Although at our recent Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting the new descriptor “Great Commission Baptists” went over like a pregnant pole vaulter, there is another issue concerning the Great Commission in Southern Baptist life that has largely eluded our focus, even though it profoundly changes the very way we define the Great Commission given to us by our Lord. After explaining the two views, this article will briefly explore the strengths and weaknesses of each, along with their theological underpinnings, their associated missionary strategies, and the curiously nonexistent Southern Baptist conversation on this issue.
The “Reaching Souls” perspective is the predominant view I have heard preached and taught nearly my entire life, which considers the primary task of the Great Commission to be the effort of reaching as many souls as possible wherever they may be found. One might say this approach is geographically and societally neutral, which is to say that any soul reached for Jesus is no more or less important than any other in accomplishing the Great Commission task. No matter where a person might live, no matter which people group they represent, as we reach each person on the planet, we are fulfilling the Great Commission task in a measure equal to the reaching of any other person on earth.
By Joe McKeever, Preacher, former Pastor of seven churches, and retired Director of Missions at the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
In the summer of 1964, I arrived on campus at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to work on a degree that would train me to pastor a church. Among the unexpected delights of that multifaceted experience (which would last three years, with another 2 years in the early 70s) was the chapel services. The seminary brought in various outstanding (and a few average) speakers to address the faculty and student body.
That’s where I first heard H. L. Hunt of the oil fortune, Pastor R. G. Lee, Evangelist Eddie Lieberman, Missionary statesman Baker James Cauthen, and Mitsuo Fuchida.
For these forty-plus years, that name has held an honored place in my mind, even though I remember absolutely nothing he said that day. It was who he was that carved out a special spot inside this young preacher’s heart.
Mitsuo Fuchida was a bomber pilot for Japan in the Second World War. In fact, he led the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Once the planes were off the aircraft carriers and in the air headed for their destination, Fuchida was in charge. He became a great hero to his people and was active in practically every phase of that conflict.
Not long ago, while reading about Fuchida online (thank you, Wikipedia), I discovered several books tell his story and are available. I ordered “God’s Samurai” by Gordon Prange (published in 1990, so it can be bought used for a pittance) for one reason: I wanted to see what God did to capture such a prize convert for His glory.
By Tobey Pitman, Community Ministries Missionary, Northshore Baptist Association, LA
The ultimate task of the missionary is to bring people to Jesus. Missionary service is a widely varied work and many contributing factors make the task easier or more difficult. None the less the work always revolves around the singular goal of introducing others to Jesus. The missionary calling may be viewed as a diamond in that there are many facets or angles from which one may approach spiritual neediness and many ways to tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was always about the mission of helping people, all kinds of people, to achieve personal spiritual wholeness. The gospels remind us that Jesus spoke to people from the uttermost to the guttermost about the Kingdom. He spoke to the powerful…t Pontius Pilate and Herod, to the influential,,, Nicodemus, the scribes and Pharisees, and the High Priest, and to the least of society… lepers, beggars, and tax collectors. Jesus was singleminded in His work as He sought constantly to deliver humanity from the weight of the punishment of their own sin.
The good news is that Jesus receives sinful men and women! We are reminded of this joyful truth throughout the Gospels. But in spite of this good news, Jesus was criticized regularly by the religious traditionalists for the shoddy company He kept. Jesus invited these people into the Kingdom and to join Him in His mission. These men and women were not necessarily the most faithful members of the local synagogue.
Southern Baptists’s New Annual Church Profile Form:
The New Great Commission Giving Version
8. Undesignated Giving/Gifts
9. Total Giving/Receipts
10. Cooperative Program Giving
11. Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
12. Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
13. Great Commission Giving
14. Total Missions Giving
The above listing is a sample of the new Annual Church Profile (ACP). Please notice something that is still there. ”Total Missions Giving” (TMG) is a slot that we were assured, during the debate period, would be removed to make this a stronger Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) form. The reason this would be a stronger SBC form, given from a member of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force, was the deletion of the “Total Missions Giving” item. Well, we still have a “Total Missions Giving” (TMG) platform. While, it is not what we were told, I have no serious problem with it remaining. This is for two reasons.
By Tim Rogers, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC
We are at the time of the year when many families plan to take a vacation some place on the globe. Many take vacations only to return from a time of rest and relaxation completely exhausted. Some return exhausted because of the stress experienced due to mishaps or disagreements among the very ones the vacation intended to help—family members. However, many times families will spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to try and build the perfect memory and to relax and rest from the daily grind of living life. Some churches plan short-term mission trips that are more of a vacation than a mission trip. I determined long ago that vacation time with my family was just that—a vacation—and yet we would live our lives missionally. However, I also determined that we would not call our family vacation a short-term mission trip; and we would not raise funds by asking friend, family, and church members to supplement our vacation.
I have tried to take a short-term mission trip every year since 1990. It was in 1988 that I received salvation and less than two years later I embarked on a short-term mission trip with the Raleigh Baptist Association to Brazil. This experience was embraced with negatives and positives. A couple of negatives come to mind whenever I am planning for a short-term trip. I experienced firsthand how just one negative and selfish person can inject a team with bitterness and discouragement. I also found the political situation of the Southern Baptist Convention has the ability to invade an entire associational mission directive. The positives of that trip were played out in the salvation of souls as well as with the bonding between those who held different theological perspectives but served the same Lord Jesus as the Lord Jesus.