GCR's reach to be seen at state conventions

Baptist Press
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Posted: Sep 27, 2011 5:22 PM
GCR's reach to be seen at state conventions
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- The impact and impetus of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) will be addressed in half of the Baptist state convention annual meetings this fall.

Many of the proposals by special study committees call for restructuring state ministries in order to encourage church planting while some would free up a great portion of Cooperative Program receipts for ministry beyond the states.

Some study groups were formed on the heels of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force named at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting to examine "how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission." Other state conventions already had initiated studies to evaluate their ministry and mission.

The seven GCRTF recommendations adopted at the SBC's 2010 annual meeting were based on a vision "to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations."

While recognizing that Baptists are doing important work at the state level, the GCR task force noted that approximately 63 percent of all monies given through the Cooperative Program remain in the states, and it called on the conventions to increase the portion given to SBC worldwide missions and ministry. Messengers to state conventions decide how undesignated CP receipts from local churches are apportioned, with the amount forwarded to SBC missions and ministries varying from 13.5 to 55 percent.

State conventions in California, Montana, South Carolina, West Virginia will hear proposals for a 50/50 division of CP dollars to state and SBC ministries. State conventions in Florida, Kentucky and Nevada, meanwhile, are among those that will hear how their budgets will reflect a shift toward the 50/50 division approved by messengers at last year's conventions.

In California, the Focus 21 Task Force will recommend that messengers refer to the convention's executive board proposals to dramatically increase funds for church planting from 3.2 to 25 percent and divide CP receipts evenly between CSBC and SBC within a five-year time frame. Funds allocated to California Baptist University will be reduced to $100,000 to free up money for church planting.

"While the CSBC does many good things, the urgency of reaching more people with the gospel in California demands prioritization of church planting," according to the task force chaired by Glen Paden, a retired pastor and president emeritus of the California Baptist Foundation.

In Montana, a proposal by the convention's 2020 Vision Team would increase the SBC portion of CP receipts from 22 to 30 percent by 2020 with an ultimate goal of achieving the 50/50 division. "This report represents the beginning of a renewed spirit of Great Commission commitment and prioritization," according to the document released by the team and includes specific challenges for churches to set goals related to baptisms, attendance, CP giving, mission trips and church planting.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention's GCR Task Force proposes achieving the 50/50 division of CP funds within five years while boosting the International Mission Board share of the SBC portion earlier by reallocating funds cut from the various areas, including state Baptist universities, homes for children and the aging, Woman's Missionary Union, the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina and the Baptist Courier newspaper.

In West Virginia, 32 people provided input to the Strategy Planning Group that is recommending to the state's Baptists the fastest pace among new work states in achieving a 50/50 division of CP funds. If approved by messengers, the SBC share will be increased by 2 percentage points for 2013 to reach a 40/60 split and 1 point in subsequent years in a state where total CP giving is trending upward.

"This is an aggressive and ambitious plan for a convention as young as the WVCSB," the report states. "Our State Staff is determined to do more with less, in order to penetrate the darkness with the Gospel, and advance the kingdom of God."

Florida Baptists could achieve an even division of CP receipts between in-state and SBC causes within seven years under a plan developed by a State Board of Missions budget allocations committee. Three percent of the Florida budget will be designated as "shared ministries" which mutually benefit the SBC and Florida Baptists, including international partnerships, theological education, stewardship development and Cooperative Program promotion.

In Kentucky, the convention will be moving to a 50/50 distribution between the KBC and SBC causes over the course of 10 years, less shared expenses. The "More for Christ" emphasis begun last year rallied Kentucky Baptists around "an intentional time of repentance, renewal and redirection for the future," as described by Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor. "We do not face a financial crisis, but a spiritual one. Our Father owns all that is and is never in need, but His people must have the priorities and focus, especially in our private lives," he told Baptist Press.

Nevada Baptists will hear detailed information about the new organizational structure approved at last year's annual meeting that merges the state convention and four associations into the Nevada Baptist Network and consider the first budget that reflects progress toward the 50/50 split over five years.

While every state convention will adjust their budgets to accommodate changes in funding from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), many of the study groups focused on structural changes to take greater responsibility for ministries that do not fall within NAMB's prioritization of church planting.

