The Great Commission is in the news in SBC life. The conversation is centered around an online document with the Great Commission in its title. In the first incarnation, the document contained 12 axioms and after further revision it now features 10 commitments. At the time of this blog posting, more than 1,700 people have placed their signatures to the document. Some Alabama Baptists have chosen to be among the number.
I have not signed the document, because I feel we as Alabama Baptists have already been at work in Great Commission Ministries in very effective ways. The original document also contained some language with which I could not agree. I do not see our state convention as a bloated bureaucracy but rather as a fellowship of Great Commission Christians on mission with the Great Commission.
For more than a decade now we have affirmed the more than a motto affirmation: “We Have One Mission, The Great Commission; We Have One Program, The Cooperative Program; We Have Many Ministries…Great Commission Ministries.” Many times when I am introduced to a congregation, the pastor will incorporate this affirmation into his remarks. This is the highest compliment I could ever receive as a state missionary.
Consider with me the following missional points in Alabama Baptist life:
We have One Mission, The Great Commission
“We have One Mission, The Great Commission” is all about partnership. We partner as a Great Commission people to reach people for Christ in Alabama, North America and internationally. As for the matter of streamlining of the State Board of Missions, we have reduced the number of our staff by 20 percent over the past decade. Yet, as state missionaries, we are committed to serving the churches and associations in our state as true partners in ministry.
We Have One Program, The Cooperative Program
“We Have One Program, The Cooperative Program.” Alabama is the only Deep South state convention which does NOT have a state missions offering. The Kathleen Mallory Offering is for the support of the WMU ministries in our state, and we are glad that our WMU partners have this opportunity for support from the churches.
Alabama Baptists currently lead all other state conventions in Cooperative Program giving to SBC causes. From October through April, Alabama Baptists have given more funds to support missions causes in the Southern Baptist Convention than any of the other 41 conventions. This is not a matter of pride for us but praise. We are blessed to be at this point, when the state and national/global economies are in decline. This is good stewardship on the part of Alabama Baptists.
The Cooperative Program is not the Coercive Program. No church is forced to give. Rather, churches choose to cooperate so that a world can be reached for Christ. The Cooperative Program enables Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists to be all over the world, all the time at the same time. The Cooperative Program is the tried and proven way to do so.
The Cooperative Program is not the Cafeteria Program. In Alabama Baptist life, we have the purest form of Cooperative Program giving. An undesignated gift from churches is given through the Cooperative Program and therefore supports ministries in Alabama and around the world. A designated gift can be made, but it must represent a ministry included in either the SBC or State Convention budgets. That is the same principle of unified giving practiced in almost all of our churches in their own budgeting process.
We Have Many Ministries, Great Commission Ministries
“We Have Many Ministries, Great Commission Ministries.” As a State Board of Missions, we have been given three priorities, which emanate from the Great Commission. All four of our teams are focused clearly and intentionally on these priorities.
In evangelism and discipleship, Alabama Baptists have given attention to the basics of reaching people for Christ and helping them grow as faithful disciples. Sammy Gilbreath, the Evangelism & Discipleship Team Leader, has been instrumental in doing what we call evangelism on the edges. Horse Whisperer evangelistic events are just one example of this ministry. The historic method of touching the lives of people through Vacation Bible School is also a matter worth considering. As many as 7,500 professions of faith were made during VBS last year in our state. Additionally, Alabama Baptist state missionaries on college and university campuses touch lives of almost 10 percent of the students enrolled in these educational institutions.
The Leadership Development Team benefits from the wise and veteran leadership of State Missionary Dale Huff. In a day when there is a leadership shortage in all walks of life, even in Christian circles, the priority focus of this team is to develop Christian leaders. Teman Knight, who serves on this team, works closely with younger church leaders, many of whom minister to churches, large and small in membership.
The Missions Mobilization Team is led by a man who has served the Lord internationally as well as here in Alabama. Reggie Quimby is the “go to” guy for mobilizing volunteers for mission work in Alabama and in our global partnerships, such as the current ones in Michigan, Guatemala, the Appalachian Regional Ministries and the vast nation of Ukraine. Disaster relief and church planting ministries are the focus of this team too.
Yes, Alabama Baptists are a Great Commission people, whether they have signed an online document or not. For more than a decade, we have sought to unapologetically devote ourselves to the clear priorities growing out of the Great Commission. Each Alabama Baptist will have to determine whether signing a document is of value to the cause. However, I contend that 10-plus years ago, we made a fresh commitment of our lives to becoming Great Commission Christians. For me, that is far more significant than signing any kind of document.