1. Will the GCR Live To Turn Fifteen?

March 31, 2016

Dr. Rick Patrick | Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, AL

In 2010, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force sealed its proceedings for fifteen years—basically the life span of a long range plan—thereby preventing Southern Baptists from viewing the documents that informed the report’s creation. Citing concerns over discreet personnel matters, the materials were classified until 2025. That was six years ago.

Evidence is mounting that the GCR is unraveling. In January, Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, preached a chapel sermon on the topic, “Is This a Great Commission Regression?” It is a question many of us have been asking for quite some time. Is this really a direction that brings about a brighter future? Or has it set in motion a course that, though well-intentioned, simply does not work?

Missions Giving
Is the push for state conventions to move toward 50/50 splits really turning the tide in our CP giving or does it amount to little more than a trickle? Why are we emphasizing what the state conventions give to the national convention more than we emphasize what the church gives through the state or what the individual gives through the church? Has it really helped our missions giving effort to classify some of our gifts as Great Commission Giving? Or has it made no difference at all?

International Mission Board
Has the GCR resulted in more missions money being given so we can support more missionaries around the globe? Or are we reducing our missions force and drastically redefining the role of the missionary? Is our two percent threshold strategy paying off in advancing the spread of the gospel or are we seeing fewer baptisms on the field as we shift our focus away from the harvest mandate in favor of the frontier mandate?

North American Mission Board
Having reorganized as primarily an urban church planting network, are these church plants doing well? Are they growing and baptizing and seeing people get saved? Are we absolutely certain we are planting these churches in optimal locations? Is it possible the relationship between NAMB and some of our state conventions is as fractured as recent reports indicate?

GCR Evaluation Time
Isn’t it time that Southern Baptists stepped back and took a good hard look at the GCR to see if it has really accomplished what it set out to do? Is it working? Were there unintended consequences? Are we moving forward together? Has the GCR agenda brought about greater unity in the SBC or has it actually intensified deep-seated conflicts still begging to be resolved?

Transparency Agenda Survey Results
In a recent poll of SBC Today readers, we asked Southern Baptists to indicate if they “approved” or “disapproved” of the idea that we “Unveil the Great Commission Task Force proceedings now.” With 143 respondents, 81.82% approved of unveiling the proceedings. Why not give Southern Baptists the information we need to evaluate our Long Range Plan before it is too late?

Question One

This article addresses Item ONE of the Ten Item Transparency Agenda. You may READ the Transparency Agenda or COMPLETE the survey yourself. To read the articles reporting results from the other survey items, see the links below: 

ITEM TWO

ITEM THREE

ITEM FOUR

ITEM FIVE

ITEM SIX

ITEM SEVEN

ITEM EIGHT

ITEM NINE

ITEM TEN

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William Thornton

I don’t disagree with much on this, although you toss in a few non sequiturs. But suppose the SBC in St. Louis voted to drop the GCR. What would change? We would no longer collect GCG stats, something that isn’t being collected in some states and isn’t being reported accurately by many churches. NAMB would continue on their present course unless. State conventions would continue to feel pressure to reduce their portion of CP revenue. I don’t see GCR as having affected IMB at all, so no change there. The six seminaries exempted themselves from and meaningful change under GCR, so nothing there. The EC, which was the only SBC entity to change their budget as a result, isn’t going to claw back their half-percentage point allocation shifted to IMB. Which leaves the sealed records and I’ve always thought that was a travesty and shouldn’t have occurred.

I’d be open to considering any comprehensive SBC Today plan for the future of the SBC. I know it includes hiring quotas, some CP percentage recommendations and NAMB reversion to their dysfunctional past. There must be more. Anything concerning the seminaries? Anything for IMB aside from a hiring freeze?

    Rick Patrick

    William,

    “Suppose the SBC voted to drop the GCR.” I agree with you that not much would change…which is sort of my point. The GCR didn’t accomplish much of anything. It didn’t “take hold.” It didn’t “work.” It did manage to create a lot of tension between the state and national conventions and it distracted us with a new controversial giving category. To many of us, it seemed at times to be nothing other than a fight over money. The value in dropping it would be the opportunity to forge a new vision for the future, since this one is arguably worse than what we had before.

    “The sealed records were…a travesty and shouldn’t have occurred.” This is the primary point of my article. Let’s open them up in the interest of transparency and see what data was processed to arrive at these conclusions. If we wait nine more years, the life span of this long range plan will have run its course already. We deserve to explore its underpinnings now.

