At the last SBC, 95% of Southern Baptists in attendance voted in favor of having a presidential appointed GCR task force. It was an exciting day by all accounts. Over the past several months many of us have followed with excitement and prayed with hope, as the GCR task force carried out its weighty task. Exactly what they’ll report and how their report will be received is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, we thought it would be helpful to talk a little about how things are going. It seems to us that one of the most critical and sensitive areas under examination has to do with the way our Cooperative Program dollars are split up and the way that people talk about the issues associated with this.
In most states, around 70 cents of every dollar given to the Cooperative Program stays in the state. The 70 cents funds all kinds of helpful and serious ministry in the respective state. The 30 cents that makes it beyond the borders of the state through the CP is divided up between the national entities, seminaries, mission boards, etc. This, of course, is coupled with special offerings for NAMB, the IMB, and other state offerings throughout the year.
Should We Change the Percentage of CP Dollars that Stay in State?
One of the key questions that many are asking is whether or not 70 cents out of every CP dollar should stay in state. On the one hand, there are people like Dr. Danny Akin who have argued that more CP money should go to support international missions and less should stay here. Though the GCR document later softened the language, Akin, one of its authors, writes, “our denominational structures have become bloated and bureaucratic at every level, from local associations to state conventions to the SBC itself. We believe our ministry effectiveness is being strangled by overlap and duplication, poor stewardship, and a disproportionate amount of Cooperative Program dollars being kept by the state conventions.” When Akin was later asked what the real motivation was behind his strong language and hope for a GCR, he answered simply, “It is about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 6 plus billion people on planet earth.”
So, it would seem, Akin and those who agree with him would like to see less money staying in the states (especially those with a large number of churches in their state) and more going to effectively equip those attempting to reach unreached parts of America and, especially, those attempting to reach the unreached peoples of the world. Their perspective really makes sense when you think about a few statistics.
For instance, the Joshua Project says that there are 2.75 billion unreached/least reached people in the world. I know, I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around that number. I’ll just pick a few examples from the site. For instance, the Ansari people of India have a population of 9,726,000. How many evangelical Christians are there of the 9 million? None. That is, amongst a people that are twice the size of the people in the state of Kentucky there are no Christians. Zero. And, as you would guess, the Ansari people are not the exception.
The Uyghur people of China have a population of 10,760,000. They have zero evangelical witness at the moment. The Hui people of China have a population of 12,561,000. You’ll find no evangelical witness amongst these people as well. The Sunda people of Indonesia total 34,720,000. Of this number, 0.08% are evangelical Christians. The Somali people of Somalia have a total of 7,678,000 people. They too, have zero evangelical witness. Are you tracking with us? Needless to say, when the need for gospel witness around the globe is put into focus it is overwhelming. At the very least, it would seem that more resources should go towards reaching these completely unreached people than currently does. This seems especially true in light of the fact that the IMB has recently stopped sending certain types of missionaries because of a lack of resources to support them.
Should We Keep the Current CP Standards and Focus on Giving More?
On the other hand, there are people like those writing for the Kentucky Baptist State Convention who have argued that the states do not keep too much money in their state and that they are not bloated bureaucracies. Rather, state conventions are actually quite streamlined in their ministry efforts. In a recent article, entitled “State Conventions Stretched, not Bloated,” Robert Reeves wrote, “Here in Kentucky, even in the best of times, we only have about 75 full-time Mission Board employees to meet the needs of nearly 2,400 churches. Other part-time, contract or temporary workers are also used to help out but their roles are by budgetary necessity very limited.” In other words, this team is doing a lot with very little in order to help Kentucky churches reach the 4.5 million people that live in Kentucky. Reaching these people, Reeves argued in another article, should not be minimized or overlooked in favor of international efforts.
Reeves writes, “This lostness is not imagined. It has been documented in a variety of ways. According to research conducted by NAMB, some 251 million people in the United States and Canada — that’s three out of every four — are lost. Here in Kentucky, according to research conducted by the Barna Group on behalf of the KBC, nearly 1 million Kentuckians are unchurched with another 650,000 not committed to the church on whose roll their name appears. The Association of Religious Data Archives estimated that nearly 1.9 million of Kentucky’s 4 million population in 2000 had no affiliation with any religious group. No matter how you want to cut it or whose numbers you want to use, the point is that there is a great need for missions on our own continent and in our own country and state.”
