It was hard not to laugh when reading the Baptist Press story about Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Johnny Hunt issuing a new declaration — with hundreds of signatures from other SBC leaders — calling for a “Great Commission Resurgence” within the denominational group.
Apparently, it has something to do with the dipping statistics about dipping new believers. Of course, they could just put evangelist and former SBC president Bailey Smith back on the megachurch trail to rebaptize deacons, Sunday school teachers and choir members along with near-infants to get the numbers back up.
Instead, Hunt and others think this declaration might do the trick. The best punch line in the lengthy document was this one:
“The promise of the Conservative Resurgence was that eventually we would find enough common biblical and theological ground that we could focus on the Great Commission.”
Perhaps “eventually” is the operative word. For those who don’t see the humor, you should have been around these guys a quarter-century or so ago.
All we heard during the red-hot days of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC was that “liberalism” had infiltrated the convention. And if these true Bible believers were in charge, then evangelism would reign supreme.
The irony, of course, is two-fold:
One, Southern Baptists were in the midst of Bold Mission Thrust, the largest (and admittedly arrogant) worldwide evangelism effort ever tried when the takeover was launched.
Two, these guys who took over the convention have been running it for decades now with continuous infighting that keeps narrowing the circle of participation and with public proclamations that alienate large segments of society.
I’m sure the messengers to the SBC meeting in Louisville, Ky., this summer will adopt this new document and feel proud that they are doing a good thing for the great cause of evangelism. Maybe it will work this time — eventually.
But I suspect Southern Baptists will have better success with the Great Commission when they start taking seriously the Great Commandment — instead of condemning and rejecting everyone who does not think just like them.
John D. Pierce is executive editor of Baptists Today. This column appeared previously on his blog.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.