By Rodrick E. Conerly, DOM Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge
[img_assist|nid=6359|title=Rodrick E. Conerly DOM Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=98]Monday morning found Pastor Red Brick in his pick-up on the way to the Association office.
Red was puzzled by the Great Commission Task Force’s (GCRTF) report Penetrating the Lostness: Embracing a Vision for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists.
Red had followed the convention’s efforts to renew a burden for the un-churched and after reading the GCRTF report, he felt he needed to talk with Bro. Vision Nary at the Association office.
As he turned into the drive at the Association office, Red found Bro. Nary sweeping the last pink crepe myrtle blooms off the walk in front of the office. After Bro. Nary retired the broom to the closet, he poured Red a cup of coffee.
“Bro. Nary,” said Red, “I am not sure about this resurgence report. I realize that our churches could do better at reaching the un-churched, but is our denomination really in such bad shape?”
“Red,” said Bro. Nary, “The majority of our churches focus on their membership and are ineffective at reaching the lost. Some 70 percent of our churches are plateaued or declining. I may not agree with everything in the GCRTF report, but one thing is certain, that report calls our denomination back to the basics of evangelism.”
“Well, Bro. Nary,” said Pastor Brick as he refilled his coffee cup, “Help me understand how it helps us get back to the basics?”
“Bro. Red,” said Vision, “The report makes six recommendations.”
1. That God recreate within our churches a clear and urgent vision for missions.
2. That our convention consider the reinvention of the North American Mission Board for the purpose of planting new churches.
3. That the International Mission Board be empowered to reach the un-evangelized regardless of geographical location.
4. That the churches reaffirm the Cooperative Program as the means of supporting missions by increasing their Cooperative Program giving.
5. That the responsibility for Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education return to the state conventions.
6. That the Cooperative Program allocation to the international missions be increased by one percent.
“Bro. Nary,” said Red, “Those are good goals, but, something seems to be missing. Yes, we may need to adjust our convention structure; however, structure grew out of a movement of God’s Spirit.” Red continued, “A spiritual movement by God does not come from a structure, but rather from the urgent prayers of God’s people.”
“Red you are right,” said Bro. Nary. “Each generation grapples to recast the vision for evangelism and discipleship. What is occurring is our struggle to do just that.”
“Red,” Bro. Nary said, “Do you remember the benefits for our convention of the 75 Million Dollar Campaign of 1919?”
“Well,” said Red, “Let’s see. First, our churches experienced a major spiritual renewal. Second, a new wave of students prepared for the ministry in our seminaries. Third, a sense of unity among Southern Baptists developed. I am sure there were others, but I’m unable to recall all of them.”
“Yes,” said Bro. Nary, “There were at least a couple of more. A more stewardship-minded membership emerged and, perhaps the most important development, there was a move away from the society approach to fund-raising by our boards.
“Our churches embraced a cooperative approach of support that led to the establishment of the Cooperative Program in 1925,” Bro. Nary continued. “Before this, churches and individuals within the Southern Baptist Convention decided whether and how much to donate to foreign missions, home missions, seminaries, state missions, etc.”
“Now, keep in mind,” said Bro. Nary, “I mentioned that I do not agree with everything in the final report. I do have concerns about the advocacy of a method of giving that parallels the Cooperative Program.
“This track has existed for decades within churches,” Bro. Nary pointed out, “but if approved this track will receive official sanction under the phrase Great Commission Giving, which gathers the Cooperative Program and designated gifts under one heading.”
“Red,” cautioned Bro. Nary, “I really fear Southern Baptists could return to the days before the 75 Million Dollar Campaign when the various boards advertised in the religious press and sent representatives into churches and associational meetings to report on their work and to request financial support.”
Bro. Nary continued, “We know that many times the membership supported the work of one board while neglecting others. In recent years it seems this same sentiment has been creeping back into Southern Baptist life.”
“Well, Bro. Nary,” interjected Red, “Perhaps the reason for some of this is that when the Cooperative Program was created there seemed to be a trust level for the convention’s leadership that is absent today.”
“Bro. Red,” said Bro. Nary, “God appears to be creating a new movement across the convention. Although the trust level for our convention leadership may not exist as before, one thing is sure, He who led our Southern Baptist forefathers a century ago leads us today.
“Our task is to pray for the leadership God has given our convention,” Bro. Nary said.
“Through His guidance they – and we – will be led.”
“To quote one of our leaders of a century ago,” added Bro. Nary, “’We are coming rapidly to the place, if we have not already reached it, when we must rely wholly upon the Boards and standing committees to do our thinking for us. This is to some extent both desirable and inevitable’” (Religious Herald, May 20, 1909.).