Toward a Great Commission Resurgence
On February 23, I posted my thoughts on the Great Commission Task Force’s (GCTF) progress report. Yesterday, the task force’s final report was made available online. Last night I printed a PDF copy of the report, and I read it today. I had not originally planned to begin my series on evangelism with a post about my thoughts on the GCTF final report, but the GCTF’s final report is about evangelism—about implementing a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR)—and so it serves as a fitting beginning to my series on evangelism. In fact, many of my own posts about evangelism will be adapted from some of the challenges that the GCTF addresses to Southern Baptists. (I, of course, will be applying these challenges to us regardless of denomination.)
The GCTF, as a Southern Baptist task force, focuses on a Great Commission Resurgence—a greater emphasis on the Great Commission—among Southern Baptists. (To my Southern Baptist readers, I ask you to join me in praying that our national convention adopts the GCTF’s recommendations at the national convention which will be June 15-16 in Orlando.) Unlike the GCTF, though, my readership extends beyond Southern Baptists—praise be to God! Denominations have their purpose, but I gladly rejoice in the fact that there are Christians in many denominations. The GCTF entitled their final report “Penetrating the Lostness: Embracing a Vision for a Great Commission Resurgence Among Southern Baptists.” For my blog series on evangelism, though, I will slightly modify this title (just as I will modify my posts) to “Penetrating the Lostness: Great Commission Living.” Although this post will focus on the GCTF’s final report (intended for Southern Baptists), I will adapt this report not only in this post but also in subsequent posts so that all of us Christians—regardless of denomination—may profit from it.
I applaud the GCTF for approving this final report unanimously on April 26, but I rejoice that my audience includes people from many denominations. I appreciate all of you readers and love all you fellow believers and pray that this series on evangelism—beginning with this post—will result in a Great Commission Resurgence among all Christians regardless of denomination.
Before we begin our journey toward a Great Commission Resurgence, let us first realize the depth of our need for such a faithfulness in fulfilling the Great Commission:
We must see a tidal wave of evangelistic and missionary passion, or the numbers of unreached people groups will only grow, and lostness will spread. In North America, evangelical Christians [not just Southern Baptists] are falling behind the level of population growth. Put simply, we are failing to reach new immigrant populations, the teeming millions in urban areas, and a generation of youth and young adults who are living in a time of vast change and confused worldviews. Lostness … must be our concern when it is across the street. North America represents a vast continent of lostness, where millions still have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and where many communities and ethnic groups are woefully underserved by Gospel [not necessarily “Southern Baptist”] churches. (Final Report p. 3)
On that same page, the report further reveals that American churches “are losing ground with each successive generation.” The Task Force rightfully concludes that we “desperately need to reach our communities for Christ—and this starts with our own young people.” To my Southern Baptist readers, don’t be discouraged at this; rather be challenged to do something about it! “Throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, there are bright signs of promise and ample signs of hope.” That is true—but I see “bright signs of promise and ample signs of hope” wherever there is a Christian! Regardless of denomination, we can all “penetrate the lostness” by sharing the Gospel with someone we know.
But we cannot have a Great Commission Resurgence without a Great Commission theology.
The foundation for a Great Commission Resurgence is the truth of the Gospel. … [We] need a renewed commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of missions and evangelism, the message that is found only in Jesus Christ and His atoning death for sinners. These are first and foremost … [We must] recommit ourselves to sharing, proclaiming, and teaching this good news, as well as ministering and living in the power of the Gospel. … "[We need to] acknowledge the centrality of the gospel message to everything we do and everything we are … our true unity can be found only in the good news of Jesus Christ. We call for a new focus on the primacy of the biblical gospel. … In His Gospel we place our hope and ground our efforts for a Great Commission Resurgence. (p. 5)
Indeed, we as Christians must be grounded in the gospel for us to proclaim it. Our good news is the specific Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! (See my recent Gospel series for more in-depth treatment of what the biblical gospel is.) For us to be Great Commission fulfillers, we must be Great Commission believers. Let us then commit ourselves to “the primacy of the biblical gospel.” Let us ever devote ourselves to ever more power-giving knowledge of the Scripture. This power-giving knowledge will rightly result in Great Commission living—in both evangelism and everyday life—as the Task Force rightly concludes: “The Great Commission is a command, not a suggestion.”
The GCTF asks that the Southern Baptist Convention adopts the following statement as the Southern Baptist mission statement:
As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
This mission statement, however, is a wonderful one for all Christians to adopt. I, then, ask that all of us would adopt a modified version of that statement to be our own individual mission statements: “As a Christian, my personal missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.” Can one person achieve this on his or her own? No. That is in part why it is such a wonderful mission statement: You’ll miss the moon, but you’ll land among the stars. This mission statement would never need revision but would last us our lifetimes.
Now I apply the final report’s call on Southern Baptists to all of us: we all need to “reclaim our core identity as [Christians] on mission.” Sacrificial giving toward the Great Commission fulfillment—either by direct donation or through a tithe (or more!) to your local church should also be celebrated. The Task Force puts it well, and I believe it would apply to all of us that we should “give as never before … celebrate every church’s eager and sacrificial support of Great Commission Giving at every level” (p. 9).
The Task Force’s next item has come under fire particularly in my home region. This, however, is needless opposition. The GCTF does seek to reorganize the NAMB, IMB, and state (and national, in a way) conventions; but this is not a work of Satan! To my fellow Southern Baptists, do not let a reorganization of our denomination scare you into bucking against a Great Commission Resurgence. The GCTF is working to give more money to missions and to share the gospel with more people across North America and around the globe. As the Task Force says, “We call for the leadership of the North American Mission Board to budget for a national strategy that will mobilize Southern Baptists in a great effort to reach North America with the Gospel and plant thriving, reproducing churches” (p. 11). Would this take money away from Alabama? Yes … but you must realize that it would be sending the money it “takes away” to the unreached (and therefore unsaved!) millions of people who are within the U.S. but outside the Bible Belt.
Back to my universal application of this report. I give you the conclusion of the GCTF final report:
We recognize that the challenge of working toward a Great Commission Resurgence will require the commitment of a generation, not merely of the messengers to an annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. … May God bring glory to His name and the redeeming power of the Gospel of Christ through granting to Southern Baptists in this generation what can only be described as a Great Commission Resurgence. A world of lostness awaits. (p. 14)
If a Great Commission Resurgence “will require the commitment of a generation, not merely of the messengers to an annual meeting” of the SBC, so much more should we all—regardless of denomination—seek a Great Commission Resurgence in ourselves, our families, and our own communities? I again applaud the GCTF for challenging Southern Baptists in this way, but it is a challenge that should be given to all Christians regardless of denomination! I realize that many of my readers are in and around Winfield: wouldn’t ya’ll rejoice and praise the Lord if God’s Spirit were to fill our town? Wouldn’t ya’ll rejoice with me at the salvation of any sinner? Let us then, Southern Baptists and non-Southern Baptists, Winfieldians and non-Winfieldians, commit to pursuing a Great Commission Resurgence in our own selves, our own families, and our own churches.
God is sovereign, yes, but he chooses to work through human means. Paul writes in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes through hearing.” In verse 14, he reveals our responsibility: “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Paul doesn’t mean only pulpit sermons by “preaching,” though those are involved; no, “preaching” includes personal evangelism from one believer to one or more unbelievers. In subsequent posts, I will list the GCTF’s challenges to all Southern Baptists and adapt them for application to all believers regardless of denomination. For now, I leave you with the GCTF’s final words before entering the practical section of their report: “A world of lostness awaits. What are we waiting for?”
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