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We live by God’s surprises,” said Helmut Thielicke. The German pastor was speaking in times more trying than ours, but in the darkest days of WW2, he could see the hand of God at work—and was amazed by it.

Dare we say the same of the year just past?

We were surprised by events we witnessed. In their unfolding, we sought the reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Here are some noteworthy moments for Baptists in Illinois—some heavy, some light—and what they may say about the year before us.

– The Editors

SBC candidates: Unity matters

What the U.S. presidential election may have lacked in civility, the 2016 election for Southern Baptist Convention President more than made up for in grace. When a close vote forced a run-off between Steve Gaines and J.D. Greear, the election seemed poised to divide Baptists over matters of theology and generation.

Instead, the candidates talked the night before the third vote was to be taken, and one bowed out, urging his supporters to vote for his opponent.

“It’s time for us to step up and get involved, to keep pushing forward and engaging in the mission with those who have gone before us,” North Carolina pastor Greear posted in support of Tennessee pastor Gaines. “It’s time to look at what unites us.”

On paper, this decade’s SBC presidents are a diverse bunch, not united by much in terms of their backgrounds and interests:

  • Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright (2010-2012), who recently spoke out in favor of ministering to refugees
  • Dynamic New Orleans preacher Fred Luter (2012-2014), elected as the SBC’s first ever African American president
  • Ronnie Floyd (2014-2016), pastor of a multi-site church in Arkansas and a prolific blogger who led the denomination toward a laser-like focus on prayer
  • And Gaines, elected in 2016, who has espoused traditional Baptist theology and his own intense focus on evangelism.

What does unite them is a logical progression in the things they have called Baptists toward: For Wright, it was a return to Great Commission principles. Luter’s presidency was marked by impassioned pleas for spiritual awakening and revival. And Floyd called Southern Baptists to their knees—for themselves, their churches, the denomination, the nation, and the world.

Gaines announced he will continue the emphasis on prayer at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. It may be a sign that the desire for unity, despite differences in age, theological perspective, and communication style, is actually, in Greear’s words, “what unites us.”

A new missions paradigm

After a season in which budget shortfalls and personnel cuts seemed to limit the future potential for Baptist missions engagement around the world, International Mission Board President David Platt continued to preach a message to the contrary.

“Limitless” is the word Platt has used to describe the mission force needed to take the gospel to places without it. To achieve that goal, he has said, the SBC has to think differently about missions and missionaries than we have in the past.

“Let me be crystal clear: the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully-funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent,” Platt said during his report at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. “They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”

But the IMB’s emerging strategy is to put around those missionaries a “limitless” force of students, retirees, and professionals—people who, to borrow Platt’s words, are willing to leverage their jobs and lives so that more might hear and respond to the gospel.

The newly redesigned IMB website reflects the strategy, with buttons for people in a variety of categories to search for opportunities overseas. There are needs for business consultants, healthcare professionals, construction engineers, and more. The IMB also offers training resources for churches to equip and mobilize members for missions, both short-term and longer.

Global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church,” Platt said in St. Louis.

A year ago, when hundreds of IMB missionaries moved back home, the chances of getting the gospel to some of the world’s darkest places seemed dimmer. Now, with a strategy focused on everyday people like the ones who sparked a gospel fire in the New Testament, the opportunities seem endless. Or, limitless.

If I had a hammer

We’ll hear it a lot in the new year. On Halloween night in 1517, disgruntled priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 complaints on the church door in Wittenberg and started an ecclesial revolution. We’re likely to hear about it from all corners, including events at our seminaries, panels at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, and bus tours of Germany. And we may have a few serious discussions about the theological direction of the SBC. Look for Reformation@500 in the pages of the Illinois Baptist throughout 2017.

Read Cloudy with a chance of surprises, pt. 1

Almost a thousand evangelical Christian leaders gathered in New York City Tuesday to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Among them were a number of prominent Southern Baptists. Eight were among the 25 leaders appointed to Trump’s evangelical advisory panel.

