Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bravo to the GCR Task Force

We have now seen a progress report from the GCR Task Force, with details promised to follow in the coming months. Unless the details include covert funding for an Alaskan bridge to Gravina Island, a renewed attempt to rename Discipleship Training as "Quest", or a proposed merger into the Alliance of Baptists, I firmly plan to do two things with regard to this Task Force Proposal:

  1. Cast an enthusiastic ballot in favor of the associated motions in Orlando; and,
  2. Work hard personally to see this initiative succeed.

The remainder of my post will consist of my endeavoring to elicit the same response from you.

Why You Should Vote in the Affirmative

Well, before you determine how to vote, you probably should become familiar with the contents of the progress report. You might consider watching the video report, which has the approximate running time of the average Lord of the Rings movie, or you could peruse the PDF file linked above. The content of each is identical, so suit yourself. Setting aside prolegomena for later analysis, I direct your attention to the six major planks of this platform:

  1. The adoption of a new mission statement for the SBC.
  2. The thoroughgoing reorganization of the NAMB.
  3. The handing-over of international people groups living within the USA to the IMB.
  4. The reassignment of CP promotion and education to the state conventions.
  5. The addition of "Great Commission Giving" as a statistical category alongside "Cooperative Program Giving"
  6. The reallocation of 1% of the CP budget away from the Executive Committee to the IMB

Let's consider these one-by-one.

The New Mission Statement

The task force proposes a new mission statement as follows:

As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.

  • Ecclesiology leads off the mission statement. We are a convention of churches. The Great Commission was given to churches, and all that we do as the SBC we do not as atomic individuals but as a convention of churches. The report urges upon us a return to the primacy and efficacy of the local church as the central headquarters of the Great Commission.

    In order for this Great Commission Resurgence to occur, each church has to own the responsibility of fulfilling the Great Commission. Each church has to own Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Each church has to own the responsibility of reaching their village or community or town or city with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each church has to own the responsibility of reaching their region, America, and the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • The evangelistic emphasis of this vision statement is upon the presentation of the gospel to individuals, and not to "people groups." Our vision is not accomplished until we have presented to gospel to each and every individual on the planet.

    Note: I acknowledge that people groups can be a convenient construct for the training and deployment of missionaries. I am not arguing that the concept of a people group must be ignored in Southern Baptist life. I am merely agreeing with the proposed mission statement that it is our task to present the gospel to people (and to all of them), and not just to people groups.

  • If the Great Commission mission statement is going to follow the actual text of the Great Commission, it should say something about the immersion of disciples. Jesus didn't flinch from saying that, nor should we. I would support anybody's motion to amend the mission statement by adding something about baptism in order to bring the statement into line with what Jesus said.

  • But the mission statement does mention the discipleship of believers, and no believer who has not been immersed as a believer is properly pursuing discipleship. If there are other things that you would prefer to see in the mission statement, I'm betting that it is probably something that you can shoehorn into "discipleship" somewhere.

    Discipleship means teaching disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded. That includes adherence to the principles taught in appropriate portions of the Old Testament law (which Christ exegeted quite a bit and which was the subject matter of many of His commandments). It includes proper ecclesiology, which arises out of the commandments of Christ. It includes believers' immersion (although I believe that immersion deserves separate mention simply because Christ mentioned it separately). It includes Christian citizenship. It includes the training of pastors to pursue their callings.

Along with the mission statement are a number of core values. Let's save those for consideration in the third post. I support this mission statement and plan to vote for it.

The Reorganization of the NAMB

The North American Mission Board needs to rise above its most recent history. Surely all Southern Baptists can agree upon that statement. Furthermore, the United States of America is being lost to the gospel; therefore, Southern Baptists have never needed the North American Mission Board to be vital and successful more than we need it today.

From the very beginning of this discussion I stated my opinion that it would be a bad idea to dissolve the NAMB into the IMB. We now see—me thankfully so—that the GCR Task Force has not only preserved the NAMB but has also articulated for it a strong, focused vision. The vision expressed for NAMB in this report is one that I support enthusiastically.

