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Why We Believe the GCRTF Report is Good for the Future of the SBC (4b): Reaching North America

By: Danny Akin & Jonathan Akin

The recommendations of component 4 will allow NAMB to have a direct church planting and evangelism strategy where they can appoint personnel directly. They have not had that freedom in the past. At present, and much of this due to cooperative agreements, the majority of NAMB “missionaries” are serving in the most reached and most served areas of North America (see recent blog by Micah Fries). Despite some comments that we as the SBC have “gotten outta Dixie,” the evidence shows that we are still a mostly Southern convention, and we are failing to direct significant resources (people and money) to the places with the least access to the Gospel. The 9 states with the most significant amount of lostness have a total of 322 NAMB missionaries in them (just over 6% of NAMB missionaries). At present, we are not targeting in any kind of strategic way the most needy states. Texas alone has more NAMB personnel than Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Iowa, South & North Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Nebraska, and Illinois combined. This says nothing of the needs of California and New York!

So, this recommendation, as much as any other, attempts to directly penetrate lostness and reallocate resources (people and money) to places with the least access to the Gospel in North America. The major pockets of lostness are the Northeast, the West, and the Northwest, and yet we continue to spend the majority of our resources in the church saturated Southeast. 2/3 of the CP is spent in regions where 1/3 of our population is, and in regions that are most evangelized. This has to change, and the GCRTF has figured out a way to make us much more strategic.

The way the GCRTF hopes to accomplish this is by phasing out the cooperative agreements and unleashing those monies for significant church planting. Cooperative Agreements were agreed on partnerships between then the Home Mission Board (HMB) and each state convention whereby the two entities would jointly fund ministries in that area. So, a church would give money to the CP through their state convention. The state convention would keep a percentage of the money to do the work of their ministries, and then send a percentage on to Nashville. This amount would be divided between the IMB, NAMB, seminaries, etc. NAMB would then take a portion of their allocation and give it back to the state conventions to jointly fund ministry in that state. This was the logic of the time in corporate America as well, and it served Southern Baptists well at the time. However, times have changed and radically so.

The SBC now needs to update its strategies in order to directly penetrate lostness in North America. The cooperative agreements ensure at present that the vast majority of our resources stay in the places with the most churches. Approximately 63 cents on every $1 given to the CP is kept in the state it is given, and then more of that dollar is given back to the state convention through the cooperative agreements. This means that the greatest percentage of our monies remains in the states with the largest Southern Baptist populations.

States keep 2/3 of the CP money given, and then receive more back. With these cooperative agreements we fund some very good ministries like: chaplains, deaf ministries, ethnic ministries, resort missionaries, DOM’s, etc. But, Dr. Rankin points out that only a small proportion of the cooperative agreements go to direct evangelism and church planting. Most is used to support state convention staff, DOM’s, consultants, etc. He also noted that one state that received a million dollars from NAMB started only 3 new churches last year.

Some have written recently that this component will “devastate missions” work in some of our states. This fear has been raised both in oldline and frontier conventions. Let’s be honest. This component will call for a shift in some things that we are doing currently. Lamentably, some good ministries might get cut or need to be carried out in a different way than they have been in the past. For example, resort ministry could become more local church driven than CP funded. But, in order to penetrate lostness, we have to ask some tough questions about all our ministries. The issue here is not that the cooperative agreements go to fund bad things. This is not a question of good versus bad. It is a question of good versus best, good versus most strategic, and good versus most needed.

The GCRTF is attempting to shift our resources to the places of greatest need (i.e. least access to the gospel, least churched, etc.). The GCRTF encourages frontier state conventions by telling them this means MORE resources for them. This means a concerted effort to get resources out of Dixie and on to the places that are the most underserved. Those who oppose this measure favor continuing to spend the majority of our resources in the places with the most Christians and most churches, and then as we saturate those places, we will let resources trickle out to places that are most in need. The GCRTF says instead, why don’t we reallocate these resources to impact the lostness directly and begin doing it immediately, not later?!

It seems that some have misunderstood this recommendation. Former HMB President, Larry Lewis, says the GCRTF is calling for “competitive” missions between the state conventions and NAMB, but that is not the case at all. This recommendation calls for new strategic partnerships. One thing we can be assured is that these strategic partnerships will focus our resources on church planting and the underserved regions.

Some have misunderstood and thought that this measure is calling for new, costly regional offices rather than one HQ in Alpharetta. The recommendation calls for decentralization but not regional offices.

Conclusion-

We need a viable and effective church planting network. The perception at present is that we do not have one. We lamented Ed Stetzer’s tweet a few days ago which read, “I just talked with my 31st planter who wanted to plant with the SBC, met with denominational leaders, and is now non-denominational. We must do better. #GCR.” Indeed, we must do better, and we believe this component gives us the opportunity to do so.

This recommendation is the best opportunity to most directly assault the lostness in North America. Southern Baptists need a viable and focused church planting network. This will give us one! Imagine if we as Southern Baptists were focusing 50 million dollars a year plus, that has been tied up in various things, on church planting in the most unreached areas of our nation! Imagine if we as Southern Baptists were able to launch a generation of gospel-centered church planters into the pockets of lostness in North America! Imagine, not a convention of 45,000 churches, but with focused church planting efforts over the next few decades 70,000 plus churches reaching our homeland for Christ, 70,000 plus churches calling out and funding missionaries! Let’s rally around that vision in Orlando! Why not America, and why not now?!