Thursday, May 21, 2009

IMB cuts and the GCR call

What is the relationship between the recent call for a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) and the vote this week by International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention to scale back missionary appointments for this year? Just this: both make the case that Southern Baptist churches desperately need to reexamine and retool their priorities and the latter heightens the importance of the former.

The GCR encourages us to face up to the fact that biblical Christianity requires more than strong affirmations of biblical authority. Certainly we should not ever back away from our commitment to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, but neither should we think that such a commitment is enough. In fact, fidelity to Jesus Christ demands that we measure our lives and values by the Word of God. Where we are found wanting, Christ calls us to repent--to change.

The GCR emphasizes the Lordship of Christ, centrality of the gospel, priority to the Great Commandments and the health and mission of local churches. It also calls for "A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure" (article IX), stating specifically,
We call upon all Southern Baptists, through our valued partnerships of SBC agencies, state conventions/institutions, and Baptist associations to evaluate our Convention structures and priorities so that we can maximize our energy and resources for the health of our local churches and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This commitment recognizes the great strength of our partnership, which has been enabled by the Cooperative Program and enhanced by a belief that we can do more together than we can separately (emphasis added).
I do not understand why any informed Southern Baptist would disagree with this statement. The SBC is in dire need of reexamining the way that we do things, including the way that we allocate our financial resources. Every Christian and every church ought to be concerned that they are getting the most "bang-for-the-buck" with their financial investments in kingdom work. That fact alone should make Southern Baptists welcome a healthy evaluation of the current structures of SBC life to see how we can do what we ought to be doing in increasingly better ways.

This is simply a matter of stewardship, and I am grateful that the framers of the GCR included this article in the document.

The IMB announcement that financial shortfalls are forcing a reduction in the number of missionaries that we will send to hard places this year highlights the timeliness of the GCR call. I first wrote about this in December 2008, noting that it is time for Southern Baptists to get serious about the allocation of Cooperative Program dollars. Three years prior to that, I showed how money given through state conventions to the Cooperative Program (CP) actually is allocated. The little-known fact is that most CP dollars are used by the state conventions through which they are given. Less that 40% actually reaches Nashville and less than 20% gets to the IMB.

Now the trustees of the IMB are forced to announce (through tears, according to the BP report) that there is not enough money to appoint all of those who are willing, equipped and ready to be sent by their churches. Can we sit back and let this happen?

Isn't it past time for Southern Baptists to reevaluate the structures of our convention organization and see how we can improve our financial stewardship?

I agree with SBC President, Johnny Hunt, who responded to the IMB announcement with these words, "We need to take the gloves off in Jesus' name and tell the truth so the people will know." Baptist Press goes on to quote Dr. Hunt as saying, "I think Southern Baptists are going to say there are some things we can cut, but sending missionaries is not one of them....That is not an option."

Amen.

Though there are many reasons to support the GCR, the need to reexamine the structures of the convention should be a rallying call to all Southern Baptists who want to see the sacrificial gifts of their churches make it to the places where it is needed most.

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