  • I support a renewed emphasis upon church planting in urban North America outside the present strength areas of the SBC. FBC Farmersville is already on the move in this direction, recognizing its strategic importance to all that our convention is doing. In many ways, even INTERNATIONAL missions become easier and more effective the more that we reach New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with the gospel.

    The more I consider the idea, I think that the NAMB ought to coordinate a synchronized splash in major cities like New York City. What would happen if we set a date in early 2012 upon which we were simultaneously going to launch 100 new church plants in the city? The church planters could be secured in advance and trained together. They would have a ready-made association (not that they couldn't participate in existing associations) for mutual support, brainstorming, and encouragement. The NAMB could fund a coordinated advertising campaign leading up to the launch date. We've done simultaneous revivals; why not have a simultaneous church planting day?

    But I digress. This post is about the GCR Task Force's ideas, not about my ideas.

  • I support a strong emphasis upon evangelism at the NAMB. I'm enthusiastic about the imminent GPS emphasis, and I'm thankful that more NAMB resources will be devoted to the cultivation of evangelism among Southern Baptists.

  • I support the direct appointment of missionaries by the NAMB. I believe that this simpler model can lead to greater effectiveness.

  • I support the elimination of cooperative agreements and cooperative budgets by which the NAMB passes funds back to the state conventions. Like many people, I have always thought that this boomerang missions funding arrangement was queer. I grieve not at all to think about it going away.

    I confess, however, that I am unsure as to what the unintended consequences of this measure may be. Pioneer area state conventions will doubtless fear this change, and may lobby against it. State conventions in historic SBC territories may take this action as an excuse to decrease further the percentage of Cooperative Program money that they forward to national and international causes, which (along with other portions of the report) may push us even further away from the 50/50 goal that I so long to see us achieve at the state convention level.

I do recognize that some of these actions could be viewed as preliminary steps toward the outcome that I have opposed: A merger of the NAMB into the IMB. The gutting of the Alpharetta, GA, headquarters and the assignment of a smaller task to the NAMB may indeed work out to make the NAMB "easier" for the IMB just to swallow some day in the future. Nevertheless, I choose to be thankful that the NAMB is definitely being resuscitated now rather than to worry that the NAMB might be euthanized later. Furthermore, any potential future NAMB-IMB merger cannot take place unless Southern Baptists approve it by ballot. We can deal with it then, if it comes up at all. Also, if it should be that Southern Baptists would EVER approve an IMB-NAMB merger, then I would rather that it take place incrementally than hastily.

I also confess that I am wondering whatever will become of the elements of the NAMB that do not fit within the vision articulated by the Task Force. For example, what of Disaster Relief? Southern Baptists need national coordination for Disaster Relief. Will the NAMB consider this something that belongs under Evangelism?

It seems to me that the plan for the NAMB is, in some ways, a return to what we had before the Covenant for a New Century—a board tasked with home missions assignments as its primary focus. Having folded other things into the NAMB in the 1990s, will we spin them back out in the 2010s, or will the cumulative effect be the destruction of these other worthy ministry efforts? I don't know, and the progress report doesn't say.

There are many details yet unstated, and yes, I worry about some of those. But we ought not to let imagined problems prevent us from celebrating realized achievements. I also don't want to be the guy who gets 95% of what he wanted, but acknowledges none of that while he carps over the 5% that didn't succeed in negotiations. I support the NAMB proposal.

The IMB Invasion :-)

Before considering the new task added for IMB, which I support, I will take a moment to mention one thing about the IMB. The GCR Task Force report is refreshingly honest about the challenges faced and weaknesses evidenced at the NAMB and among our local SBC churches. That can be a good thing. Playing Pollyanna is unlikely to lead us forward, and it is a sizable portion of what I expect and desire from this task force that they both take for themselves and offer to us Southern Baptists a hard, realistic look at where we stand as a denomination.

