Ted Traylor: GCR logical for CP resurgence; vision inspires giving

EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Press invited the four announced candidates for SBC president to take part in an email interview based on a set of common questions, allowing each to speak directly to Southern Baptists about key issues being discussed leading up the annual meeting in Orlando. The following is the third article in the four-part series.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A Great Commission resurgence is the proper focus following the Conservative Resurgence, and a Cooperative Program resurgence should naturally follow, according to Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. "As Baptists are called to a compelling vision, they will give as never before," he said.

Traylor is one of four announced candidates for Southern Baptist Convention president.

He is a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and is completing his service as a trustee of the North American Mission Board -- he remains chairman of NAMB's presidential search team through a vote by fellow trustees. Among other denominational leadership positions, he has been president of the Florida Baptist State Convention (1995-96), SBC first vice president (2000) and president of the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference (2004). Traylor holds degrees from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he earned both the master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees. A native of Pisgah, Ala., Traylor was pastor of one church in his home state and two in Texas prior to his present pastorate. Under his leadership since November 1990, Olive Baptist Church has grown in attendance from about 1622 the year before he arrived to 3,105 in 2009, with 4,631 baptisms during that time.

Traylor said the most pressing need is for spiritual awakening and leaders who are "deeply committed servants of Christ" as well as "resolute in their commitment to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000."

As a way to move Southern Baptists toward spiritual awakening, Traylor said he would seek to call Southern Baptists to solemn assembly in January 2011 and "explore the possibility of incorporating the solemn assembly model in our SBC annual meeting" and that he would promote the use of NAMB's evangelism initiative, God's Plan for Sharing. He also indicated leadership is important to this end in that "the SBC president sets a direction with appointments."

Traylor is a member of the GCRTF which voted unanimously to present its findings and recommendations to messengers in Orlando for the SBC annual meeting. He said he "cannot fathom why any Southern Baptist would oppose studying how we can all work more faithfully and effectively in serving Christ through the Great Commission" and stated he supported the report because it provided a healthy dialog about corporate and individual "responsibility for reaching the lost," "lifts up the Cooperative Program," "is true to Baptist polity," gives a "sharpened focus for NAMB with priority on church planting and evangelism" and "focuses on the centrality of the local church and the Great Commission."

Regarding the report's recommendation about "Great Commission Giving" and the Cooperative Program, he said he was "astonished at the confusion over this."

"No one I know desires to make Independent Baptists out of our churches, much less move to a societal approach to giving," he wrote in his replies to Baptist Press. "'Great Commission Giving' celebrates all that our churches are doing in and through Southern Baptist endeavors."

"[W]e affirm the Cooperative Program no less than nine times" in the GCRTF report, but introduced a new phrase to "replace Total Missions [Expenditures] on the ACP (Annual Church Profile) report form that churches are asked to fill out annually" and limit the reporting of designated gifts "to what our churches give specifically to Southern Baptist causes."

Traylor said the example of CP giving by Olive Baptist Church provides him an opportunity to ask Southern Baptists to consider giving more.

"I do not believe the autonomous local church should be told by any convention or officer what they should give," he said, "but we can set an example and lift up a vision that rallies them to want to do more. Together we can and must get more funding to the work of penetrating lostness."

The full text of the Traylor's replies follows:

BP: What is the most critical issue facing the SBC? What is your plan to address it?

TRAYLOR: Without doubt it is the need for spiritual awakening. We need revival and passion for what brought Southern Baptists together in 1845 -- sending the Gospel to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations. The most glaring metric of the spiritual stagnation is the graph that indicates a ten-year downward trend line in baptisms. A longer look shows we baptized 25,000 fewer people in 2009 than we did in 1950, even though we have 17,000 more churches today. I am glad baptisms came up 7,539 in 2009, but the total number remains low and we need that to change.

Southern Baptists must call out to God in repentance and seek heaven's touch for Great Commission action. If elected, I will be asking pastors to call their churches to solemn assembly in January 2011, and I would explore the possibility of incorporating the solemn assembly model in our SBC annual meeting. In addition, I will be promoting the use of the NAMB initiative GPS (God's Plan for Sharing). This effort has had a very good beginning and needs to find traction across our denomination.

BP: Appointing leaders is a critical function for the SBC president. How would you name leaders to committees and other positions of responsibility?

TRAYLOR: The appointing of the Committee on Committees and others is a chief responsibility of the president. He will need counsel from others and the wisdom of God in this process. We are in a day like no other in the SBC. We need conservative Southern Baptists to join together in a common mission. The Committee on Committees must seek strong, effective leaders to serve on our trustee boards.

I was a young pastor actively involved in the conservative resurgence in SBC life. We learned that the SBC president sets a direction with appointments. As in those days, a commitment to inerrancy is essential. I would look for Baptists from our state conventions who would nominate deeply committed servants of Christ. These people will be key in helping our new leaders be successful in Kingdom work. The Committee on Committee appointees need to be great givers, missionally involved people of godly character, and be resolute in their commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

BP: Do you support or oppose the GCRTF? Why?

TRAYLOR: To the degree that the question is "do I support the Task Force," I cannot fathom why any Southern Baptist would oppose studying how we can all work more faithfully and effectively in serving Christ through the Great Commission. In fact, hardly anyone did oppose it: the SBC authorized the convention president to appoint the GCRTF by a vote of 95%-5%. The motion passed overwhelmingly. Our president selected the task force and asked me to serve. In Orlando, we will bring our report, and of course we are open to all evaluation, suggestions and debate.

