Letter to the Great Commission Task Force
As have so many, I have been thinking a great deal about all that has been said and written about the Great Commission Task Force and its Progress Report. We can all acknowledge that we are scripturally charged with fulfilling the Great Commission. We should also acknowledge that that it is wise and reasonable to assess how we are doing and how can we do more and do it better. In the midst of the mounting debate and discussion about the recommendations in the Progress Report, we need all the more to embrace a God-centered perspective, lest we forget that we are His and it is His Kingdom that we are seeking to help build.
So what does God want of us? What does He expect in this engagement of diverse personalities debating what is to be done? The instructions in Romans 12: 1-2 are helpful:
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect
We are to renew our minds and have the mind of Christ in us as Paul wrote in Phil. 2:5 “Let the mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” What is in the mind of Christ for all believers, be they Southern Baptists or otherwise, if it is not the carrying out of the Great Commission?
As I consider this, several verses come to mind but I am particularly prompted by the words of Romans 10: 13-15:
…for "whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call
on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have
not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?... [Emphasis added]
Relative to the consideration of the Progress Report and its recommendations, we need to understand that structural changes and funding modifications will not reach the lost. It will take committed believers who answer the call and go forth, believers who are sent. Frankly, I had hoped, and continue to hope, that the Task Force would look significantly more to the spiritual and heart growth of Southern Baptists and center its thrust on a true resurgence, a ground-roots spiritual resurgence.
Significant and crucial spiritual influencing factors are readily evident, but they are not clearly articulated nor held at the center of our current debate and circumstance, viz. the lack of spiritual unity and the need for educating and encouraging Southern Baptists to answer the call to mission service, to be sent.
Gene Wilkes put it another way in Paul on Leadership:
The mission call of Christ is on both the church and its servant leaders. This shared calling is the source of unity and the foundation for community, Unity is not that everyone agrees with what is being done. Unity comes from a shared belief of why things are done. When you agree on the why, the possibilities of what soar.” [Emphasis added]
The cry of John the Baptist was not to fix the system, it was to repent. The thought of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount was not reorganization but renewal of the heart. Our primary cry and thought in this Great Commission Resurgence process should be the same.
Perhaps both proponents and opponents, as well as those not actively engaged in the dialog, ought to consider the contemporary relevancy of the words of Mary Slessor, a Scottish missionary in West Africa in 1910:
“After all, it is not committees and organizations from without that are to bring the
revival, and to send the Gospel to the heathen at home and abroad, but the living Spirit of God working from within the heart…Surely there is something very far wrong with our Church , the largest in Scotland. Where are the men?..Are there no hearts beating high with the enthusiasm of the Gospel?”
Unfortunately, although the Great Commission Task Force Progress Report focused in its initial portion on the heartbreaking lostness in North America and around the world, its recommendations, and I might say the focus of the ensuing debate, are almost exclusively on structural and organizational matters. Where are the recommendations that are much more needed, recommendations for rekindling the fires of evangelism and involving more Southern Baptists in being missionaries and where are the recommendations for Southern Baptists to have the vision of the Great Commission, to be like the two disciples on the Emmaus road asking “Did not our hearts burn within us?”
You may recall the movie, The Battle of Britain, depicting the World War II defense of Britain by the Royal Air Force. A poignant scene was the confrontation before Air Marshall Dowding of two Wing leaders who were arguing over organization and tactics: one advocating the “big wing” tactic and the other denying the efficacy of such tactics in light of the German attacks on his bases. Dowding bluntly focused the situation on the truly essential issue: the need for pilots. That was what was needed to win the battle. Similarly, we need to give focused consideration on the essential truth that we need more Southern Baptists to have a personal vision of the Great Commission and step forward and become missionaries, to be sent. We need more missionaries…we need Southern Baptist saying “Send me!”.
In closing, it is written of John Paton, the well-known Scottish missionary in the South Pacific in the 19th century, that he “summarized all we have been seeking to say in the words”:
Did the church of God but fully realize her wondrous heritage in the Gospel, she would
send ten thousand fresh messengers to the farthest bounds of the earth to proclaim, by
word and example, this glorious Gospel to the millions still in the thralldom of heathen darkness and supervision.
Let that be the hallmark of our efforts.
Yours in Christ,
Gary O. McKean
Executive Committee Member
Please Note: Although I am a member of the SBC Executive Committee memoranda has been written by me personally and should not be construed as being from or in the name of the Executive Committee.