As I have navigated the various responses towards the proposals set forth by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, I have observed several unfortunate misconceptions. Chief among these misconceptions is the thought by some that the Task Force and proponents of the GCR are saying that people in India are “more” lost than those that have not trusted Christ in the southeastern United States. I am not quite sure if this misconception has arisen because of lack of clarity from the original Axioms message or the report from the Task Force. I am not sure if the misconception has arisen because some have not read or understood Dr. Akin’s Axiom’s message, or the articles and thoughts of those on the Task Force. And I surely do not want to believe it is an intentional smokescreen to skirt the real issues.
Regardless of how this misconception has been perpetuated, let’s put it to rest. The original message by Dr. Akin and the subsequent thoughts coming from the Task Force have never been about whether a person outside of Christ is more “outside” than another. It has been, from the beginning, that there are billions that have far less “access” to the gospel message. Is a person in India outside of Christ “more” lost than a person outside of Christ in the southeastern U.S.? Absolutely not. Ephesians 2 is clear, “Dead” is dead. All outside of Christ need resurrection to life that only the gospel brings. However, the only message that brings that kind of “life” is the gospel, and the man outside of Christ in the southeastern U.S. has far greater access to this message than the man outside of Christ in India. In fact, in certain parts of the world a person could walk for days, weeks, and months and not run into a Christian, bible, church, or the gospel message. This is what has broken the hearts of many in the SBC and has driven them to say that we must do better in getting that message to a world that is dying and has little or no access to the only message that brings life.
A man outside of Christ in the southeast U.S. absolutely needs the gospel, but there are thousands of Southern Baptist Churches alone, not to mention other strong evangelical churches, in this region. In other parts of the world there are places with far greater populations that don’t even have a church, let alone hundreds of churches in their area. If we are truly to be about the “propagation” of the gospel to the ends of the earth as our SBC forefathers hoped we would be, than many are saying lets make our structures and spending reflect it. There are many that cannot see how spending the majority of our funds in areas that we already have a strong presence as reflecting the idea that we are a Great Commission Convention. This is the heartbeat of the GCR, many may disagree, and that is fine. We can disagree charitably, but lets make sure that we know exactly where the Task Force and the GCR proponents are coming from. The GCR has never been about degree; it has always been about access.
Below is an outstanding sermon from Pastor David Platt about the fate of the unevangelized. This topic is one of the things that compels the GCR TF.
For over 300 years local associations have been helping local churches cooperate together to carry out the Great Commission. Associations were doing this before there were state or national conventions.
The GCRTF was commissioned to study what we do as a convention and bring back recommendations (and challenges) to the SBC about how we can more faithfully and effectively cooperate together in the Great Commission. In the challenges section every Southern Baptist entity is challenged to take steps to see a GCR take place in our world, and that includes associations! This is great. The only way a GCR will happen is if we all own it. Many already are and have been for some time.
Since the release of the GCRTF report some have feared that the GCR recommendation to phase out the cooperative agreements will “devastate” the work of local associations and state conventions. They think they will cause massive job loss and less mission work in the fields of North America.
The TF has consistently said that these recommendations are about penetrating lostness by redirecting significant resources to places with very little access to the Gospel and a strategic focus on church planting.
So, how can associations or state conventions thrive, focus on church planting, and penetrate lostness if they receive less funds to do so?
It is in this context that Baptist 21 wanted to do an interview with Bill Agee to highlight the work he did as the DOM in the Central Baptist Association (CBA) in Phoenix, Arizona. He made adjustments to tighten the focus of the association, and in the process led the association to dominate in church planting.
We think this story is significant for the SBC and the GCR discussions because it gives us just one example of what a GCR might look like and the impact it might have if we all own the vision. Many have been doing it for quite some time!
Important Points in the Interview:
Before Bill worked as a DOM he was a church planter. He and his wife moved site unseen to South Dakota after being married to plant a church. In 10 years they planted a church in every community around them for 60 miles. Recently Bill Agee was appointed as the Church Planting Strategist for FBC Woodstock to begin a church planting school at FBCW. Consider attending the school if you are at all interested in church planting. It will be held September 20-22.
