GCR Final Report Introduction: Setting the Stage

A little less than a week ago, the GCR Task Force released their final report. The report is available in video format and in a full text version (available in either html or as a .pdf file). As I go through the report, I'll mention pages numbers as shown in the .pdf file, so if you want to see the sections I'm describing, you can download this file to follow along.

Report Introduction
Pages 2-6 of the report gives an introduction to the report and a summary of why many think a Great Commission Resurgence is needed. It begins with a call to reclaim our identity for a new generation. The GCR Motion from the 2009 meeting in Louisville is reviewed along with a few words about the work of the task force (pg. 2).

A section on the urgency of the Great Commission task is next, filled with statistics showing the vast numbers of people in the world who are lost and the billions who have little or no access to the gospel. There is great cause for concern in a world with 7 billion people and the most generous estimates put the number of followers of Jesus at 1 billion. 3.5 billion have never heard the gospel and 6,000 people groups are identified who have no Christian witness. Our own baptism numbers are down and our growth (or lack of) is nowhere near keeping up with population numbers. (2-3)

The report also details how a lack of funding contributes to our situation. Average Southern Baptists give 2.5% to their church, average churches give 4% to the Cooperative Program, average state conventions keep 63% of all CP money. The report calls for all of those percentages to increase in order to open the floodgates of funding to our SBC entities. so that they might not be hindered in helping us fulfill the Great Commission because of a lack of resources. (3-4)

A Theological Center
"A Great Commission Resurgence grows directly out of a Great Commission theology." (pg. 4) A breath of fresh air! We often hear calls to cooperate in spite of theology; but there is the one way that gives us a true foundation for lasting fellowship and cooperation: a common theology.

We are united in believing that Jesus is the only way to be delivered from God's wrath and that all those who don't believe in him stand condemned. We are united in believing that unreached people must hear the gospel in order to be saved. We are united in believing our mission is to take this gospel to the ends of the earth and to everyone on this planet we are capable to reaching.

The report calls us to rally around this biblical understanding of reality and our purpose here. For a Great Commission Resurgence, theology is not to be abandoned or ignored, but becomes a new and more solid foundation for cooperation and mission.

"We will be ready to do whatever it takes to see a Great Commission Resurgence change our priorities, reshape our plans, and fuel our lives for God's glory." (5)

A New Missional Vision
Along with the gospel as our theological center, we also agree that the local church has "primacy and centrality." "The New Testament identifies the church as the central instrument of the kingdom of God." (5) The task force rightly sees the Great Commission as something churches must own themselves and stop thinking of the convention as the place where we outsource the work.

Because the local church is central, the task force issues a call for churches to rally around "a new missional vision." (See "Missional Described" for further explanation.) "Each individual congregation must accept the responsibility to reach their village, community, town, or city with the good news of Jesus Christ." (6) So our churches must begin to view their own setting as a mission field and all Christians as missionaries.

These two aspects, a theological center and a new missional vision, come together to form the root form the the rest of the report grows. Here's a good summary statement from page 6:

All of our Baptist work beyond the local church must exist solely to serve the local church in this mission. This is true for every Baptist association, state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. None of these exists for itself – all exist for the churches. Every pastor must be a missionary strategist, and every church must be a missionary sending center. Every congregation exists to replicate itself and to plant other Gospel churches. Every entity of Baptist work must exist to serve our churches in this missional vision.

A Work of God Needed
Just before getting to Component #1, the task force saw fit to remind us that we are dependent on God for seeing any real fruit from this movement: "So, how can we make a Great Commission Resurgence happen? In truth only God can bring this about." (6)

After walking through the introduction, it's hard for me to understand the criticism that the report is heavy on structural changes but light on recognition of the need for spiritual renewal. The task force has clearly set the stage - a theological center and missional vision that provide for both spiritual and structural renewal.

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