Baptist21 recently held a panel discussion on the topic, “What is a Great Commission Church?” The panelists were Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, J.D. Greear, and Mark Liederbach. These men addressed a packed room about a variety of topics. Some of these topics included the definition of a church, multi-site, diversity in the church, and advice for young pastors and seminarians. In addition, the panel addressed questions about the nature of relationships between churches and denominational entities for education, missions, and church planting and the best ways to use money for the Great Commission. Baptist21′s Jed Coppenger moderated the discussion. Here is the audio from that panel. We hope it will be of benefit to you.
b21 Panel @ God Exposed
Conclusion- Many seemed to be concerned about the future of the SBC, though they may be concerned about different things. Some are concerned that the SBC way is being lost because of a younger generation that is not “loyal” to the SBC as the past generations have been. They fear that cherished structures, programs, and the organization of cooperation itself might crumble. In response many tighten their grips on the way it has always been done. It is true that younger pastors (and some from all generations, we speak more of our peers because we know them best) do NOT have brand loyalty to the SBC. Younger pastors are convinced from the Scriptures of the primacy of the local church so they want to focus their efforts on their church and the mission God has given to it. They do want to cooperate with likeminded brothers and sisters to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to reach the nations.
So, they will cooperate with the SBC, but only as they see the SBC helping their local church fulfill its mission. They will love and be loyal to an SBC that serves local churches but they will not remain with an SBC (or individual entity) that sees the churches as servants to the denomination. Sadly, these pastors can see when denominational entities say with their lips that they are servants to the churches but their deeds betray that the reverse is true! If the SBC wants to be a vibrant network of churches turning the world upside-down with the Gospel then it needs to become less bureaucratic, leaner, and more oriented toward serving the churches. Losing brand loyalty is not a bad thing because we were never commanded to be loyal to the SBC, but rather King Jesus and His Word! We should not be about building the kingdom of the SBC. This loss of brand loyalty means that the SBC and its individual entities need to start justifying their existence to local churches, not expecting the churches to give more out of a sense of loyalty. This justification will mean showing local churches how the denominational entities are serving them and helping them in their mission. In the case of the home mission board this means local churches being aided by the board in planting other local churches.
You will notice that we have tried to use the phrase “church planting network” more than the phrase “home mission board,” and there is a reason for that. We believe that this board should have a singular focus. We have talked with ministers young and old from all parts of the country, and we often ask the question, “What is the best thing the SBC does?” Without exception every one of them mentions the IMB. Without exception none of them has mentioned NAMB (this is NOT a representative poll, just representative of the ministers that we talk to). When we probe further for why they love the IMB so much, the answer usually centers on the “singular focus” of the IMB. The IMB’s strategy is planting churches, so everything they do serves that strategy. This is also one of the strengths of the Acts 29 network. They are singular in focus. Unfortunately, our church planting network engages in lots of things that are not serving church planting, so it lacks a singular focus. Does this mean that a national church planting network should not be involved in other ministries? Maybe! What we would say is that these efforts divorced from a focus on church planting or church revitalization should be discontinued. The efforts of the church planting network should be ministries that aid planting, leaving social ministry to the local churches that are planted (or to the state conventions who then rally local churches to the social cause).
So our answer to the question, “What is one thing that will help bring about a Great Commission Resurgence?” is “a vibrant church planting network that focuses on church multiplication brought about through the local church.” This will energize young people. This will energize congregations as they seek to be on mission through the multiplication of their church. This will energize our baptisms, giving, and membership. This is what we must be about, healthy church planting. A trim network will help serve churches in this endeavor. And the promise that propels the mission is that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, not the SBC, will triumph over Death itself.
Jon and Nathan Akin
On Monday September 28 at 1pm Eastern Time Baptist 21 contributor Jon Akin will be on the “Calling for Truth” radio broadcast to discuss his recent post “The Gospel and Culture: Taken.” This live, call-in radio broadcast is on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1, and it is hosted by Paul Dean an SBC pastor. The broadcast deals with issues in theology, cultural engagement, Christian living, Biblical counseling, and a host of others. Past guests include: Russell Moore, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and others.
The “Calling for Truth” radio shows airs in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, but you can also live stream on the net at http://www.callingfortruth.org. Click the “Listen Live” tab. Listen in and call-in with your questions.
UPDATE: Baptist21’s panel discussion for this Friday during lunch time of the “God Exposed” conference is almost full, so sign up as soon as possible. The panel will feature Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, J.D. Greear, and Mark Liederbach. The event will take place in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Ledford Student Center from 12:15 to 1:30. The cost is $5 per person. You can sign up here or buy a ticket at the check in on Friday morning. Seating is limited to 220 and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note: For those of you already signed up for the God Exposed Conference, this event is not included in your conference ticket price or conference registration process.
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Baptist21 would like to hear from you… What question would you like to ask of these panelists? Please submit your questions by filling out the form below. We will select some of the questions to ask to the panelists.
A lean, streamlined Church Planting Network (Simple Planting) – Note: Aaron Coe, a Planter through NAMB, has helped us with the information in this section. This network must be streamlined, meaning that ideologies of the current model will have to change along with renegotiating existing relationships. We believe that this is necessary because it will help us get necessary resources to our planters and it will help us spend money on what is best, not simply what is good. It will also mean a unified strategy.
