Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 11

In 1993, Jerry Rankin became the new President of the Foreign Mission Board. Later that same year, FMB Vice President Avery Willis participated as Chairman for the Ad Hoc AD 2000 Denominational Summit Declaration Committee, which drafted the AD 2000 Denominational Summit Declaration. The following is an excerpt from that important document…

We, the attendees of this historic summit meeting,
  • Realizing that God is on a mission to redeem a lost world (II Peter 3:9), and that Christ has given us the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20);
  • Having come here in the prayerful conviction that the Spirit of God is leading His Church at this unique juncture of history; and
  • Having heard the reports of denominational initiatives to the year 2000 and beyond, and of resource networks that are cooperating across denominations, churches and organizations to focus on world evangelization, mobilization of united prayer and coordinated efforts to reach the unreached;
  • Believing that the Holy Spirit has led us to be present at this gathering, and having experienced the unity of the multifaceted body of Christ and the unique corporate gifting that different denominations and organizations bring to that body.
Now, being of one mind in our commitment to work together for the evangelization of the world by the year 2000 and beyond, we, as individuals from various denominations, declare our joint commitment to seek a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000. We urgently call the worldwide Body of Christ to join openly in linking hands, hearts, minds and spirits in this grand cause of Jesus Christ.

In 1995, a second Global Consultation on World Evangelism (GCOWE) , in conjunction with the AD 2000 movement, was held, this time in Seoul, Korea. In an earlier post, I already commented about Jerry Rankin's and Avery Willis’s participation at this event.
I direct your thoughts now to an excerpt from an article in the July 1, 1995 edition of Missions Frontiers, entitled "Reconciliation: Is it the Missing Key to Revival and World Evangelization?," written by Rick Wood…

Certainly there is also a need for this kind of reconciliation and repentance on the part of many denominations and ministries towards each other.
Unfortunately, the attitude of many denominations and ministries has been one of competition and empire building. There is even the unspoken belief that they have more truth than other denominations or ministries. Each believes they must make sure that as many converts as possible become part of their church. Many ministries have too often been unwilling to cooperate with one another.
This kind of needed repentance was also seen at GCOWE '95, as reported by David Aikman. "Doctor Avery Willis nodded his head and the audience broke into applause. He had just apologized on behalf of the Southern Baptist denomination. He had discovered that the best efforts of his denomination, even if all the goals were attained, were not good enough to reach the world by the year 2000.
"'We want to ask forgiveness from you,' he said meekly, 'for thinking we could do that kind of job without you. We recognize that it's going to take the whole body of Christ to reach the people of this world.'
"As a sign of his change of heart, he offered to any delegate who requested it, the databases of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.
"'Business as usual will not get the job done,' he concluded." Willis' remarks were made in the large sanctuary of Seoul's Choong Hyun Presbyterian Church, which was the venue for a number of GCOWE events.

At the same event, Jerry Rankin was invited to give a talk in a session entitled "Intra-denominational Initiative: Southern Baptists." Here is a key excerpt from his talk, which he entitled "Bold Witness"…

In 1975, Southern Baptists looked toward the 21st Century and after prayer, consultation with convention leaders, and dialog with Baptist partners overseas, a committee unveiled a plan that was approved by the Southern Baptist Convention messengers at the annual meeting in June 1976. The plan was called Bold Mission Thrust and carried the objective that every man, woman and child have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ by AD 2000.
By the early 1980s, despite significant growth, a disturbing question arose, If we continue at the present rate, will everyone in the world hear the good news of Jesus Christ? The answer was a sad, but honest, "No."
Careful analysis of church growth trends affirmed that bold witness goals were needed in response to God's leadership. God used the alternative futures study to convict the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) for appearing self-sufficient to reach to the whole world alone. Grasping the immensity of the unreached world, FMB leaders began reaching out to Great Commission Christians committed to reaching the world for Christ. Working cooperatively ushered in a new era in which Christians joined in world prayer crusades, interchanged information about unreached peoples and encouraged one another.

