The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has asked Baptist21 to do a video interview with Darrin Patrick, Pastor of Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri and Vice President of the Acts29 Network. Over the next few days we will be collecting questions to ask Darrin in this video interview. We want to hear your questions! What questions would you like to ask Darrin Patrick? Please list your questions in the comment field below and we will compile them into ten questions.
Note: Questions will only be considered if submitted by Saturday April 3rd, 2010 by 11:00 pm.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has released a statement recommending that the term “Great Commission Giving” be used in reference to the monetary gifts from our Southern Baptist Churches to the Cooperative Program and designations to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, state conventions and associations. A subtle change in verbiage may seem insignificant for those who have a firm grasp of what is being spoken of, but intentional (non-vague) wording can mean the difference between a non/new SBCer lending their ear or concluding that what is being spoken of is irrelevant to them. Intentional verbiage is also useful when a word is overused or misused to the point that it looses its meaning.
During the current Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) push, pastors and church members have often wondered how they can be involved in the movement in their place of service. My standard response is to go to the SBC in Orlando this summer and vote, pray, be talking about the GCR and its implications at your church, and consistently preach and teach a robust Gospel and mission. The former are very general suggestions, but the GCR Task Force has set a helpful precedent of being strategic with our terminology and our churches should do likewise I will use my church as an example.
As I was talking to a man in our church about these things, another gentleman overheard our discussion and asked, “So is church planting going to take over missions?” and my response was, “It is not missions verses church planting, but missions is church planting.”
In recent years there has been a healthy “flip flop” with reference to the role of denominational entities and that of the local church in the discussion of church planting. In previous generations denominational entities would plant churches with the help of the church, but that M.O. is being turned on its head and churches have begun to plant churches with the help of denominational entities. In my church’s attempt to be strategic about church planting EVERY mission trip both domestic and international will be taken for the sake of aiding a church plant, or a church planting church.
My church’s former missions strategy was not completely haphazard, but it did not fully capture God’s mission that we read in Scripture. The Bible makes it known that God has a passion for his own glory (2 Kings, 19:35; Ps. 106:7-8 & Rom. 9:17; etc.), and his glory is most effectively made known through His church (Eph. 3:10, 21). We also read of Christ’s commitment to the Church as he gave up his life for her (Eph. 5:25-27). It is our church’s desire to be about what God is about which leads to the conclusion that I fronted in the previous paragraph, and that is having every mission trip be for the sake of either establishing or aiding local churches as they make God’s glory known in their context.
Finally, back to the discussion about verbiage, it is my contention that the word “missions” has fallen victim to being used so often, and in is so many different capacities that its meaning has been diluted. Yet the word missions remains powerful when stated with a qualifier, for example: the Mission of God, or the Mission of the Church. At my church we are looking to be more intentional with our verbiage by moving away from the generic term “mission trips” to a more precise term such as “church planting trips,” or another term that more accurately conveys what the intent of these trips are. There may be a day (and it may already be upon us) that the phrase “church planting” may lose its meaning and we will have to once again rethink how we can discuss our church adopting God’s mission as our own in helpful terms. It is not my goal for every church to have a Church Planting Pastor as opposed to a Missions Pastor, but it is my desire, especially during the time of the GCR, for us to carefully think through the subtle changes that can be made in our churches that can be a powerful aid in shaping and expressing our desires as parallel with those of our Father.
Second, as Southern Baptists think through GCR changes, we have to be able to think through what’s good, better, and best. By the grace of God, Southern Baptists are not arguing over whether or not Jesus is the only way to God or anything like this. Instead, we’re having more nuanced discussions. In order for Southern Baptists to come through these discussions more faithful and effective, we have to be able to say no to some “good” things in order to say yes to the “best” things.
Is it important to reach the state of Alabama with Jesus? Of course! Folks in Alabama need Jesus just like folks in New York, Washington, the Sudan, and India. The difference between the folks in Alabama, these other states, and nations around the world has to do with access to the gospel. So, right now there are over 3,200 Southern Baptist churches, not to mention other ministries and denominational efforts, in Alabama trying to reach a total population of 4.6 million people. But in the state of New York there are around 20 million people. How many Southern Baptist churches are reaching them? Only 343 churches! So, in New York, there are almost a tenth of the churches trying to reach almost 5 times as many people! Unfortunately, this is not the exception in the U.S. And these numbers seem like a drop in the ocean when they are compared to the percentage of Southern Baptist churches to population outside of North America. Many of these people groups, whose populations number in the hundreds of millions, do not have any Christian witness in their midst at all. Truth be told, the majority of our money continues to focus on the most reached and most served areas of America.