They are: Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwestern Arkansas; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University; Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and a former SBC president; Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas; David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church; Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president; James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, which only recently joined the SBC; and Jay Strack, motivational speaker and founder and president of Student Leadership University.

Being on the advisory board does not amount to a full public endorsement (Falwell, Jr. is the only one who has publicly endorsed Trump) , however to many it does imply a tacit endorsement. Some have been critical of the leaders’ action, to which Land replied via an editorial in the Christian Post. “What would our critics have us do?,” he asked. “Would they really have us spurn the opportunity to give spiritual counsel and advice to Mr. Trump and his team? How would that be obedience to our Savior’s command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? (Matthew 5:13-16). After all, as Evangelicals we all believe that the heart of the king “is in the hand of the Lord . . . He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1).”

Current ERLC president, Russell Moore, has been a vocal opponent of Trump, tweeting Tuesday afternoon, “If you wondered why younger, theological, gospel-centered evangelicals reacted neg to the old guard Religious Right, well, now you know.”

And, a few minutes later, “Forget the politics. Forget the country. An unrepentant lost person pronounces himself to be a believer. And you stand there and applaud?”

At last week’s Southern Baptist Convention, in the President’s message, Floyd stated, “Our nation is divided. We are known more for being the divided states of America than the United States of America. The national political races we have observed over this past year personify the fractured, dysfunctional condition in America relationally.”

Floyd also led a panel on Pastor’s and Politics at the convention. He introduced the panel saying, “Disagreement doesn’t have to result in a strained relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ…This presidential panel is an attempt to address this conversation.”

Graham, who was one of the panelists urged Southern Baptists not to sit at home but to get involved in the process. “One concern we should all have 30-40 million stayed home and did not participate…This is a critical election for the future of America,” he said.

He pointed to three primary issues Christians should be looking at when voting for a presidential. They are choosing Supreme Court justices, belief in the sanctity of life, and maintaining religious liberty. Graham noted, “We must not abdicate our responsibility to pray and to vote.”

There words appeared to be at odds with other convention leaders. At the B21 Luncheon during the convention, Moore and Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary were among the panelists speaking. Replying to a question about the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, Mohler said, “I find myself in a situation I’ve never found myself in as a Christian. I’m going to find myself unable to vote for either candidate.”

Moore agreed and said he plans to write in a name on his ballot.

One thing is certain, there will be continued disagreement regarding the presidential election. Another thing is also certain, many in the U.S. appear to be having flashbacks to 1976 and having their own Howard Beale, “Network” moments in this election cycle.

– Lisa Misner Sergent

Floyd_presidents_message

SBC President Ronnie Floyd at the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

When Ronnie Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination was coming to grips with the truth. After several years of describing many churches as “plateaued or declining,” leaders started speaking in frank terms about why, year after year, key measures like church membership, worship attendance, and baptisms were down denomination-wide.

“We are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” one Baptist leader said in 2014, the year Floyd was elected to his first term.

Things looked bleak, and for the first time in a while, the pressure wasn’t coming from outside opposition or controversy. Rather, the SBC seemed to be at an impasse.

Before his presidency, Floyd was already established as someone who could provide direction. As the pastor of a Southern megachurch, he led his congregation to a regional, multi-campus strategy and a new name—from First Baptist, Springdale, to Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas.

That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility.

As chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, Floyd helped lead Baptists to renewed commitment to a unified purpose—albeit with some difficult adjustments and plenty of debate over proposed funding changes between national agencies and state conventions.

But when Floyd was elected as SBC president, he looked not to drastic measures or sweeping changes—but to prayer. Unified, solidified, corporate prayer. Prayer that asked Baptists of all stripes to set aside differences for something greater than themselves: pleading with God for a great spiritual awakening.

