The locus classicus impetus for global gospelizing is found in Matthew's record of Jesus' departing words: >>>
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20).
While some within the English Particular Baptists interpreted this passage as having already been fulfilled in the first century, to my knowledge, no single person or group of any influence in our Southern Baptist heritage has, to date, questioned our present role in fulfilling this mandate until Jesus returns. That is, it stands, without vote, without debate, without discussion, our absolute, undeniable obligation to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. Whoever he (or she) is among us who has a problem with this, may he stand up and say so or forever hold his peace.
For me, it's interesting that, as we observed in Part I, our collective conscience as Southern Baptists has possessed a razor sharp edge when it comes to slicing world missions. Even during and after excruciating battles over biblical higher criticism, evolution, Freudian psychology, Old Liberalism, ethical relativism, Neo-orthodoxy and Inerrancy--not to mention our "family" issues of Landmarkism, Calvinism, and now, ecumenism and emergentism--Southern Baptists kept pounding gospel proliferation throughout the world.
In June, 1976 at Norfolk, Virginia, well before the Conservative Resurgence possessed fuel enough to launch, the convention still lived off the assumption that world evangelism was what we, as Southern Baptists, do--evangelize. The resolution read in part:
"WHEREAS, The Foreign Mission Board and the Home Mission Board have projected Bold Mission challenges through the years to 2000 A.D., and WHEREAS, The National Seminar on Support of Missions made in-depth findings and recommendations for Bold Mission support in Baptist life...therefore...a task force... be appointed...to assist in developing "aggressive, sacrificial, and bold promotional programs indispensable to this undertaking."
Even when Southern Baptists had decidedly lost their historic identity, was on a track toward fully embracing Liberal theology, still they had not yet forfeited the Lord's mandate to go into all the world with the Gospel (That does not mean, however, that, given the theological patterns set in place, the biblical commission to evangelize would not finally have been squeezed out).
Even more, when the Conservative Resurgence was finally taken seriously by the still reigning Moderate/Liberals in the convention, the Southern Baptist Convention meeting at Kansas City in 1984 managed once again to lay aside their weapons to honor our Lord's mandate to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel:
WHEREAS, We Southern Baptists declare the primacy of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; and...
WHEREAS, Hugh populations, both in developing nations and in affluent nations, do not live life with joy, and many lack basic human survival needs while others discover no guarantee of happiness or security in material possessions; and
WHEREAS, Despite the fact that Christianity is the first religion with a world presence, great numbers in every nation remain strangers to the forgiveness of sins found solely in Christ Jesus and are spiritually lost and doomed; and...
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists in 1976 adopted a missions challenge to carry the gospel of Christ before the end of this century to every person on earth...
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, That we, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Kansas City, June 12-14, 1984, call our churches afresh to make known to all nations by every sound means the justice and justification of God, to witness to new spiritual and moral life available in Christ whose kingdom is invincible...and...
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we call our churches to vigorous participation and cooperation and support of the Bold Mission Thrust; and...
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That we dedicate ourselves to the divine mandate to carry the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, and to pray and work for fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Other resolutions could be added. In fact, when the Conservative Resurgence had so saturated the boards and agencies that, for all practical purposes, the "war" was won and the Moderates/Liberals surrendered, another resolution was passed on world evangelism in 1995 (compare also 1996, 1999, 2000, 2005). Southern Baptists do not seem to have forgotten our Lord's mandate to gospelize the globe.
It seems, then, the larger question is, since Southern Baptists have not possessed a problem with propagating the globe with the Good News, what are we to make of the language of "The Great Commission Resurgence"?
Understand once again: it is not that Southern Baptists, as a convention of voluntarily cooperating churches, have lived up to their obligation's fullest potential in evangelizing, any more than a single, individual believer lives up to his or her fullest potential in evangelizing. Under God, I wish I could confidently assert with the Apostle Paul, no man's blood rests on my hands. God have mercy on us all! Nonetheless, the words of our Lord about sharing the Good News I've embraced is never far from heart and mind.
First and foremost, it seems to me, we should gladly welcome the language of the "The Great Commission Resurgence" as an oft repeated reminder about what we do as Southern Baptists (Indeed, as all believers!)--we follow our Lord's mandate: Go and tell. If this is what our brothers and sisters are saying to us when they speak of "The Great Commission Resurgence," who could possibly object to such a vital exhortation? As we have seen, Southern Baptists have no lack of such worthy exhortations during her entire history. Let us welcome it and grieve if we do not heed it.
