Akin offers specifics for GCR
    May 22 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    A document declaring the Southern Baptist Convention at all levels needs a drastic overhaul naturally begs for specifics and the “Great Commission Resurgence” author is happy to provide some.

    Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the primary author of a declaration calling for a “Great Commission resurgence” in Southern Baptist life. While signatories to the document are making a personal commitment in 10 areas such as gospel centeredness, biblical inerrancy and methodological diversity, it is the commitment to “a more effective Convention structure” that has some denominational executives steaming.

    Yet Akin said during a May 21 interview in his office, that if Baptists would commit to the first article, “Christ’s Lordship” in their lives that would make all the difference necessary.

    “If we get that one right, everything else will fall into place,” said Akin, who delivered the sermon from which he and SBC President Johnny Hunt crafted the Great Commission Resurgence document. “It is the key to everything. If we will recapture our passion for His lordship in all things, we will reorient the way we conduct our personal lives, which will reorient our churches which means we’ll reorient our Convention.”

    BR file photo

    Danny Akin, above, along with Johnny Hunt, are taking some heat for their "Great Commission Resurgence" efforts.

    Akin and Hunt believe the Convention, beginning with its churches and continuing with associations, state and national conventions and the entities of each layer, need to reorient themselves around Great Commission priorities of “pioneer missions, church planting, theological education and good, quality ministries of mercy.”

    Akin said an earthquake already has erupted in Southern Baptist life and only a reorientation toward ministry and away from what he originally called “a bloated bureaucracy” will keep it from launching a tsunami, which washes away any support from the next generation of pastors.

    “This is where state executives didn’t understand” his original comments, which have been toned down in subsequent editions of the document, Akin said. “I’m their friend, not their enemy. I don’t want to hurt them.”

    Instead, Akin denominational executives to understand that the “under 40” wave of church leadership has no “blind loyalty” to anything and will fund “only what they believe in.”

    “They don’t believe in the bureaucracies of the SBC,” Akin said. “They’re walking and now beginning to run away from the SBC.”

    He said when churches run into bureaucratic roadblocks that hinder their desire to fund missions in a creative or unique way, they simply loop around the roadblock. When told funds spent outside the system will not receive credit as Cooperative Program gifts, which could limit their representation in decision making venues, their response is, “I don’t care.”

    The seminary Akin leads is in North Carolina and he believes the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is “doing better than other states,” in large part because of its commitment to increase the percentage of Cooperative Program funds going from the state to the national convention. That has risen two percentage points in the past four years, to 34 percent.

    Akin said state convention executives are going to have to make a “persuasive argument” to younger pastors as to why they should “buy into” the state convention. “If you make that argument they’re going to give,” he said. “If you don’t they’re going to bypass you.”

    “You have to show it’s not a bureaucracy you’re feeding,” he said.

    NAMB grabs momentum
    The Great Commission Resurgence document, posted online, has garnered nearly 3,000 signatures. Akin, who said he would have been happy with 500, said the total already is enough to reach the tipping point for effectiveness.

    Expect a motion to come forward at the SBC in June for Hunt to name a Great Commission Resurgence study committee.

    On May 20, North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond anticipated the work of such a committee by initiating a North American Great Commission Task Force. He has already named a facilitator from his staff and enlisted SBC stats and trends guru Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, to co-facilitate.

    Hammond's move has the appearance of a strategic coup. Although he has not signed the Great Commission Resurgence document as of May 22, by grabbing the guidon he suddenly has positioned the North American Mission Board at the front of the pack.

    No agenda
    The Great Commission Resurgence is simply a declaration by two men seeking agreement from others. It lays out no specifics, and Akins said, “I don’t have an agenda.”

    While some have asked him for specifics, such as if he wants to abolish the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, he said, “not at all.” Is it to merge the mission boards? “I have no opinion on that,” he said.

    “But business as usual in terms of North American church planting and evangelism cannot continue as it is being addressed at the associational, state and national levels,” he said. “That I do know.”

    Church planting is rising to the top of nearly every agenda and Akin sees the redundancies at structural levels as a hindrance to effective use of funds. For instance, many associations, all state conventions and the national convention have systems to find, assess and train church planters.

