Denominations Don’t Fulfill the Great Commission – The Christian Index Confesses

Over the past two months, there has been a major push for a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC.  For the record, I am in favor and advocate others to sign on to this vision for the future of Southern Baptist life.  However, unlike years past, I have not been as informed or interested in all the chatter on the internet from blogs and punditry for a myriad of reasons.  Nevertheless, I have tried to stay tuned into the ongoing flurry of articles about the small corner of the evangelical block that is the SBC.

What I want to call your attention to in particular is an interview published by Baptist Press about Jerry Vines and his caveats regarding signing the GCR document.  Last week, SBCToday guys shared that Vines “has allowed his name to be added” to the document with “caveats” (it should be noted that 3100+ other Southern Baptists “allowed” their names to be added without fanfare).  But the media hype behind Vines’ caveats has served a great purpose by affording The Christian Index to make a wonderful confession.

Nestled in softball questions and the context of Article IX in the GCR document (dealing with the bureaucracy), readers found this gem of a statement:

INDEX: Is this document more about the Great Commission or more about reshaping our denomination? Denominations do not fulfill the Great Commission, churches do. We had a kind of restructuring in our denomination 15 years ago with the Covenant for a New Century. Are we better off for having done so? (emphasis mine)

This is a startling revelation.  Denominations and all the structures therein cannot and do not fulfill the Great Commission.  State conventions do not fulfill the Great Commission.  Local associations do not fulfill the Great Commission.  The Executive Committee does not fulfill the Great Commission.  Even the North American Mission Board does not fulfll the Great Commission.  Churches of the Southern Baptist Covention are entrusted and responsible for the stewardship of the Great Commission. Period.

So here’s the $64,000 question? Why are our Great Commission dollars (i.e., the Cooperative Program) stuck in a system that is inherently incapable of fulfilling the Great Commission? If state conventions cannot do it, why are they hoarding on average more than 60% of our money while IMB missionaries are being held back because of lack of funding?  In the year 2008, over $329,000,000 was kept in state conventions from Cooperative Program money.  Just think of that.  All of it sunk into a denominational bureaucracy boldly admitting its inability to do what those dollars are being sent to do.

The irony, of course, is that state convention representatives (The Christian Index included as seen in this interview) have repeated criticized the GCR document and have attempted to discredit it through the underwritten support of very Cooperative Program money provided by churches of the SBC.  CP money from local churches have given denominational “servants” the platform to criticize those who are having their eyes opened to the fact that the SBC is broken.

The ability of Southern Baptist churches to cooperate together to advance the cause of Christ in world missions is a fantastic thing.  The Cooperative Program has enabled us as Southern Baptists to do things other Christians have simply not been able to do.  However, this “program” needs attention on how it is administered, especially if now we have denominational newspapers coming out and admitting their existence is at best tangential to the Great Commission.

Southern Baptist churches should send the same message to the SBC bureacracy.  We churches can and should take responsibility for the Great Commission, and this begins with where and how we will spend God’s money entrusted to us.  Brothers and sisters, denominations do not fulfill the Great Commission, and the stewardship of the Cooperative Program should not give the impression that it does.  There is no excuse for missionaries not being able to go to unreached peoples when every year $300 million is arbitrarily direct-deposited into the piggy banks of state conventions.

There are so many positions, programs, and platforms in the SBC denomination that aren’t necessary to the Great Commission.  Imagine what $530,000,000 each year of Southern Baptist giving could do when it was invested in true Great Commission causes.  I join the desires of others to see renewal and revival in our day. But what we really need is reformation. Revival sounds Southern Baptist and always gets an “amen,” but when we start taking about “reformation,” the SBC guardians question our political correctness.  If the day comes when the prophetic mantle is substitute for political compromise, we may never see a true outpouring of God’s Spirit among His people.  It begins with repentance, and it begins with taking seriously the confession The Christian Index made .  . .

Denominations don’t fulfill the Great Commission, churches do.

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16 Comments on “Denominations Don’t Fulfill the Great Commission – The Christian Index Confesses”

  1. Marty Duren Says:

    Good word, Timmy.