    “An SBC Today plan for the SBC includes ‘hiring quotas, CP recommendations and NAMB reversion to dysfunction. What about seminaries and IMB?” First, I think the opinions you are trying to represent are mine, and not necessarily those of SBC Today readers generally. Second, I don’t use the term quotas—it makes me cringe. I prefer something like “taxation without representation.” The notion is that our leadership should look like our membership. We should be as ethnically diverse as the convention. We should include both genders, large and small churches, clergy and laity, people from all geographic regions, and yes, a “proper proportion” of Traditionalists and Calvinists. If a disproportionate share of NAMB and IMB missionaries being appointed are Calvinists, we should not expect our Traditionalist churches to pay for the Calvinizing of the convention. Third, I do favor a more comprehensive approach to CP percentage ideals at the state, church and individual level—rather than our current focus upon the state level only. Fourth, I do NOT support “dysfunction” at NAMB—which may not be a thing of the past, considering the strong-arming accusations that have recently come to light. Fifth, I don’t have all that much to say about the seminaries. Sixth, my general observations about NAMB are the same as IMB—we seem to be promoting the frontier mandate over against the harvest mandate. I am not at all convinced that we are planting churches or placing missionaries in the right locations to maximize reaching the lost. Seventh, I do not pretend to offer the kind of “comprehensive long range plan” that it takes a committee of SBC leaders an entire year to develop. I’m mostly just saying the GCR doesn’t seem to be working and deserves a thorough evaluation. And most of all—it’s time to unseal those records.

      William Thornton

      Thanks for the reply and short discussion, Rick. I always appreciate that you are willing to defend your stuff and listen to others. And, yeah, I know you don’t use “quotas”…I’m tweaking you a bit here. I’m not sure you aren’t “represented” by entity heads that may differ on matters not covered by the BFM, which all approve.

      What makes me cringe is the thought that, eventually, you and likeminded trads will divide up with the SBC over what you perceive as the unacceptable level of Calvinists appointed by NAMB and IMB. All of their appointees accept the BFM which is our approved statement of faith. This doesn’t prevent any individual, church, or groups of individuals or churches from holding to a position that they will fund only those who approve the BFM and approve of their add-on to the BFM. I hope that doesn’t happen.

      Two sides to the recent NAMB/state convention story. In as much as the state convention did not require a non-disclosure agreement prior to what is being called a forced resignation, I am grateful. Let the matter be aired. Folks can listen and decide.

      In a couple of years, you and others will have a chance to have a legitimate, data-based evaluation of NAMB’s church planting efforts. If substantial numbers are shown to have taken our money as long as it was offered and then drop SBC affiliation, then I’ll join you in speaking up. Such attrition has always been a problem.

      I think the GCR minutes could be unsealed by vote of the convention. You make the motion. Maybe it will pass. I’d like to see how much support it would have. I’d also like to see leadership deal with the discomfort of such a possibility. As it is, the grumbling on blogs is ignored. Make a motion.

    Alan Atchison

    The best reform would be a fundamental fix for the dysfunctional trustee system. Trustees must exercise oversight and not be glorified cheerleaders. Without asking the tough questions, encouraging openness and posting real financial results including salaries of top employees, how can anyone trust things are being run the right way? When involved in a massive downsizing there is no excuse to be secretive about top salaries.

      Rick Patrick

      Alan,
      I certainly agree with your point about the trustee system (Item Four in the Transparency Agenda) and the salary issue (Item Three in the Transparency Agenda) and so do most SBC Today readers. Today’s installment shared the results from Item One. In the coming weeks, we will work our way through the entire list of ten items. Stay tuned.

        Alan Atchison

        Looking forward to it. I believe all of these could/should be crafted into a true reform agenda. It is time for change. People no longer trust institutions and if we expect money to come rolling in then we should have a plan to show the SBC and its entities are good stewards of what the Lord provides.

          Rick Patrick

          I agree with you that it is time for change. I’m not exactly sure what you mean when you say these “could/should be crafted into a true reform agenda.” Why the “could/should?” I kinda thought that was the very essence of the Transparency Agenda itself. Perhaps you mean fleshing it out a bit in terms of details and action plans, which definitely needs to be done, but the items themselves are clear and direct. I hope they come across as a true reform agenda.

            Alan Atchison

            You are right. It is the overall agenda. It was poor word choice on my part. I should’ve said actionable items such as resolutions, candidate pledges and the like. I certainly believe asking each presidential candidate who will be placed into nomination if they pledge to support these specific calls to transparency by appointing people who promise to shine the sunlight on these items you’ve highlighted.

              Rick Patrick

              Thanks, and I completely agree on the resolutions and candidate pledges. In fact, all three candidates have been given an opportunity to complete the questionnaire and provide something of a Voter’s Guide. Unfortunately, if they all choose to ignore the agenda, then we will not know where they stand when it is time to vote, which would not only be disappointing, but would further substantiate the very lack of transparency that the agenda addresses.

