Why there’s a buzz about the SBC Annual Meeting


This year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Louisville, Kentucky was nothing short of amazing. For me, the totally unexpected happened. I came away feeling more optimistic about the SBC than I ever have before. Why did I feel this way?

1. The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR). Danny Akin first cast his vision for a “Great Commission Resurgence” at the “Building Bridges” conference back in 2007. If you have not ever listened to this sermon, I encourage you to do so (audio below). It was prophetic, timely, and courageous.

[audio:http://lifeway.edgeboss.net/download/lifeway/corp/Akin_Working_together_hi.mp3]

Essentially, the GCR calls on Southern Baptists to unite around the central truths of the gospel for the sake of cooperating together to fulfill the Great Commission. In April of this year, Dr. Akin preached a sermon in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel in which set forth 11 axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence. Not long after, a website was launched calling on Southern Baptists to sign their name in support of the GCR.

Even though the GCR was the brain-child of Danny Akin, it became the rally-cry of President Johnny Hunt in the lead-up to the convention. As a result, Dr. Albert Mohler made a motion that President Hunt appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” Efforts to divide the convention over the issue of Calvinism ultimately came to naught, and the measure passed overwhelmingly (95% to 5%). President Hunt appointed 18 people to the “Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.” Members include David Dockery, Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, J. D. Greear, Frank Page, Jim Richards, Ronnie Floyd, and others.

2. Auxilliary Events. 9Marks ministries teamed up with Southeastern Seminary for two auxiliary events called “9Marks at 9.” Both “9Marks at 9” meetings were well-attended and involved a lot of younger pastors. Also, there was a Baptist21 event that featured a panel discussion with Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Ed Stetzer, David Platt, and Daniel Montgomery. This meeting became strategically important in deploying troops to be ready to vote in favor of the GCR motion. There was tremendous unity of purpose exhibited in these meetings, and it was very encouraging.

3. SBC Leadership. Johnny Hunt’s leadership was phenomenal. He has led the effort to unite Southern Baptists around the GCR vision, and it would not have happened without him. Also, he bought lunch for the hundreds who showed up at the Baptist21 event, and he showed up to greet us. There is a whole new constituency of younger Southern Baptists who are now looking to Johnny Hunt as one whom they can trust and whose leadership they can follow.

One messenger told me that he has a man-crush on Danny Akin. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that Danny Akin’s GCR vision has inspired an entire convention to unite around the gospel and to rethink how we are doing what we are doing. Akin is a bridge-figure in Southern Baptist life, and it’s hard to imagine how the GCR coalition could have come together without him. Also, he has the courage of his convictions, and many Southern Baptists have taken note.

Dr. Mohler was the right man to make and defend the GCR motion. His remarks were right on point, and I can’t imagine a better spokesman for the cause. He knocked it out of the park. Without Dr. Mohler’s strategic leadership, I’m not sure that this would have gone as well as it did.

4. SBTS Sesquicentennial. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held a Sesquicentennial celebration on its campus on Wednesday, and it was an amazing event. Over 1,300 people bought tickets for the luncheon, and the chapel was packed for Dr. Mohler’s sesquicentennial address. The seminary dedicated a new building in honor of former President Duke McCall. Dr. McCall was President of SBTS for 30 years, and he is now 95 years old. His magnanimous remarks at the ceremony were a highlight of the convention for me.

5. Constructive Resolutions. The Convention overwhelmingly approved Russell Moore’s resolution on adoption and orphan-care, and it was a poignant testimony to the gospel as Moore stood on the platform with his two sons. Also, the committee struck the right balance in its resolution about the presidency of Barack Obama. The convention, therefore, celebrated the election of the nation’s first African American President even as they reiterated the SBC’s opposition to his policies on abortion and gay “marriage.”

I think some great things happened this week in Louisville, and I am more hopeful than I have ever been about being a Southern Baptist. It was an amazing week.

31 Responses to Why there’s a buzz about the SBC Annual Meeting

  1. Ryan Sanders June 26, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    Thanks for this post. I’m listening to Akin’s message for the first time now.

    I hope that the address of the Sesquicentennial celebration from Dr. Mohler will also be posted somewhere.

    Thanks for this post and for your ministry.

  2. Dave Schrock June 26, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    Denny,

    You mentioned 18 people on the taskforce…is there a full list of the GRC taskforce somewhere?

    It was a great convention and sesquicentennial celebration.