Putting greater emphasis on the SBC annual meeting, Floyd called Baptists to Columbus, Ohio, in June of 2015 for a special prayer meeting to together confess sin—like racism and evangelism apathy—and to move forward as a humbled Convention that prioritized the work and mission of God.

In advance of the prayer meeting, which will happen again this summer in St. Louis, Floyd kept everyone in the loop through regular blog posts and columns distributed via Baptist Press and state Baptist newspapers. Throughout his presidency, he hasn’t hesitated to use the power of the pen (and keyboard) to inform, encourage, and challenge Baptists about the state of the SBC and our desperate need for spiritual awakening.

At the Southern Baptist Convention next weeek in St. Louis, the Tuesday evening session of the meeting will again be devoted to prayer. That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility. For calling us together for that purpose, he deserves our thanks.

Metro St. Louis leaders ready for Crossover partners

Crossover-Banner-smallSt. Louis | As Southern Baptists across the country turn their eyes to St. Louis, Ronny Carroll is more than ready to receive a few thousand extra laborers in order to achieve a great harvest.

“With the manpower coming, our churches can really pull off something God-sized,” said Carroll, executive director of missions for the Metro East Baptist Association, which serves the Illinois side of the St. Louis area. “The preparation alone has already given our churches a boost of energy and excitement in anticipation of what God’s going to do.”

Crossover St. Louis will take place on June 11, just before the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, which will be held June 14-15 at the city’s America’s Center. Crossover will include more than 70 service and outreach projects throughout five counties in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Prior to the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, thousands of seeds were planted resulting in at least 345 people who made professions of faith. Carroll is hoping to double that this year.

“We are praying for 1,000 souls to come to Jesus and for 27 new churches to be established,” he said. “I believe God is going to do his job, we just need to be ready for his movement.”

Carroll said that during the last few months and even years, God has been paving the way for an epic revival of hope and healing to break out in St. Louis. And he said God has used Southern Baptists every step of the way.

“Look at all that has happened, in particular the flooding that occurred around Christmas, where Southern Baptists have been the hands and feet of Jesus,” Carroll said, referring to SBC Disaster Relief efforts in St. Louis just a few months ago. “At one level, Crossover will tie into the work that has already been done and add one more dimension to the truth that Southern Baptists, as individuals and as churches, really care about the people and the communities and quality of life they have. They are primed and ready to receive the eternal hope and salvation that Christ offers.”

And to do that, Carroll said the plan for Crossover St. Louis is to “keep it small, but make it huge.”

Crossover will impact churches in six different associations in both Missouri and Illinois. But, because of the unique needs within each association and community, the projects are indigenous to what will make the biggest impact in a given neighborhood.

“Each church has its own local vision and the 21 projects on our side of the river reflect the unique flavor of our communities,” Carroll said. “We are working with city officials and mayors for some of our cleanup projects and planning block parties, or fiestas, in some of our growing Hispanic neighborhoods.”

Tom Firasek, ministry and partnership coordinator for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, said organization-wise they are already miles ahead of where past Crossover events were at this stage of the preparation process.

“We met with Rich Halcombe (director of missions in Columbus) and other Columbus Southern Baptist leadership and spent the day learning what works, what doesn’t and what logistical needs might come up,” Firasek said.

“When you are about to support and rally behind 75 or so highly visible events at the same time, you want to be sure to orchestrate everything with excellence, while at the same time pointing to Jesus and proclaiming the gospel every step of the way.”

In addition, Firasek said between 100-150 seminary students will be joining the effort in St. Louis during the week leading up to Crossover.

“We would love to see God open up the needs and challenges of St. Louis so that some of these folks would consider planting their lives here or making ongoing partnerships here,” Firasek said. “In the metro area we have one church for every 7,500 people. We need more church starts.”

With Crossover St. Louis just a couple months away, Carroll said their biggest need is for more volunteers to commit to join them.

