The Baptist Faith & Message 2000).
* Train and send to our churches Great Commission ministers who will lead us in becoming Great Commission churches.
* Develop a strategy for cultivating more local church-based partnerships for M.Div.-level theological education, particularly in underserved regions in North America.
* Develop more opportunities for students to gain tangible experience and earn seminary credit by serving in local church internships or short-term mission assignments and provide financial assistance to students who avail themselves of these opportunities.
* Give primary attention to masters and doctoral level programs for the education and training of pastors, missionaries, and other church leaders.
* Train students in the skills of disciple-making, affirming this calling as central to the task of the minister.
* Develop programs of study (and host regular conferences and workshops) that are specifically geared toward equipping local church leadership (both students and non-students) in areas such as preaching, evangelism, discipleship, pastoral ministries, church planting, international missions, and biblical counseling, etc.
* Cooperate with local associations, state conventions, NAMB and the IMB in planning and hosting church planting training that puts International missions and church planting in the life-blood of all the students our churches entrust to your care.
Challenge for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
* Renew efforts to call upon God's people to live and demonstrate Christ-likeness and moral witness as an example and testimony for Jesus Christ and continue efforts to preserve religious freedom in our nation so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed and the Great Commission fulfilled.
Challenge for GuideStone Christian Resources
* Mobilize those who are retired and receiving benefits to use their energy in praying for and becoming personally involved in the evangelization of North America and the World.
Challenges to All Southern Baptist Leaders
* Take advantage of every opportunity to support the Cooperative Program among Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches.
* Enhance confidence in all Southern Baptist work by honoring the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention.
* Commit to a continuous process of denominational review in order to ensure maximum implementation of the Great Commission.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston & assistant editor Mark Kelly. The full report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force can be accessed at www.pray4gcr.com.