    Dave Schrock

  3. Dave Schrock June 26, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    Make that GCR.

  4. Denny Burk June 26, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Dave,

    Here’s a link to the list: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=30756. I’ll also add a hyperlink above.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  5. mark bjornholm June 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Great stuff, inspiring! Looking forward to learning more about GCR. Saw Johnny Hunt speak at the Pastor’s Conference @ FBC Jacksonville. Definitely passionate.

  6. Don Johnson June 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    By combining the essentials of the faith with non-essentials the GCR will be less effective than otherwise.

  7. volfan007 June 26, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    Don,

    There are non-essentials that make us Baptist…things that we hold dear…that we believe keep us true to the Word of God. Baptism for instance…we believe in Believers Baptism by immersion. That’s a non-essential doctrine, but it is a doctrine that we hold dear and believe it’s a doctrine that is true to the Word of God. Agree?

    David

  8. David Rogers June 26, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    As I understand, and exact percentages may be off a bit, the SBC is a convention primarily made up of 200 and less membership churches (60%). If this is remotely true then the makeup of a taskforce to re-examine the shape of the convention and not include a single pastor from a 200 and under church does not give me much confidence that this taskforce will do much in understanding the dynamics of where we actually are as a convention of small churches.

    Plus, why so many Floridians?

    David

  9. volfan007 June 27, 2009 at 12:09 am #

    David,

    I agree with you. There should have been many Pastors on the task force that have under 200 in attendance on Sunday morning. There’s not. This is a major blunder on what looks like a good task force.

    David

  10. David Rogers June 27, 2009 at 11:04 am #

    Please understand I have nothing against those who are on the taskforce. I’m sure they are fine disciples dedicated sincerely to Christ who will genuinely desire to address the issues. However, the absence of an actual representative face of the majority of congregations is indeed a “major” blunder. The emphasis on “methodological diversity” may not be comprehensively addressed. I’m sure the group will sincerely attempt and make some good efforts, but practical contemporary experience in actual ministry in certain contexts usually provides crucial insight.

    When I go on overseas mission trips I defer to the missiological understandings of the culturally contextualized missionaries rather than insist on using my well-intentioned theories on missional practice. My status as a U.S. pastor (hopefully Spirit-filled) does not mean that I have the best insight into the culture. While I, of course, can immediately minister with no preparation or awareness of the cultural/societal contexts and be “successful”, usually when developing effective long term strategies and new policies and reorganizations, many believe that wisdom would insist on the direct insight of those actively involved in close proximity of practice in the particular contexts.

    It is not just generic “Great Commission Resurgence” but “Great Commission Resurgence” in the actual ground level realities of the current state of the SBC which is primarily made up of small churches.

    My comments are not directed as rejoinders to what anyone has said above; they are only ruminations on my immediate response to the naming of the taskforce.

    David

  11. Don Johnson June 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    David,

    I agree that water baptism is not essential to being a believer. I believe in believer’s baptism. And when a group puts “Baptist” in the name of their local church, or joins a Baptist org, I agree that this would be an expectation.

    The term “Southern” in SBC is due to history. But there is no hint of mandatory masculism until recent times. With the recent BFM and the GCR, the SBC is becoming the SMBC. Baptists were/are not necessarily masculinists, but this is the way many in the SBC seems to want to go at this time.

  12. Matt Svoboda June 27, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    Don,

    How is the GCR “masculine?”

    I just dont think you can stop from beating the same drum.

  13. Tim Brister June 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    Denny,

    Regarding the GCR, I would add that it was not initially started by Akin but by Rainer in May of 2005 with his research evangelism since the CR. I traced the developments in the SBC since then in this blogpost:

    http://timmybrister.com/2009/06/17/the-back-story-to-the-great-commission-resurgence/

    Also, I would add the Founders Breakfast where Dr. Akin spoke Tuesday morning to your list of events (which as attended by several hundred folks).

    Sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you at the convention. I guess Barry Joslin will have to do for now.

  14. Chris Brauns June 27, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    Thanks for this post. It’s very encouraging for a non-SB to read.

  15. Don Johnson June 28, 2009 at 8:26 am #

    Matt,

    The GCR is not masculine, it is masculinist. Item 5 is masculinist in some of its parts.

  16. volfan007 June 28, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    The Great Commission was started a lot longer ago than with Dr. Akin, or anyone else. I believe that it was started by the Lord Jesus. Southern Baptists have been trying to carry out this commission for a long, long time. More missionaries have come out of Southern Baptist Churches than any other denomination ever. Would that not be a fair statement to make?