                Alan Atchison

                Excellent. I look forward to seeing how open these candidates intend to be.

Tom

Rick:

It should be released today IMO.

David R. Brumbelow

Somewhat related, any thoughts on

State Baptist exec blames firing on interference from NAMB
https://baptistnews.com/2016/03/24/state-baptist-exec-blames-firing-on-interference-from-sbc-agency/

State convention ‘saddened and disappointed’ by claims of former exec
https://baptistnews.com/2016/03/29/state-convention-saddened-and-disappointed-by-claims-of-former-exec/

David R. Brumbelow

    Rick Patrick

    I find it reasonable to believe that NAMB might use strong-arming tactics from time to time to pursue their urban church planting agenda, and that sometimes the goals of the state convention may not be quite the same as the goals of NAMB. Since NAMB gets funding from ALL Southern Baptists, they have the kind of cash that allows them to get their way. I also find it reasonable to believe there may have been other issues involved in McRaney’s termination. All of this is speculation, but the kerfuffle does reveal that GCR tensions may still exist and have not gone away.

      William Thornton

      David B linked both sides. Folks can read both and decide. The most significant thing to come our of the GCR was that NAMB started to gain control over their own budget. Previously, state conventions had some pretty sweet kickback deals. It was a mess – ineffective, secretive, and self-serving. I’m not impressed by the disgruntled former employee’s case.

        Alan Atchison

        You have a great deal more experience with funding and denominational politics than someone like me, so your perspective is helpful. Based on the emails, how is it proper or politically wise for NAMB to have any input on the hiring of a SDOE or SDOM? Does the Ezell quote come off as domineering in the email that demanded consultation on those matters?

          William Thornton

          No question NAMB provides a lot of the funding. They have written agreements for these things. The document dump shows some of this.

        Lydia

        In these situations it is wise to take into consideration who has the power and money and who wants some of it.. Mohler and his loyalists have been working toward a top/ down operation for years. A dissenter becomes a disgruntled fired employee with the snap of fingers. This sort of maneuver goes back to the firing of Paul Debusman eight months shy of retirement for daring to disagree.

        William has long admired Ezell even through the Driscoll — Acts Twenty-nine Reformed only church plants funding. And where is that leader he vouched for today? I don’t view Ezell as wise. I saw how he operated in a church takeover here before he went to NAMB.

        The lesson? If you dare dissent, you will be ruined.

          Tom

          Lydia: It sure is helpful in SBC life to be a yes man. Dissent is simply not allowed. I would almost bet nothing will be done about the IMB overspending by 210 million dollars. How can this be?

        Tim Rogers

        William,

        Look at the first link. NAMB only returns to the state conventions the amount the conventions forward to them. So with that formula, why are we sending anything to NAMB?

          William Thornton

          I’m not sure what link you mean. I know NAMB doesn’t return dollar-for-dollar to all the states. If state conventions show that they are doing as effective a job planting churches , I’d be happy to see them keep CP money to do that. I don’t think their record is all that good in that regard.

Greg

this from the story —
A pair of NAMB attorneys wrote McRaney about “inaccurate and damaging” statements regarding NAMB and its personnel, advising the letter should not be construed as a waiver of “any rights, remedies, claims, positions or defenses which NAMB may have.” attorneys we pay for CP money it is INSANE. Here is Mcraney’s sight for the documents he provides. http://willmcraney.com/supporting-documents/

    William Thornton

    It’s clear that the former exec, the one who voluntarily resigned, intends to damage NAMB with false and misleading statements. That’s the assertion from NAMB and I know of no reason they should not be afforded means to remedy the matter. There’s always a market for gripes about NAMB and most any other SBC entity. NAMB considers this to be beyond gripes.

      Alan Atchison

      What are your reasons for holding the position that the former employee is the liar and that Ezell is not the liar. Honestly, I’ve read through much of this and I don’t know what to believe because the entire process is as clear as mud.

        William

        I’m not holding that anyone is a liar and I hate to see the former employee use that language.

          Alan Atchison

          Wait a minute. You said, “intends to damage NAMB with false and misleading statements.”

          Where I come from, false statements are the same as a lie. And since it is done as you said with the intention to “damage NAMB” then it seems like a pretty serious conclusion to reach.

William

All that wording is in the links. I have confidence in NAMB leadership, NAMB trustees, and the Maryland/Delaware folks all of whom deny the allegations. I’m done discussing it here, there is a truckload of docs and responses for people to read. Have at it.