I note, however, that the task force has not shown the same healthy, searching, probing honesty toward the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. How is it that such imperfect and struggling churches who (unsurprisingly) cooperate in an imperfect and struggling effort to pursue the Great Commission on our own collective doorstep have somehow birthed and nurtured utter perfection in an international missions agency?

Come on, guys. The IMB needs to face up to some things, too, if we will be more effective in pursuing the Great Commission together. If we can't talk about those things now, then when? Or do we suffer from a blinding IMB mystique that permeates our convention even all the way up to the task force?

Now don't misunderstand me. I think that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is the greatest missionary organization in the history of post-biblical Christianity. I'm not trying to allege that the IMB is bad; I'm just trying to assert the difference between "great" and "perfect." We need to be mature enough to discuss the IMB's flaws as well as the NAMB's.

Oh, well. Enough of that. Leaving behind what isn't in the report, let's consider what is in the report.

The GCR Task Force recommends that the International Mission Board be allowed to work among internationals living within the United States of America. Presently, the relationship between the NAMB and the IMB is in at least one way like the relationship between the FBI and the CIA in our national government. Just as the CIA cannot legally conduct espionage within the border of the USA, the IMB cannot conduct missions activities within the USA and Canada. The proposal would lift that restriction.

I think that this could lead to some great ideas. Perhaps domestic work with an international group could become a training step that missionaries take before going overseas. It costs a serious bundle of money to get a missionary onto a foreign field, sometimes only to have the missionaries serve one term and then drop out. I wonder whether domestic international groups might become a cheaper training ground in which truly successful missionaries might be identified for placement overseas?

That's probably a horrible idea—missiology isn't my field. Suffice it to say that I see positive possibilities in allowing the IMB to perform this sort of work within the USA. It ought to be limited, however, to first-generation, non-English-speaking groups. I plan to vote for this measure.

I'm now halfway through the outline that I drew up earlier today, and entirely through my stamina for writing. I'm also feeling a bit like the pot-calling-the-kettle-black for my "Lord of the Rings" comment in the beginning of this post.

What say we end this post here to make it a manageable chunk? The next post will consider the last three planks of the platform. The final post will entail the things that I believe that we will all have to do as Southern Baptists to make all of this succeed.

The very fact that I am making a third post is indicative of and necessarily entails an important point—I don't believe that these proposals, in and of themselves, will solve anything substantial for Southern Baptists. Take it as comforting or take it as challenging: The success of the SBC does not rise or fall on the thoughts or actions of twenty or so leaders in the SBC; it rises or falls on you, the individual Southern Baptist church member reading these words right now. If this initiative will succeed, I believe that there are several essential things that we all must do together. The third post will elaborate upon them.


Malcolm Yarnell said...

Dr. Barber,

I had much the same response as you. There is so much good in this report to affirm. Please do let me key in on one suggestion that you have made for a clarification, in full agreement with you. You stated, "If the Great Commission mission statement is going to follow the actual text of the Great Commission, it should say something about the immersion of disciples. Jesus didn't flinch from saying that, nor should we." Indeed!

During the progress to the Second World War, Dietrich Bonhoeffer cried out against a German Christianity that had compromised with the dominant culture, that had turned divine grace into cheap grace. Remember these words? "Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; baptism without the discipline of the community... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ. Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have." We might define cheap grace today as antinomianism and costly grace as discipleship. We are called to be disciples and make disciples and that means an utter surrender to Jesus as Lord as well as Savior.

If we who possess the fullness of His revelation do not explicitly maintain the words of Jesus Christ, we implicitly demonstrate a lack of faith in that revelation. By leaving out His command to baptize from our version of the Great Commission, are we saying by our omission that surely He would be enlightened enough today to consider baptism a secondary issue, since it divides well-meaning believers from one another? One would hope that any statement by a people of the book about the Great Commission contained in that book would not sin through affirming a Great Omission. If our Savior and Lord commanded it, who are we to have countermanded it?

In Christ,

Matt Privett said...

Well stated, Dr. Barber. I believe, without a careful re-reading, that I can say I agree with everything in your post.

volfan007 said...


There are things about this report that I like, and they excite me. Yet, I find myself still wondering about some of it. Thinking on it.

