Great Commission Baptists

Posted on March 9, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

I was not surprised when the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, upon recommendation of a special task force, decided not to change the name of the denomination. This is an issue that emerges from time to time in the interest of re-branding and removing a provincial connotation to our identity. What was intriguing about the decision was permission for churches and entities to use an alternate “descriptor” of Great Commission Baptists.

That innovative twist was no surprise after three years of advocacy for a Great Commission resurgence to give higher priority to missions and evangelism in our denomination. While recognizing that “Southern Baptists” no longer defines a regional convention, it does represent churches who hold to sound biblical doctrine and evangelical faith. While that witness to who we are is important, in the eyes of outsiders Southern Baptists have come to be seen as narrow fundamentalists who are angry and divisive. In public and the media we are known for what we are against in the cultural wars than people who reflect love and grace that would attract people to the Lord we serve and worship.

While I have never been adverse to a name change, the greater need is to create a rebranding of our image. A different name is not going change people’s perceptions of who we are. In consideration of the alternate “descriptor” what does Great Commission Baptists communicate. We as insiders know what that means and sincerely would like for that to define who we are. But do outsiders understand the term? If they have any concept of “Great Commission” (not knowing Jesus Christ in a personal, born-again experience) do they not see it as churches who are committed to proselytizing and targeting others for conversion? That may be what we want to do, but it would not create a favorable impression in pioneer, unchurched areas of our country.

However, it is somewhat of an enigma to identify ourselves as “Great Commission Baptists” when so little is being done to “disciple the nations” as that mandate of our Lord tells us to do in Matthew 28:19-20. We are hardly Great Commission Baptists when less than 3% of the offerings of our churches are channeled into international missions and we can’t even support the missionaries who are being called out of our churches to evangelize the nations and peoples of the earth. Most of the resources of the denomination are distributed for the support of local associations, state convention programs and SBC entities at home rather than to fulfill our mission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Okay, so we rationalize and define “Great Commission” as whatever we do in witness and ministry, ignoring the fact that it is about reaching the nations. Is it not somewhat presumptuous to claim the identity as Great Commission Baptists when baptisms in our churches have been in decline for 30 years, and most of our reported baptisms of children in the church or members being re-baptized upon profession of faith, instead of those being evangelized and discipled from the world? Should 20% of our churches who never reach and baptize anyone year after year describe themselves as Great Commission Baptists because of their affiliation with a denomination which propagates a pretense of giving priority to missions and evangelism?

The idealism and vision is wonderful. Would to God that we truly were Great Commission Baptists, or in calling ourselves such that is what we become. However, it takes more than an identifying descriptor for it to be a reality. Calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t mean it has five legs; it is still a tail no matter what you call it.


4 Comments on “Great Commission Baptists”

  1. Iroh

    Wow! What a great read Dr. Rankin! Our goal should absolutely be to fulfill the Great Commission and not just say that’s who we are. Lip service means nothing to God. I have started to lead our church to be a Acts 1:8 church and have found opposition at every turn in our church. Some of our people view going overseas as a waste and that attitude disturbs me a lot. These people are deacons and other key leaders. They say the money and resources need to stay here at “home”. We have also began a process to partner with church planters in one of NAMBs Send cities. The same people could careless about that endeavor as well. It’s disheartening.

    This article lets me know that I am not the only one. Pray for us as we take the light of Christ to this people group overseas and this city in the US.

  2. Brian


  3. Marta

    Preach it! Well said.

    We need to stop playing church and become the church.

  4. Timmy

    Why is that so many in leadership positions, given the opportunity make excuse for the churches that are not using their baptism pools? I understand in a community of 100 you had baptzed 150 of them thru the years but be real many churches are in growing communities and people have no clue they exsist. We are diluting the Gospel! Got blog, Dr. Rankin!

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