    One of the ill effects of this redundancy Akin would say is that it reduces money available to fund church planters on the field.

    A church planter sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is eligible to receive a maximum $14,400 annually for two years. The BSC strategy requires the church planter to cast his vision to secure other support, thus broadening his base and network.

    Akin referred to Hunt’s church, First Baptist of Woodstock, Ga., which funded a church plant in Las Vegas with a half million dollars and that church now runs 1,500. Those dollars are not counted as Cooperative Program gifts because they bypassed the system.

    Akin referred to a recent Southeastern graduate who is planting a church in Washington, D.C. He had to “jump through the hoops” of all three levels of Convention structure and finally put together a package of support that totals $36,000 the first year and drops by $12,000 each year. And because the North American Mission Board provides some of those funds, the hours he can work in a tent-making role to support himself are limited.

    This in a city where his apartment rent will be $30,000.

    “Who should really be in the business of planting churches?” Akin asked. “Other churches. Various Baptist agencies should be helping in that; they shouldn’t really be driving it.”

    Akin will meet June 8 with Hunt and state convention executives to try to alleviate their fears and assure them they have no agenda, other than to find a way to relieve the “stagnation” they feel in the Convention.

    Since the “conservative resurgence” that traces its beginnings to 1979 positioned Southern Baptists as a convention of churches that ascribe to biblical inerrancy, leadership anticipated a “move to pursue the Great Commission at home and abroad” and a “great revival in expository preaching across the Convention,” Akin said. “We haven’t seen that either. The two go hand in hand…for whatever reason it hasn’t happened.”
     
    Promise unrealized
    “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,” the declaration states in Article 5. 

    The same article urges an “attempt to discern the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary issues” which lie “at the heart of many of our present tensions.” That could look like an attempt to restrict bedrock Baptist principals of soul competency and priesthood of the believer.

    Akin affirmed those principals and said the proposed attempt to define first tier issues — those issues that define “Christian” — from other tiers that define issues necessary for cooperation and from others that are simply matters of interpretation will lower tensions and increase cooperation.

    “We’re simply recognizing your right to believe what you want to believe, but it does affect our ability to cooperate,” Akin said. He used as example that anyone can believe women have the right to be pastors, but “it will be problematic” for churches that do not believe the same way to work together.

    Because there is some reference in the document to the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) as a “sound confession for building theological consensus for Great Commission cooperation,” Akin was asked about the International Mission Board’s adoption of two policies — on baptism and private prayer language — that go beyond the BFM to restrict eligibility of certain missionary candidates. Adoption of the policies caused considerable disruption in IMB trustee meetings and consternation among North Carolina IMB and missionary supporters in 2008.

    “I think the IMB policy on private prayer languages is wrong,” Akin said. “I’m with Jerry Rankin on that.” Rankin is president of the IMB. The IMB board’s adoption of a policy prohibiting election of a missionary candidate who confesses to a private prayer language would make Rankin ineligible to serve as a missionary in the organization of which he is president.

    At the same time, Akin supports the clear IMB policy that would recall a missionary who promotes charismatic practices on the field.

    5/22/2009 7:08:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 8 comments




Comments
Coty Pinckney
Correction to the article: The $30,000 rent Dr Akin referred to was not for the DC church planter's apartment(!) but for the space where the church will meet.
5/29/2009 1:34:36 PM

Gene Scarborough
Hey folks--at least we are discussing something seriously rather than just ranting about who is wrong and who is right. We are both wrong if we would rather fight than quit and cannot agree to disagree.

A good reading of the above comments shows several things to me. Note in the first: "those who aspire to the office of overseer." Second: "never heard anyone saying 'king of the church.'" Third: "thanks for absorbing the insult and breaking the cycle." Fourth: "great men and women of God labor and are trained for the Great Commission." Fifth: "I do not personally support nor endorse the new SEBTS. But I feel no need to denigrate or criticize it, and I refuse to caricature the current faculty as heretical fundamentalists. Do unto others as you wish it had been done unto you."

