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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Great Commission Resurgence & State Conventions

I have read many articles on, or about, what Southern Baptists are hoping will come about as a result of the work of the Great Commission Resurgence task force. There are certainly a lot of ideas out there as to what a reorganized Southern Baptist Convention should look like, and there are a lot of questions being ask. However, the most common question almost everyone appears to be asking is “What to do with the State Conventions?”

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the GCR and State Conventions:

1.) I believe the State Conventions are important and have the potential of playing a major role in any Great Commission Resurgence that might take place in our lifetimes within the Southern Baptist Convention.


2.) I believe that full autonomy (without any oversight and genuine accountability) for our State Conventions has proven itself to be a very bad idea. Human nature being what it is; oversight, transparency, and accountability are an absolute must (especially when finances, positions, and power are involved).

3.) I do not believe the State Conventions should be in the church planting business at all! The examples of where State Conventions have wasted huge amounts of money on failed churches, and sometimes even outright fraud, are too many to list. Not to mention that (regardless of how good a plan someone has, or how large of a core group they have already gathered) many times State Convention Leaders have been guilty of discriminating against those who are from a different theological camp than they are, or who’s worship style is different from their own, or who disagree with their own convictions on second and third matter doctrines. This abuse of authority has lead to many new Baptist Churches being planted “Outside of the Southern Baptist Convention” by a younger generation of Southern Baptist Pastors and Church Planters who are unafraid to go it alone.

4.) I do not believe the State Conventions should be involved in any mission’s activity outside of their own state. We, as Southern Baptist, have both an International mission’s agency and a North American mission’s agency. Why are State Conventions duplicating services that we as a convention already provide for? Why are the State Conventions not “Cooperating” with (working through) our national missions agencies? In my opinion our State Conventions should be focusing upon reaching the mission fields of their own states, and not trying to do the work of the IMB or NAMB.

5.) Ok… here is where I believe the State Conventions could play a major role in a Great Commission Resurgence. I believe that State Conventions should put the establishment of Christian Schools, Daycare Centers, Orphanages, Adoption and Foster Care programs at the top of their agenda. This is where I feel they could truly find their purpose and place in bringing about a true and lasting Great Commission Resurgence. I also feel that no other organization within the Southern Baptist Convention is as capable of filling this much need role as is our State Conventions. How great would the impact on our culture be if every State Convention made it its goal to start a Christian School in every community, county, or parish in America by the end of year 2020? How great would the impact on our culture be if every State Convention made it its goal to start a Christian Daycare in every community, county, or parish in America by the end of year 2020? How great would the impact on our culture be if every State Convention made it its goal to see that no child in America is ever unloved and unwanted by the end of year 2020? In short, how great would the impact on our culture be if by the end of year 2020 every State Convention saw itself purely as a mission organization, and the people of their state as its mission field?

In closing, I believe if we are to have a true and lasting Great Commission Resurgence in America that we must “Reengage” the culture and society in which we live… that we must make it our highest goal to win the hearts and minds of the next generation. This we will not do unless we are willing to change. And if we are not willing to change for the sake of reaching the next generation for Christ, then all this talk about seeking a Great Commission Resurgence is nothing more than shameful religious bravado and we might as well spend our money on prayer rugs for the next generation.

Grace Always,
Greg

12 comments:

Brent Hobbs said...

I think there's some provocative stuff in there. I'm not sure if I'm read to go all the places you've laid out but there are some good ideas in there. Some things I really hadn't ever thought of before. I think you're right - if this vision were implemented, state conventions would be more effective in carrying out the Great Commission.

Greg Alford said...

Brent,

“I think there's some provocative stuff in there.”

I certainly hope so…

“I'm not sure if I'm read to go all the places you've laid out but there are some good ideas in there.”

I am sure that most in the SBC are not ready to go “all” the places I’ve laid out… (we are in uncharted waters here) but perhaps, just perhaps, if we keep at it we will find some good ideas that will move us forward. One thing I am sure of is that if we do not make some truly significant changes the future of the SBC will be one of a slow and painful decline. Gone are the days when young pastors were willing to accept the status quo because “that is the way we have always done it.” Today we have a generation young Baptist that are quite honestly unafraid to question and even challenged the validity of continuing to do things the same old way just because we have always do it that way.