    Alan Atchison

    Ahh, I see. Thanks. Simply a default to deference to our betters.

    As a simple, rank-and-file Baptist I find the Byzanztine nature of all this troublesome. I can’t figure out the labyrinthine arrangements at work in all this convention politics. Who should we believe?

    Whatever the outcome of this, exposing the fact that NAMB uses its financial resources to bully state conventions is scandalous. I think if typical Baptists found out how all this is managed, they would insist on major reforms.

      Alan Atchison

      And by bully, I mean it seems offensive to me as someone who doesn’t understand how all this works for a national organization to dictate or have input on the persons hired by state organizations.

        Tom

        Alan:

        Just remember we as SBC members are to just simply send in our money, never ask any questions or if we do to understand they will not be answered and trust the leaders who have little to no accountability. It is all very simple.

          Alan Atchison

          Tom,
          I wish I’d learned that earlier in life. I think it takes you far in just about any career. Telling people unpopular things usually doesn’t get you promoted.

            Alan Atchison

            I meant that reply to be to your comment above regarding Yes Men. Sorry about that.

            Tom

            Alan:

            How did no one at the IMB speak up about the overspending of almost a quarter of a BILLION DOLLARS? But I am told to trust these leaders. Notice how many leaders have spoken out in a negative manner about this–NONE!

            As you said they would hurt their careers! Sad.

        William

        Alan, no need to take a shot at me. I read the materials and came to a conclusion. You arrived at a different conclusion, one I think is unwarranted by the evidence.

          Alan Atchison

          William, Apologies if that came off as a shot at you. I haven’t reached a conclusion about who is telling the truth. I suspect both sides are probably well intentioned.

          The one thing that rang true to me regarding the trustees was the quote, “(Trustee Chairman) Herring stated to everyone in the room, ‘If Kevin said the sky was purple, I would believe him.” This appears to be how every board operates with trustees doing what they are told rather than exercising oversight. This was and is the big problem at IMB.

          On the other side, I think Dr. Ezell and the people at NAMB believe they know what is best to fulfill their mandate and strategic goals. I can question the wisdom of an SBC convention entity dictating to state conventions what to do and who to employ in order to receive funding, but I don’t doubt they feel it is in the best interests of the church planting efforts.

          All I sought was help in understanding how and why this type of arrangement is possible, and how long we’ve been doing things this way? It seems to me that NAMB did utilize pressure to force out someone out it found less than helpful. Honestly, it is hard to judge based on this without knowing the context of how NAMB and state conventions operate.

Tom

Alan:

IMO these “trustess” do not exercise oversight. They must love their positions and will do nothing to endanger losing these positions.

    Alan Atchison

    Tom,
    I think these trustees think they are doing the right thing by supporting the leader. Let me tell you why I think this…

    I’m assuming that like most SBC things, trustees are either pastors or heavily connected laymen. Lots of pastors will tell you that deacons and committees in their church are often a big headache. I think the trustees knowing how they feel when confronted with the frustrations of dealing with committees in the local church, want to be good models of support rather than criticism.

    In my only board of directors experience (on the board of the local Rotary Club years ago) I found myself deferring to the more experienced and involved leaders. I think it can be a typical human response to try to support those who are doing the hard work instead of finding a way to hold people accountable. It takes a strong person to hold others accountable. This is why I think a good public statement regarding oversight responsibilities and public access both to the trustees and financial statements would go a very long way to helping make sure all of us can help supervise the process.

    After all, isn’t that reflective of our Baptist heritage?

      Lydia

      Alan, Mary Kinney Branson talks about this phenomenon in her book, “Spending God’s Money”. She worked at NAMB a while back and described the dog and pony show culture of trustee meetings.

      These days non profit board positions have turned into resume builders, ego builders or rubbing shoulders with the elite. Unless one is willing to spend time on the fiduciary responsibility of stewarding donor money, they should decline. Part of that responsibilility is asking uncomfortable questions. Political correctness and abrogating responsibility to be accepted by the inner ring is ruining us. Too many People would rather be liked and accepted by the inner ring than do the right thing.

        Alan Atchison

        Lydia,

        Do you think that viewing entity heads as essentially “God’s anointed for this hour” adds to the level of deferment to their wishes? Combine that with new models of leadership–corporate, mega-church influenced and there is less a shepherding view and more of an autocratic method.

          Lydia

          Alan, I think John was also writing to us nobody peasants who have provided the bulk of funds for the SBC to operate
          In 1John 2:

          “6 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him”

          These sorts of things, including the priesthood of believer (no added “s”), soul competency are no longer taught in much of SBC land. It seems to be weighted on obeying YRR elders or leaders. I was always taught that growing in wisdom was part of the point. But now we have this idea some Christiansen title can act as the Holy Spirit for us. Sad stuff.