You bring up some good things, as you always do. I'll think on these some more, and I'll make it a matter of prayer.


Dr. Mike Kear said...

Thanks for a very informative review, Dr. Barber.

Anonymous said...


Great review. I have already given mine on SBC Today. I will not repeat it here. It is much like yours, only shorter, and with that unfortunate touch of lawyerly cynicism. I just can't seem to get that out of my writing. That's why I will never write a book entitled - "You Can Be Your Best - Today" or something like that.

One thing that you did hit on was the idea of planting churches in the large cities outside of the SBC's home court where there are already internationals.

In the last 20 years, the big cities have seen new churches planted there. The most celebrated, of course, is Redeemer Presbyterian.

I have visited Redeemer. We have people in our church who were members there when they lived in NYC. I have read some of the material that comes out of Redeemer and Tim Keller.

I hate to be pessimistic, but I do not personally know many Southern Baptists who would be well equipped to do what Keller did. They may be out there (because believe it or not, I don't know everybody), but I am concerned that our efforts to do that might not be successful. Didn't Dr. Patterson mention this years ago? Whatever became of that effort?


Dave Miller said...

I didn't have a lot of issues with the report or the recommendations. Still thinking through some of them.

I have one question which perhaps you can answer. I had several questions or concerns about some of the comments made by the presenters.

Do you know how much of what was presented was "official document" and how much was editorial comment.

Dan said...


I confess that I, too, am no missiologist. But I thought it was interesting that you suggested training IMB missionaries by working with foreign groups within the US before sending them overseas. I was thinking exactly the opposite. It seems to me that missionaries could connect much better with foreign people groups in America by having first spent significant time learning that group's language and culture in their native countries overseas. Either way, I'm delighted that the IMB will be taking up this new assignment.

Also, I am concerned about frontier state conventions and NAMB funding. If NAMB money were to disappear from my own state convention, it would probably be reduced to about the size and effectiveness of a typical association. I do not know what it could accomplish in this scenario other than maintaining a staff of 3 or 4 people, putting on the annual state meeting, and maybe coordinating a church plant or two ever year. My hope is that the emphasis on reaching the non-southern states will mean treating their state conventions differently than the ones in the South.

Anonymous said...


I am solidly on board with these proposals. However, I do agree with you and Dr. Yarnell that baptism deserves separate mention in the proposed missional statement. Hopefully, this will be addressed either by the GCRTF in their final report or by amendment in Orlando.

Bart Barber said...

Dr. Yarnell,

We agree. If we will have Baptist in the name, it shouldn't be a real shocker for us to have baptism in our mission statement.

Bart Barber said...


I'm hopeful that many people across our convention will agree with the both of us.

Bart Barber said...


By all means, let's look over the recommendations carefully. As I have demonstrated in this post, I have questions about some of the items, too. None of them successfully sap away from my overall enthusiasm for the report.

Bart Barber said...

Thank you for your readership and interaction, Dr. Kear.

Bart Barber said...


As someone who has, in the past, had the privilege of teaching Southern Baptist seminarians, I am confident that God continues to provide us with capable leadership for pursuing the Great Commission. Of those men, I can say that nobody "knows" them...yet.

Bart Barber said...


The entire presentation is "official" in its capacity as a progress report. I do not think that the actual motions to come before the convention even exist yet. Sources tell me that the task force is developing a very detailed book outlining specific directives to accompany each step. Of course, the only things that will have active force will be that which we approve by uplifted ballot in Orlando. We'll find out the details of those motions probably not until we get to Orlando.

But we do have a strong assurance from the task force that this progress report represents all that the task force intends to do. What is left is simply the mechanics of doing it. There can be a lot of Devil in those details, but it is extremely helpful to have this progress report, even apart from the details of implementation.

Bart Barber said...


I predict that the end result of this will be more CP money going to pioneer areas, but less of it into your state convention apparatus. Will this be good or bad for state conventions? I think that it may very well depend upon whether we are looking at the short-term health of state conventions or the long-term health of state conventions.

