Evaluating the Great Commission Resurgence Recommendations

Dusty Deevers

One Danger, Several Benefits for Trust and Transparency

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) stands at a pivotal crossroads. As we gather in Indianapolis for the Annual Meeting on June 11-12, 2024, we are reminded of our profound responsibility to ensure that our actions align with the biblical mandate of the Great Commission and uphold the integrity and unity of our Convention. The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Evaluation Task Force has presented several key recommendations that warrant careful consideration. Southern Baptists are scheduled to hear from the Task Force on Tuesday night at 6:50.

We largely agree with the Task force, with the exception of the final portion of Recommendation #2, that these recommendations refine our processes, enhance trust, and bolster our collective efforts in spreading the gospel. We consider recommendation #2 first due to the potential consequences, then track through the other, well-received recommendations. Finally, we evaluate these recommendations against the SBC Constitution and Bylaws, Business and Financial Plan, and the Baptist Faith and Message.

2. Restructure and Simplify the Annual Church Profile (ACP)

Recommendation: “We recommend and move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 11-12, 2024 request that State Conventions and Lifeway Christian Resources restructure and simplify the ACP in an effort to effect more participation from churches, limiting the SBC requested information to a total number of 6 categories and 2 questions. The information requested would include the following: a) Total Church Membership b) Total Number of Baptisms c) Average Worship Attendance d) Average Sunday School / Small Group Attendance e) Total Undesignated Receipts f) Total Designated Receipts

  1. Does your congregation employ a screening process for staff and volunteers interacting with children and students (e.g. background checks, references, personal interviews)?
  2. Currently, does your congregation train staff and volunteers working with children and students to recognize and report instances of sexual abuse?”

Evaluation: The first section streamlines the ACP to focus on key metrics which align with our commitment to stewardship and openness. According to SBC Bylaw 18, Section 1, “It is the duty of each church to furnish annually a report to the Convention showing the names of the officers of the church and giving statistical information as requested by the Convention.” Simplifying the ACP encourages greater participation from local churches, providing a clearer picture of our cooperative progress and challenges and enhancing the efficiency and relevance of the data collected.

However… 

However, while well intended, the additional questions have potentially problematic and serious downsides due to unintended consequences for faithful local churches, pastors, and ministry and lay leaders. We expect these two questions to be weaponized against our faithful churches and brothers and sisters. We recommend rejecting the final two questions. 

Before God, churches are responsible to ensure their best efforts to protect the flock and especially children from sexual predation. This is not questioned and must be affirmed. But, these two questions open the door wide to several dangers and threats.

First, adding this reporting to the ACP creates a huge liability. Anyone with access, however acquired, to an SBC ID number, which every SBC church has, could bring crushing lawfare and scrutiny from hostile media to churches who have never been accused of abuse and have protected children but merely made a clerical error in reporting.

Second, while well-meaning, what begin as merely questions, can quickly become commands.

Third, none of the binding documents of the SBC, Constitution and Bylaws, BFM, or otherwise require this type of reporting. These are extra-constitutional rules imposed upon autonomous churches which we believe are dangerous. 

Fourth, these additional questions seriously threaten the autonomy of local churches, potentially bringing disciplinary action from a dubious hierarchy upon innocent churches.  

Fifth, even if reported, a screening process and training tell us nothing on whether those churches are, in reality, protecting children from abuse. Every ministry leader knows that background reports show very little, even though we do them.

Finally, why do the Executive Committee and Southern Baptists need to know what trainings local churches are doing? The question is if Southern Baptist churches are protecting children from abuse, not if they are implementing particular approved trainings.

1. Cease Using “Great Commission Giving”

Recommendation: “We recommend and move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 11-12, 2024 request that State Conventions and Lifeway Christian Resources cease using the category of, and any language related to ‘Great Commission Giving’ while continuing to retain the language from Article III, Number 3 regarding gifts ‘through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity’ in an effort to reaffirm the Cooperative Program as the primary method of giving for Southern Baptist Churches.”

Evaluation: The SBC Constitution, under Article III, highlights the significance of the Cooperative Program (CP) as the primary channel for funding our collective mission efforts. The Constitution states: “Membership in the Convention shall be as follows: 1. Any Baptist church in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work, and which (2) Has made undesignated financial contributions through the Cooperative Program of the Convention, shall be entitled to one (1) messenger.” 

This recommendation underscores the importance of unity in our giving practices, emphasizing that the Cooperative Program should remain the principal method of financial support. The proposal aligns with the principles outlined in the SBC Constitution and the Business and Financial Plan, ensuring that our resources are pooled together effectively to support Convention causes. By reaffirming the CP, we adhere to the cooperative spirit that has historically defined our Convention, fostering a sense of shared purpose and accountability.

3. Annual Survey by the North American Mission Board (NAMB)

Recommendation: “We recommend and move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 11-12, 2024 request that the North American Mission Board conduct an annual survey of the status of churches planted, revitalized, or otherwise assisted using CP funds 10 years out from their launch, specifically to include data regarding: 1) the % of churches which are still in existence, and 2) the % of churches still connected to the SBC in CP giving & ACP reporting, and include that information each year in its report to the messengers at the annual meeting and publish this data in the Book of Reports.”