“If God’s leading you to be a part of Crossover, please commit to join us soon so we can get you partnered with a project,” he said. “Also, we would love for you to join us in prayer. We are praying God will flood us with his mercy and grace and that He will prepare the lost people to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

Carroll said they are also praying for churches to be ready to plug new Christians into their ministries and for church plants to grow quickly from the influx of new believers across St. Louis.

“God has already opened so many doors for the gospel to be presented in a mighty way here,” he said. “Pray that we will be faithful with the doors he’s opened.”

For more information on projects taking place during Crossover St. Louis visit the Metro East Baptist Association website at meba.org or visit namb.net/crossover.

Kayla Rinker is a freelance journalist in Missouri.

David Crosby

David Crosby

New Orleans pastor David Crosby is the third candidate to be named as a nominee for Southern Baptist Convention president. On March 24, former SBC President Fred Luter announced he will nominate Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church, to the post during the SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis.

“I have watched David the last 10 years here in New Orleans as he has taken the leadership of all the churches and pastors of our city in helping to rebuild New Orleans, which everybody knows was totally destroyed [in 2005] in Hurricane Katrina,” Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, told Baptist Press.

Crosby joins previously announced candidates — J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.

In contrast to Greear and Gaines, Crosby has lead his church to a higher percentage in Cooperative Program giving. According to Luter, during the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist, the congregation has given between 7-15% of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. Annual Church Profile reports show First Baptist’s total missions giving to be at least 22% of its undesignated receipts annually over the past five years.

Greear’s church gives 2.4% of undesignated receipts to CP, while Gaines’ gives approximately 4.6% of undesignated receipts to CP.

First Baptist has averaged 658 people in Sunday morning worship services and 24 baptisms between 2011 and 2015. The Summit’s baptisms increased from 19 in 2002, when Greear arrived, to 928 in 2014. Bellevue has averaged 481 baptisms annually during Gaines’ tenure.

Crosby is married and has three children and eight grandchildren. He earned a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of philosophy from Baylor University.

March 2 Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., announced he will nominate Greear, and March 9 Johnny Hunt, former SBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., said he will nominate Gaines.

The 2016 Southern Baptist Convention will take place June 14-15 in St. Louis, MO. Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd is finishing his second term in the post. Floyd is pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas.

Nathan CarterCOMMENTARY | You are probably familiar with the term “multi-site” by now. Maybe your church has already gone to the model, or is considering it. Very simply put, multi-site refers to the concept of one church that meets in multiple locations. Twenty-five years ago, there were fewer than 25 such multi-site churches in North America. Today there are over 5,000! It is a relatively recent phenomenon, yet an increasingly popular strategy for reaching more people with the gospel.

Opening up another campus allows for growth that is usually quicker and more cost-effective than building bigger or sending people out to start something new. It is in many ways simpler and more streamlined. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but can keep the same name, logo, website, 501(c)3 status, support staff, etc. Resources can be shared more readily. You can be more certain that your own “DNA” is being replicated.

I understand the appeal and practical benefits. There are many Baptists whom I respect that have gladly joined the multi-site movement, motivated by a genuine desire to penetrate lostness. But I’ve always had a lingering doubt about whether this method is entirely consistent with our Baptist principles, particularly that of local church autonomy.

Now you may be wondering why I don’t pose the question as, “Is it biblical to be multi-site?” It is because I don’t have space to make a full argument from Scripture. I am assuming that we are all Baptists here. And I am assuming that we are Baptists because we believe it is biblical. We are solidly convinced the Bible teaches that baptism is to be administered to believers only. And we believe that “a New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers” (The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article VI). Our views about credobaptism and congregational ecclesiology are the principal reasons why we are Baptist, and not Methodist or Presbyterian.

But while they may remain firm on the practice of baptism, Baptist practitioners of the multi-site model appear willing to compromise the autonomy of the local assembly. Each distinct location is not allowed the responsibility to receive and dismiss its own pastors and members. There is limited leeway given to determine the best programs and strategies for evangelism and discipleship. In many ways, the satellite congregations are bound by the decisions coming out of central headquarters.

