Great Commission Baptists
The 2020 South Carolina Baptist Annual Meeting was held last week in Columbia, SC, with six in attendance from MCBC. In addition to voting on new officers for the state convention, five resolutions were overwhelmingly approved by the messengers to the convention, including one commending the name “Great Commission Baptists” as an alternative to the name “Southern Baptists.” (You can read this resolution on page 92 of the 2020 Book of Reports.)
I voted in favor of this resolution. Here’s why:
GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS IS A PREVIOUSLY APPROVED NAME
While some may have read the article on this matter recently published in the Greenville News, it’s likely that many from our church are unaware of this ongoing conversation within our convention of churches.
At the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in 2012, messengers from churches across the country voted to approve the use of Great Commission Baptists as an alternate descriptor that churches could choose. In short, SBC churches could choose to say they are “Great Commission Baptists” as opposed to “Southern Baptists.”
GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS IS A PRACTICAL NAME
While many of us who are in Greenville, SC may ask the question “Why change away from the name ‘Southern Baptist’?”, consider the same question from a different point of view. What if we were talking about a church located not in Greenville, South Carolina, but in Greenville, California, Greenville, Michigan, or Greenville, Maine? In terms of being contextual in ministry, the name “Great Commission Baptists” may fit better than a regional term such as “Southern Baptists” for churches that are not located in the south.
Every year, through the North American Mission Board, we are sending more and more church planters to areas across the United States and Canada that are in need of gospel-preaching, Bible-believing churches. We’ve come alongside one such church plant in Boston, Massachusetts. Not too many years before that, our church sent teams to Canada to help lay the groundwork for new churches in Calgary. For churches in such places, having the option of not using a regional name that does not describe their region of the country could be practically beneficial.
GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS IS A PURPOSEFUL NAME
As much stock as I put in the practical considerations of allowing churches to not use a regional name that does not describe their region, I put even more stock in the purposeful name Great Commission Baptists. It describes who we are, not just where we originated. It describes what we’re about, more than where we are.
One distinctive of Baptist churches has always been a focus on the mission given to us by Jesus Christ. Outgoing SCBC President Josh Powell said it well last week: “When we’re at our best, we’re laser focused on the Great Commission.” Over the years, every church, and every state convention, and even our national convention of churches have all, at times lost this focus on the Great Commission, but it is the compass point to which we return time and again. Being known as Great Commission Baptists would help us stay focused on who we are, what we value, and the mission given to us to make disciples of all nations, starting in our own neighborhoods.
GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS IS A POWERFUL NAME
Finally, I believe that Great Commission Baptists is a powerful name. While many of us know what that phrase “Great Commission” means, there are many who do not, and that is especially true for churches outside the Bible Belt who may be more likely to use this descriptor. Think of the conversations that could come as a result of someone hearing the name, “Great Commission Baptists”:
“What does that mean, Great Commission Baptists?”
“That’s not only the group of churches that we belong to, that’s also our focus. The ‘Great Commission’ was Jesus’s mission that he gave the church – to make his message known to the nations. Let me tell you about the message of Jesus Christ . . . “
It certainly won’t happen like that every time, but I do believe it could often be a springboard into greater conversations than a conversation about a convention name. It could springboard into conversations about the name that matters, the name of Jesus Christ, and his message to the nations.
WHO WE ARE
Mountain Creek Baptist Church pre-dates the Southern Baptist Convention by 21 years, but we are a Southern Baptist Church and we will continue to be known as a Southern Baptist Church. We love partnering with our convention of churches. We love the mission of our convention of churches. We love that we’re expanding and seeing new churches—and therefore, new followers of Jesus—across our nation, our continent, and even the world. We are Southern Baptists, and therefore we are Great Commission Baptists.
So we should celebrate. We should celebrate the success of the gospel moving forward. We should celebrate our partnership with other likeminded churches in our convention. As some of them choose to be known as Great Commission Baptists, while others, like our church, continue to be known as Southern Baptists, we stand together. In the words of the Great Commission Baptist resolution, may we “seek to recommit ourselves … to unite around the Great Commission in all efforts to reach our neighbors, our state, our nation, and the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.