GCRTF VIEWPOINT: Scott Brewer on GCRTF report
REDMOND, Wash. (BP)--Because of my role during this year with the Northwest Baptist Convention I was invited to attend the February 22, 2010 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee. During the evening plenary session the GCRTF gave their report. My reflections are in essence my process of thinking "out loud." I haven't drawn any conclusions yet. The report was described as "preliminary" and therefore may see some change. A final report is to be released to the entire convention May 3, 2010. A vote on the recommendations is expected at the annual meeting of the SBC June 15-16, 2010.
The report was given in six "components" and I'll respond to each.
I understood this to be a call to Southern Baptists to be a more focused, missional people. As such we would agree that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be presented to every person in the world, and that we must be about the work of making disciples. In this component I heard the call to a new day of including the next generation of leaders, building trust and unity across the convention and elevating the importance of the local church over the convention.
No one can disagree with Component 1. I did not hear anything that would indicate how we would address this. As with subsequent components, the questions "how will we address this" and "who will be accountable for addressing this" was not clear.
I heard this component to be a call to reinvent the North American Mission Board. At the heart of it I heard the call for "empowering" NAMB in the works of starting churches and strengthening churches (in evangelism and discipleship) by decentralizing NAMB out of Atlanta and deploying personnel around the country. This decentralization would happen by creating seven regions.
This component includes an empowering of NAMB financially by doing away with "cooperative agreements" with state conventions. As I understand it, with respect to the NWBC, we would no longer receive CP dollars from NAMB for church planting and church strengthening (which is a large portion of the NWBC budget). Rather, NAMB would use those funds for implementing their strategies in each of the newly formed seven regions. Obviously this raises questions about the future of state conventions that exist outside of the South. I'm not sure what impact this would have on a large southern state convention, but our convention would be radically affected.
One stated goal was to see a redistribution of CP funds that make up the NAMB budget so that areas of America that are outside of the South would receive more funding for church planting and strengthening. The funding suggestion though is in the context for greater empowerment of NAMB's involvement in these regions with the stated goals of seeing better efficiency and accountability of the funds.
A final piece to this component was to see NAMB develop THE "Leadership Center of America" for training and developing church planters and church leaders. This overlaps with the assignment of LifeWay and therefore will involve some clarification of who will do what.
This component suggests that the International Mission Board must be released to accomplish the mission of reaching unreached people groups "without regard to any geographical limitations." I heard this to be a call for IMB not only to be intentional about penetrating every people group outside of America (even so-called closed countries), but also those same non-English speaking people groups within the U.S. This component seeks to leverage that IMB expertise upon U.S. soil. I think this has been something needed for some time. How this will be coordinated with a more empowered NAMB remains to be seen.
The recommendation for this component is to move the responsibility for stewardship emphasis and promotion away from the SBC Executive Committee and to the state conventions. The EC has held this responsibility since 1997 when LifeWay said that they could not effectively carry out this assignment. In short, I simply see this recommendation as a way to add some justification for the later recommendation for moving 1 percent of the CP money that the EC receives to IMB. How state conventions that are outside the South and that will already face significant financial "hits" from these recommendations can add the stewardship assignment remains to be seen.
Stewardship emphasis and promotion is very significant since the average Southern Baptist contributes only 2.56 percent of their income. The mission of the church is seriously hampered by this poor stewardship.
In short this component seemed to me to be a redefining of how Southern Baptist giving is considered and categorized. While affirming the importance of the Cooperative Program, the recommendation is to identify a larger category of missions giving called "Great Commission Giving." Therefore, a church's giving through the Cooperative Program as well as other designated giving for state conventions and local associations would all be considered Great Commission Giving. I think this also includes a local church's mission projects and trips.
The implications are not clear to me but here's what occurs to me. For years there have been churches that have chosen to redirect their giving around the CP and directly give to IMB or NAMB or seminaries, etc., because of the dissatisfaction with either what their state convention was doing or with the amount of CP dollars their state convention kept before passing it on to the national level. A result of that practice was that those churches looked like poor contributors to missions because their CP numbers were low. It seems to me that being able to count a church's CP contributions and designated contributions as the new benchmark of Great Commission Giving better legitimizes those churches with low CP numbers.
I think one of the desires of the GCRTF was to address the shortfall of national dollars available for the work of missions and IMB especially. There has been an unsuccessful call for several years now for state conventions to keep fewer CP dollars and pass on a greater portion. This seems to me to be a way to get around that. I could be way off base here.
The GCRTF recommends that the CP breakdown of funds increases the IMB share by 1 percent so that it is now 51 percent and decreases the Executive Committee share by 1 percent so that it is now 2.4 percent. I agree that IMB should receive more of the CP pie. I could agree to 55 percent but from which area to take those funds I don't know.
1. It seems to me that the call for being a more focused, missional, unified people is right but must contain some idea about how to get there. Trust is a "relational thing" and relationships demand time and proximity with each other. This also demands humility and a willingness to give up power. Only a Spirit stirred repentance and recommitment to Christ's mission can do this.
2. Something radical does need to happen with NAMB. Decentralizing and regionalizing makes some sense. What impact will this have on advancing the reorganization and new direction of the NWBC? There has already been so much change for our staff I'm concerned about morale and the capacity to focus on today and implement newly developed strategic plans.
3. How will all of the GCRTF recommendations play with the average pastor and church? I consider myself to be aware of and involved in convention life in an above-average way and at the end of the day we only have so much time for convention matters.
4. What's the answer to the "so what?" question? If all of the GCRTF recommendations move forward, what difference ultimately will that mean to 40,000+ SBC churches? It will impact church plants because they have limited autonomy and have to be responsive to convention initiatives or practices in order to receive their funding. Established churches do not.
Scott Brewer is pastor of Meadowbrook Church and president of the Northwest Baptist Convention.
For a BP article about the release of the GCR Task Force progress report, including the full text of the report, go to http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=32352.