Listen to the interview and hear the story of one of our many Baptist associations that shifted their priorities and made a tremendous impact on a key city!
Bill Agee Interview
Some of the Questions Asked:
The game is changing, and at every level in the SBC we are going to need to adapt to keep up with the changes. We at Baptist 21 are grateful for local associations, state conventions, and our national entities, and we believe their brightest days could be in front of them if they rise to meet the challenges of change. Here is one example of an association where streamlining didn’t destroy mission work; it advanced it! This is one model of what a GCR could look like in a local association.
Further Resource: Baptist 21 highly recommends also listening to Mike Day’s address at the Baptist Identity II Conference at Union University in 2007. He talks about the role of the association and changes that are being made. The address is titled, “The Future of Baptist Associations and State Conventions.”
B21 is excited to have Jimmy Scroggins joining this year’s B21 Panel @ SBC2010 (REGISTER HERE). Jimmy Scroggins currently serves as the Senior Pastor of the Historic First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Florida. Under his leadership, FBCWPB has grown to become the 50th fastest-growing church in America and the Baptist Messenger has named him one of the Top-Ten “SBC Pastors to Watch in 2010.” He holds a bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville University (the Harvard of the South- as he would say), as well as an M.Div and a Ph.D from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Prior to his call to West Palm Beach, Scroggins served as the Dean of Boyce College (the undergraduate school of SBTS) from 2004-2008 as well as Student Minister/Teaching Pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville from 1997-2008. Prior to serving in these capacities, Jimmy also served in various ministry capacities at churches in both Kentucky and Indiana.
Jimmy’s call to ministry began with an opportunity to use his talent on the football field at one of our nation’s finest military academies- West Point. However, after a bout with cancer shortened his career in both football and the armed services, God began orchestrating circumstances in Jimmy’s life to reveal a firm call to Gospel ministry. Since that time, Jimmy’s coach/military instincts have never subsided and God has used them to create in Jimmy’s life a ministry that is marked first and foremost by its tremendous impact on the lives of young people, and particularly those of young men who are called to preach (including more than a couple B21 contributors). Under his leadership, young men have been called out and sent to preach the gospel in the Philippines, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Morocco, Cambodia, and Vietnam, as well as in numerous major cities throughout the United States. The mentoring impact that Jimmy has had on hundreds of young ministers continues even to this day from his newest post in West Palm Beach.
Jimmy is, without a doubt, one of the most dynamic and effective leaders in the SBC as well as one the B21 guy’s favorite Gospel communicators. In addition to his ministry responsibilities at the FBCWPB, Jimmy has served this past year as the First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastor’s Conference. Jimmy has been married to Kristen for 16 years and they are the proud parents of 8 children (6 sons and 2 daughters). We are so glad to have Dr. Scroggins joining us on the panel for the B21@SBC event. He is both a voice you need to hear and an example you need to see.
B21 is excited to have Matt Chandler joining this year’s B21 SBC Lunch Panel (REGISTER HERE). After several years serving on a local church staff and as an itinerant preacher, Matt Chandler became the lead Pastor of First Baptist Church of Highland Village, TX now known as The Village Church in 2002. Since that time, Matt has led the congregation through uncompromised Gospel-centered preaching, and visionary leadership. The church has grown from 160 to over 6,000 people, and they now have three campuses. Matt is committed to planting churches, and is involved in planting around Dallas and across the world through The Village Church and other partnerships. He has become a leader in the evangelical world through his ministry at The Village Church, his leadership in the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, and through his preaching at multiple conferences.
Matt will bring a much-needed voice to the b21 panel at this year’s SBC. His church does cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention and he has expressed hopefulness about the future and the GCR, even saying that he would follow Danny Akin, “into the furnace” (check out his 20/20 talk at SEBTS). We are looking forward to the insights he will bring to the table about why he is a Southern Baptist and what he thinks the future of Southern Baptists ought to look like.