  2. Olon Hyde Says:

    I have had some similar concerns about the GCR. It is being hailed as the saving “thing” of the SBC. The question that has continually popped up in my head is, “How is this any different than the Conservative Resurgence?” Nothing I have seen thus far strikes me as being different from what happened a few decades ago.

    As far as your statement that denominations don’t accomplish the Great Commission, churches do. I agree totally and completely. I too think the CP has been a great tool for Southern Baptists to carry out missions work. I also know, however, that many churches think they are carrying out the Great Commission if they simply give to the CP. There is so much else to carrying out the Great Commission than foreign missions.


  3. Timmy,
    I love you, man. You have put into print what I have been saying here in Illinois ever since I have signed the GCR document. I have been made aware of the fact that I am only one of seven in this state to have signed it. What a shame that we cannot admit our own gluttony, when our state, nation and world are starving for the gospel.

  4. mike Says:

    i have to wonder if “fulfilling” is really the best word, as if the church will one day finish the task. maybe “endeavoring in” the great commission, or “participating in,” or perhaps something else.

    but, “fulfilling?” nuances have influence, and this word is full of them

  5. mike Says:

    i should add that i totally agree that it’s about churches doing what we’re called to do and being who we’re called to be. larger organizational structures should be servants of the churches’ great commission task!


  6. Timmy,

    I appreciate your passion brother. I did not grow up in the Southern Baptist Convention and thus don’t have “tradition” ties or “sentimental” ties to the convention. I don’t like bureaucracy.

    I also signed the Great Commission Resurgence document and agree that the ability to fund missionaries is the chief benefit of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    However, I think some of your rhetoric here about state conventions is too strong and unhelpful. State conventions assist in missionary work. The work of local churches advances the Great Commission and the state conventions and local associations help local churches do just that.

    Thus, to say that every year $300 million is arbitrarily direct-deposited into the piggy banks of state conventions is unhelpful. I would like to see all state conventions and all Southern Baptist entities evaluate their spending. But I don’t think they arbitrarily devote wherever they please without prayer, thought and consideration (on a general, state by state level).

    Making such a statement does not advance the possibility of reform in the SBC: it only fosters divisiveness.

    Instead, balanced statements such as, every SBC structure needs to evaluate how it spends money with a hell-bent focus on advancing the Great Commission. Redirecting money to go to local and national missions should be the top priority. We appreciate the work state conventions are already doing and want to hone and refine all of our convention structures.

    Something like that, especially from us young bucks, would be more constructive and more helpful.


    • Garrett,

      Thanks for your comment. Allow me to respond for a moment. The state conventions and local associations can help local churches when they exist to serve the local churches, but that is not always the case (I would argue rarely). One exception, for example, is when the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina granted funds to Summit Church in Durham to launch a church planting center this past year.

      When I speak arbitrarily, state conventions in a sense do get first dibs (i.e., “direct deposit”) of CP funds because they can determine what percentage of the CP they keep without having to answer to local churches. Local churches who are holding them accountable are choosing to circumvent state conventions and give directly to Nashville instead. However, the politics of the SBC kick in if that happens because messengers are determined by your giving to the state route. Local churches are usually the last to benefit from the Cooperative Program, and since they are the front lines (the only lines?) of the Great Commission, we have it all backwards.

      You say that my comment “every year $300 million is arbitrarily direct-deposited into the piggy banks of state conventions” is “unhelpful” but you did not say it was untrue. In fact, it is true. That’s a major point behind Article IX of the GCR. The system is broken. Big time. And to think that those who are satisfied with the status quo or have stock in the current system would not bring “division” is naive in my opinion. Since when has the SBC been united on anything anyway? 😉

      What I am saying is that speaking plainly and boldly about some much needed change as unhelpful rhetoric is presented under the false pretense “foster divisiveness” or that reformation comes when we “all just get along.” I know. I have a little more radical approach than what is generally offered. We all have different ways of making our points. I am simply trying to speak plainly and boldly about a matter too important to leave with vague generalities or lightweight recommendations.

