Reading and listening to various responses to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report give a glimpse into the state of Southern Baptist life. Like any family, Southern Baptists are a mixed bag with a wide variety of both strengths and weaknesses. It would be hard if not impossible to summarize the "state of the convention" in a few sentences because of this variety as well as the very nature of our structure as an association of independent churches.
Maybe I'll write about the discouraging perspectives that are coming out of certain chambers of bureaucracy at a future date. For now, let me simply note that I am encouraged that so many seem to be growing weary of the unhealthy attitudes and actions that have characterized too much of our convention life over the last 30 years. Triumphalism, provincialism, partisanship, banality, triviality, dishonesty and bravado have no place among an association of churches with as many spiritual needs as the SBC has. No longer can denominational leaders throw a pep rally and expect masses to turn out, much less get fired up over glitzy new programs and outlandish promises. Southern Baptists, especially the rising generation--what's left of them--are increasingly unimpressed with such tactics.
Fueling this denominational ennui is a growing awareness of the lostness of the world and the need to marshal resources to the darkest places on earth. When this point is brought up you can expect to hear from certain sectors that "lost is lost" and "a lost person in Alabama is just as lost a person in Afghanistan." No one doubts that, but, as Danny Akin has rightly noted, "All lost people are equally lost. However, all lost people do not have equal access to the gospel. That is what the GCR is about."
Perhaps no one gets this better than Jerry Rankin, the soon-to-be-retired head of the International Mission Board of the SBC. If you are not reading his blog, you should be. He is a prophetic voice at this pivotal time in the convention. Recently, I was pointed to these clip from a message he preached at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis. He speaks about a dear friend and a region of the world that has captured my heart and the heart of the church that I serve for the last 12 years. We have adopted two unreached people groups from there and sent members to work among them. We have rejoiced at costly the planting of a church in among one of those groups.
Jerry Rankin gets it. Why do Southern Baptists need a Great Commission Resurgence? Watch and learn.