Photo by Joni B. Hannigan
GCR LEADERS Johnny Hunt (left) Southern Baptist Convention president and Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence task force, greet people after an Aug. 26 listening session at Floyd’s Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark.
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ROGERS, Ark. (FBW)—Underscoring the need for Southern Baptists to unify around prayer, Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, welcomed more than 400 participants to an Aug. 26 luncheon where he and three other task force members delivered comments and fielded questions for more than two hours.
Floyd urged those gathered at the Church at Pinnacle Hills campus of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., where he is senior pastor, to pray not only for the 23 other members of the task force, but “that God will give us resurgence personally.”
Pointing to a website with over 3,200 signatures of people who have said they will pray, Floyd asked participants to help mobilize their churches to sign up at Pray4GCR.com and to be very “deliberate” about it.
Jim Richards, executive director for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, in the luncheon’s opening prayer, petitioned God to bring a “refocus and rejuvenation” to the Southern Baptist Convention.
“God, help us to have a resurgence, in prayer, in discipleship and being like Jesus,” Richards prayed, “in doing so, there’ll be a resurgence in the Great Commission.”
Floyd asked for prayer for and noted the absence of Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a member of the task force. He said Akin was under a doctor’s care and would be undergoing colon surgery in the future.
Two other task force members joined Floyd in sharing their vision for a Great Commission Resurgence and listened to Southern Baptist pastors, directors of missions and laymen voice their questions and concerns.
Floyd, Johnny Hunt, SBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, near Atlanta; and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky; spoke nearly an hour. Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., who previously served five years with the International Mission Board, joined the other task force members to field questions during the Q&A.
Seeking the “true status” of the state of the denomination, Floyd said the task force has exercised “due diligence” in seeking out information and needs to take a close look at the SBC.
“We probably need to stop believing all that we read about ourselves and take an honest look, like every church needs to take an honest look, about who we really are,” Floyd said. “We can’t go where we need to go if we don’t really understand where we are,” Floyd said.
Acknowledging a decline in membership and baptisms in Southern Baptist churches in the United States, Floyd noted God is working internationally in “unbelievable” ways, but Southern Baptists are “losing ground with American culture every day.”
“We have more money than we’ve ever had, more resources than we’ve ever had, and we are doing less with it to reach the lost, unchurched people of America,” Floyd said.
Floyd said he would like to see a “return of this denomination to the primacy of the local church,” and “reestablish the centrality of the local church.” The headquarters of the denomination, Floyd said, is not in Nashville or in any state convention office, but in every pulpit—despite the church’s size.
Speaking of the “future generations,” Floyd said they need to be released from those who “pick on them, say this or that, write derogatory things about them, [or] say various things about [their] styles or commitment.”
Speaking for the task force membership, Floyd said of their commitment to the GCR: “We want to see a resurgence to the Great Commission resulting in seeing the nations exalting Jesus Christ. That’s the heart of every one of us in our group. That’s where we start,”
“As chairman, I have one commitment: I am going to keep our focus on getting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, every people group in the world,” Floyd said.
Hunt said the Great Commission Resurgence is very personal to him and begins in his own life.
“[It] all starts in my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ, what He has done in my life, and, as a result, how I am responding to GCR,” Hunt said.
Commitment to personal witnessing and evangelism are milestones, Hunt said, and are tied into his commitment to his personal commitment to missions. As a pastor, Hunt said he realizes he is an example to others in that area.
“We will see significant changes when the pulpits in America of Southern Baptist preachers make it a priority to win people to Christ,” Hunt said.
Second, Hunt said, he is “desirous to help lead our denomination to embrace in the greatest degree ever over the lostness of the world.”
Citing an example of a missionary couple who is ready to go to the field but is unable because of a lack of funding, Hunt said in 33 years of pastoring he has learned to be more “need oriented.”
“I would like to see us get serious about what we have to do to get more money to lostness,” Hunt said.
Hunt’s third and final comments referenced church planting.
An advocate for planting churches in major cities of America, Hunt said of New York City, “We need to move there in big ways.”
In a final gesture of “conversation or prayer,” Hunt urged a minimum of 18,000 in Orlando for the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting with 10,000 involved in Crossover, the yearly pre-meeting evangelistic effort.
“If you are going to be serious about the Great Commission, plead with your people to pray,” Hunt said. “Get your people there and get them to praying.”
R. ALBERT MOHLER JR.
Southern Seminary’s Mohler said he has been a Southern Baptist since he was in his mother’s womb.
“I was a fetal Southern Baptist,” he said. Church for him was a “full body, full week” experience—and even Boy Scout participation was based on the condition he continue with Royal Ambassadors.
“I thank God that Southern Baptists have been used by the Lord for so many years in so many ways,” Mohler said. “I would not be where I am today doing what the Lord allowed me to do were it not for the faithfulness of millions of Southern Baptists.”
Outlining the historical premise of how Southern Baptists work to support missions, Mohler said in 1845, “eliciting, combining and directing” is why the Southern Baptist Convention existed, historically, for their churches. “It had better be the same thing today,” Mohler said about the SBC in 2009.
In 1845, the SBC established two mission boards, the Foreign Mission Board and the Home Mission Board. Over 150 years later, much has been added.
By 1926, the Cooperative Program was established and redefined, Mohler said, and by the 1950’s the SBC had been tweaked to be a “full-service denomination,” much as the SBC is now known.
After the turn of the century, in 1909, General Motors, a large corporate company developed into a major auto company which has now gone bankrupt, Mohler said.
Understanding the SBC is like understanding GM, Mohler said.
“You can’t take big and complex for granted,” Mohler said. “We as Southern Baptists have taken comfort in our statistics, in our bigness, impacting culture, the way we do things together.”
Referencing his earlier observation, Mohler said it’s important to ask what’s happened to the denomination between 1845 and 2009: “Are we really eliciting, combining and directing energies of our churches to the accomplishment of the Great Commission?”
That’s a question that should be asked “before the embarrassment and failure of the Southern Baptist Convention has eternal consequences that go far beyond what shareholders of GM experienced.”
[With reporting by Tammi Ledbetter, Southern Baptist TEXAN]