New paradigms needed, Rankin says
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)––The Feb. 21 preliminary report of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force deals with some of the areas where Southern Baptists "are languishing in the task of the Great Commission," International Mission Board (IMB) President Jerry Rankin told the entity's trustees March 3.
While much more needs to be done to focus the denomination on evangelizing a lost world, Southern Baptists "must be creative and willing to explore new paradigms ... for the sake of mobilizing the resources impacting a lost world," Rankin said.
The comments, which came on the second day of the IMB's two-day meeting in Memphis, Tenn., specifically addressed proposals to allow the IMB to work directly with unreached people groups present in the United States, to shift 1 percent of the SBC budget from the Executive Committee to the IMB, and to create a new category of giving called "Great Commission Giving."
NORTH AMERICAN MISSIONS
Rankin said he sees significance in the door being opened for the IMB to work directly with unreached people groups in the United States.
The geographic restriction in the IMB's ministry assignment "has created a debilitating dichotomy in our denominational strategy," Rankin said.
"Reaching these ethnic people groups, many of which are from areas that are closed or restricted to a Christian witness overseas, represents a potential for engaging their language and society with the Gospel as it invariably flows from those reached in America to relatives in their homeland," Rankin told the trustees.
At the same time, however, such a change would not result in the IMB assigning missionary personnel to the United States, Rankin said. Pulling a missionary away from an unreached people group of 10 million people would not make sense just to engage a few of those people in an American city.
"If this recommendation is adopted by the convention, I anticipate we will organize to make a concerted effort to work with NAMB (North American Mission Board), state conventions, local associations and in response to requests of local churches, to identify unreached ethnic people groups and utilize our personnel and resources to train stateside entities to understand and witness to those with other cultural worldviews," Rankin said.
While Southern Baptists do need to be more effective in reaching their own country, evangelizing unchurched cities and reversing the decline in baptisms, the task force's final report must give greater emphasis and channel more resources to reaching the thousands of unreached people groups around the world, Rankin said.
While he appreciates the additional $2 million in funding represented by shifting 1 percent of the Cooperative Program allocation budget to the IMB, Rankin said it is more significant that the barrier of allocating 50 percent of that budget to the IMB is being broken.
"Yes, we want to see baptisms increase and America evangelized, but that is comparing 6 billion people to [250 million] lost people at home where there are already 45,000 churches working and 97 percent of our financial resources are being applied," Rankin said. "It comes down to a decision of whether or not Southern Baptists want to settle for sending and supporting 5,000 missionaries, or to provide the resources to do what it takes to be aligned with God in reaching the nations."
The "Covenant for a New Century" reorganization of the SBC in 1997 eliminated several SBC entities and consolidated their functions into a more streamlined structure that was supposed to free up more money for missions, Rankin noted.
"What actually happened was a total reduction in the allocation to missions while the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Executive Committee received increased funding," Rankin said. "The reduced allocation of 1 percent to the Executive Committee will be a sizeable portion of its budget. However, like other areas of the convention, [the Executive Committee] has allowed its role to expand beyond providing administration and facilitating services to the convention to engage in ministry assignments such as Empowering Kingdom Growth and Global Evangelical Relations as well as Cooperative Program promotion."
'GREAT COMMISSION GIVING'
One of the more surprising recommendations in the GCR task force report was acknowledging designated gifts to convention entities at the state and national level as "Great Commission Giving" while affirming the Cooperative Program as the primary channel of support, Rankin said.
"Many strong mission-minded churches are being alienated and treated with condescension because of their level of giving to the CP," Rankin said. "I plan to speak to this in the future –– not to criticize the Cooperative Program, but to suggest it needs to be re-created for the 21st century.
"We are the largest benefactor of CP, but it is floundering, putting our future in jeopardy," Rankin added. "I suggest we could not only increase but double Cooperative Program receipts for the work of our convention and the Great Commission task by giving ownership and flexibility to the churches, removing the contradiction of connectionalism between the SBC and state convention and promoting it with transparency and integrity."
Rankin said he would be blogging on that subject at rankinconnecting.com.
The trend of decline among Southern Baptists is evident and the consequences of not creating a new paradigm of Great Commission cooperation are disturbing, Rankin asserted.
Whether the task force recommendations are adopted or not, "it is a new day for Southern Baptists," Rankin added.
"These initiatives cannot be put back in the can; they will be the incentives for new paradigms created by a new and younger generation of leadership," Rankin said.
"... We must be creative and willing to explore new paradigms for serving Southern Baptists for the sake of mobilizing the resources impacting a lost world."
Mark Kelly wrote this story on behalf of the IMB.