Thus, for Reeves and others who would agree with him, Southern Baptists don’t need to rearrange the percentages of each dollar that stay in state and go beyond. Instead, Southern Baptists simply need to give more dollars. Commenting on the need for more money, Reeves states, “right now on average here in Kentucky, 93 cents of every undesignated dollar that a person puts into the offering plate, stays in the local community for local church operations, ministries and missions. That leaves 7 cents to be divided among the state conventions and Southern Baptist Convention for all of the other work that takes place across the nation and world. And where we’ve ended up in part with the GCR is a scramble for how best to divide up that 7 cents. At times it reminds me of football players trying to recover a fumble on a muddy field.”
There are a lot of folks that we could’ve chosen to represent these views. Hopefully, these examples provided a helpful description of two different ways that people are approaching a “GCR.” Although many times they use the same language, it seems that they mean something contrary to the other. This, obviously, makes discussions about the GCR clear as mud for many people. We’ll follow up with our take on these two options next.
Baptist21 wants to bring to our readers’ attention the upcoming Advance the Church regional in Raleigh-Durham, NC on February 4th. The event is free and speakers include David Platt from The Church at Brook Hills (Birmingham, AL), Tyler Jones from Vintage21 Church (Raleigh, NC), and Matt Chandler* from The Village Church (Dallas, TX).
Advance’s vision is “to assist local churches in planting healthy, gospel-centered churches and revive the boneyard of dead or dying churches – beginning in the context of the urban south and continuing to all parts of the world.” Advance’s conference last summer (which featured Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, John Piper, Tyler Jones, Danny Akin, and others) was a great blessing to many on the B21 team.
If you’re in the Raleigh-Durham area on February 4th we encourage you to make it there.
*from the Advance site: Matt Chandler is still scheduled to be here, but with his recent surgery, he has asked that we hold his presence as tentative. We will let you know of any changes, but either way, we hope that you’ll join us February 4th.
This blog is an article that I wrote for my church newsletter that may be helpful for others to read who are looking to plant churches and send missionaries around the world. I hope it is a blessing to you:
One of many signs of health is reproduction, I have been thinking about this a lot recently, especially because I am officially “Uncle Walt” as of January 4, 2010! (shameless, I know). In the same way that reproduction is a sign of health in humans and animals, it is also a sign of the health in a church.
It is quickly becoming the passion of our church to multiply itself via church planting. The church is God’s chosen instrument to reach the world with the Gospel, so we are making God’s mission our mission by seeking to strategically place churches around the globe. Our long-term vision is to become somewhat of a church planting hub that is continually equipping and sending groups from our church to live their lives somewhere else for the sake of the Gospel.
With our passion for starting new churches comes unique yet fun challenges. One initial challenge that our staff is looking to tackle is the need for our church to continually raise up men and women who are equipped to carry the Gospel around the world. This goal should not seem unusual because it is calling of all believers to be able to multiply themselves in the lives of others (Matt. 28:19).
Preparing the church to take the Gospel around the world should be the norm in every church. It saddens me to think that the vast majority of church members and attendees in our country have been given the impression, either verbally or non-verbally, that a good Christian is one who comes to church, listens to a sermon, sings a few songs, tithes and goes home. Though these things are important to the Christian life, what I have just described is only a shadow of God’s desire for every believer. Though the expectation upon each Christian is greater when the church seeks to have everyone proactively advance the Gospel movement, the vibrancy of the Christian life is unparalleled when the believer is fulfilling the reason for their creation.
At the most basic level, the mission of the Church is to worship the Triune God, edify the bride of Christ (the Church), and evangelize the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit the church is self-perpetuating and nowhere does Scripture assume that a specialized para-church institution will raise up those who will fulfill the calling of the church on her behalf. This is why I stress that leaders should be trained within the church. With that said, para-church institutions are extremely profitable insofar as they seek to come alongside the church as they equip believers for God’s calling on their life together.