In light of this, it is important that we learn how to say no to some “good” things in order to say yes more often to the neediest things. This means, it would seem, it is “best” to send the majority, or at least a great deal, of money and resources to the unreached and undeserved areas, which would mean that many “good” ministry options would have to be addressed in other ways. Surely, this is something that all Southern Baptists can agree on.
If we do, then we will have to be able to say that there are some ministries that should not be approached in the same manner in terms of funding and responsibility in order that other ministries in more desolate places can be created. This kind of thinking will take wisdom and significant courage.
Third, we have to be careful with our language and how we frame the debate. There is no doubt that these are serious and sensitive issues that Southern Baptists are discussing. Many Southern Baptists remain confused about the key issues involved in the debate, having read perhaps one or two articles about it (if they’ve even heard about it at all!). This is why it is critical that the debate is framed properly and language is measured.
There is no doubt that the changes necessary for a genuine GCR will be difficult. Significant change always is. But we have to see that the alternative is worse. Floyd quoted someone as saying, “We can either die a painful death or live a painful change.” He is right. I say we go with the painful change. It will be difficult, but it will not ultimately be devastating.
Thus, the necessary difficulties of significant change should not be added to by unnecessary language. Surely it’s an overstatement to say that the GCR recommendations will “devastate” ministry efforts in any state in the Southeast region of America. If Alabama Baptists cannot make changes without seeing ministerial “devastation,” then who can? After all, there are far more Southern Baptist churches and ministries in Alabama, for instance, than there are in states outside of the Southeast region of America and, without a doubt, amongst the hundreds of millions of unreached peoples around the world. What words do we have left to describe these other situations?
Fourth, we have to understand the nature and role of the church. Southern Baptists have been given a great denominational stewardship. This, of course, is what a lot of the GCR discussion is about. But we need to realize that Jesus did not die for a denomination. He died for the church. The church existed before the SBC and it will exist long after the SBC is gone.
The primacy of the local church means that the church is central, not the denomination. It means that we don’t have to be scared to adjust denominational ministries. After all, Jesus said that the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church. He never promises this for any aspect of the denomination or the denomination itself. If the denomination hopes to remain viable, it will serve Christ’s church. The roles cannot be reversed.
So, will a GCR change the way certain denominational structures do ministry? I hope so. Does this mean that those current ministries will no longer exist? Not necessarily. Perhaps the church of God depending on the Spirit of God can rise to the occasion for the glory of God and meet those ministry needs themselves? I can’t see how this wouldn’t be possible and preferable from a biblical vantage point. Denominational structures are not the church’s life support, they are its helpers.
Southern Baptists have to get specific about the GCR. We must continue to talk about the need of the Spirit to move afresh amongst us. But we must remember that God’s Spirit never moves powerfully in the abstract. When the Spirit moves, he transforms specific characteristics, habits, thoughts, strategies, agreements, and more.
Discussions about these specifics must not only reveal the Spirit’s direction, they must evidence the Spirit’s fruit. There will be disagreements. But we must disagree without being disagreeable. We must exercise patience, love, joy, kindness, self-control, peace, and goodness. A GCR that lacks the Spirit’s fruit is no GCR at all.
But, as opposing sides voice their opinions, let’s remember that one of the most compelling cases for a GCR will not be heard. Those that would make this case do not yet have a voice. These people lack voices because they don’t know the Savior. They don’t know the Savior, in part, because those who do know the Savior haven’t made the necessary changes to deliver the message to them. So they wait, with stone hearts, blind eyes, and deaf ears. They wait for Southern Baptists to get specific about a Great Commission Resurgence. It’s time for specificity.
Kids are cute. Watching and helping them develop is, at times, hilarious. Our 2 year old son, Josiah, is saying more and more everyday. Most recently, in regards to his 9 month old sister Susannah, he has started saying that he “wuv’s sissy.” Each verbal affirmation is accompanied by a soft pat to Susannah’s back. Good times.
Although Josiah now has the ability to express his love for his sister in the abstract, he has not learned that love is specific. When Susannah reaches for any of “Josiah’s” toys she is quickly tutored by him that this is not appropriate. It’s always easier to love in the abstract without specificity.