The role of Baptist associations was addressed in many of the reports, including a recommendation in California for directors of missions, state convention staff, ethnic fellowship leaders and others to study how to reduce overlapping ministry responsibilities.

Recommendations of the West Virginia study call for dividing the state into five regions where church planting catalyst missionaries will partner directly with local churches and associations.

In Michigan, associational clusters are being proposed to encompass five regions of the state. Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of Michigan's annual meeting will hear the 2010 and Beyond Committee propose a new vision, mission statement and core values, along with a plan for state missionaries who address church starting, church strengthening and church mobilization.

In the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, representatives from local associations joined with recent state convention presidents to form the Great Commission Task Force to assess the strategic initiatives of the convention. The group will report on "the new realities initiated by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force which will be implemented by the SBC boards and agencies over the next seven years," MWBC executive director Leo Endel said.

During the Baptist Convention of Penn-South Jersey's executive board report, messengers will receive an update from the Forward in Faith task force that was asked by the board to consider GCR recommendations, changes at NAMB and the future needs and strategy of the state convention. "Primarily, they are seeking to understand where the Lord is leading us in the future and how we can be faithful to his leadership," said David Waltz, BCPJ executive director.

While the Colorado Baptist General Convention's Restructuring Task Force was formed in 2009, chairman Bob Bender, a Colorado Springs pastor, said the timing was providential to coincide with the SBC study which ultimately impacts the state convention's work through changes to NAMB.

Through a proposal to be considered by Colorado messengers, Bender believes "a streamlining, reorganizing and restructuring" of the state convention staff will make them more efficient in the task of "encouraging the Colorado Baptist network of churches in cooperating to saturate the state and world with the gospel." If approved by messengers, implementation of changes will occur in 2013 to allow time for budget changes.

North Carolina Baptists also had called for a study prior to the adoption of the SBC's GCRTF proposal, putting the focus on determining how well an earlier stated vision had been implemented. According to a release from the Vision Fulfillment Committee, the board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina already had affirmed "a vision that touches not only on ministries addressed by the GCRTF, but additional core ministries that are vital to the effectiveness of local churches across our state."

Danny Sinquefield, chairman of the 2021 Vision Team for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press that the team is in the listening and information gathering phase and hopes to bring a proposal of new core values to the annual meeting for affirmation. "These will serve to shape our state convention's work as we respond to the Great Commission in the years ahead," said Sinquefield, a pastor in Bartlett.

Arizona Southern Baptist Convention President James Harms, a pastor in Sierra Vista, told Baptist Press he anticipates a challenge to reach Arizona with the Gospel in the report from an administrative team tasked with evaluating the impact of GCR. "Our main emphasis will be on reaching Arizona for Christ and not simply on changes in NAMB funding," Harms said.

In Alabama, the Great Commission Ministries Task Force appointed by the convention's president, Jimmy Jackson, was asked to determine "how to focus resources and conduct Great Commission ministries through the coming decade." The group is composed of members of the convention's executive committee and will provide an intermediary report to the annual meeting on information gathered thus far, with recommendations to be developed in time for the 2012 meeting.

The Georgia Baptist Convention Study Task Force appointed in November 2009 to focus on the Great Commission and denominational accountability will be making another progress report at this year's state convention meeting.

Messengers to the Baptist Convention of New England will hear another report from the GCR Response Team formed last year in response to new directions being taken by NAMB with state conventions and associations.

Several other state conventions will consider recommendations that affect the portion advanced to the SBC. The General Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of Maryland-Delaware endorsed the administrative committee's approval of an executive team plan whereby the CP funding formula changes dramatically. From a current division of 59 percent for in-state ministry and 41 percent to SBC causes, the proposal before messengers calls for a 49/51 split by the year 2020, beginning with a change to 57/43 in the proposed 2012 budget.

"We determined that we wanted to do even better than 50/50," said Baptist Life editor Bob Simpson, who serves on the executive team as associate executive director and chief operating officer. "We want to be able to say that more CP dollars leave Maryland/Delaware than stay here."

At least 10 state conventions had begun a process in previous years of moving toward the 50/50 goal over an extended period of time, with annual increases ranging from .1 to 1 percentage point, including Arizona, Arkansas, Dakotas, Indiana, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Missouri, New England, New York, Penn-South Jersey and Virginia-SBCV.

Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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