If your state convention cannot exist apart from NAMB funding, my first question is "How long has this been the case for your state convention?" and my second question is "How long do you intend for this to be the case for your state convention?"

WIth regard to some states, the NAMB money is nothing more nor less than welfare. Southern Baptists from outside your state provide money to prop up your state convention. Like welfare, the provision of this money to these state conventions takes place expressly for the purpose of bringing these state conventions to a position where they no longer need it.

So, I'm wondering how long this has been going on in your state convention, whether there is any sign of progress, and what is the plan for getting to where your state convention no longer needs outside money? If there is no sign of progress and if there is no feasible plan for the state convention to become self-sustaining in any reasonable time frame, then perhaps it is time for us to try something else.

Trying something else will doubtless be painful to the state convention in the short-term. It will not, however, cause them to have to go out of existence. Entire denominations of Baptists exist with fewer churches and less money than your state convention generates natively. Baptist state conventions have existed without any headquarters, employees, or budget to speak of. I think that, with zero NAMB funding, your state convention (whichever it is) will remain one of the wealthiest Baptist organizations in the world.

In the long term, it all depends upon whether the new NAMB initiatives will or will not bring unprecedented success in church planting within your state. If it does succeed, then the number of churches and the number of church members in your state convention will steadily increase, and your state convention will wind up healthy and no longer in need of an outside crutch. That's a better picture for the long term.

What's not good for anybody, in my opinion, is to concede the point to the (to borrow a phrase from another context) "soft bigotry of low expectations" and just accept that SBC state conventions outside the South must always be weak and will forever eke by on subsidies from the South. If our present plan is not substantially strengthening your state convention (i.e., the actual churches that already exist and that need to be planted), then why should we be content for it merely to strengthen your state convention headquarters?

Bart Barber said...


Of course, I say all that I said above without the foggiest clue which state convention we have in mind (nor do I need nor want to know). I am merely articulating what I think are some principles in-play in the making of these decisions.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Joe. Maybe somebody will make a motion to amend. I would vote in favor of that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bart,

Overall, like you, I’m very encouraged by what the GCR Task Force has presented and think I can get fully behind it. I hope this will capture the hearts and minds of our churches and make a great impact starting with individual believers and local churches in a renewed commitment to the Great Commission.

However, as an IMB missionary, I’m a little disappointed to see the GCR task force promote the idea that internationals within the US ought to be relegated to the IMB.

There are different kinds of “internationals” living in the US. Some are students or migrant workers on a temporary stay in the US. Others have immigrated (legally or illegally) and intend to spend the rest of their lives in the US; they hope and expect their children and grandchildren will be US citizens.

I can see where the IMB might be consulted or even provide personnel for reaching students and temporary workers. It could even be an option for missionaries on stateside assignment.

I don’t have any demographic data on this, but I would guess that “temporary internationals” (students and migrant workers) are smaller in number than permanent or long-term internationals in the US. It makes more sense to me that long-term internationals ought to fall under the influence of evangelistic and discipleship efforts of local believers, churches, associations and state conventions, since the immigrants and these entities are there for the long-term.

After immigrating to another country, a person’s lifestyle, identity, and, to some extent, worldview changes. His experiences in a new country, culture, language, climate, can make a big impact, sometimes making it difficult for friends and family “back home” to relate to him. Therefore, training new missionaries by placing them inside immigrant communities in the US, might not prove to be effective.

I sincerely hope that this proposal gets examined fully, and not just accepted as a good idea because it “sounds good.”


bapticus hereticus said...

Current Mission: It is the purpose of the Convention to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories ...

Proposed Mission: As a convention of churches, ...

Current Mission: ... for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad ...

Proposed Mission: ... our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world ...

Current Mission: ... and any other objects such as Christian education, ...

Proposed Mission: ... and to make disciples of all the nations.

Current Mission: ... benevolent enterprises, and social services which it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God ...

