Southern Baptists are abuzz about a Great Commission Resurgence they hope will move the denomination past the infighting and toward proclaiming the Gospel and winning souls to Christ.
As falling baptism and membership numbers are beginning to become a trend in the Southern Baptist Convention, pastors, ministers, students and lay people are signing on to the Great Commission Resurgence (www.greatcommissionresurgence.com) to reverse the decline and return to what they feel is most important – being Christ's witnesses.
Since the release of the declaration on Monday, more than 1,200 Southern Baptists, including SBC president Johnny Hunt and R. Albert Mohler, Jr. of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have added their signatures.
"What unites us in this movement is not some naive notion that we are all the same or that we all agree on every doctrinal or practical issue that confronts us," wrote Tom Ascol, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., on his blog Thursday. "Rather, we agree that the gospel is central to any and every Christian effort and that we must not allow anything, no matter how good and noble it might be, to detract from proclamation of that gospel around the world."
The term "Great Commission Resurgence" began circulating in recent years as some Southern Baptists realized that the Conservative Resurgence from some 30 years ago failed to produce the mission renewal they anticipated.
"[A] Conservative Resurgence without a Great Commission Resurgence is an exercise in belief without action," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, in his blog.
Although the battle for the Bible and against liberalism was won, the promise that the resurgence would help the denomination get focused on the Great Commission has yet to be fulfilled, as Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointed out.
Akin believes, however, the time is now for a Great Commission Resurgence.
Last month, Akin introduced a manifesto outlining 12 axioms he felt would help move the SBC away from factionalizing and toward a missional resurgence.
"Southern Baptists today run the risk of being distracted from the main thing," he said in a sermon at SEBTS. "Many of the issues we are emphasizing and debating today are interesting but they're not the most important. They don't line up with the priorities we find in Holy Scripture."
"The result is this: we are fractured and we are factionalizing and we're confused having lost our spiritual compass," Akin said.
Noting that the denomination has been experiencing too much ineffectiveness in gospel ministry, Akin – along with other Southern Baptist leaders – has called for change.
And that change begins with Jesus.
A Great Commission Resurgence is contingent on committing to the total and absolute lordship of Jesus Christ and being gospel-centered in every endeavor, Akin laid out in his axioms.
Southern Baptists should be known as Jesus people, Akin stressed, rather than known for their traditions, legalisms, moralisms and "sourpuss attitudes."
He clarified that a Great Commission Resurgence is neither a moral reformation nor a revival of political activism. It is simply a call to proclaim the Gospel.
"Government legislation will not stop the moral plunge of our nation and the world but the Gospel will," he declared.
"Our hope is not in Republicans, or Democrats, it is not in Congress or Capitol Hill. Our hope is in Calvary's hill in a crucified and risen savior whose name is King Jesus."
Southern Baptists who sign the Great Commission Resurgence manifesto affirm a commitment to: Christ's Lordship, Gospel-centeredness, the Great Commandments, biblical inerrancy and sufficiency, a healthy confessional center, biblically healthy churches, sound biblical preaching, methodological diversity that is biblically informed, more effective convention structure, and distinctively Christian families.
The declaration will be presented at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in June in Louisville, Ky. According to Baptist Press, a task force will be appointed to study the document and make recommendations.
The call for a Great Commission Resurgence comes as baptisms in the denomination dipped for the fourth straight year in 2008, according to LifeWay's Annual Church Profile. Membership also declined for the second year in a row to a little over 16.2 million.