For those of you who find yourselves outside the inner-workings of Southern Baptist Convention, you are likely unaware of what is being called the “Great Commission Resurgence” that is being headed up by Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The premise of this aim at sparking a movement is this, that the “Conservative Resurgence,” that occurred within the SBC some decades ago against the liberalism that had taken over the denomination, stopped short of what it should have been–that the claiming back of conservative, evangelical doctrine in the hierarchy of the SBC and in its seminaries was not enough to remedy the woes of the SBC and therefore a good portion of the American Church.
These claims have caused a great stir in a denomination that is finding itself moving closer and closer to irrelevancy with each passing generation. There is now essentially a great divide within the denomination, between the older, graying members who are content with leaving things as they are and the younger members who seem to care less and less about the conglomerate which is the SBC. Dr. Akin’s proposal as to the reason for this problem is that the SBC has focused too much upon itself and the American Church and that, for this reason, the SBC has lost its vision and vitality about the great mission of the Church–to be about the business of preaching the Gospel in all the world. This loss of focus is the source of a great deal of the problems within in the SBC, and if the SBC were only to reclaim that focus, it would reclaim its relevancy in the church.
While I wholeheartedly agree that mission of the church should be the sending out of preachers of the Gospel, the chief problem that plagues the SBC is the same as that of the American church, namely that she has lost the Gospel. For decades, preachers and pastors have continually shoved down the throats of their congregations a gospel that declares that one can be saved by a prayer said after walking an aisle and that declares that salvation is wholly an eschatological one that saves a soul from hell at a point in the future rather than one that saves a soul from slavery to sin now, worldliness now, and brings a soul under the slavery of the new way of the Spirit and righteousness. Thus, our American churches are filled with persons who feel assurance of their salvation but look like the world, smell like the world, and love the things of the world.
It is therefore no wonder of ghastliness that fills the hearts of foreign students who come from poverty stricken nations to attend American SBC seminaries who see the decadence of those seminaries and the lavish lifestyles of those who comprise the SBC’s membership. There is no wonder of their disgust when they see the great material need of the church abroad while American churches and church members who claim to be about the work of the Kingdom are exhausting their funds on lavish seminary buildings, multi-hundred thousand dollar houses, and expensive vehicles while their supposed brothers and sisters in Christ are starving and dying halfway across the world. There is a great hypocrisy that exists among American conservative and capitalistic Christians who claim, on the one hand, to be about the evangelization of the world and the aid of the foreign church, and, on the other hand, stuff their mouths with the material pleasures of the world thereby exhausting their funds on themselves rather than upon their foreign brother and sisters.
There does indeed need to be a “Great Commission Resurgence” within the SBC and among all the American churches, but, before that can ever happen, there needs to be a resurgence of the Gospel in American churches. We foolishly presume that our position as the Church of the Lord is sound, but we are gravely mistaken. We as the American church resemble the church at Laodicea much more than we do the church at Macedonia, for we are much more likely to be spit out by our Lord for our luke-warmness than we are to sell all of our possessions for the aid of our brothers and sisters in Christ (cf. 2Cor. 8). We, therefore, must reclaim the Gospel that declares to us, “Crucify yourselves daily” and “Sell all your possessions for the sake of the Kingdom,” and reclaim the faith of Abraham, who though rich, lived in tents as a wanderer waiting for the City whose builder is God (cf. Heb. 11:9, 10). Then, and only then, will there ever be the possibility of a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC and American church.