Only in the 5th comment do I see something with which I can agree. BUT sometimes we can be so kind we fail to speak a prophetic word. My comments are based on a "speak the truth in love" attempt. They are also based on a lifetime of being clearly taught that there was a time Jesus took a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. My initial comment was such a move in words and it obviously struck a cord with quite a few.

My father spent a lifetime as a Southern Baptist minister. He came from the Moon's Grove Baptist Church near Athens, GA. He arrived at Mercer University with .10 in his pocket convinced that God calls people to preach, but he calls their minds as well. He went on to Andover-Newton Seminary in Boston and there saw first-hand a continuum of professors and ideas which broadened his appreciation for the riches of Christian thought and debate. Then he returned south and tried to find a church. He was single and he was not "Southern Serminary trained." Now he encountered prejudice and derision which cost him several calls to prominent Southern Baptist churches because the Southern professors on the other candidate's resume simply asked the Pulpit Committee, "Can you trust a single man not SBC trained?" This rhetoric has persisted to our day because too many Southern Baptists don't trust one another and are too judgmental!

Our denominational situation has been significantly worsened since 1979 to the point even the NCBSC will not accept gifts from churches ministering to our new outcasts: homosexuals and women. I believe I have a good free Baptist right to be critical and I am sorry if the above see it as other than Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the Temple. Someone needs to have the intestinal fortitute to "speak the truch in love" again rather than deny our birthright of freedom to speak honestly based on honest evaluations of other Southern Baptists.

If we are so great at being Christians in 2009, why have so many "moderate" Baptists and churches been forced to leave the SBC and NCBSC? Why have so many rural churches been forced to look at resumes with misrust after so many bad experiences with SEBTS student pastors when years ago you could pretty much trust a Baptist Seminary to birth something other than lock- step firebrands who destroy conventions and churches? Why do we constantly ask, "What did he mean by that statement?" Even our new "Articles of Incorporation" for the NCBSC has its Autonomy statement moved from a main article to an almost hidden part of the document!

We have a new day in the SBC and NCBSC which brings more honor to the way of the Pharasee than the way of Christ, in my opinion. I think I have a right to be critical and I am one of the few who even takes time these days to try and propheticly call for a return to the basics which once made us a growing force for caring ministry to the up-and-out as well as the down-and-out of the pretentous South. We have always tried to look pretty on the surface and cover our womanizing and child-predating underbelly. This underbelly has become worse in recent years as SEBTS hosted a student arrested for child pornography and we hear horror stories in recent years of SBC clergy who were preditors but were quietly "recommended" to another church with the excuse, "We can't do anything about it because the local church ordained him." The
SBC has denigrated Christa Brown and SNAP under this specific excuse cited above. Moneychangers are more present this day than ever before--again in my honest opinion clearly stated.

Consider me a person who no longer considers himself a "Southern Baptist," but believes a prophetic word needs to be clearly stated because I still have a conscience and still care that we, once again, become the representatives of Christ we were in our growing glory days.

Jesus' Great Commission was not the command we were taught it to be. Reading of the Greek verb tense would properly translate more accurately: "Since you are going, go telling the world you are my disciples." Right now "since we are going" we are showing ourselves to be mean and obnoxious toward sadly sinful gays and women who cannot help being called by God to preach--again, in my opinion. I will give you a right to yours, but give me that same right to be a follower of Christ to the best of my ability.
5/29/2009 8:16:29 AM

Postdenominational Christian
Eric -- you demonstrate a lot of class. Thank you for your comments. They prove that Christians with divergent views can be respectful and loving.

I graduated from SEBTS in 1990, just after turmoil (oft called the "conservative resurgence") erupted. I was deeply hurt to hear many of my beloved professors caricatured as heretical liberals. We knew them to be deeply devout believers. There may have been a few professors and students out on the edges, but not all were. There may be some on the edges now, but are we to believe that they all are? I do not personally support nor endorse the new SEBTS. But I feel no need to denigrate or criticize it, and I refuse to caricature the current faculty as heretical fundamentalists. Do unto others as you wish it had been done unto you.

There is no reason to maintain the kind of hostile attitude that Mr. Scarborough's comments betray. Things happen, a seminary changed direction, and here we are nineteen years later still licking our wounds? I've found another school to love and support. Gene, I encourage you to do the same thing.