I believe it is significant that Rankin, although taking a different position than former FMB President Keith Parks on the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, and taking a strong stand against ecumenical positions that would decry the legitimacy of evangelism in Catholic countries, vocally supported the continued involvement of Southern Baptists in efforts such as the AD 2000 Movement, and events such as GCOWE.
I would like to close this post with an excerpt from Mobilizing for Missions in the New Millenium, A Great Commission Vision for Southern Baptists in the 21st Century, written in 1999, by Jerry Rankin, in which he spells out the IMB’s approach, as a part of "New Directions", towards cooperation with other "Great Commission Christians"…

Chapter 7, Building for the Future
Great Commission Partners
Completing the Great Commission in the new millennium means not only mobilizing Southern Baptists but the larger community of Great Commission Christians. A significant part of the "New Directions" paradigm is creating alliances and partnerships that enable us to more rapidly roll back the curtain of lostness. This has been modeled by strategy teams, limited in personnel and resources, who have become advocates for their people groups. Rather than attempting to duplicate what others can contribute to the evangelization effort, they have mobilized far-ranging agencies and organizations, each of which brings its own additional resources to the task.
Wycliffe may launch a Scripture-translation team. Campus Crusade provides the JESUS film and effectively targets university students while TransWorld Radio beams broadcasts into the region. Pioneers and Youth With a Mission may send in short-term teams while others enlist tentmakers and engage in development projects. Literally hundreds of organizations and agencies have become a part of some coordinated partnerships that have vastly accelerated getting the gospel to a target population group.
When we cease to be concerned about who is in CONTROL and who gets CREDIT, we will be amazed at what God can do!
As the church-planting stage develops, we give emphasis to nurturing Baptist churches while other evangelical traditions may emerge parallel to ours. But the kingdom is extended more rapidly, and God gets the glory. When we cease to be concerned about who is in control and who gets credit, we will be amazed at what God can do.
Because of the size and scope of Southern Baptist international missions, we are finding ourselves in a leadership role we did not seek. Few other organizations have been able to maintain as strong a focus on the main thing of evangelism and church planting. No other agency has such extensive deployment of personnel in strategic assignments all over the world.
Throughout 1999 and possibly into the future, the IMB is sponsoring a series of "AWE Conferences"—Accelerating World Evangelization. In follow-up to the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, which was so effective in creating awareness and adoption of unreached people groups, we are trying to provide a forum to stimulate actual engagement of unreached people groups that will result in church-planting movements. In a series of small, focused conferences, we are gathering affinity groups of similar mission agencies to challenge and coordinate involvement in the task.
Similar conferences are being planned with partners from Baptist unions and conventions around the world to garner their insights and clarify an understanding of the new directions of IMB strategies. As we facilitate their involvement and mutual ownership of the vision to reach all the peoples of the world, global evangelization will be advanced.
We must look beyond ourselves and even beyond the extensive but limited resources of Southern Baptists. We must see beyond the present and not sacrifice fulfillment of the task on the altar of the urgent and the immediate. From a vision of the completed task, we must see our role in a "big-picture" perspective and press forward to the goal of bringing all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
No, they are not perfect. But I, for one, as a Southern Baptist International Missionary, am grateful and proud to be represented by godly, visionary, and biblically-balanced leadership, even in the face of criticism from both sides, such as we have been privileged to have in the person of men such as Jerry Rankin and Avery Willis.


Kiki Cherry said...

"We must look beyond ourselves and even beyond the extensive but limited resources of Southern Baptists. We must see beyond the present and not sacrifice fulfillment of the task on the altar of the urgent and the immediate. From a vision of the completed task, we must see our role in a "big-picture" perspective and press forward to the goal of bringing all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ."

AMEN. It excites me to think how God will be glorified when we, His people, begin to have this perspective.

Chris Wall said...

Thanks for being a strong and faithful missionary who takes a strong stand. You can't do what you do and be a pansy. I like that.

GuyMuse said...

I continue to be amazed at the perceptiveness of your series. It is truly an important work and key issue you are addressing. I was going to comment on Part 12, but there are already several comments there. I reiterate what was said before: when you finish this series, it needs to be put into print form and widely distributed as either a booklet, or downloadable files for greater access worldwide. Thanks for the effort to research and come up with all this fascinating information on a timely subject.