Bringing the SBC Home (Local) A Unifying Proposal

March 16, 2018

By Will McRaney

In an age of modern connectivity technology, the national SBC still uses a single host location to gather each June to conduct the business and hear the will of 47,272 churches spread across North America. With participation, cooperation and support at low levels and a great need for human and financial resources for missions, has not the time come to develop a workable system to engage and hear the voices our faithful cooperative program investing churches many of which have never been to or cast a vote regarding their Convention?  Can we unite in support of engaging more churches, strengthening our SBC mission effort, and providing a castable ballot to every church which wants to participate, particularly the underserved small and mid-size churches of the SBC?

The Way of the World’s Fair?

Do you remember the famous World Fairs and the many buildings, gadgets and doohickeys they brought the world? 1893 Chicago – Edison, Electricity and Ferris Wheel, 1889 Paris – Eiffel Tower, 1962 Seattle – Space Needle, 1967 Montreal – the Biosphere.  The World’s Fair was once among the elite events that brought the members of the world together.  Yet, increasing opportunities, costs, travel, new delivery options along with emerging technologies all impacted both the World’s Fair and the SBC Annual Meeting.  The World’s Fair and the SBC Annual meeting share common challenges and striking parallels.  Countries, companies and denominations have new options for relaying their advances to the world and creating experiences and communities among its followers.  Countries are taking new approaches.

Subsequently, has the time come for the SBC to take appropriate new approaches in the way we engage churches, conduct business and communicate our historic cooperative values?  Should we rethink, be creative and design workable opportunities so that every church can engage with the SBC and vote, locally?  I believe so.

Voices and Voting: Only 5%

Voices and voting matters.  “Voting is an important part of any democratic society. It’s the main way to be included in your country’s government and make sure it best represents the people. The more people who vote, the more accurately our laws and lawmakers will reflect who we are and what we want.”  (How to Vote in Washington State)

The SBC benefits in numerous ways when its churches and individuals are informed and engaged with Southern Baptist cooperative efforts.  Every cooperating and contributing SBC church has the right to participate through voting on matters decided at the SBC every June.  However, during each of the last 5 years, less than 5% of SBC churches annually (2,230 in 2017) register a messenger for the Annual SBC.  Remarkably, the average number of registered messengers over the last five years is only 4.9 messengers per Association.  We can and must do better at engaging the owners of the SBC, if we value our cooperative mission efforts.

Framework Proposal to Increase Voices & Voting…

Empower the SBC Executive Committee to design a workable plan, guidelines, and necessary rules and by-laws changes to allow for the registration of messengers and real-time voting in at least one location in every Association.

Particulars to Bringing the SBC Home

  • Southern Baptists still maintain a host city model, while simultaneously dramatically increasing the voices and voters by offering more gathering places and voting sites for Messengers through local Associations.  Maintain current relevant requirements regarding the number of Messengers.
  • Insure live streaming, local credentialing of SBC messengers and the establishment of voting procedures in one or more locations per Association in coordination with the Associational Executive Director and the leadership team regarding the number and places.
  • State Conventions provide one or more locations for Messengers to gather and vote from at-large churches or in places where Associations are not able to do so.
  • Verbal discussions on motions could initially or permanently be limited to the one host city for the Annual SBC meeting
  • By motion of the SBC in 2018 in Dallas, authorize the Executive Committee to select a Task Force to discern the issues, explore options and also present a workable plan to be voted on by the messengers of the SBC in Birmingham in 2019. Request that the Executive Committee propose the necessary by-law changes to implement their proposed plan.
    • Executive Committee to study and plan during 2018-2019 and present a motion to the SBC messengers in Birmingham in June 2019. Implement the plan for the SBC in Orlando in 2020.  Make necessary adjustments in Orlando for full implementation for 2021 in Anaheim, CA.

I would expect there to be many seen and unseen benefits from engaging more SBC churches, pastors and members at the local level and providing them access to the SBC and voting privileges.  The following is an initial list of several expected benefits.

Benefits to Bringing the SBC Home

  1. Makes the national annual meeting truly national regardless of the national host location, instead of it being weighted regionally based on location.
  2. Reduces costs in time and money to participate in the SBC at the national level. The average church does not have the funds to send messengers to the SBC.
  3. Increases opportunities and ease of participation and voting for pastors and churches, particularly the small and mid-size churches which make up 96% of the SBC churches
  4. Allows voting matters to be decided by more people who represent our wide diversity of churches instead of the relatively high percentage of voters from large churches and/or those serving in denomination roles.

Additional Anticipated Benefits to Bringing the SBC Home

  1. Increased engagement will have a positive spillover impact on financial support and participation in other cooperative efforts nationally, regionally, and locally. (Average CP giving was 10.7% in 1982, but reduced in half to 5.1% in 2017)
  2. Provides an additional opportunity each year for Associations to highlight the ministry taking place in their local Associations and to enhance relationships and mission partnerships among the churches and leaders.
  3. Tangibly demonstrates the value of cooperation and the Cooperative Program, and the unique role and contribution of the various parts of the SBC ecosystem to churches of all sizes, whether established churches or church plants new to the SBC family. Provides a local opportunity to link the objectives from the local Association, to the State Conventions and to national entities.
  4. Increase number of informed SBC members, increase cooperative spirit in the churches and leaders and increase the likelihood of support for cooperative mission engagement.