Southern Baptists find themselves in a similar situation with regards to a Great Commission Resurgence. The staggering lostness of the world has brought Southern Baptists to their knees, pleading with God to use them in his kingdom advancement more effectively. By the grace of God, there is great support. Great Commission task forces, Great Commission emphases, Great Commission blogs, etc. are popping up everywhere. There is great excitement and momentum. That is, until the GCR gets specific.
The Question of Change
Although Southern Baptists, from the person in the pew to the heads of entities, agree about the need for a Great Commission Resurgence in the abstract, there is disagreement when the GCR gets specific. It’s always easier to champion a GCR in the abstract without specificity. After all, hardly anyone is against the Great Commission.
For instance, most recently, Pastor Ronnie Floyd delivered the progress report for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. While his report focused on broad needs, it did provide specific proposals for moving towards a genuine GCR. Floyd, very reasonably, argued that the SBC should make a number of changes in order to be more effective for the kingdom. In other words, representing the GCRTF, he showed with some specificity what a genuine Great Commission Resurgence could look like. The task force recommended meaningful changes in the ways Southern Baptists are trying to reach America and the ends of the earth with the gospel.
But, specificity in relation to a GCR has been met with great opposition. Recently, BP news highlighted the Alabama State Evangelism Directors response to some of Floyd’s presentation. Sammy Gilbreath believes that adjusting the funding structure between state conventions and NAMB, one of the areas addressed by Floyd, “would devastate us.” BP news also notes the words of Gary Swafford, director of the SBOM associational missions and church planting office. He states, “Alabama is a missions field, too. This will change the way we do church planting and eliminate major ministries across the state.”
The article continues by showing the many ways that the state convention and associations would be effected. Readers learn that many ministries would be cut as a result of the change. Amongst the many listed reductions, Bobby DuBois, SBOM associate executive director, notes that the “Baldwin association would lose the state’s resort missionary.” The article concludes with some words from Rick Lance, “there is no way Alabama Baptists can pay for all the ministries and missions now supported jointly with NAMB.”
Without a doubt, the article paints a grim picture. If Southern Baptists only read this article, they would probably conclude that the specifics of a Great Commission Resurgence actually hurt the Great Commission. The ministries that would have to be cut leave the reader with the idea that there would be no way to continue these ministries and, thus, these people would never be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, it would seem that the GCR proposal should be rejected so that the lost can be reached or the GCR should be accepted resulting in the devastation of the ministries of the Alabama state convention. It’s always easier to support a GCR in the abstract without specifics.
The Direction of Change
Like love, a GCR will be meaningless without specific action. And there will be disagreements over the specifics. These specifics, no doubt, will be weighty. Real change affects real people in real situations. Perhaps it will be helpful to keep a few things in mind as GCR discussions move forward.
First, somebody and something has to change. Is this obvious? Yes and no. Yes, everyone knows that somebody and something has to change. No, hardly anyone thinks that “somebody” is them and that “something” is their ministry. If Southern Baptists are not willing to look at their lives, jobs, and areas of influence with the same critical eye that they look at their least favorite ministry, then this whole thing will be superficial. Life is too short and Christ is too glorious to waste time thinking a GCR will happen when “other” people change. Somebody has to change in order for there to be a GCR and you’re one of those somebody’s (and so am I!). There can be no sacred cows, no untouchable aspects of your life, your ministry, or your job. All of these are precious gifts, but none of them should be treated as though they are on the level of Christ’s mission in the world.
Part 2 to be posted shortly…
Baptist21 is grateful for the leadership and work of Douglas Baker, Editor of The Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma. The Baptist Messenger has led the way, as far as Baptist publications go, in highlighting the work of the GCRTF. Head over to their website and peruse a multitude of GCR stories and interviews. Baptist21 would like to highlight two recent articles of note concerning the Great Commission Resurgence and its recent progress report. The first a podcast interview with Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University. The other article to check out is an editorial written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
By Jacob Wright • March 18, 2010
In the Fall of 2008, voices began to surface across various places in the Southern Baptist Convention calling for renewal and revival in local congregations and in the agencies, institutions, commissions and entities found by Southern Baptists.
The phrase, “Great Commission Resurgence,” was originally coined by Lifeway Christian Resources President Thom Rainer; further defined by the Southeastern Seminary’s president, Danny Akin—in a Spring 2009 chapel address—“Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence”—and championed by Johnny Hunt, Senior Pastor of Woodstock, Ga., First, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Before the formal launch of the idea now turned movement, Union University President David Dockery convened two conferences in 2004 and 2007 on the Union campus which many believe served as the catalyst and a formal codification of Baptist Identity in this decade and Southern Baptist doctrine and polity in particular.
