Floyd: IMB/NAMB merger not in GCR plan
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The much-discussed merger of Southern Baptists' two mission boards will not be among the recommendations presented to the Southern Baptist Convention at its June meeting in Orlando, the chairman of the SBC's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force said Feb. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., made the comment in an afternoon panel discussion about the task force's work during the annual Pastors' Conference at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Shortly after the GCR Task Force was formed, speculation at one point ran so high that the group might recommend to dismantle the North American Mission Board or to merge it with the International Mission Board that task force member Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary addressed it on the betweenthetimes.com blog site as one of eight "myths" spreading among Southern Baptists. The idea that the task force was planning "to abolish NAMB or dissolve it into the IMB" was a matter of "intense discussion and interest" among Southern Baptists, Akin acknowledged in that article, but "a myth as it relates to the current work of the GCRTF."
SBC President Johnny Hunt, also a task force member, addressed the subject during one of the earliest listening sessions -- an Aug. 26 panel discussion at the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark. Hunt said at the time it was "poor journalism" that suggested the task force would consider disassembling the North American Mission Board and added: "There is absolutely no quote whatsoever to go with that. It is ludicrous."
During the Feb. 1 event in Jacksonville, however, Floyd acknowledged the task force had weighed the option of changing the SBC's two-board arrangement.
"Our sights are set on having the North American Mission Board, and our sights are set on having an International Mission Board," Floyd told the group. "There was great, great, great discussion, study, planning and even to the point of having strategic formation of the possibility of the other. But we just really sensed in our heart that wasn't right at this time," he added in response to a question from Jeff Callaway, a church planter from Cleveland, Ohio.
Not proposing a radically different approach to organizing Southern Baptist missions this year doesn't mean the idea is not right "for a later day -- five years from now, 10 years from now, you know, 20. Who knows? Only God knows," Floyd said. Then he added: "We're going to find a way to do some things together, which I think that's going to be revolutionary."
While the task force's full report will not be released until May 3, Floyd said his presentation at the Feb. 22-23 SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville would "unveil a great part" of the final document.
Prior to the panel discussion, Floyd had challenged the pastors in attendance to "face the facts" about lostness in America and around the world. Of 306 million people in the United States, at least 254.6 million are lost, Floyd said. And of the planet's 6.8 billion people, 4 billion have little or no access to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The "massive lostness" of the world requires pastors to begin thinking like missions strategists, Floyd said.
"Do you realize there are places in your region where the Gospel has never yet been?" Floyd asked. "We need to find those places and we need to go fishing there. We need to discover the ponds of lostness, the tanks of lostness ... and take the Gospel there, advance the Gospel where the Gospel has never been."
Serving as chairman of the task force the past seven months has changed both his life and his ministry, Floyd said.
"I wish I knew 20 years ago what I know today," Floyd said. While he can't go back and change the way he did things in the past, Floyd said, "I am setting the course for the future in a different way, to give my life to advance the Gospel, to penetrate the lostness of this world."
The task force's research has led him to a sad discovery: "the lack of urgency in our churches -- and by the leaders of our churches and our denominations -- the lack of urgency about advancing the Gospel to places where the gospel has never been."
"That has to change," Floyd declared. "To the degree that we understand and embrace lostness, intellectually and theologically, [that] will be the degree [to which] we operate our lives and our ministries with urgency."
Floyd pointed out that in the moments following the massive Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, people turned the backs of pickups into ambulances and doors into stretchers.
"You know why?" Floyd asked. "Urgency called them to do it. If we want to penetrate lostness, we have to have an urgency that is unprecedented -- in your life, in my life, in your church, my church, and all evangelical churches that want to penetrate lostness with the Gospel."
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.