JACKSON, Tenn. – May 12, 2010 – Union University President David S. Dockery answered questions from faculty, staff and students about the final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force during a May 12 presentation.
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., in June will consider the proposals from the task force. The full report is available at www.pray4gcr.com.
Dockery, a member of the task force charged with studying the denomination and making a proposal about what should be done to ensure its effectiveness in the future, previously answered questions from Baptist and Reflector editor Lonnie Wilkey about the report. Those responses are reprinted here with permission.
B&R: Can you tell us about the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force?
Dockery: President (Johnny) Hunt invited 22 people from various and representative sectors of Southern Baptist life to work together toward helping the SBC move forward in more faithful and effective ways to carry out the work of the Great Commission. The group included larger church and smaller church pastors, directors of missions, state convention executive-directors, laypeople, two senior leaders from NAMB, two seminary presidents and one Baptist university leader. Among these are board members representing NAMB, IMB and three members of the Executive Committee. The group included two women, representatives from the far west, the southwest, the southeast and the northeast, as well as ethnic representation from Asian Americans, African Americans and Hispanic Americans. No one volunteered for this role; everyone served at the invitation of the president of the SBC, with each person giving hundreds of hours to the task over the past several months. It took a while for the members of the group to get to know one another. With such wide-ranging diversity, it is amazing that the Lord brought about consensus and ultimately unanimity in bringing forth the final report.
B&R: Do you think the final version of the GCRTF addresses the concerns regarding the Cooperative Program/Great Commission Giving expressed by some Southern Baptists following the initial report?
Dockery: I think that there has been some misunderstanding regarding the progress report’s proposals regarding these matters. I think that we have worked very hard to bring clarity to these matters in the final report. We have had numerous and important conversations with representatives from almost all of the 42 state conventions and various SBC leaders. There are several members of the GCRTF who are strong and visible advocates of the Cooperative Program and recognize the pivotal role that it has played in the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists over the past 85 years. I would certainly count myself among that number. In the final report we have issued a clarion call for the Cooperative Program to remain unchanged in its definition and have recommended that CP be considered the “preferred” and “central” means for providing support for the work of missions, education and benevolence ministries among the SBC and state conventions.
The term Great Commission Giving is a new term being recommended to represent the total giving of congregations to and through the Cooperative Program plus gifts to other Baptist causes such as Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, state offerings like the Mother’s Day offering for the TBC Children’s Home and other designated gifts to Baptist causes. This new title is a reminder of our shared partnership in all of these matters in carrying out the work of the Great Commission.
We believe that both of these things will deepen our commitments to the Cooperative Program and enhance participation in Baptist ministries that are used of God to help advance Great Commission work, reaffirming the SBC’s commitments to cooperation and partnership articulated at the 1925 Southern Baptist Convention by the Committee on Future Program, chaired by M. E. Dodd. We trust that individuals will give more, that churches will participate in a greater way in the work of the Cooperative Program and support for Baptist causes and that state conventions and the SBC will find renewed commitments toward partnership and cooperation, particularly for the cause of global missions.
B&R: What are the major improvements in the final report?
Dockery: I think the final report will indicate that the GCRTF has tried to listen carefully to Southern Baptists and state convention representatives from across the country. I think the report emphasizes the need for a recommitment to global missions, evangelism, discipleship and church planting in order to push back the vast lostness in this country and around the world. The report is grounded in a gospel and local church-focused framework. I personally believe the call to a new mission statement and new core values for the SBC will be a powerful first step toward changing the culture in Southern Baptist life.
I think the key components and recommendations recognize well SBC processes including the work of the Executive Committee, the responsibility of the various boards of SBC entities and the autonomy of local churches and state conventions. The final report also includes dozens of non-binding challenges and suggestions at the conclusion of the report, which represent the voices of hundreds of Southern Baptists who shared their hearts with us concerning ways that Great Commission work can be strengthened in SBC life. I think the many revisions and new framework have significantly improved the final report.
B&R: Why should Southern Baptists adopt the report in Orlando?
Dockery: I do not think that anyone will think that the report is perfect. I do not know of anyone who will agree with every word or line in the report. My dream is that the messengers in Orlando will grasp the big picture. Southern Baptists as a whole are not spiritually healthy. Our statistical indicators recognize that many churches and ministries need renewal. The population in North America is becoming more secularized with each passing generation. There are nearly 6,000 people groups and well over a billion people in the world who have never heard the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This report points us in a trajectory to begin to address these matters with new strategy and greater dedication than ever before. We believe that these proposals address both the structural and spiritual issues that will help us take steps forward together.
I truly believe that the life of each member of the GCRTF has been changed. I know that mine has been. I pray that God’s Spirit will enable all of us to get a fresh glimpse of our roles together in partnership and cooperation in carrying out the Great Commission with renewed faithfulness and effectiveness for the good of Southern Baptists and for the glory of God.