    After saying all of that…I truly hope that the GCR will result in us doing more for missions…to win more lost souls for Christ… to lead to more Churches being started for the glory of God…to advance the Kingdom of God even more…to see more people go to Heaven than what would have gone! That’s really what the Great Commission, and any resurgence in the Great Commission is/should be all about…to get more people saved.

    David

  17. Don Johnson June 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    I am all for the Great Commission. Trying to add things to the Great Commission such as masculism actually subtracts from it.

  18. David Rogers June 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    The key regarding a “Great Commission Resurgence” is what one means by the phrase the “Great Commission”.

    Some may see it through the lenses of going out and initiating experiential conversionism, what boils down to what many see as “evangelism”.

    Others may see it as the making of disciples who dynamically live within a daily relationship with Jesus.

    Still others may see it as the making of disciples who dynamically live within a daily relationship with Jesus shaped by life among a community of fellow believers ministering in the world around them.

    And possibly others.

    The work of the taskforce will be shaped by the assumptions brought to the examination and the range of possibilities and limitations that a denominational institutional structure can contribute to the congregations.

  19. volfan007 June 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    David Rogers,

    Are you saying that the GCR is not about starting more Churches and winning more lost people to salvation?

    David

  20. David Rogers June 28, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    David (volfan007),

    I’m saying it is about that in general desire, but the very nature of institutions which propose programs and policies and set budgets then concretize that general call of “starting more churches and “winning more lost people to salvation” through specific means which are heavily shaped by the presuppositions and assumptions.

    One could say that the way to have “Great Commission Resurgence” is to fund hundreds of crusade revival meetings in every state, and the claim would be isn’t that “winning more lost people to salvation”?

    Others might say that since the key is for the local church to do the “resurging” what we need to do is fund motivational Discipleship Training DVDs and workbooks for small group studies to fire up the churches.

    Others might say the key to resurgence is to have motivational training events for leaders and funding needs to go toward that.

    All of these ideas and others still can use the rubric that their specific programs are about “starting more Churches and winning more lost people to salvation.”

    The people who are firmly against the GCR movement program say that the current structures are about “starting more Churches and winning more lost people to salvation.”

    We have to define and tease out what we mean by these concepts. We all use them but have different strategies for implementing them. Virtually all denominations (even the liberal ones) could make claim to that phrasing. What they actually mean and do about it is vastly different.

    A new taskforce will proceed with its own presuppositions, maybe awares or maybe unawares. We will see how introspective and prospective the taskforce will actually be.

    David

  21. volfan007 June 29, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    David,

    I was thinking that the GCR was all about getting more money to the missionaries…to not have so much beaurocracy…to not have so much of it stay in the state conventions, etc. But, to get more missionaries out there in N. America and around the world.

    I mean, that’s what we were told by the people promoting the GCR. That our SBC is declining…it’s baptizing less people…that too much money is going towards buildings and employees of the SBC and state conventions….so, we must study streamlining and tweaking and changing some things in order to get more money to the mission field…to get more missionaries out there starting more Churches.

    Now, you are saying things that I have not heard about the GCR. This is exactly my concern with the GCR. I voted for it. I’m all for more money getting out to do more missions…but, if the money is gonna go to “motivational dvd’s” and “training seminars” and such, then we are wasting much money and time with this GCR, IMHO. That’s not what I was led to believe that it was.

    I do hope that the task force will not come back with anything less than tweaks and changes that will get more money to the mission field.

    David

  22. David Rogers June 29, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    I am not speaking out of any knowledge of specifics about the intentions of the taskforce. I’m not saying that the taskforce will do any of the things I listed. They were only examples of things that I thought of in the moment. I was trying to illustrate that a general noble goal can mean different specific things to different people in the actual concrete working-out of the goal.

    All of the specific strategies can make claim to advancing the general goal.

    It is indeed a noble goal to “get more money to the mission field.” But what will the specifics be? What is the “mission field”? In one sense it is where lost people are. That’s everywhere. Is it places where there is no “Southern Baptist” work? But what if there are other evangelical churches in the area? Should the criteria for measuring “mission field” be explicitly named and should it be expanded to take into account the presence of other evangelical congregations or should we be so “Southern Baptist” vision-oriented that we evaluate the “mission field” only by that criterion?

    Does making the “Great Commission” defined in terms of “Southern Baptist-ism” lessen its actual “biblical” meaning? Just a question for reflection, not necessarily a provocation for expanding debate.

