FACT: The Southern Baptist Convention is an archaic denominational dinosaur with a bloated bureaucratic infrastructure on the fast track to irrelevance. Whew. I said it. The decline of the SBC has been signaled again and again by the work of individuals like Ed Stetzer who speak with the authority of rigorous research. It can no longer be denied.
To illustrate the progression of SBC internal inflation, Biblical Recorder editor Norm Jameson recently wrote, "Now, Baptists are like all other Americans. We complain about the size of the government but we demand more services from the government all the time. Government wants to be responsive, so they provide the services. We can't demand the services and then complain about their cost." When Jameson was at the Executive Committee in 1983 there were 17 people on staff (including the mail room and a janitor) and an annual budget of $801,200. Today, the Executive Committee has 38 staff members and an annual budget of $9,470,373.00. This growth--all too common among the internal ranks of the SBC--must be rectified or the SBC will die a not-so-slow death.
That may sting a little for those of us who sang out of the Baptist Hymnal as children, made the decision to follow Christ in a Southern Baptist church, and used LifeWay Sunday School materials even before LifeWay was "LifeWay." Yet, denying the truth only kicks the can of reality farther down the road.
FACT: The Southern Baptist Convention does more missions work than any other organization on this planet and has many other vibrant and impactful ministries. Through the International Mission Board, the SBC supports nearly 6,000 international missionaries in countries you've never even heard of. Additionally, the SBC has other vibrant divisions, such as the second largest disaster relief service in the United States. In many ways, we do great work.
You may notice the tension mounting at the interface of these two facts. On the one hand, Southern Baptists cannot and should not stand for the wasteful and overextended bureaucracy. (Rising generations, with their disdain for heavily organized Christianity, certaintly won't.) On the other hand, the SBC is a great vehicle for kingdom work and fulfilling the Great Commission. That begs a question: Is there a way to reform, revise and restructure in order to preserve the good and do away with the bad?
Enter the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR). The GCR is an effort to bring the two facts listed above into harmony that is spearheaded by influential SBC leaders and "regular joe/jane" laypeople. Anyone can sign the petition online, and 3,000 already have. There are daunting odds against the success of such an aggresive initiative, but the value and nobility of the GCR compells me to support it. Southern Baptists are faced with a choice from which they cannot hide. Either they will keep kicking the can of reality while they fade into cultural irrelevance or they will act aggresively to refine our processes while preserving the wonderful work being done by so many. Southern Baptists have a choice: change or die.