In my opinion what comes about as a result of the work of the GCR task force may be our last, best, chance to “Reinvent” the Southern Baptist Convention in order to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

Grace Always,
Greg

kevin said...

I have a real problem with the whole christian daycare, christian school concept. I will even admit, at the risk of being called all sorts of things, I have a real problem with home schooling. On one hand we talk about reaching our world, reaching our states for Christ. We belittle people who speak against GCR because they are not Kingdom minded, then we want to take our Christian children and isoltate them from the world. Instead of that, why not commission them as missionaries to their campus? Why not teach them how to build relationships and share their faith with their lost friends? Why not send them into their on mission field prepared rather than to yank them out and put them in a bubble which could leave them ill prepared for dealing with the real world once they graduate? Send them to Christian colleges so they are once again isolated from the world. What happens when they have to work next to a lost person?? Could this be the first time in their lives they have had to have an ongoing relationship with a lost person????

Sorry guys. That idea is a really bad one.

joel said...

Regarding the "duplication" of state conventions doing missions outside their own state....

Are you suggesting that IMB has the personnel to coordinate all those volunteers they ask for? The GCRTF report suggests that states do MORE in the newer convention areas. If you think NAMB and IMB are capable of handling the multitudes of mission volunteers--not to mention Disaster Relief--with all the training, orientation, and logistics that the state conventions provide, then you need to spend some time in your state office. It is quite obvious that this idea was not investigated thoroughly. So glad you are not on the GCRTF.

Greg Alford said...

Kevin,

It is clear that you have already formed a strong opinion against Christian Education. To be honest with you I have heard these same arguments many times and they most always come from a young man who has never set in the hospital emergency room with the mother of a “Christian” teenager who has overdosed on drugs given to him by his “school friends”, or who was in a terrible car wreck and is now fighting for his life after going out drinking with his “school friends”.

Kevin there is a reason why today the majority of children who come from Christian families, and who go through the public education system, are not in church after they graduate school… The reason is “Influence rubs both ways”. And the reality is that 99.99% percent of the time our children are altogether unprepared to be our “missionaries to their campus”, and to handle the daily attacks upon their faith they now face in our public schools.

In Scripture it is the parents who are given the responsibility to “diligently instruct” their children… and nowhere are parents given permission to hand over this responsibility to those who do not share their values and beliefs. Kevin, as a devoted Christian, would you ever consider sending your children off to be educated at an Islamic or Buddhist School? No? Why Not? ---Because they do not believe as we believe, nor do they share our same values. Why then is it acceptable unto you to send them off to a secular school that clearly does not teach in accordance with our Christian values and faith?

Sorry Kevin… It is the idea of sending our Children to a secular school to be educated that has proven to be a really bad one for the last fifty years.

Grace Always,

Greg Alford said...

Joel,

It appears that criticism comes quite easy to you, but I failed to see your list of ideas on how to improve things…

So which state convention do you work for?

Grace Always,

Joel said...

I really think your tone in your response shows a lack of maturity. But I shall respond anyway.

I pastor a small church (200-250) who has worked with our convention in AL to take several mission trips. THese folks take care of tons of logistics for me. I cannot imagine IMB having personnel to do all that the state folks here have done for me. They work jointly with IMB in creating partnerships and mobilizing AL Baptists to be on mission around the world.

SOrry if you have not had similar experiences with your state convention.

kevin said...

"And the reality is that 99.99% percent of the time our children are altogether unprepared to be our “missionaries to their campus”, and to handle the daily attacks upon their faith they now face in our public schools."

And whose fault is that??

If you read my original post, it said that we should prepare our students to face this task--not just throw them out there blindly.

I am not the young man you assumed I am. I am a 52 year old father of 3 who were all educated in the public school system. All three were recognized during their high school years with awards for outstanding Christian leadership. They were taught in our home and in our church to be missionaries on our campus. THey were not sent to church to be entertained but taught and discipled. The older two are out of high school and attend church every Sunday in their college town. One is currently on an international mission trip, the other two will be on US mission trips before the end of the summer--all at their own request. I have 17 strong Christian public educators in my church who make a difference in our schools.

ARe there problems in our schools? You bet. But when my two daughters left home for college, they were prepared to see the real world. It was not their first experience outside a Christian bubble.