First, Change the current ideology. Church planting should probably be done less, but done better. The main focus of the church planting network should NOT be the number of churches planted each year but rather the quality of churches planted. The major problem with our current process is that we are more concerned with the number of churches we plant than we are with the health and viability of the churches we plant. Our focus should be finding the right men and helping them plant churches. The issue here is that we have a higher failure rate than some because of this ideology of planting high numbers of churches. This ideology also causes us to struggle in finding resources to support these church planters.
A nice shift would be if we only have three capable planters in a given year, only plant three churches. This way we can support churches that will be viable in ten years instead of extinct. Our resources are ultimately wasted if we invest tons of money in churches that will fold up the tent within 10 years, which unfortunately happens too often! The ideology should be find the right men (or teams), however many or few they are, and help them with an abundance of resources to plant healthy, vibrant, self-sustaining, reproducing churches. In the long haul, if we are planting a small amount of healthy, reproducible churches then it will create a multiplication effect. Let us resolve to plant a smaller number of vibrant churches with the right men (teams) for the jobs. We must have a focus on planting healthy churches, and not just more churches.
Second, invest the necessary resources to aid the planters (teams). We mentioned above that the lack of resources hinders many of our church planters. We cannot give a planter a measly salary, send them to a major (expensive) city, and say, “okay, have at it”. As Danny Akin said, in this case they are “DOA.” Here is more from the above quoted Western Recorder interview, “He decried the low funding levels for a new church start and declared a church planter is “dead on arrival” when he is funded at a decreasing level for three years at a starting salary of just $20,000. Baptist State Convention of North Carolina church planters start even lower, at $14,000. “I’ve got news for you,” he said. “You put all that together, and I’m going to be hard pressed to take care of my family for one year.” Instead of giving measly support, we should find the chosen and give them great support that ensures they can last.
Third and directly related to a shift in ideology, we should also consider supporting teams that plant more than just a lead man. This has not traditionally been one of our strategies. This is more than likely tied to our concern with the number of churches we plant in a given year as mentioned above. This must change. Team planting seems to be much more prudent than a single unit plant and some would argue more biblical. This will help in areas of early strength, accountability, planning, etc. We must support more effectively those we are sending into areas that are tough, including many of our major cities. If we do not, we should not be shocked when living in relative poverty, being isolated, and the trials of church planting discourage them. We must resolve to use “Annie” for the sake of our planters. In addition to being prudent, team plants enjoy greater success.
Fourth, we need to eliminate bureaucratic hoops, duplication, and competing strategies. NAMB must find a way to overcome the challenge of moving from a state-convention entangled, bureaucratic agency to a church-focused, streamlined church planting machine. Let us be clear. We’re not saying that state conventions and NAMB should not have any cooperative agreements. That’s impossible. NAMB and state conventions need to operate with one another to prevent overlap. But, we do mean that the current ways that NAMB and the states operate will not do. In fact, we believe, that this step is necessary to a viable existence. These agreements may have served us well in the past, but they need to be re-thought for our future. We hope that state conventions will be very much involved in church planting. But we hope that the interaction between NAMB and state conventions would be healthy and mutually beneficial.
In order to be less bureaucratic and more focused on church planting this home mission board/church planting network should employ its own home missionaries/church planters and not be as bogged down with ties to existing state conventions. An outstanding article entitled “Moment Critical for NAMB” by Calvin Wittman helps us think through what this might look like. We commend it to you, and we believe this move might be a necessity. The red tape and the entanglement with the state conventions must be altered. NAMB on the whole, unlike the IMB, does not employ its missionaries and planters. They are instead employed by and supported through agreements between NAMB and the State Conventions. The State Conventions are then in cooperation with the associations. That means that funding for these planters has to go through several layers to even get to the field: from HQ in Atlanta to the state office to the association and then to the missionary/church. So this means “executive” level salaries at 3 or 4 different levels in order to administrate ministry in one church or area. According to NAMB employees this creates all sorts of issues.
First, there are often times disagreements between NAMB, the state convention and the local association as to how ministry in that particular area should be done. So, the missionary is in an awkward political position trying to determine with whom he should “side.” Second, this creates often times greater loyalty to one entity over another depending on which entity hired you. Third, these tensions lead to NOT having a unified approach to ministry in a particular area. One example might be reaching college students in a city. One entity may utilize a church-based strategy that empowers local churches to reach college students, whereas another entity might utilize a parachurch campus based approach to reaching college students. Too many bosses. Too many chefs in the kitchen. Sometimes the bosses utilize strategies that work against one another.
However, what we propose for this church planting network is setting up regions within the US (which could cut down on the number of executive level salaries necessary to carry on the work of the board). They would employ planters and have a unified strategy (church planting) in that region. The regional coordinator would work with churches in the planting process.
One of the biggest factors in the upheaval at NAMB seems to be that NAMB cannot operate effectively in its current structure without state convention buy-in. So a trim and more efficient church planting network that lacks much of this red tape is necessary. In some ways it is harder for NAMB to succeed than IMB because NAMB has so many more hoops. So NAMB has done it like this: they get an idea, put it before the states, and then form committees made up of the state convention people, ostensibly to get their input, but in reality more to get their commitment. This leads sometimes to stalling creativity and the death of good ideas. There is a catch 22 though because NAMB must have state buy-in to be successful. It seems that this is the system NAMB has created, and it needs to be replaced. This will take tough calls, but a leaner entity could be a better church planting network.
Jon and Nathan Akin
Part 4 of this series will be some concluding thoughts
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