Dockery wrote a small book distributed at the Southern Baptist Convention titled Building Bridges (2007) and later wrote the book—Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal—a volume which has received widespread appreciation from all quadrants of the SBC. His newest volume—Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future—is a compilation of the talks given across the span of the two Baptist Identity Conferences held on Union’s campus.
For this special edition of the Messenger Insight, Dockery answers questions about the initial progress report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force first presented on Feb. 22 to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Louie Devotie Newton— What is a Baptist?; Baptists before Southern Baptists?; The Baptist Association—its past and future; From associations to state conventions; The Triennial Convention of 1814—Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice; William B. Johnson—Two Plans Considered: One Convention or Missionary Society?; Disagreement from the start—Was the SBC a replacement for state conventions?; The SBC Foreign Mission Board and Domestic Mission Board in 1845—their means of support and development; “Agents” among the churches—fundraising among Southern Baptists in the 19th Century; The 75 Million Campaign and the 1920 SBC Conservation Committee; The Origin of the Cooperative Program; E.Y. Mullins and the Business and Efficiency Plan of 1928; Constant Changes in the Cooperative Program—Who does what?; Albert McClellan—state conventions always the CP promotional partner?; The SBC Executive Committee, state conventions, and the Cooperative Program; GCRTF—Return the CP to the states —a change?; A merger of the two mission boards in 1914?; Competition between entities and agencies of the SBC?; GCRTF—authority over national/state convention?; GCRTF Demographic changes demand change to impact lostness; GCRTF— Implementation over many years; A 50/50 split between the state and national convention?; State by state CP allocations—one size fits all?; GCRTF—Funds to the nations; The Cultural Mandate, The Great Commandment, and the Great Commission; Great Commission Partners.
State conventions and preferred items for CP promotion; state conventions —closer to the churches; GCRTF—an attempt to weaken state conventions?; What are cooperative agreements between NAMB and state conventions?; Albert Mohler and Glen Land on cooperative agreements—channeled and untraceable?; Too much or too little accountability in cooperative agreements?; NAMB’s funding matrix; state conventions are to “budget accordingly?”; The GCRTF—casting an overarching vision; GCRTF —Future conversations are imperative; The final GCRTF Report—Details to be worked out by state conventions, agencies, and entities; GCR —Re-prioritizing a missional culture for the SBC; Has the SBC moved away “from the primacy and centrality of the local church?”; Nashville is not Rome—Bottom up not top down; GCRTF—Baptists not bishops; 70 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining; Stewardship education remains imperative; GCRTF—Recommendation #2: From whom should the NAMB “released” and to whom should the NAMB be “released”?; NAMB priorities —have they changed?; NAMB research error in reporting to the GCRTF—Will this change the final report?; Personal change in GCRTF members; The IMB—international missionaries on U.S. soil?; GCRTF—Movement toward one global mission board?; Great Commission Giving—the demise of the Cooperative Program?; GCRTF—CP designated/non-designated giving; CP not a priority for younger pastors—why?; Draper, Chapman, Henry —heroes of the CP; Union University, Baptist Identity Conferences, and the GCR; Johnny Hunt—Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal; Balkanization of the SBC?; Why remain a Southern Baptist and be committed to a GCR?; The Gospel to the nations.
By R. Albert Mohler Jr. • March 17, 2010
God’s people are never without an assignment, and the Southern Baptist Convention came into being more than a century and a half ago as a means of answering the call of the nations and mobilizing Southern Baptists for the Great Commission. Thankfully, we are still focused on that call. Strategically, we must ask if there is a way to do even more.
When Baptists came together to form the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, they left Augusta, Ga. with a clear sense of purpose, a unique Southern Baptist way of mobilizing for missions, and a brave commitment to move into the future together. Nothing less than those commitments is demanded of us now.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has been assigned to consider how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively in obeying the Great Commission. We face unprecedented challenges even as we see unlimited opportunities.
Let’s be thankful for this —Southern Baptists still believe in the Great Commission. While so many other denominations have experienced a loss of theological nerve and a decrease of Great Commission commitment, Southern Baptists have experienced a theological recovery that underlines the very theological convictions that brought the Convention into being. We know that there is no hope of salvation apart from Christ, and we know that those who believe in Christ will be saved. Of these truths we are certain, and this fuels our passion.