I resent the fact that you accuse me of not being a diligent, Christian parent because I did not home school or send my child to a Christian school. It is possible to be "in the world but not of the world." If you choose to send your children to a Christian school or home school that is fine. But don't question my commitment to raise Christian children or imply that I am less a parent because I choose not to do so.

Greg Alford said...

Joel,

Yes, a lack of maturity indeed… But then when responding to comments like “It is quite obvious that this idea was not investigated thoroughly. So glad you are not on the GCRTF.” I tend to give the first response that comes to mind… which is usually not very mature.

I was the pastor of a church in the Alabama Convention for five years, and I had a wonderful experience working with this state convention. Notice that my first point: 1.) I believe the State Conventions are important and have the potential of playing a major role in any Great Commission Resurgence that might take place in our lifetimes within the Southern Baptist Convention. However I am in Florida now and let me just say that the song “Sweet Home Alabama” never sounded so good.

Do you not believe that our State conventions are uniquely positioned to make a great difference in the areas I mentioned in point #5 if they decided to make these a high priority in their ministry efforts directed toward the people of their own state?

Grace Always,

Greg Alford said...

Kevin,

1) I am very happy you were able to guide your children safely through the minefield of public education… Most don’t make it, and that is my point.

2) I am also very happy you have 17 strong Christian public educators in your church who are making a difference in your local public schools. I think those (adults) are the ones who are usually better equipped to deal with the hostility toward Christianity one now often finds in public education, and are the ones we should see as “missionaries” to our schools and not our children. I also hope the ACLU does not soon target and shut down your witness in the public schools in your community as they have done in so many other communities around the nation.

3) You said “I resent the fact that you accuse me of not being a diligent, Christian parent because I did not home school or send my child to a Christian school.” I never accused you of anything Brother… I made a general statement based upon what the Scriptures say is our responsibility as Christians to teach our children.

4) You resented something that I did not actually say… Well, I resent something you actually said twice: “Why not send them into their on mission field prepared rather than to yank them out and put them in a bubble… ” “…when my two daughters left home for college, they were prepared to see the real world. It was not their first experience outside a Christian bubble.” I resent you saying that children educated in a Christian School, or a Christian Home, are not properly prepared to deal with the “real world” and have somehow grown up in a “Bubble”. That is simply, and utterly, an untrue statement.

Kevin, I am not sure why you have such a negative, and even hostile, attitude toward Christian Education… But yours is perhaps the most extreme I have ever run across. I do not say that as an accusation, but because I can’t help but wonder if you have had some sort of experience with Christian Education that has wounded you so deeply as to leave you bitter toward the whole idea of Christian Education?

Grace Always,

kevin said...

My problem is not with Christan education as much as it is with parents, others, who imply that I am "less" a Christian parent because I sent my children to public schools or that my commitment to Christ or following scripture is less than someone who chooses a different route for their children. Presently company included. Your quoting scripture to me to support your argument is exactly what I mean. Maybe I am misunderstanding you. But the implication in your comments are that I have gone against God's plan by sending my children to public school. I have had such comments made to my children by parents who home school. THAT is why I have an OPINION--not a hostile attitude--toward this topic. If that is what you choose, fine. (I am using "you" in a generic sense, not you personally) Just don't look down your nose at me and my children because we chose what was best for us. We are just as committed to our Christian principles and to raising Christian children as anyone in a Christian school.

Greg Alford said...

Kevin,

Thank you for your openness and honesty in answering my question.

I have seen the attitude toward Christian parents who send their children to public schools that you speak off, and it is offensive to me as well. It was never my intention to imply that those who do so are less committed to following Christ than those who home school, or send their children to a Christian school. My intention was to communicate that I feel that we, The Southern Baptist Convention, should do a better job in providing alternatives to the public schools system, for those parents who wish not to send their children to the public schools but currently have no choice. I believe this can, and should be done, by working through the state conventions to create a network of Baptist Schools throughout our nation.

It sounds like you have very good schools in your community, and I am very happy to hear this. However, in some communities the schools are a very bad place for our children to try to get a decent, much less Christian, education. Perhaps the right way to move forward with this recommendation to the SBC would be to recognize that we need to both support our public schools where they are good, and start to Christian Schools where they are not?

Grace Always,