      In any case, I do hope you understand my heart on this matter and can receive it with the same unfiltered disposition in which it was delivered. Grace and peace.


      • Timmy,

        I appreciate the thoughtful and straightforward reply. I value such communication. And I do understand your heart.

        I acknowledge that you have a bit more knowledge of national and state convention structure than I: thanks for the info. Good point that state conventions don’t have much accountability.

        I’m not saying we all need to just get along: I did say unhelpful, not untrue…though I think state conventions deserve a little move credit than you are giving them.

        Difference in style of communication is probably the main difference here: I am used to such candidness being reserved for private conversations with friends. You seem to feel the freedom to post it on blogs.

        As I said, I understand your heart… and I appreciate your passion.

  7. Ken Says:

    There are some things I don’t understand and maybe you can help me. What have we stopped doing in carrying out the Great Commission? What are we going to start doing that we have not been doing to carry out the Great Commission? Is Salvation not of God? I have not seen a concerted effort to be on our faces before Him asking him to open the eyes of the blind, giving hearing to the deaf, and to place a new heart and spirit in the dead. Of course I am talking in a spiritual life way. Is the problem maybe that we think we can do the Great Commission on our on? Have we become so big and arrogant that we do not need God? Can we decide to turn on and off saving grace as if it was a water faucet? Are we just entering in a new program with baptism goals without talking about new birth? May be the problem has been our baptism numbers have been higher than our new birth numbers? I just need help understanding. A lot of questions but the only answer I have is “but God”.

  8. Thomas Clay Says:

    Timmy, your points are spot on! Unfortunately I fear that the only way the SBC will “get it” is through a financial “statement” by SBC churches. In other words, their attention will only be gotten once SBC churches simply stop supporting the CP (in good conscience) and re-channel their missions budgets towards more accountable missions works (hopefully under local church autonomy and authority).

    I’m not crying out for a boycott of the CP. I’m just saying that it may be that the SBC only really understands dollars and sense…uh…cents.

    • Jim Shaver Says:

      Thomas,

      Your fear is a reality. Motions can be made and passed from now until Jesus Comes but the SBC will not radically change without the Churches turning off the CP spigot.

      • Greg Alford Says:

        I have been saying this for the last three years… There is only one thing that will ever get the attention of the SBC Leadership, (regardless of who that Leadership currently includes) and that is for a Grassroots movement of the Churches of the SBC to stop sending a blank check to the CP.

        But sadly, many in the SBC think that anyone who does not send money to the CP is either sinful, or worse a liberal, or perhaps even both. We stopped giving to the CP over three years ago, and it is actually a very liberating thing to be set free from the bondage of that man made Denominational tithe/tax on the local church.

        Grace Always,

  9. John Says:

    Thanks for the helpful post, Timmy. Maybe I’ll see you in Louisville?

    Blessings,
    John

  10. Arthur Sido Says:

    Very true that denominations don’t fulfill the great commission. On the other hand, neither do local churches. Christians carry out the Great Commission. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go out, start churches and then evangelize people. The local assembly of Christians is an outgrowth of evangelism, not a means.

  11. willowhill Says:

    I don’t have a problem with how the Baptist General Convention of OK spends the money it takes in. They are very upfront about it.
    Several million a year goes to Oklahoma Baptist University, which has helped train many current as well as past SBC missionaries.
    OK maintains children’s homes, retirement centers, crisis pregnancy centers, disaster relief units, church planting efforts, Falls Creek, and many, many more things.

    Individuals and organizations need to be continually prayerful and analytical in how money is given and spent. But I see a lot of broad accusations lately, in a lot of places, about greedy state conventions. And I just do not agree.
    If truly-called missionaries are not being sent, make people aware of it. But to pit it against greedy children’s homes, and greedy OBU is something I am not getting.

  12. Mark Says:

    I just had a crazy idea…If fulfilling the Great Commission and sending missionaries was truly the most important thing to the SBC then we would fully fund the IMB. Period.

    What if the CP was changed so that all money first went to the national level SBC. The IMB could get first dibs on the money and always have as much as they needed after that the funds could be split among the state conventions.


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