It is not my intention to diminish the ministry preparation that seminaries and other para-church ministries offer, rather it is to challenge our church to take ownership of making disciples who are able teachers, counselors, and evangelists around the globe. I am convinced that if every opportunity to instill a love for God and His mission is taken in the nursery, in children’s and adult Sunday school, in small groups, and as older believers disciple younger believers, the hunger to fulfill and be equipped for God’s mission will follow. Far too often the local church understands the nursery, children’s Sunday school, and youth group to be a babysitting service so the parents can enjoy a worship service without any distraction. This should not be! At every age, every opportunity should be taken to instill a love for God, His mission, and to deepen our knowledge of the depths of God’s Word.
As your church staff, we are continually looking for opportunities to streamline all that we do to make disciples that are up to the joyous task of moving their lives to another community and simply being the light of Christ at a new church, as you go to work, in your children’s schools, in your neighborhood, at the store, and for those of you who are really spiritual, even at the DMV:)
The endgame of this blog is to call everyone to act with a renewed purpose in all that we do in the church. This does not change what we do, but it changes why we do what we do. Because those who serve in the nursery, with our children, and with our youth are teaching and caring for the next generation of ambassadors for Christ: missionaries in the workplace, to their neighborhood or to other nations, as pastors, church planters etc. We must take every teachable moment captive for the purpose of equipping them for God’s purpose in their lives. In the same way, adult Sunday school classes are a training ground for our teachers to instruct in godliness, and to cultivate a love and knowledge of God and His Word and mission.
An aside to the Seminarian:
The last thing I would want the reader to take from this article is the devaluing of theological education that takes place in seminaries, Bible colleges and institutes. Years spent in these programs function as a time of accelerated learning in the life of the believer as he or she prepares for God’s calling on their life. During this time the seminarian is taking in vast quantities of intellectual knowledge about God. While retaining knowledge of God is essential for growth, it must not be confused for getting to know the person of God through a genuine growing relationship. It is a necessity in the Christian life to grow in knowledge of God, but when it is not accompanied by a deepening love of God it leads to a hardened heart. Some goals that a seminarian can keep in mind during their time of intense study is (1) not to forsake the meeting of God’s people, (2) maintain an active role within your local body of believers, and to (3) continue to cultivate personal spiritual disciplines so that the Bible does not become a textbook and the person of God is not reduced to an object of intellectual scrutiny. During my time in seminary I have kept these principles in mind and I have never had a season in my life where my head and my heart grew together in such harmony.
1. Missionary Work Overseas – It’s hard to imagine what it’d be like to grow up amongst a people and die without ever hearing the gospel. Yet, there are large numbers of peoples who still find themselves in this situation. That’s one of the key reasons that Southern Baptists continue to pool their monies and people together in order to reach these peoples and cultures. What’s it like to lead the first person from a completely unreached people group to Christ? Many have never done this. But, by God’s grace and great sacrifice by men and women, many more will have this experience. The nations need Jesus. In order to hear of Jesus, they need missionaries. That’s why their work is so significant to the SBC and the kingdom of Christ.
2. Changing Presidential Leadership – The significance of Southern Baptist entity heads is often under-appreciated. The decisions that these men make impact massive amounts of people for good or for ill. Southern Baptists are at a critical point in time with three key presidencies opening up. The Executive Committee, NAMB, and IMB presidencies are all open or opening soon. B21 is praying and asking you to pray for the men who will fill these positions. Placing the right men at the head of these entities will do much to advance the Great Commission.
3. Dr. Danny Akin’s GCR Sermon – Whether you’re talking about Dr. Danny Akin’s passion, his preaching, or, simply, his love for the Great Commission, it would be misguided not to mention his work in 2009 as one of the most significant stories. Standing behind the pulpit in SEBTS’s chapel, Akin delivered what would become a great rallying point (and point of controversy) in his GCR Axiom sermon. Clearly coming from a heart for nations, Akin set in motion a movement (or gave it a BIG push) that would change 2009 and, by God’s grace, the way SBC approaches the Great Commission.