On Thanksgiving Day 2009, Matt suddenly had a seizure and collapsed. The prognosis was that he had a malignant tumor in his brain. The doctors were unable to remove the tumor in its entirety, so over the past months he has undergone continuous treatments of chemotherapy and radiation. He has put regular videos with updates online (see latest one above). Through all of this incredibly difficult season, Matt and his wife Lauren have displayed incredible faith in God’s sovereignty and strength in Christ. A quote from a letter that went out to the members of The Village Church expresses their position through this trial: “The gospel is our hope and the Lord is our strength. Matt and Lauren continue to find solace and hope in Christ. They weep facing this trial, but not as those without hope and perspective. The gospel clarifies their suffering and promises more of Christ through it all.” The way that Matt and Lauren have handled this situation has been both a challenge and an encouragement to Christians, and to the lost a picture of hope and joy in Christ, which is beyond anything they know. We are thankful for Matt’s passionate Gospel-centered preaching and the testimony of the truth of the Gospel lived out in his life. We are grateful that Matt has graciously agreed to join the Baptist 21 panel this summer in Orlando, and look forward to learning from him and the rest of the panel at this pivotal time in the life of the SBC.
And it has certainly given us an opportunity to participate in the Great Commission together. I am so thankful for the hard work and the many hours that the GCRTF has put in trying to help us as Southern Baptists be more effective in the Great Commission. I am grateful for the recommendations that they have brought forth. So, I love the SBC and the GCR and I will vote in favor of it in Orlando, but I’ve struggled to fully embrace the SBC and the GCR for several reasons. And I suspect this feeling is not limited to me. I have been devastated lately confronting my own sinfulness in this area. For instance, when Ronnie Floyd delivered the Progress Report he said, “Our present culture represents 1 Corinthians 3 much more than 1 Corinthians 13.” This is how messed up I am, I immediately thought, yeah so many “other” people in the SBC need to heed this. The reality is I need to hear that, and I am saddened how I so quickly look to others as the problem. I am the problem. And it is possible that I am not the only one. It makes me skeptical that we will ever be able to cooperate for the “propagation of the gospel.” As I observe this I am fully aware that we will not be able to cooperate without the grace and mercy of God and the reason why is because I (we) am (are) so sinful. So here is why I am an obstacle to cooperation and even potentially to a GCR.
It was not my idea. I wasn’t the one who imagined it and I didn’t make decisions about what we would change in the SBC. As a prideful and arrogant man, I believe I know a better way than many of my elder brothers in the SBC. The only thing I can think of, and it saddens me, is that I want the “glory” that may result from this to go to me and recognized as my ideas. I want the validation from knowing I was right. In this same context, I struggle with cooperation because I think my way is best and it’s hard to lean on others. Again this is because I think I know better and I want the “glory” or praise that might come from a move of God, or seeming move of God. Yes, that sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? That is why as I take stock of my life I am deeply dismayed by my sin and pride.
In addition, I really struggle to be charitable toward my brothers in Christ. I want to see myself as better, smarter, etc than others. I tend to distrust others. So, I struggle to give the benefit of the doubt to my brother, or I want to critique their theology. I know that not all disagreement is bad, but when I disagree often I do it without charity. And my instinct is to respond by ripping someone apart in my mind or on a blog because I want to lift myself up and put him or her down. I really struggle being charitable to others, probably because I want to exalt myself and not truth. I have an idol in my life and it is me. And so I struggle to cooperate.
Also, I am a territorial person. I want the seminaries/churches/ministries that my family and I are connected with to get ample resources and respect.
In addition, I tend to buck against cooperation and want to drill holes in the GCR because it is easier for me to be skeptical and a critic and not get my hopes up for better cooperation or a GCR. That way I will never be left looking silly if things don’t progress. Plus, it is easier for me to criticize and “poke holes” than it is to be a part of a solution that might fail.
So ultimately, what I am saddened over in my own life is that I love myself. I want to increase and not decrease. I want the glory and that makes me an obstacle to cooperation and change. I need to repent and I desperately need the grace and mercy of God in crucifying my flesh. I want to be a person of humility, charity, and Christlike character (Phil. 2 for example). And I want to be someone who cooperates with other brothers and sisters so that the fame of Christ would spread throughout the earth. My only problem is I want my fame attached with it.
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