As for the "Great Commission Resurgence," I happen to agree with Danny Akin (I can't believe I actually just typed that) in part. Denominations are vastly over-rated. He is correct in asserting that people under 40 years of age do not have a blind loyalty to denominational structures. As a Pastor I encounter very few under the age of 70 who have that blind commitment. Relationships from the local church to the local association to the state convention to a national convention are redundant and antiquated. Reformation is long past due.

However, my suspicion is that Dr. Akin and others envision a still stronger hierarchy than the one already present in the SBC. There, the theological elite (called bishops, cardinals and popes in other traditions) can insure that the common folk down at the local church believe and behave the right way. This has been my trouble with the conservative takeover...it was (in my opinion) never so much about theology as it was control. They must believe the time is ripe...read the quote from the document again: “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.”

Well I am sorry, but not everyone was in favor of ever taking the focus off of the Great Commission until the keepers of the doctrinal zoo said it was okay to do so. And wouldn't Jesus be proud that there is no longer a need for James and John to call down fire and brimstone on the suspicious crowd out there on the edge of SBC life?

So, if Dr. Akin says the camp is pure enough to focus on the Great Commission once again (after a thirty year cleansing hiatus) then who am I to stand in the way? Things happen, denominations change, I've found another love.



5/27/2009 3:05:38 PM

Tommy Kiker
Let me be one to say that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a place where great men and women of God labor and are trained for the Great Commission. Over my time there thousands of men and women have gone all over the world to share the glorious good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am sure there have been some that have made mistakes and not been the leaders they should have been, as I'm sure there are from ANY theological training school. However, I am grateful to God for Dr. Danny Akin, the faculty and staff of Southeastern and the men and women that are leaving that great school as ambassadors for Christ. I'm proud that both my MDiv and PhD have Southeastern on them, and pray that God would use us and all other brothers and sisters in Christ, despite our shortcomings, to be instruments He uses for His glory. May He grant revival to His church so mighty that the world can not help but see the power of the great God we serve!
5/26/2009 10:23:48 PM

Norman
Eric and Jim, your responses demonstrate the very heart of what I was talking about in this piece: http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/post/2009/05/21/Can-it-be-an-insult-if-you-miss-it.aspx Thank you for absorbing a potential insult and breaking the cycle in this instance.
5/26/2009 1:47:47 PM

Jim Upchurch
I am a 2005 graduate of SEBTS. I've never heard anyone saying anything about being the "King of the Church." What I learned at Southeastern was to be a caring shepherd of the flock with King Jesus as the Great Shepherd, to whom we will give an account.

Unfortunately, there will always be ministers (young and old, liberal and conservative) who tear up churches. I hope there'll be fewer. And I hope we can move forward as a convention placing an emphasis on Jesus Christ and His Gospel, with the result being obedience to His Commission.
5/26/2009 10:14:04 AM