Secondly, we should take this language of "The Great Commission Resurgence" as biblical mandate not as Baptist movement. Some are indeed calling 'The Great Commission Resurgence" a movement within the Southern Baptist Convention.
Frankly, this just seems so strange to me. First, as we have seen, Southern Baptists have, from their inception, been on the cutting edge of world evangelism. How this is interpreted as a "movement" in light of such is interesting to say the least. Secondly, just because a few Internet bloggers have written about "The Great Commission Resurgence," by no reasonable stretch should validate such as a "movement."
Over the last year, I wrote a few posts on our historic Baptist identity, while perhaps three other bloggers did the same. All of a sudden, we--that is, the three other bloggers and myself constituted the "Baptist Identity Movement." Such elementary, premature conclusions are hard to accept coming from thinking people.
It's been said that Dr. Danny Akin apparently coined the phrase "The Great Commission Resurgence" in November, 2007, and, since he coined it, we must look to him for an interpretation of it (note the comment thread here). I find this odd for two reasons (not, of course, that Dr. Akin could not coin a phrase). First, just because someone originally employed a term or phrase in a certain way does not necessarily mean that that is how the term or phrase is being used by the masses of people.
Secondly, I'm not no sure Dr. Akin coined the phrase. Last summer, when the old Duren SBC Outpost was being handed off to the new set of writers, several men in the upper echelon of Southern Baptist denominational life offered PR blurbs for the site. Among them was Dr. Thom Rainer. After only a matter of days, when it was clear that SBC Outpost was focused on taking down Dr. Paige Patterson, a number of the men whose support had been solicited balked. One of those men was Dr. Rainer.
In his editorial at Lifeway posted on August 17, 2007, as he explained his heart pertaining to more civil discourse, exhorting all Southern Baptists to love one another and instead of focusing on the negative, focus on positively winning people to Christ, he wrote these words:
"My passionate desire is to be a bridge builder in the Southern Baptist Convention. Not to compromise biblically. Not to be soft in my theology. I desire true collaboration with those of uncompromising biblical certitude to reach a lost world with the gospel of our Savior. My prayer is that the conservative resurgence will now grow into a Great Commission resurgence." (underlining mine).
If "The Great Commission Resurgence" is "Not to compromise biblically. Not to be soft in [our] theology" but the simple desire for a "true collaboration with those of uncompromising biblical certitude to reach a lost world with the gospel of our Savior," how more biblical could one be? How more pleasing to our Lord if that is the heart of the "Great Commission resurgence" as Dr. Rainer pointed out, even before Dr. Akin employed the term?
Finally, the language of "The Great Commission Resurgence" should not be seen as an attempt to re-explore the Gospel, or should I say, rediscover the Gospel. Unfortunately, there are those among us who continue to dance to the tune of a drumbeat that somehow suggests Southern Baptists have lost the Gospel and must, at all costs, recover it. More times than not, this song is sung from our Founders' brothers. "We've lost the Gospel," they contend.
Some time ago, Tom Nettles spanked all Georgia Baptists for forsaking the faith of their forefathers. In a letter to the editor in which wanted to correct the record about the Doctrines of Grace, he concluded: "It seems to me that the burden of evidence shows that the non-Calvinist has departed from the faith of Georgia Baptists." What is the faith we allegedly forsook? Calvinism.
Tom Ascol writes: "For the last several years I have been expressing my growing concern that, in many ways and in many places, evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular have lost the Gospel." These quotes could be compounded.
From my view, if "The Great Commission Resurgence" translates into recovering the Gospel, which, from the Calvinist perspective, is equitable to the Doctrines of Grace, let me be crystal clear: I stand without reservation against any such resurgence.
My greater concern is, that "The Calvinist Resurgence" which definitively is a Baptist movement--alive and well, as most everyone agrees--will morph into "The Great Commission Resurgence," taking over the language and sentiment all Southern Baptists possess toward the biblical mandate we all embrace. If this takes place, Southern Baptists will once again be focused more on clarifying who they are theologically rather than what they do evangelistically.
Maranatha. Come Lord, Jesus.
With that, I am...