4. Increased SBC Unity – By almost all accounts, there seems to be a growing unity in the SBC. That is, we are more unified today than we have been in past years. What this means or implies is up for some debate. Yet, B21 thinks that there is a growing unity around the Great Commission. For instance, at the B21 event at the SBC, the panelists came from all kinds of theological and methodological stripes. Yet, these men were unified around the Great Commission and the BF&M. Still more, the lunch for the 600 attendees was provided personally by SBC President, Johnny Hunt (a man that has embodied unity around the Great Commission as much, if not more, than anyone). Hunt, as many know, would disagree in many ways with the panelists. Yet, because of its Great Commission purposes, he supported the B21 panel. In fact, B21 believes that the unity that Southern Baptists presently enjoy, in large part, is due to the excellent leadership of Johnny Hunt. With men like Hunt leading the way, Southern Baptists have a lot to hope for in the coming days.
5. Union University’s “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism” – Dr. David Dockery has, amongst other things, turned Union University into one of the leading think tanks for Baptist life. Like in his past conferences, Dockery put together a line up that included the most significant and helpful voices in Baptist life. And they didn’t disappoint. Southern Baptists owe a debt of gratitude to David Dockery for putting this conference together, the effects of which we are still enjoying.
6. Higher Attendance at SBC Louisville – Okay, so it didn’t hurt that the SBC was in a town filled with young people and in the heart of the church-saturated part of the country. But, we’d argue, it is still quite an achievement to get that many people in this kind of economy to attend the SBC. Even if the economy wasn’t in the shape that it was (and is), it’s still hard to get people to spend their time at a convention. Come on, there are Southern Baptist associational meetings that know how difficult it is to get people to participate. The numbers at the 2009 SBC pointed to great life and health. It pointed, perhaps, to a resurgence in Great Commission engagement in the SBC. It will be interesting to see how many show up in Orlando.
7. Cancer Classroom – Several prominent Southern Baptists found out that they had cancer this year. This, of course, is terrible news. But, by God’s grace, these men who have taught the church so excellently in their preaching ministries are now teaching the church in a different way. They’re showing the church how godly men suffer. Johnny Hunt and Matt Chandler, to name a couple, continue to battle cancer. They continue to teach us of Christ. Pray for these men and that their cancer will provide great opportunity to advance the kingdom of Christ.
8. Christmas in August – After the heart wrenching news of the IMB financial shortfall, causing them to stop sending “M’s”, Southern Baptists responded to calls from Hunt, Akin, and others to take a special Lottie Moon Christmas offering in August. Thus, the “Christmas in August” movement was born. It’s this kind of responsiveness in which B21 finds great encouragement.
9. SBTS’s Sesquiencentennial – Southern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its 150th Anniversary. This is even more significant in light of an economic situation that’s included the closing of several schools’ doors. SBTS survived the Great Depression, Liberalism, and is currently thriving under the excellent leadership of Dr. Albert Mohler. Their story is amazing and a testimony to God’s grace. SBTS professor, Greg Wills, masterfully tells the story in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 1859-2009. We’re praying for at least 150 more!!
10. GCR Task Force – There aren’t many things that you can get 95% of Southern Baptists to agree on. Clothing style? No. Worship style? No. GCR? Yes! When Southern Baptists were given the opportunity to affirm or deny the formulation of a Great Commission Task Force, they overwhelmingly voted for it. Thus, President Hunt put together a 23 member, GCR task force. The task? They are to examine the Southern Baptist entities and structure in order to bring an assessment to the 2010 SBC in Orlando. Everybody is looking forward to this report. They need our prayers. Sign up to pray here.
When R. G. Lee pastored the First Baptist Church of Edgefield, South Carolina, he gave a devotional during a prayer meeting called “Payday Someday.” A deacon told him afterwards that he had some pretty good material and needed to work on it some. Lee did! He ended up preaching Payday
more than 1,200 times! As a part of honoring the past, we want to make young Southern Baptists aware of what is arguably the greatest American sermon in the twentieth century. Lee is perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist preacher of all time, and Payday is perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist sermon. Payday is a narrative sermon. Lee masterfully tells the story of Naboth, Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah (from 1 Kings 21 & 2 Kings 9) as a theater tragedy with eight scenes: the real-estate request, the pouting potentate, the wicked wife, the message meaning murder, the fatal fast, the visit to the vineyard, the alarming appearance, and payday itself.
