I experienced several emotions when I heard the news, ranging from sadness for those affected, to confusion as to how we didn’t take drastic measures before, to even anger. I fought back tears a few days ago as I told my church that we have to bring God-called men and women home, and at least in the short term, reduce our gospel witness around the world.
There is a biblical and agricultural principle that pruning is necessary prior to fruitfulness. However, pruning is rarely, if ever, pleasant at the time. I feel for IMB leadership who have to make difficult decisions in the face of the crisis, and I feel for those who will be affected by it. It is easy to stand back and evaluate these decisions in light of pure numbers. Each of these numbers being reduced, however, reflects real, individual missionary lives who are being affected. That matters to me. However, I recognize that no organization can survive like this – continually dipping into reserves and selling off property. This decision is necessary so that we have an IMB in the future. While the problems that cause this are tragic, the solution doesn’t have to be.
Our traditional model at the IMB is wonderful and has been very effective. However, that model alone will not be able to finish the task of the Great Commission. We now have the opportunity to consider the history of the CP and the IMB, as the CP prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary. It is true that while our current model has been incredibly effective, it’s ceiling has been pretty firm. We have been functioning for many decades, and yet there still exists approximately 1/3 of the globe’s population that has yet to hear and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is unacceptable. If we retain our current model, there will always be a ceiling on how many we can send (even if giving at home increases by millions!). We need the both/and approach the IMB has laid out for the future. Let us equip and deploy increasing numbers of fully funded missionaries, yes, but let’s also equip bivocational and volunteer missionaries en masse. Our denominational family has thrived for years on the backs of bivocational and even, at times, unpaid pastors. It is not difficult to imagine a mission field in the future that thrives in a similar way.
We all should shoulder the blame for what has happened. This is unacceptable! We need to lead our churches to sacrifice and give more so we can send more. As a pastor, I understand financial realities and the challenges churches face when making a budget. However, it is possible – no matter what your church’s situation – to lead your church to sacrifice and give more for missions. It just is! My church is strapped with debt, and yet last year we gave more to Lottie Moon than we had ever given in our history. We have also increased our Cooperative Program giving by at least 6% and given historic highs to Annie Armstrong in that same time. It is a false dichotomy to argue that you can’t give to mission while struggling under debt or other financial constraints. We should all sacrifice and give more.
The IMB is the reason we have an SBC, and yet 800 workers will be laid off while the majority of our CP giving remains at home with the most believers and churches.
I’m so thankful for state conventions that are making radical and quick moves to get to 50/50 or more! May their tribe increase! Every state needs to move to 50/50 as quickly as possible – and it is possible!
I’ve written about this previously, and maybe churches need to take these drastic measures, but I mention it here simply to show the potential that is there currently: “If by decree tomorrow (impossible by our polity and rightly so), every state convention moved to a 50/50 split, then that would mean $55.4 million more to the SBC and $27.7 million more given to the IMB. That’s without any increased giving at all!” That would have been a big chunk of the IMB’s nearly $35million yearly shortfall! Do we need a bigger pie? Yes (see point 4 above). But, do we need to allocate more of the pie to the places with the least access to the gospel? Absolutely!
These workers have served long and faithfully. They should be allowed opportunities to both serve the church and rest from their work, depending on their needs. Every church family into which these missionaries go would greatly benefit themselves by helping these folks and hearing their stories. There is a wealth of wisdom in each of those that will retire. What a treasure to our churches!
Obviously the issues at play here are larger than any single blogpost can rightly dissect and resolve, but I hope more pastors will grapple with our individual responses to the current struggle at the IMB. Friends, this is not their problem, it’s our problem. Let’s fix it together. Cooperative Mission is, after all, the Southern Baptist way.
Jon Akin is a founding member of B21 and Senior Pastor at Fairview Church in Lebanon, TN.
First, the goals of the conferences are different. The SBC pastors’ conference is primarily for pastors. The SEND conference has been marketed for all people. There are speakers you would invite to a conference about the mission of God that you wouldn’t invite to speak at a pastors’ conference. The SEND conference seems to be broader in scope. As a pastor, I’m taking 25 of our church members to the conference because I want them to be better equipped to live on mission. I didn’t take our people to the SBC pastors’ conference, although I as a pastor attended. NAMB and IMB, the creators of the conference, both understand that the mission of God is big enough to include all aspects of the lives of the people of God. And my people are facing the sophisticated religious liberty challenges at work—even here in the South. So a discussion on religious liberty is more appropriate with this type of conference.
Second, the formats and topics of the conferences are different. At the pastors’ conference, Ben Carson was going to speak in a sermonic fashion, opening his bible and talking about cultural values. The politicians at the SEND event will not be speaking in the same way, but will be interviewed specifically on religious liberty issues. They will not be opening a bible and delivering a sermon. Am I surprised the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is having a discussion on religious liberty? No. It’s one of the reasons they exist. Do I think having a politician opening up a bible and talking to us generally about its values is a good idea, especially when he has significant different theological views? No. There’s a significant difference here. Baptist21 never called for a complete disengagement from political involvement. We did, however, raise concerns about the way we were engaging politically as a denomination. We hope the SBC can be a prophetic voice that is not tied to one party, but is wed to the Kingdom of God and the mission of God. However you think that should play out, the formats and topics of these two conferences are different.