Proposed Mission:

The proposed mission statement has a more global, less nationalistic, orientation, and the main thrust of the current statement is unchanged (i.e., evangelism and education) in the proposed form; but a varied ministry approach is no longer emphasized. Whereas the proposed SBC mission emphasizes Matthew 28, it appears to ignore Matthew 25.

Zhanara and Wesley said...

Dr. Barber,

I have to agree with our overseas personnel friend Katie.

People from other countries living permanently in the US progressively and quickly become less and less like their friends, family and culture overseas. I have an international marriage, I routinely interact with internationals, I'm a student of missiology and cultural anthropology. As such, I think I can speak to this issue just a little. Certainly those with more experience should speak as well.

But internationals who live for any extended period of time in the US find "home" increasingly foreign. As such, they are not well understood by their own families, much less by peers, acquaintances, etc. In this case, someone immersed in the home culture might actually find their own expertise and strategy a liability, not an asset.

So anthropologically, its not a great idea.

Furthermore, if our problem is actually reaching the billions of lost who are not within the sound of a gospel witness, why would we divert precious resources back "home", so to speak, when we have churches who can be trained, more importantly when we have thousands of ethnic churches operating missionally, though under our radar.

I would argue that it is missiologically a bad idea.

Next, going to those ethnic churches, in a discussion with my professor on this very subject, he points out that if we did not count the work of our ethnic churches in our SBC numbers, we would have been in decline for years!!! Soong-Chan Rah, in "The Next Evangelicalism," argues, among other things, that ethnic churches are growing like wildfire in otherwise "declining" fields. The reason why many fields, like the cities and NE, NW, are considered declining areas is because statisticians are looking at traditional (i.e. "White") churches. Ethnic churches are being overlooked. Why would we call on imb to come in and usurp the ministry of ethnic churches? Maybe not intentionally the "Great White Hope", but practically, that is what this move would translate to.

Finally, when it is all said and one, ecclesiologically, theologically, baptisticly, we believe in church planting, we believe in baptist church planting, we believe in baptist churches planting churches! Sure, we'll accept the advise, counsel, catalyst, inspiration, for church planting from anybody (and we should), but the imb should not be sent to these places because it is the primary role of churches to plant other churches (how else to you make disciples, baptizing and teaching them? So asks, in so many words, David Hesselgrave in "Planting Churches Cross-Culturally"). That is why the moves on NAMB are so great! Forget the financial issue (not really, but you get the figure here), the NAMB recommendations free the local church; whereas imb recommendations paternalize the local church!

Let us support whole-heartedly the rest of the GCR report, just not Component #3!


Zhanara and Wesley said...

One thing I forgot to mention, but that is important, we have to realize that in North America, the people that is becoming more and more unreached are not the internationals and immigrants--its the natives!


Dan said...


Thanks for your response. What you say makes sense. But the 4-year transition must be very, very well done in my state to avoid some serious turmoil. I just went through our current state budget and discovered that if NAMB funding were to be cut off today, the following would likely happen:

-All of the church planters in the state would lose funding.
-All of the coordinating staff for church planting would have to be laid off.
-Collegiate ministry at several large universities would lose most or all funding.
-All but one local association in the state would have to lay off their paid staff, some of which cover areas of more than half a million people.
-Training for local church leaders would cease in the areas of evangelism, missions, pastoral leadership, student ministry, women's ministry, and possibly others.
-Chaplaincy programs would cease (Although I'm not quite sure what these programs are.)
-Resort ministry would cease.

Admittedly, a couple of these things might not be worth continuing anyway. But in areas like church planting, NAMB is going to need to provide us with some very good solutions very soon. They will need to fill the gaps before the gaps open.

Bart Barber said...


You make a good point. I think we ought to be able to agree that internationals residing within the USA are something of a tertium quid. You rightly note that expatriates are not precisely the same as their countrymen at home. Neither are they precisely the same as others being reached here in the USA.

You make a good point that IMB may have to overcome obstacles to reach them. I think that others have a good point in indicating that NAMB faces some of the same struggles in reaching them.

Thanks for pointing out some of the flaws in my "train them here then ship them overseas" idea. As I said, I was speaking outside my area of expertise. I would hope that such things would be examined carefully by the wisest folks in the field before being implemented.