The question that is now posed is do I support the report of the task force. On April 26, 2010, in Nashville I stood with all the members of the task force to affirm the report. I supported it then and I support it now for the following reasons.

-- The report places before the SBC family the vast lostness of the world. This report has us talking about how to reach the nations. Baptists are discussing how to best accomplish the Great Commission. This dialogue will prove to be very healthy for us as a convention of churches, and very healthy for each individual believer who, because of this process, considers his personal responsibility for reaching the lost.

-- The report lifts up the Cooperative Program. The logical consequence of the conservative resurgence ought to be a Great Commission resurgence, and coming with that needs to be a Cooperative Program resurgence. The order is important. Money will always follow vision. As Baptists are called to a compelling vision, they will give as never before.

-- The report is true to Baptist polity. It requests the Executive Committee to consider certain actions. Our system is not one that moves quickly, but it moves, and it moves with great power when over 40,000 churches walk together.

-- The report seeks a sharpened focus for NAMB with priority on church planting and evangelism. Development of a new pattern of strategic partnerships between NAMB and state conventions is called for, and I believe those will lead to greater effectiveness in the underserved and unreached areas of North America. I would never put my name on something I believed would diminish ministry in our new work areas. We must position our beloved Southern Baptist Convention to be more than southern. I pray and dream of the day we are truly national in our scope.

-- The report focuses on the centrality of the local church and the Great Commission. The commission of our Lord to make disciples of all the nations was given to the church. The SBC and her partners in the states and associations exist to serve the local church.

BP: What is your position about the issues relating to the Cooperative Program and Great Commission Giving?

TRAYLOR: The church I pastor has believed fervently in the Cooperative Program for many years. For the past ten years our budget has listed the Cooperative Program on line one, with a 10% commitment of all our undesignated receipts. It is my hope that the GCRTF report will challenge all of our churches to do more: the Cooperative Program is our most effective means for mobilizing Southern Baptist churches, extending our reach, and channeling our funds for Kingdom impact. Moreover, in the third component of the GCRTF report, we affirm the Cooperative Program no less than nine times. I don't know how we could have said it better or with more force.

We've introduced a new phrase in the report: Great Commission Giving. It would replace Total Missions Giving on the ACP (Annual Church Profile) report form that churches are asked to fill out annually. Last year Southern Baptists in Florida were encouraged to give through the Cooperative Program and to designated items such as Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Maguire State Mission offering, Florida Baptist Children's Home, World Hunger, Disaster Relief, local associations, and more. When all of these lines are added together, the result is your total missions giving. The GCRTF report suggests we use the name Great Commission Giving in place of Total Missions Giving and limit the reporting to what our churches give specifically to Southern Baptist causes.

I am simply astonished at the confusion over this. No one I know desires to make Independent Baptists out of our churches, much less move to a societal approach to giving. Great Commission Giving celebrates all that our churches are doing in and through Southern Baptist endeavors.

BP: What will Southern Baptists be deciding with their vote for SBC president?

TRAYLOR: When Southern Baptists elect a president they choose not only an individual but a direction. While the convention president has limited power, he does have influence. That influence sets a tone for the convention as a whole.

If elected, my influence will be seen in the following areas.

-- Ministry evangelism is a tool I will champion. In Pensacola we have developed The Ministry Village at Olive. This is a deep commitment to making impact in our region by wrapping the arms of Jesus around the drug addicted, the hungry, and homeless. Every church can have some measure of ministry to "the least of these" as found in Matthew 25.

-- Connecting with next generation leaders is something we must continue. I promised in my nomination speech for Johnny Hunt two years ago that he would make a difference in this crucial area, and he has. My desire and commitment is to continue this connection. We dare not sit and watch our convention become a group of aging baby boomers and retired pastors. We can and must embrace diversity of method without compromising theological orthodoxy.

-- Our record of CP giving at Olive Baptist Church affords me an opportunity to ask Southern Baptists to consider an increase in their giving. The decline in the average CP percentage coming from our churches must be reversed. I do not believe the autonomous local church should be told by any convention or officer what they should give, but we can set an example and lift up a vision that rallies them to want to do more. Together we can and must get more funding to the work of penetrating lostness.

BP: What do you want Southern Baptist to know about you?

TRAYLOR: The place I call home is Pisgah, Ala., on Sand Mountain. My wonderful parents still reside in my boyhood home. I was saved as a 10-year-old in Vacation Bible School when my pastor, Nolen Ford, shared the Gospel with me. At 17 I understood God's call on my life to preach, and one week after telling the church, they put me in the pulpit to preach to 150 people. These were days of spiritual revival across America. I now long for that fresh wind again in our land. It is our greatest need.

My wife, Liz, and I have now lived in Pensacola, Fla., for 20 years with some of God's greatest people at Olive Baptist Church. We have two grown children. It has been my privilege to serve Southern Baptists in various roles. I currently enjoy being the moderator of the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association where our seventy-four churches seek to cooperatively work together in touching our region. I have preached in many churches -- large and small -- and have sought to encourage those pastors. I have worked with NAMB and church planters. I love the church and our cooperative partnership called the Southern Baptist Convention. And I believe that God's grace to us and our faithfulness to Him demands nothing less than that we strive mightily and sacrificially to make our Convention's best days ahead. We owe this to our Savior, to our children, and to our world.


Compiled by Baptist Press Editor Will Hall.

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