Third, the invitations to the conferences are different. At the pastors’ conference only one politician from one party was invited. This party—the Republican Party—is the only party that has historically received invites to SBC events. Our concern was that a close association with a political party would dilute our gospel witness. The ERLC invited candidates from both parties. Regardless of who comes, they have made an effort to engage with both parties. Whether one thinks this is enough or not, it is a different approach—one I believe that makes our previous concern harder to raise. In fact, during the pastors’ conference situation, when different parties behind the scenes asked us how pc leadership might handle the situation differently, we suggested that they could invite a politician from the Democratic Party to have a discussion on religious liberty. This is what happened with the SEND invite. There’s progress here. Whether or not there is enough progress to avoid diluting our message and mission is yet to be seen. Some B21 members are skeptical. The news that Democrats will probably not be represented at SEND is disappointing and still contributes to the perception that the SBC is tied to 1 party, but we are thankful for the effort to include both parties.
These are just quick points of observation. We assume that they won’t be completely agreed upon. Even among the Baptist21 brethren there are those not excited about this portion of the SEND conference. But the Southern Baptist emphasis on cooperation assumes different perspectives. The question isn’t whether we’ll disagree or not. We will. The question is whether we will disagree without being disagreeable or not. Let’s not be offended by opposing views. Let’s engage with them. Voice your own as winsomely as possible and let’s advance the kingdom of Christ together.]]>
Some of the topics addressed:
B21 Panel – SBC 2015 from Baptist21 on Vimeo.]]>
Hope you enjoy the books!
On top of these 12, we will also be giving away some copies of Dr. Russell Moore’s new book Onward and Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi from the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series. We have a limited number of these. Attendees will also receive a copy of Light Magazine with the title “Marriage Redefined?,” as well as many other gifts and information from our sponsors.
We are able to do this because of the generosity of many publishers. We would like to thank the following for allowing us to give away these books to you!
Finally, don’t miss the books! Register for our event TODAY. We have already had to change rooms and tickets are moving fast. Register now!
Due to ticket sales exceeding the capacity for our room, we have had to move locations in order to accommodate the amount of registrants.
New Location: Battelle Grand Ballroom A/B, which is on the 3rd level
Sign up now if you want to secure your spot! Room is filling up quickly. We won’t be able to change rooms again! Don’t miss out on lunch, great conversation, and plenty of free books. Register here.
We would like to thank all of you for this great turn out! We know it’s largely because of you that we can host this important event.]]>
B21’s Scott Wilson, who pastors a Florida church, recently had the opportunity to interview Executive-Director Green. We believe you’ll be encouraged by Green’s comments below. We wish to thank Tommy Green for his willingness to share his vision with the readers of B21, and we pledge our prayerful support in the days ahead.
Q: Being the pastor at FBC, Brandon since 1996 I know it was a difficult decision for you to step away and accept this new call. Can you speak to what that process was like in accepting this new position with the state convention?
A: It was a difficult decision to move away from the long-term pastorate of First Baptist Brandon. Our lives are deeply anchored in the area and church. Brandon is our home and family that we will greatly miss. God began stirring in my heart about this opportunity as I was approached to consider this calling. Karen and I diligently prayed and discerned that God was leading us to this place of ministry. God has granted us peace and assurance that accompanies such a major move. In the midst of our seeking the Lord, God began revealing to me a new paradigm for the Florida Baptist Convention. As we proceeded it was abundantly clear that the calling focused beyond the person to the plan for the future of our State Convention.
Q: What key concepts will guide your philosophy in leading the Florida Baptist Convention?
A: The paradigm is built upon the vision that the Florida Baptist Convention supports the local churches in their mission of making disciples of all the nations. The Florida Baptist Convention exists for the churches and not the churches for the convention. This strategy focuses upon three concepts of design- Decentralization, Regionalization, and Personalization. Our team will be living in the regions (we have 5 defined regions in Florida) and building personal relationships with the churches and pastors. The regional teams will be resourced to support the local churches in conferencing and development that is requested by the churches in the regions.
Q: Many Florida Baptists would love to see us reach that 50/50 division of giving through the CP so that more funds leave Florida to reach the unreached outside our borders. What is your plan regarding allocation of CP funds moving forward and why is that important to you?
A: My conviction is that churches plant churches and churches revitalize churches, not state conventions. Our budget will include monies to partner directly with churches in planting and revitalizing churches. We have tremendous churches in Florida which are led by Kingdom-minded pastors who will effectively plant and revitalize churches across our state. We will be redeploying Cooperative Program money back into our Florida Baptist churches.