When it comes to organizational structure and leadership in a multi-site operation, there may be one single pastor over all the campuses, in which case you have a hierarchy. How is this different than having a bishop? Or there might be a representative group of elders overseeing all the campuses, in which case you then have a presbytery. It seems to me that while the language may be “one church in multiple locations,” what you really have is a small denomination.

There are potential dangers in any system, but with multi-site, the pull towards empire-building and a cult of personality is extremely strong. There is also a temptation to trust in a franchise brand instead of the power of the Word and Spirit.

I can see how in true revival circumstances where massive amounts of people are being converted at once, a temporary multi-site solution might be needed. But I would rather see this as church planting in slow motion.

What all this means is that the task of pastors is not just to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5), but also to commit what we know to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). We must be committed to raising up leaders from within our churches who could do what we do and be released from our authority to start other churches as the need arises. Hopefully these churches would retain a similarity and organic connection, without control or formal structural unity.

A growing number of like-minded yet independent congregations freely choosing to associate and cooperate together in mission…that sounds more Baptist (and biblical) to me.

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago. This article first appeared in the Illinois Baptist. Read the latest issue online.

Forward thinkingNEWS | Jason Allen is the youngest by far of the group he has called together. And in this gathering of seminary presidents and convention leaders, there is a sense that a passing of the baton is happening before our eyes. In fact, that is one topic Allen has asked his illustrious guests to address in this symposium on “The SBC in the 21st Century.”

Their reports will be gathered and published in a book for wider distribution, but for now—at this late September gathering on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—the task is to listen and learn what their listy observations hold in common.

Midwestern Seminary’s “miraculous transformation” is not the subject of this meeting, although most every speaker references it in his opening remarks. They speak of Allen’s impact, engendering confidence in a once-struggling institution. They take note of the new chapel that rises above a green slope at the entrance to the Kansas City campus. The building in a clean prairie style was completed just as Allen assumed the presidency of the school two years ago. A couple of speakers reference the rise in enrollment. And there’s some discussion of the just-announced $7-million gift to build a much-needed student center and dining complex.

Among the notables here is an unnamed presence, Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century British preacher and evangelist. Midwestern recently acquired much of Spurgeon’s personal library collection and has converted the former chapel space to house it. There’s a lot of informal conversation about Spurgeon. Most attenders take the tour.

But amid obvious historical footings and with the insight of SBC heads, the subject is the future. At 38, fresh in his seminary presidency, Allen draws experienced leaders and thinkers to look forward—and tell us what they see.

Who are we now?

Many questions about Baptist identity seem to have been answered in the past 30 years. Starting with the Conservative Resurgence in 1979, Southern Baptists have affirmed biblical inerrancy and ended a lean toward mainline Protestant liberalism. That shift also ended whatever tendency Southern Baptists would have had toward cultural accommodation. We aren’t mainline or mainstream, and as the culture moves farther left, we don’t want to be.

We know who we aren’t, but who are we?

The more recent issue for Southern Baptists is that of Reformed theology: Just how Calvinistic are we. Trinity University President David Dockery calls Southern Baptists “modified Calvinists” because we are not consistent in all five points.

Three of our seminaries are more strongly Reformed, products and by-products of Al Mohler’s 22-year presidency at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. At this conference, only Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was clearly not Calvinist. He raised the issue of evangelistic zeal, and questioned whether the growth of Calvinist adherents will cool the baptismal waters further.

“Evangelism will have to be reestablished as the majority of the Great Commission,” Patterson said. He criticized church planting that does not produce new believers. Talking about the gospel is as far removed from effective witnessing as talking about race cars is from driving in NASCAR, Patterson said in a pithy list of analogies.

The more current “ecclesial crisis” is that of regenerate church membership. In the quest to reach seekers and postmoderns and millennials, church membership has been devalued, and more specifically, the certainty that people who join our churches are in fact believers in Christ as evidenced by baptism.