The great question for Southern Baptists now is this—will this passion be translated into concrete action and the mobilization of greater numbers of missionaries for the mission fields of the world?
The interim report of the Task Force is out, and I am encouraged by the interest and insights of Southern Baptists from across the country who, along with our missionaries around the world, have responded with eagerness, excitement and new ideas.
At the same time, it is clear that some areas of our report and intentions need to be explained and discussed further. This is why we released an interim report. We want to hear from Southern Baptists and to find a way to do even more, together, for the glory of God.
One particular aspect of recent discussions offers a good opportunity for all Southern Baptists to reclaim and affirm every good thing we do together in the service of the Gospel of Christ.
A key aspect of this is the relationship of the Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions. Outsiders often have a difficult time understanding the structure of the Southern Baptist Convention and our cooperative Baptist work. The SBC is not a national entity with state and local divisions. Baptist associations and state conventions exist on their own right and direct their own mission programs and work.
At the same time, the national convention and the state conventions must work together, rather than competitively. There is more than enough for all of us to do, and it will take all of us doing all within our reach if we are to be faithful in the future, even as we look to the achievements of the past.
We do not want to weaken or marginalize the state conventions. To the contrary, we want to see the state conventions play an even greater role in the future.
I am the product of Southern Baptist work at every level and in every context. In my childhood and youth I had the privilege of belonging to two churches that were deeply involved in the SBC and Baptist work at every level. I attended choir festivals and clinics conducted by the local association. As a boy, one of my chief ambitions was to attend Royal Ambassador camp at Lake Yale, the assembly of the Florida Baptist Convention. I attended a Baptist university deeply connected to its own state convention.
I made my profession of faith in Christ after hearing the Gospel preached in Vacation Bible School. I first experienced a call to ministry while sitting in the auditorium of the state convention’s assembly—a nine-year-old in an RA t-shirt and camp shorts who felt, quite unexpectedly, that God might be calling me to full-time Christian service. I was propelled in ministry and theological education by a state convention college. As president of its student ministerial association, I traveled with the university’s president to the state convention meeting and sessions of its state missions board.
Later, I received my theological education at The Southern Seminary, where for 17 years I have had the experience of serving as president. I have been across this nation and in far regions of the globe where I have seen first-hand the commitment and faithfulness of Southern Baptist missionaries, church planters and other Great Commission workers.
I would never put my name on any proposal that would weaken any aspect of our work together. I want Southern Baptists of the future to have ever richer opportunities than I knew.
We hear the call of the nations; we feel the energy of younger pastors and Baptist leaders at every level who call for us to do more, not less; we are determined to bring a report that will thrill and unify Southern Baptists at every level.
So, we have work yet to do. We asked Southern Baptists to suggest what they thought needed to be changed or adjusted in order for us to work more faithfully together. We received an earful—all valuable and graciously offered. Our report reflects these suggestions, and is driven by sense of urgency.
The bare facts speak for themselves. In the United States, Southern Baptists are falling behind in reaching the great cities, ethnic populations and underserved regions. We must do what it takes to redirect all of us toward greater faithfulness. Around the world, there are more than 5,000 unreached people groups. We know the Great Commission, and we know our task. Are we willing to do whatever it takes to move us into greater effectiveness and faithfulness?
That question will be answered first in the hearts of individual Southern Baptists. Next, it will be answered by our churches. Eventually, every aspect of our denominational work will give its own answer.
We know what that answer must be. We must be willing to do whatever it takes. I am convinced that Southern Baptists will answer this call—and I am also convinced that we can only answer it together.
The Great Commission Resurgence will never happen if it is not embraced by Southern Baptists who are deployed for the Great Commission in every dimension of our work, from the Southern Baptist Convention to every state convention and association.
I am so thankful for the commitment and generosity of Oklahoma Baptists. I am humbled by your commitment and invigorated by your vision. I am thankful for the visionary leadership of Anthony Jordan, and I deeply appreciate his personal words of encouragement and counsel to me and to the Task Force.
Our work is not yet finished—not by a long shot. But we are determined to arrive in Orlando with a report that the Southern Baptist Convention will eagerly embrace. Pray for us as we work to that end, and give us your best thoughts. It will take all of us working together to make this happen.
It has been years now since I was that boy in t-shirt and camp shorts at Royal Ambassador camp, but I still have the same excitement to be a part of what Southern Baptists are doing at home and around the world. Let’s move into the future determined to do even more, together, for the glory of God.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of Southern Seminary.
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