Eric Scholten
Dear Gene,

My heart broke and I was deeply sorrowed as I read your comments. While I am currently a student at SEBTS and am thankful for Dr. Akin and his ministry at the seminary, I in no way feel like I have to defend him, nor do I think he would ask anyone to do so. It is very apparent that you have come in contact with (or experienced the wake left behind from) individuals associated with SEBTS who left you with a less than admirable view of the whole of the student body, alumni, and faculty. It also seems that you were hurt deeply (as many were, and avoidably so) by the events that occurred during the 80s and early 90s in the SBC. Experiences can't change and they often leave us with very strong memories and emotions, no matter what "side" you are on or were on. I understand that and respect your position.
I want to simply extend a proverbial olive branch to you, just from one individual to another, in order to communicate to you that not all students at SEBTS are looking to be "King Pastors." There may be those that do, but I can assure you that there are many who do not. You wrote in your comment, "Never was the idea of a 'King of the Church' a part of teaching by the SEBTS faculty." Brother, I can assure you that this is something that has not changed. I would challenge you to speak to individual professors to discover their hearts on this matter and to hear what they desire to teach their students. I can also tell you that I know of no one, including myself, that has ever been "coached" on how to answer a pulpit committee. Finally, I don't think anyone, including yourself, would appreciate being called gullible. I would prefer to give you credit as a man who can think for himself with the mind that God has given to you. I would ask you would grant my fellow students and me the same courtesy. I can assure you that I have always been challenged by my professors to think through my own biblical convictions on important issues such as the sanctity of human life, contraception, birth control, and abortion. As an aside, my wife and I have never been able to "really afford a baby." It was not a professor's teaching, though, that led us to have our four children. I can add that they have never gone without a meal and have had a roof over their heads their whole lives.
Early in your comment you said that the ministries of SEBTS grads had served to "split churches and destroy relationships therein." While I am sure this could be said of some of those who have come from SEBTS I would assume that those coming from other schools and other denominations have been guilty of the same destructions. Your comment is an ever present reminder to all those who aspire to the office of overseer to set the Lordship of Christ first and foremost in their own lives, to love mercy and to be merciful, to act justly, and to walk humbly with their God.
I don't think you are looking for an apology from me or my sympathies over the hurts you and those whom you admire have experienced. I offer them anyway. Our Bible tells us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own site. (Rom 12:15, 16)" Because I am called to hurt with those who hurt, I hurt with you and I hurt with those who have been negatively affected by those who are associated with the school I love. It may not mean much to you, but there is at least one SEBTS student who wishes to say, "I'm sorry." I hope we can live in greater harmony with one another as we honestly think through and pray about how we, as Baptists, can more effectively join God as He fulfills the promise he made in Psalm 46:10 when he said, "I will be exalted in all the nations."

Humbly Yours,

Eric Scholten
5/26/2009 9:44:36 AM

Gene Scarborough
Danny Aikin sounds good, but the teachings of SEBTS and the results of these firebrand young ministers has been a disaster in NC. They have created an atmosphere of mistrust that words fail to describe.

I could name for you any number of churches who had traditionally sought SEBTS student ministers who naively called one in the last 10 years. The students answered the questions of the Pulpit Committee correctly as they were coached, but quickly set about to put in their new agenda of a "king pastor" who totally runs the church. They were attractive and robust, but their ministry served to split churches and destroy relationships therein.

2 cases in point illustrate what I am saying:

1. A small town church whose SEBTS trained minister set about to get a number of students involved in the congregation to the point a "majority" voted to build a Family Life Center. The rest of the supporting long term members felt displaced and forced to fund an enterprise with which they did not agree. The Family Life Center soon became a place for rowdy youngsters to play whose parents never joined the church nor supported it financially. The enterprise was one of divisiveness and the student moved to "higher ground" leaving the congregation with nothing but an agitated mess.

2. A Professor declaring to gullable students that using contraception was equal to abortion and therefore totally sinful. What are newly married and active couples to do when they cannot really afford a child, but the professor is standing in the wings dictating that they avoid contraception?

All this is done under the guise of the "Conservative Resurgence." I see it as a "Conservative Regurgitation." If these conservatives were authentic, then why do they feel such a need to "come to the alter for confession of their sins?"

When I was a student in 1967-70 we were taught the importance of being a servant to the congregation we served as a caring minister encouraging faithfulness to gospel teachings. Never was the idea of a "King of the Church" a part of teaching by the SEBTS faculty. Our faculty was divergent rather than molded by Liberty University and Bob Jones. Not one could be classified as more than a centrist on the continuum of liberal to conservative. However, these good and honest men were, to a person, forced to resign or keep quiet in the face of new Trustees who forced the exit of Randall Lolley and other good and honest men.

With rancor my personally known mentors were called "Liberals." Anyone who knew Leo Green or Dr. Wayland would laugh out loud to hear them called "liberal!"

However, Dr. Aiken who is a puppet to Paige Patterson, follows in that same false and Phariseical path taken by the SBC since 1979. One only needs to read Matthew 23 to see Jesus' view of such people. No wonder it is failing miserably--it is a "whitewashed toumb full of dead men's bones" as Jesus said. The average person knows the difference between pretince and authentic ministry. Demand all the tithing you want, but too many in these tight financial days refuse to financially support the fraud of the Pharasees.

You took over the bus, but those of us who know what Baptist really means, don't have to put gas in the tank which is now running close to empty!!
5/25/2009 9:42:54 PM

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