The budget that will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Florida Baptist Convention will be based on sending 51% of Cooperative Program dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention and 49% will remain in Florida. This budget will be fashioned exclusively on monies given by our Florida Baptist churches. We will eliminate shared ministry receipts and negotiated dollars from the budget. The budget will be based on the contributions from our churches. It is exciting to know that we will be adopting a budget that sends more away than we keep in Florida. This percentage formula is not the final landing place for Florida. My commitment is that we will continue widening the gap as Cooperative Program monies increase from our churches. You cannot out give God and as we demonstrate generosity as a State Convention, I believe God will honor our efforts to reach Florida and the nations for Christ.
Q: As you step into this new role, what would be your encouragement to those currently serving as state executives outside of Florida? What would you like to see happening across the SBC?
A: The key to more resources from the Cooperative Program being available for the IMB, NAMB, our Seminaries, and ERLC is directly linked to the giving formulas changing within our state conventions. We have outstanding leaders at our entities who have great Kingdom perspectives. I am committed to leading Florida to doing more and giving more to change our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Q: What excites you about the future for the SBC and Florida Baptists in particular?
A: I am extremely excited about the unity that I am experiencing around this vision for Florida. Pastors of all ages are expressing their support and encouragement as we advance this vision in our state. I encourage us to unite in prayer for a powerful move of God upon and through our Southern Baptist Convention and our upcoming meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Daniel Akin recently contributed to a website called Openly Secular. The mission of the site is to eliminate discrimination against secular people by allowing them to be open about their beliefs. Some people will question why Dr. Akin has contributed to such a site because Christians and secularists disagree about some very important issues. However, I am thankful that Dr. Akin has lent his voice to the discussion.
In an increasingly secularized world, we as Christians need to avoid the two extremes of withdrawal and condescension when it comes to cultural engagement. I believe that Akin is modeling a Pauline approach to cultural engagement by appealing to shared convictions and beliefs (Acts 17). And I believe there is scriptural and theological evidence to affirm what Akin says.
We can partner in valuing the dignity and worth of all human beings.
Practically, the image of God is the basis for human dignity. All people are valuable and have dignity and worth because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). A correct understanding of it is the basis for truly Christian human justice systems and relationships.
All people would affirm that murder is a heinous crime. As Christians, we believe the basis for this is that to kill or even curse another is an affront to God (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9-10). All people can affirm through experience that all free and loving human relationships are not sustainable unless there is a mutual understanding of the dignity of the other.
We can partner in advocating the free expression of beliefs according to the dictates of human conscience.
We’ve seen an unprecedented change in American culture against basic religious freedoms, freedoms that once were at the foundation of the American conscience. If we as Americans are a free people in a constitutional government, we should advocate for liberty and justice for all. No one should be coerced regarding their religious views.
In the Bible, the state is granted the power to act against threats to public order and justice (Romans 13:1-7). However, the state does not have the power to regulate religious freedom, which is a matter of personal conscience (Mark 12:17). God desires human beings to worship Him from an open and free conscience (1 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 9:14). As Americans, all people should be free to express beliefs sensibly without hatred or discrimination, as long as their beliefs do not directly lead to the intentional and senseless harm of others.
We can partner in caring for creation and in the fight against poverty.
The Genesis account teaches that human beings are to be fruitful and multiply, to till the soil, and to have “dominion” over God’s good creation (Genesis 1:28). First, we are to care for the natural world. As Russell Moore has said, the natural world is made for man, not man for the natural world. While humanity is the crown of creation, humanity is also dependant on creation for natural life (air, water, the sunlight, etc.). We all need to conserve and care for the good earth that God has created for us to dwell in.
Second, we are to care for the poor. As Christians, we understand that Jesus Himself defined His ministry as being focused on the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Therefore, we join Him on mission not only when we proclaim His saving gospel but when we seek justice and the welfare of others. Certainly, our primary aim in mission should be Word based—the proclamation of the gospel—however, our deeds need to testify to the Word we proclaim.
We are to serve faithfully as a representative of Christ, even as we interact with secularists. As evangelical Christians become increasingly marginalized, we will be tempted to respond in sub-Christian ways. God has saved us so that we would bring every square inch of our lives under submission to His Lordship. We do this as a matter of witness and obedience.
Our ultimate goal is to glorify Christ through witness and obedience with the hope that we might be used to engage and perhaps transform our culture. Every square inch of this universe has potential for Christian mission. We should, as The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 demonstrates in article XV, be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.
Matt Capps (M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). Matt is a friend of B21 and serves as the Brand Manager for The Gospel Project and as a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship in Nashville, TN. Matt is currently completing his D.Min. in pastoral ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
We will be discussing issues of religious liberty and cultural engagement with Dr. Akin and our other panelists at the Baptist 21 Luncheon at SBC2015. Be sure to sign up today!
Do you have something you would like Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, David Platt, H.B. Charles Jr., or Danny Akin to answer? If so, send it in below and we will collect them, filter them, and come up with a solid list.
If you are attending the SBC you can register for our event here. We will also be streaming our event live. Details for that will be announced asap.
Thank you for keeping up at Baptist21. We look forward to reading through the questions!