I am hopeful that the Task Force, unlike myself, did check carefully with the SBC's best and brightest before drafting this recommendation.

Bart Barber said...


You make some good points. I am in favor of our churches directly planting churches, and I see the contrast that you are indicating between the NAMB recommendation and the IMB recommendation.

I should hope that the IMB, busy as they are, will not be wasting time planting churches among groups where the local churches are already sufficiently at work. IOW, if the IMB is coming into Dallas to plant Korean churches, then whoever in Richmond came up with that idea needs to be hung up by his toenails.

But when we consider the international population of Boston, on the other hand, a different picture emerges. We are not strong enough in Boston with regard to our number of churches and believers that we could realistic expect those churches and believers to cover the entire field of international ministry in Boston. Somebody is going to have to come in and help them. I don't know of any compelling reason why it is worse for the IMB to do that than for another outside Baptist group to come in and do it.

Bart Barber said...


If I understand the report correctly, I would instead predict this:

-Church planters in the state would cease to receive funding from the state convention and would instead wind up working directly for NAMB as direct missionaries.
- Coordinating staff for church planting would cease to work for the state convention and would work at one of the 7 regional NAMB centers for NAMB.
-I have no idea how collegiate ministry would be affected.
-I don't really know how these local associations would be affected.
-Training for local church leaders in the areas of evangelism, missions, pastoral leadership, student ministry, women's ministry, and possibly others, would now be provided by NAMB's new leadership development center.
-Chaplaincy programs might very well cease (Although I'm not quite sure what these programs are any more than you are.)
-Resort ministry might very well cease.

So, I think that some of the difference would simply come in the form of some of the same work being funded through one level of bureaucracy rather than two.

Zhanara and Wesley said...


Why wouldn't your church, or mine, or any other SBC church go to Boston?

BTW, we have a couple from our church who are now serving at a Russian speaking congregation in Boston. I'm glad they were able to make it up there rather quickly without having to go through the whole imb process!


Bart Barber said...


I certainly know of no reason why your church or mine shouldn't go to Boston (although we've chosen to go to the other end of Massachusetts instead). I just also don't know of any good reason why your church or mine shouldn't go to Boston through our partnership through the International Mission Board.

Zhanara and Wesley said...


(before I keep going I want you to know how much I appreciate the dialogue!)

Why should we have to?

Furthermore, Is that the role of imb? If NAMB is gonna be strategizing in the cities, wouldn't having imb involved cause confusion?

Going through imb adds a costly and confusing middle man in the process.

Plus, would it real partnership? Why not partner with other churches, whether ethnic or otherwise?

I think the problems with component three will continue to multiply.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Wes. I, too, enjoy the conversation (which is why I do this!)

I know that we've engaged in several volleys here, and I want to make sure that you know this much: This is not one of those topics that gets my blood pressure up. I think we're having a good conversation here, and I appreciate your sharing of your point of view.

Now, as to the role of the IMB versus our direct planting of churches:

It seems to me that, as it pertains to the question of whether we ought to plant churches directly or employ a mission board, being Southern Baptist constitutes something of an answer to that question. We believe that churches ought to plant churches. We believe that churches sometimes partner to do that through a mission board. We consider that to be a valid expression of biblical church planting. We believe that, in some circumstances, that is the best way to plant a church.

So I suppose the question boils down to one of knowing how to tell the difference between church plants that ought to be performed directly and church plants that ought to be performed through a missionary board. How do I make that differentiation? How do you? How have Southern Baptists historically done so?

For my part, I prefer to plant churches directly when neither distance nor capacity nor aptitude prevent my church from doing so. My church can only plant so many churches at one time. I believe that my church can only successfully plant churches within a certain geographical proximity of our home location without help. Our church does not possess the skills to accomplish every church plant. Where none of these factors intervene, we ought to plant churches directly.