Conclusion

This proposal will not make churches participate, invest, or partner, however, it rightly provides an accessible place and a voice via voting to virtually every church in the SBC that wants to actively participate in the SBC family.  Increasing engagement opportunities will not resolve all our challenges, but it does allow for greater participation.  While the SBC may have larger issues at hand, this seems to be a win-win opportunity that we can all get behind.

Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said, “all politics are local.”  His statement assumes local people have access to vote and the representatives are accountable to the voters.  It is time to make all SBC politics local (voting, mission strategy and tactics, decision making).  It is time to bring the SBC back home.

Toward a ‘By the Book’ and ‘From the Heart’ Kind of Evangelism

March 15, 2018

By: Dr. Matt Queen
Associate Professor of Evangelism and Associate Dean for Doctoral Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Theological Matters and is used by permission.

Seventeen years ago, David Beck, a New Testament and Greek professor at Southeastern Seminary, used his sabbatical to address his concern that “evangelism is often recognized as the heartbeat of the church, yet it is rarely the focus of serious research among biblical scholars.”[1] Upon his return, he gave a faculty lecture during a Southeastern chapel service on Nov. 6, 2002. He asked faculty and students: Continue reading

Living in the “Overload Zone”

March 14, 2018

By William F. Harrell
William F. Harrell Ministries

With all of the trouble we have in the world today, do you find that you function somewhere in the “overload” zone in your life?  In years gone by the public was not bombarded by all of the tragedies and troubles of the world on a moment by moment basis.  If something took place which was particularly troubling, most people would not find out about it until the event was at least two or three days old.  Of course, the closer it came to home, the quicker the news traveled, but most world news was what today’s media would term “old news” by the time we got it.  By then one would reason that since it was a few days old and since it had exerted no impact upon their lives that they were safe from it and therefore did not worry about it.  But today it is different.  News organizations such as CNN, FOX, MSNBC and the major networks make sure that everyone in the world has the ability to consume any and all types of news immediately.  If there is a bombing in Israel (something you can do nothing about) you know it before the smoke clears.  If there is a murder which is particularly gruesome, you know it before the blood stains dry.  If there is a natural disaster it is as if it is taking place in your own living room.  If there are starving children anywhere in the world, you are transported right into their midst.  And, the average person feels the frustration, pain and guilt of not being able to do anything about all of this. 

So, the question arises; just what is news to me and when is a happening turned into a production so that the news media can sell commercials and be the one who can claim that they were “the first to bring you the story.”  Personally, I feel that real news is anything that has a direct bearing on my life and the lives of my family members.  These are the things that I need to know about and news should be something you NEED to know not something that is mere information.  Furthermore, the real news is made up of bare facts minus all of the commentary that is espoused by so many of the news personalities today.  I believe that one reason so many people live with so much tension and frustration is that they are continually confronted with things they cannot control and can do nothing about.  Being the good people they are, and desiring to help people, they find themselves under undue stress because the news media has told them INFORMATION which is beyond their ability to affect in any way.  Just think about it this way.  The next time you view the news just ask these questions following each story: “Now, did I NEED to know that?”  “How does that affect me personally?”  If you cannot find a valid reason why you needed to be exposed to the information then it was not news to you, but simply INFORMATION.  Then, determine in yourself that you will not let those things which are hurled at you each evening stir you into fits of guilt and frustration because of your inability to do something about them.  Don’t let the information raise your blood pressure and cause fits of anxiety.

I recently told a person who was giving me material to read that I had so much I HAD to read that I didn’t have time to read some things I WANTED  to read.  I feel the same about the news and what is fed to us.  I spend so much time dealing with things I HAVE to deal with in ordinary life that I don’t have time to spend on things I can do nothing about.  But I want to share with you that I have discovered how to take the tension out of life and to live above the things going on around me.  The only person who has the answers to life is Jesus Christ.  When I committed my life to Him and He became my Savior, I found that His Spirit led me to believe everything He says in the Bible.   In Mt. 6:25 and following, Jesus talks about our trust in God and how we should not worry.  He says in verse 33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”  I believe in a Sovereign God who knows everything and who is in control of His universe.  He cannot be caught by surprise (because that would indicate that He thought something else was going to happen and therefore He is not omniscient), and you cannot disappoint Him (disappointment would indicate that he expected something else and was disappointed when it didn’t take place.)  This would indicate that He was not sovereign and could not control the events of life.  When I believe in a Sovereign God, I relieve myself from the frustration, worry, high blood pressure and tensions of life.  It makes life much sweeter.  It also helps one decide what really is important and how they should react to it.

So the next time things start pushing you into the “Overload Zone” just remember that it was never designed by God for you to live that way.  Also remember that He IS in control no matter what the circumstances are saying to you.  The God who is able to handle anything and everything did not intend for us to Live in the “Overload Zone”.

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