The SagesConfessional conviction

Will Southern Baptists embrace an identity that is more theological than tribal?” Mohler asked in his list of “10 unavoidable questions.”

The sages are almost uniform in their desire for Southern Baptists to have stronger theology and firmer confessional expressions of those beliefs. Too many people are members of SBC churches because it’s the family church, their friends go there, or they like the music—not because they hold strongly to the church’s theology.

Not to devalue our “tribal identity,” Mohler said, but “the tribe is not enough.” Tribalism—this informal gathering based on traditions and relationships—will give way to cultural accommodation, he warned, whereas confessional conviction will give believers (and thereby the denomination) theological moorings to withstand societal pressures to surrender to sexual redefinitions and moral decline.

Mohler asked whether today’s generation will “summon the courage” to face these issues which will require of them vigilance.

The current era is one of warm evangelicalism whose backbone is softening, to summarize several speakers. That makes this “the Baptist moment” according to Mohler. Among evangelicals, Baptists are best positioned to give the issues of “late modernity” a solid biblical, theological response.

Generational handoff

The discussion among panelists on “passing the baton” was playful at points with elder Patterson describing youthful Allen as “a man not yet dry behind the ears.” At another time Patterson, turning, 73 this month, commented, “I came on the scene right after Polycarp was martyred.” (That’s 155 A.D.) In these moments, it’s clear the baton is passing.

Mohler framed the handoff this way: “We have to ensure that there is healthy, courageous generational transition” in such a way that there is a Southern Baptist Convention in the future.

For Dockery, the handoff is more than from one generation to the next. It must be intergenerational. “Most Southern Baptists (and most Americans) do not find our identity in generations; our identity is in Christ.” Dockery says the handoff is also international and global, given the growth of evangelicalism in Africa and Asia.

Collaborative ministry

In a time when there is much discussion about “cooperation” as a denominational distinctive, SBC Executive Committee CEO Frank Page injected a new term, one that may have more weight with Millennials. “Collaborative ministry is biblical,” Page said. And for a generation accustomed to frequent electronic communication on every aspect of daily life, “collaborative” may be an easier sell than “cooperative.”

Cooperation indicates compliance with a mindset and participation in a program, whereas collaboration implies partnership and full participation by all parties involved.

As a denomination comprised mostly of smaller congregations, collaborative ministry “gives everyone a seat at the table,” Page said, including the SBC’s over 10,000 ethnic churches. But there’s education to be done. And it’s not only younger leaders who need the crash course. “We find there is a lack of understanding among ethnic churches of collaborative missions,” Page said.

But it was Dockery who pointed out that while the SBC has made strides in righting the sin of prejudice (the “one stain” on our record, he said), greater effort is required to bring minorities into leadership.

What about associations?

“This is no time to fly solo in the culture,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd said, “and no time for a church to fly alone.” Floyd’s presentation had the same listy character of the other speeches, but as a pastor, his list was most practical.

Floyd in particular called for a reduction in duplication (“and triplication”) of ministries and services by local, state, and national entities.

Larger state conventions, especially in the South, often offer their own versions of education, missions, and church planting; but since the implementation of the Great Commission Resurgence five years ago, those conventions have shifted funds to the national SBC in an effort to more effectively share the gospel in “new work” or frontier areas. And state convention staffs have been reduced by one-third, from 1,750 nationally to 1,350.

Making the denomination leaner is part of the thrust toward more effective collaboration. Floyd raised the issue of mergers, naming the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board as one possibility.

Local associations are another example where “regionalization” may make the SBC more effective. It’s a question that should be answered “honestly and boldly,” Floyd said, rather than trying to “preserve our old wineskins.”

“How can we leverage where we are and what we have and who we are to reach forward in a unprecedented manner” to advance the gospel?

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist. Read the latest issue online.