The church that we are planning to plant in North Adams, MA, will be under the supervision of a mother church from another Massachusetts town not far away. My church cannot realistically keep an eye on church planting ongoing in Massachusetts. Somebody on the actual field needs to be involved in that effort to provide support, direction, and accountability.

In most cases in which we need to plant a church in a field other than our own, we're going to work through a Southern Baptist mission board if we at all can.

So, in our case, the choice is between working with NAMB or working with IMB. In my opinion, the choice is an entirely pragmatic one and not an ideological one. Having decided to work through a cooperative body (whether a local association, a state convention, or a national mission board), one cooperative body will work as well as another, depending entirely upon the pragmatic factors to be considered.

If, with regard to Uighurs in New York City, the International Mission Board has expertise about Uighurs that would be difficult or expensive for the NAMB to duplicate, then I would not be opposed to working through the IMB rather than through the NAMB.

Zhanara and Wesley said...


What if I told you my wife is a central asian, mbb, and that there are other like her who could easily minister to close culture immigrants (ME-1, ME-2 evangelism). I think your arguments in a minute way display the great white hope ideology. We have thousands of ethnic believers living in the US. (Also, if the imb were to be involved, perhaps it would be better in sending nationals to the US as missionaries...). There are hundreds of ethnic believers at our seminaries (whose presidents are overlyzealous about sending them back home!!!).

Furthermore, right now, they aint sending anymore imb-ers overseas, even when they get back to doing it, it takes a year to get appointed. We don't under any circumstance want that in the way of planting a church within geographical proximity of SBC churches, associations and conventions. Yeah, maybe your church is too far from Boston to physically oversee the church, but there are SBC churches who can do it and NAMB will be operating there, but you are within geographic proximity to large cities with ethic population. Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle Easterners, etc, etc, etc are all over the US, not just in the major Northern City. In my town of 15-20,000, there are people from 42 different countries!

I was talking this over with a good missionary friend and he agrees with me. Just because NAm churches don't want to make the necessary sacrifices to plant churches cross-culturally in NA doesn't mean its a good idea to take imb away from its primary duty.

Seriously, I could keep going on this. And I think it is very, very important. People will support Comp 3 because they trust the task force and it appears like a good idea to the untrained, and that is very, very dangerous indeed.

Thanks again for the conversation,


Ron Evans said...

I only pray that we will pray for the GCR Task Force much more than we critique their work before they are even finished.

Josh Hunt said...

We know how to grow a church--lots of research done on that.

What we desperately need to learn is how to grow a group of churches--an Association, a State Convention or a Denomination.

One starting place is to look for what Heath and Heath (Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.) calls "bright spots". What the authors of Influencers call "positive deviance." In other words--what are the fastest growing associations in the nation? Which ones are growing where the population is not growing? What State Conventions are doing best and what are they doing? Are they planting churches? How much training do they do?

Josh Hunt
Good Questions Have Groups Talking

Anonymous said...


I tend agree with the critics of the IMB on north american soil. If allowed at all the percentage should be very small. If we are now saying that NAMB can fully fund and send missionaries it almost seems unnecessary for the imb to work on north american soil except for very specific strategic reasons. After all, Namb could hire their own experts to target a people group...even ex imbers. I might also add that the shift of Namb to be able to hire and fully fund its own missionaries seems to be something of a blow to the concept that churches plant churches. Until now, church starters had a sponsoring church. Under the new model it sees that the board itself will be starting churches through its missionaries as the imb already does. What that would allow is perhaps a great deal more creativity in what those church starts look like. Overall, I don't have a problem with the changes but there are some areas that could be troubling depending on how the plan is executed.

Tim B

bobby gilstrap said...

What questions would you ask the GCRTF directly? I'd like to hear from you. I am hosting our next "Audio COnference for Pastors" with members of the GCRTF. See questions already proposed and discussion already started from leaders that see things very differently that most of this group. Many are from New Work areas where it appears funding will be eliminated. There also appears to be increasing opposition to the idea of more control from the top down rather than resourcing local churches and associations to do ministry. Interested in your thoughts. What would you ask them? (See links on the center of page @ http://NoBAsbc.org).