          Being asked to serve on a non profit board should be a huge time consuming responsibility if you are doing it right. Otherwise, say no. We can see such lack of fiduciary responsibility with the IMB trustees. we desperately need people who are serve for the right reasons and not willing to be yes people rubber stamps.

            Tom

            Why are these people willing to be just rubber stamps?

            Tom

            Lydia:

            You reckon we will ever get some serious answers as to how over 210 million dollars was overspent? This was not their money they were spending!

              Lydia

              Tom, would you really trust their answers at this point?

                Tom

                Lydia:

                I would not trust their answers at this point. What amazes me over 1000 missionaries called home and the crickets are chirping from the SBC leaders. If the shoe was on the other foot with the “moderates” leading the SBC their would be an outcry that would be unbelievable. These SBC leaders are hypocrites!

                  Lydia

                  Tom, they are replacing them with a new and improved plan. That was the point all along. Actual people….human beings….don’t matter. How silly of anyone to think so after the patterns of behavior over the last 10 years.

                  And the really clever part is they can even add a clause in the early retirement contract you cannot say anything deemed negative by the powers.

                  They should not have worried as most would not say anything negative anyway. They are looking for jobs now. Some of them might even believe their leaders are Gods special anointed chosen who are not capable of political strategies.

                  It is good to be celebrities with power in the Name of Christ. No?

                  What Jesus Christ has to do with any of it anymore is beyond me. At some point people should wake up to the deceptive patterns of behavior but most don’t seem to care or are afraid to question.

                    Tom

                    Lydia:

                    The SBC missionary force, IMO ,will get even smaller and it surely can not be the leaders fault–definitely being snarky!

                    Lydia

                    Tom, I think the numbers will be larger with the methods totally different. Don’t dicount the whole cult of personality focus that surrounds that movement. If David Platt calls them to “serve”, they will. They just had 8 thousand adoring fans with mush for brains attend T4G with CJ Mahaney preaching on Job. These guys buy anything. And they will be radical about it while he goes to his plush office with a 6 figure income.

                    I have heard snippets of ideas of more short term missions with some outside fundraing for support and such. Who knows. It is not something I expect them to be transparent about. It will all be packaged in Jesus wrapping paper, complete with a celebrity Christian bow and sold as Gods plan. And people buy it.

Tom

Alan: I have been a SBC member for over 42 years now. Particularly since 1979 so much talk about accountability under the new way–I just have not seen it and we are fast moving towards 40 years of the new way. The leaders do what they want and expect to be unconditionally supported.

    Alan Atchison

    Tom,

    I fear you are right. I’ve been a member of an SBC church a large chunk of my life, and I do get the feeling we are being pushed toward a more top-down, elder-led-inspired model of denominational control.

    Many years ago, a “moderate” pastor heading a First Baptist church in the town where I worked, told me the conservative takeover wasn’t about doctrine, but about power and money. I respectfully disagreed. I was too young to be involved in the conservative resurgence, but I remembered it happening and studied it years later, and found the fight for the Bible and conservative principles important. Unfortunately, today, I see the seeds of this type of fight being about control and money being used as a hammer to pound the smaller agencies into submission.

    If the SBC is to be saved, these secrets must stop.

Jon Estes

“Will the GCR Live To Turn Fifteen?”

I do not think it lived to turn 5… if that.

I rememberwhen it was put before the convention. I thought then that it was pointless. The convnetion is not going to tell 7000 people (mostly not pastors) to lead their church to be more evangelistic and it happen. Most pastors it seems attend the convention for reasons other that the business meeting. It has been my experience, it is a time to get away fron the headache of their churches and see old friends… andmaybe rub shoulders with one of the elite.

Maybe I am wrong but the convention telling the churches to reach the world is like a pastor telling His church. A few Amens… a short lived visitation program… more meetings and programs… little evangelism. Then back to survival.

To many churches have told and do tell their pastors to quit being evangelistic. Been there (twice) and it hurts more than being asked to leave.

Keeping the report hidden is not the problem. Whatever it says will not change a thing until the hearts of the people in the pews come to the point thay want to really reach the world for Christ. Then and only then will the CP dollars rise quickly – baptisms increase exponentially and revival breaks out.

If we would harvest the fields as much as we fuss about “stuff”, maybe we wouldn’t need a GCR.

Got to go guys – church is starting soon and need to be there. I am the pastor after all. Preaching on Phillippians 4:1-13 – Living a Life of Rejoicing. We gonna have fun.

Come visit us.

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