Ahab and Jezebel cheat Naboth out of his vineyard, and Jezebel signs a letter ordering his assassination. It looks as though evil will triumph and go unnoticed by God. Lee erupts, “Where is God? Where is God? Is He blind and He cannot see? Is He deaf and He cannot hear? Is He dumb and He cannot speak? Is He paralyzed and He cannot move? Where is God?” Then, Lee assures his audience, “Wait just a minute, and we shall find out.” As a result, Elijah announces God’s judgment sentence upon Ahab and Jezebel, “Ahab, as the Lord God liveth before whom I stand, God sent me here to tell you that someday, someday, where the dogs licked Naboth’s blood will the dogs lick thy blood, even thine. And Ahab God sent me here to tell you that someday, here, by the walls of Jezreel the dogs will eat Jezebel.” All happens according to God’s word. The sermon is about God’s judgment. God must and will judge sin. He may not punish today or tomorrow, but He will punish eventually.
Lee pauses the story after Elijah passes God’s judgment sentence and begins to drive home application. He tells his audience that “Payday Someday” is written “in the constitution of God’s universe.” God has revealed the reality of judgment in His Word, and it cannot be sidestepped or avoided. Sin will be repaid. It may not be today, but it will happen “Someday.” Lee lists certain sins and the payday God promises for them, “Oh, you can take God’s name in vain, if you will, if you’re indecent enough to be a profane swearer, but I have a book that tells us about the cursers payday, ‘God will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.’ You can tell lies, if you will, forgetting that lying lips are an abomination unto God… Here’s the payday, ‘All liars,’ says this book, ‘shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.’…You can live to flesh and sex, if you will, like thousands do, but I have book that tells us about the payday for that, ‘the works of the flesh are these: adultery, fornication, uncleaness…’ Well, what’s the payday? God says that, ‘He who soweth to his flesh will of his flesh reap rotten flesh, corruption, carrion, which buzzards love.’”
Lee presses play on the story and describes how God’s payday came on Ahab and Jezebel. An arrow kills Ahab. He is stood up on the chariot while the bottom fills with his blood. Then, the dogs leap up in the chariot and lick his blood, “according to the word of God spoken by Elijah the Tishbite… God said it, and it was done. ‘The wicked shall be turned into Hell with all the nations that forget God.’ God says that, and it shall be done!” Lee’s point is that just as God’s promised payday came upon Ahab, so God’s promised payday will come upon all sinners. God’s payday continues to come to bear as Jehu, the newly anointed king of Israel, is told to blot out the house of Ahab. Jehu kills Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, and soldiers place his body in the vineyard Jehoram’s parents stole from Naboth. Lee points out the irony, “Listen, the vineyard they got by shedding Naboth’s blood is now stained with their own blood as it flowed in the veins of their son Jehoram. God’s payday train is coming into station, and all the powers of men and hell can’t put on the brakes…” Finally, Jehu commands eunuchs to throw Jezebel down from a palace window. They do, and the dogs eat her, leaving her head, feet, and hands. Lee pleads with his listeners to escape the sinner’s payday for the Christian’s payday though Jesus Christ saying, ““The only way I know for any man or woman on earth to escape the sinner’s payday on earth and the sinner’s hell beyond – making sure of the Christian’s payday – is through Christ Jesus, who took the sinner’s place on the cross, becoming for all sinners all that God must judge, that sinners through faith in Christ Jesus might become all that God cannot judge.”
One cannot adequately set forth “Payday Someday” as it deserves. “Payday” is a masterpiece. It is meant to be heard. I encourage everyone to listen to it. If you have heard it before, I encourage you to listen again with fresh ears. If you have never heard it before, listen for the first time to maybe the greatest sermon from perhaps the greatest preacher in the long line of Southern Baptist pulpiteers. May we be terrified at the reality of God’s judgment on sin. We deserve the fate of Ahab and Jezebel, and much worse. May we be brokenhearted over the lost who are certain to face the dogs of judgment let loose by a holy God. May we be overjoyed and awestruck that King Jesus received the full force of God’s payday on our behalf. May we resolve to plead with sinners to be reconciled to Christ, because there will be a payday, someday!
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