Evaluation: This recommendation enhances accountability and long-term evaluation of our church planting and revitalization efforts. By monitoring the sustainability and ongoing SBC affiliation of these churches, we can better assess the effectiveness of our CP investments. The Business and Financial Plan, Section VI, Part A, requires “a thorough system of accounting and controls to be maintained.” 

It is important that our investments yield lasting fruit and that churches planted or revitalized with CP funds continue to contribute to the mission of the SBC. Regularly publishing this data in the Book of Reports builds trust and allows us to celebrate successes while addressing any areas of concern.

4. Increase CP Allocation Percentage to the IMB

Recommendation: “We recommend and move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 11-12, 2024 strongly request the Executive Committee to increase the CP Allocation Percentage designated to the IMB to 51% beginning with the 2026-27 budgeted year. This will bring the International Mission Board and Executive Committee CP allocation budget percentages into alignment with the vote of the messengers at the 2010 Annual Meeting. This will finally correct the Executive Committee’s lack of responsiveness to the will of the messengers.”

Evaluation: Increasing the CP allocation to the International Mission Board (IMB) reflects our cooperative commitment to global missions. This adjustment aligns our budget priorities with the expressed will of the messengers from the 2010 Annual Meeting, correcting a long-standing issue of responsiveness. It also underscores the importance of prioritizing international missions within our financial planning, in accordance with our biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations. The Constitution, under Article VII, affirms, “The Convention may allocate its funds for work at home and abroad, and no part of the funds shall be used for purposes other than those for which it was given.”

5. Indexing of the GCR Audio Recordings

Recommendation: “We recommend and move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 11-12, 2024 request that the Council of Seminary Presidents direct the staff of the Historical Library and Archives, under the supervision of the Director and Archivist, to begin the process of indexing the audio recordings of the original GCR compact disc collection (titled AR 913) for publication on June 16th, 2025 so that interested parties may have navigable access from the first day of public access.”

Evaluation: Indexing and making accessible the GCR audio recordings furthers our commitment to historical transparency and the preservation of our Convention’s heritage. This initiative supports the educational and archival functions outlined in the SBC Constitution, and Bylaws 18, Section 1, which emphasize the importance of maintaining accurate historical records for future generations. It also enhances the accessibility of important discussions and decisions that have shaped our Convention, fostering a deeper understanding of our cooperative journey.

6. Reporting on Actions Taken on Messenger Approved Recommendations

Recommendation: “We recommend and move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 11-12, 2024 request that the Executive Committee consider and propose changes in the appropriate governing documents to be brought to the 2025 Annual Meeting for consideration in order to require entities, institutions, committees, or commissions of the Convention to report on the action they have taken on messenger approved recommendations coming from special work groups or task forces. We encourage that these reports be included in the Book of Reports. We would suggest something similar to the following: 26. Procedures, 1. Method of Procedure for Entities. 4. ‘All recommendations adopted by the messengers to the annual meeting that are made by special committees approved by messengers of previous conventions, the referred entity, institution, committee, or commission shall take action on those recommendations and a report on that action shall be submitted by the appropriate entity, institution, committee, or commission to the Executive Committee within two years of adoption by the messengers. This report shall be included in the Book of Reports and a part of the entity’s report from the platform at the subsequent Annual Meeting.’”

Evaluation: Requiring entities to report on actions taken in response to messenger-approved recommendations strengthens trust within the Convention. Article IX of the Constitution states, “The Convention shall have no right to exercise ecclesiastical authority over the churches.” However, it does provide for “entities of the Convention to perform such duties and functions as the Convention shall assign them.” This proposal aligns with the SBC’s governance principles as outlined in the Constitution and Bylaws, ensuring that our entities are responsive to the collective will of the messengers. Including these reports in the Book of Reports and annual meeting presentations enhances visibility and allows messengers to track progress and hold entities accountable for their actions.

Conclusion

Keeping and building trust is fundamental to the furtherance of the Cooperative Program and the Great Commission efforts of our convention of churches. The recommendations presented by the Great Commission Resurgence Evaluation Task Force represent a helpful step forward in integrity and transparency in our ongoing efforts.

However, we must address the critical concerns surrounding Recommendation #2 and reject the additional questions. While the intent to restructure and simplify the Annual Church Profile (ACP) is commendable, the additional questions regarding the screening and training processes for staff and volunteers interacting with children introduce potential liabilities, overreach, and weaponization against the faithful. These questions, although well-meaning, could open the door to significant legal and media scrutiny, pose risks to the autonomy of local churches, and create unintended hierarchical oversight that is not supported by our binding documents. It is vital that we protect the integrity and independence of our local congregations while ensuring their commitment to safeguarding against abuse.

As we gather in Indianapolis, let us commit to our unity and purpose, ensuring that our Convention remains faithful to its biblical mandate and responsive to the will of its messengers. Together, we can strengthen our efforts to make disciples of all nations, uphold the integrity of our financial stewardship, and foster a culture of trust and accountability within the Southern Baptist Convention.


Image Credit: Soldiers and Sailor Monument Indianapolis, IN

  • Dusty Deevers

    Dusty Deevers is a pastor at Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Elgin, State Senator for Oklahoma District 32, and CEO of Deevers Properties. Dusty has worked in SBC life for decades and previously served on the staff at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Christian resources on abolishing abortion, the Christian view of the role of civil government, and Loving Your IVF Neighbor: In Vitro Fertilization, Assisted Reproduction Technologies, and Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself. He holds an M.Div. from SWBTS.