    Getting “more money to the mission field” can mean all sorts of things. It can mean new funding and strategies for already existing work. It can mean funding and strategies for absolutely new work. When there are finite resources some receive and some do not. Will we abandon works that are not delivering “numbers, numbers, numbers”. Will we continue to fund only conversion rates of one a year? How would the success of Southern Baptists of the past be measured by current criteria? Would Lottie Moon be considered a success in the first years of her mission and receive continuing funding if the criteria of today had been the measure? Was her cookie baking a “Great Commission” strategy that preacher boys would affirm?

    Will the SBC move in the following direction?

    Immediate quantitative church growth typically occurs in “new plants.” Will the GCR focus on only “new church plants” or will it also address ways of revitalizing “established congregations” exciting them to resurge for the Great Commission and reach the lost where they are (who are also a “mission field”)? I’m not providing the answer with my questions, I am raising the questions to make us all aware that the taskforce’s presuppositions of what the Great Commission is and should be will concretely shape what is done.

    I raise these things only to introduce the ideas that all is not so simple when it comes to money and strategies.

    David

  23. David Rogers June 29, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Oh, just a point of reminder to those reading these comments.

    There is a better known David Rogers who comments in the blogosphere. He is Adrian Rogers’ son.

    I am not him.

    I’m sure he would not want any of my “blathering” and “balderdash” to be attributed to him.

    David Rogers (Not Adrian’s Son)

  24. Paul June 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm #

    David, your questions seem aimed at complicating and undermining the process rather than seeking clarification. In the case of the SBC, the avenues for missionary work are quite clear–the IMB and NAMB–and the purpose of the GCR is to investigate how we can cut the bureaucratic fat and get more people on the mission field. Now, there are surely more ways to try to make the SBC more effective, but the point of the GCR is to see a greater percentage of every dollar we tithe to the cooperative program supporting missionaries and church planters.

  25. volfan007 June 29, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    Paul,

    You statement to me is not true, nor is it well received. Do you know my motives? Do you really know why I asked these questions and made these statements?

    You are not the Holy Spirit.

    David

  26. David Rogers June 30, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    volfan007,

    It may be that the “David” addressed by Paul is me.

    Paul,

    How did the current system get bloated and fat. Is it possible that it is because people didn’t ask questions?

    Just wondering how questions undermine and complicate.

    David (Not Adrian’s Son)

  27. volfan007 June 30, 2009 at 9:57 am #

    Paul,

    If that is true, that you were talking to David (not Adrian’s son) Rogers and not to me; then I apologize for the confusion and the statement I made.

    David

  28. David Rogers June 30, 2009 at 10:43 am #

    What is the Great Commission?

    Matt. 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make-disciples (matheteusate) of all the nations (ta ethne), baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    Specifically for the SBC, what is the Great Commission and its resurgence with regard to what the SBC does?

    Should it focus on resurging the work of currently established churches in encouraging their “making disciples”?

    Should it focus on making a more efficient work of “missions” in new church plants and current missions (NAMB, IMB)? (I.e. lessening administration and maximizing ground level, boots and shovels work on the field)?

    The lessening baptism stats come from the established churches. Do we have the baptism numbers from the missions work (of the past few years of the NAMB and IMB) separated from those of the established churches? Are they declining? Are we expecting too much from them?

    If the GCR is all about resurging primarily missions work then we should see if the NAMB and IMB work is working in its present structure in its missions work. Judging their work by the established churches’ decline is not quite fair to them.

    However, if the resurgence is about ALL of the SBC (not just the missions agencies and their administration) then we need to get an High Def picture of where we are as a convention.

    The following information would be needed to get a baseline diagnosis for a proper prognosis for future prospects for action.

    (1) Demographic of reasonable congregational ministry area in which a congregation can exercise a discipleship-focused evangelism/ministry.

    (2)Demographic classification of current congregational makeup according to ethnic, economic, and regional location factors

    (3) Theological education of SBC ministers. Do we even know how many of our pastors have any theological training?

    (4) Continuing theological education of SBC ministers, especially those who do not have any training or who have been years and decades out of college and seminary and have not been able to go or do not realize that theology affects practice (or do we actually believe that?).

    (5) Cultural awareness of SBC ministers especially in relation to current and changing demographics. Would it be helpful and more effective for ministers to become aware how the culture of the “nations” around them are changing at a quantum rate? E.g. How does Twitter and its impact on behavior habits affect youth ministry?

    Just some questions. How do they undermine?

    David (NAS)

  29. Chad July 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    Just a note (in response to the first comment by Ryan Sanders), the SBTS Sesquicentennial events (including Dr. Mohler’s and Dr. McCall’s addresses) have been posted online at http://www.sbts.edu/resources/.

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