Sad Days Among the SBC

June 11, 2015

Jerry Watts | Pastor
Hueytown Baptist Church, Hueytown, AL

After reading a ‘national blog’ (whatever that is), below was and is my response.  For me, these are sad days among Southern Baptists.  At a time when we need to expand our ‘cooperative spirit’, it seems the divisive nature of mankind is running rampant among us.  Grace.

I continue to read, with interest, the ongoing disrespect and disparaging which goes towards the State Conventions.  For me (no I am not a YOUNGER GEN person) it is indeed sad.  It is sad that we feel like we have to ‘tear down’ that part of the SBC structure which has built us up.  My experience only extends to the last 40 years, but in this time I have watched as the staff of state conventions have given unselfishly of their time and giftedness to extend and expand the Cooperative Program and thus, the Kingdom of God.  They have spent a great deal of time away from their families to assist the local church.  They have worked tirelessly to educate and inspire member churches to ‘cooperate’ (hmm, what a word) together for both ministry and mission.  These State Missionaries have been a resource for churches, small and large.  Many of these state missionaries received ‘pay cuts’ to assume these responsibilities which they felt ‘called to.’  And they approach their task at the state level with a sense of ‘divine call.’

Has some money (the Christian word, ‘resources’) been wasted along the way?  Surely it has, but I would submit ‘very little.’  But what church ministry has not done the same?   I submit that it is the State Conventions, given the task of promoting the CP, that have done a pretty good job.  Additionally, I know personally of two state conventions who now are operating at less than 50% of the personnel than they used to have.  Have they cut any of the services and help to the local churches? Probably, but more often than not, the answer is no.  Has their service became a life-saver for many churches?  I would answer ‘YES!’  So rather than ‘cutting the ministry to the local church’, the other staff is now attempting to assume the responsibility of 3, 4, or 5 people.  (Expecting a vicious attack to my words) I expect some will counter: “If they can do this, then the other people were not needed and this reduction of state missionaries is good.”  Problem is, our state missionaries are relegated to doing their jobs ‘okay’ instead of ‘well.’  Yet, the States and their Missionaries are still forging ahead with plans to help the local church because they know that the greatest mission field in the world today, is the USA.

This begins in what we affectionately call, “THE MAINLINE STATES.”  I live in one of those states and while the darkness pervades the culture, our state missionaries are ‘on point’ trying to assist their churches in being revitalized, reinvigorated, revived & on mission for our Lord.  The one thing which has not been said about the State Conventions is that they helped to build the ‘base of support’ so that there is a ‘larger pie’ of money to fund needed ministries and missions.  Let us not be surprised if, as we starve the states, the CP suffers more and more.  I have little interest in arguing the 60% or 50/50 or any of the rest BECAUSE, I trust those in leadership.  I am privileged to know close to a half-dozen of the State Execs personally.  Each one of these men is doing his best to make the best Kingdom use of God’s money given through the CP.  Each Exec is highly-aware that the organization he leads is funded by “God’s Money.” What a responsibility!

Sincerely, in my humble opinion (and sincerely, I mean all of my remarks in a humble way ), I tell a story to illustrate what I feel is happening among the SBC.

A farmer told his neighbor, “I’m going to wean my mule off of food.”  The neighbor express his doubts, but left the farmer to his plan.  Three months later they ran into each other at the feed store.  The neighbor said, “Well, did you get your mule weaned off food?”  The farmer said, “You know, I tried to do this gradually.  The first week I gave him half of what I had previously fed him.  The second week I halved it again.  The third week I did the same.  The fourth week I had him down to almost nothing & was so proud.”  “Yea and then,” asked the neighbor?  “Then that mule up and died on me.”

Killing State Conventions, I believe, will not strengthen the LMCO, Missions, or the CP.  On the converse, I believe it will ultimately kill the SBC.  It will not be quick or easy, rather it will be slow and painful.  THE IMB and NAMB may get a bigger slice of any pie that is left – but I deeply believe, it will be a very small pie.

 

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Jon Estes

A good read.

Though my experience with State Conventions is different than yours, I do see a positive for them being around.

I was not close to the Executive guys in the state I was previously in, maybe that is why I see it the way I do.

With all the good work they do and the good people they employ, I am not convinced that their presence helped the churches I pastored in any specific way. Seminars, meetings, mission getaways… may have their place but not all pastors can afford these things. Having to work with them on church planting through my association had me scratching my head. Lots of new rules (have to submit ministry schedule for funds to be released and be used for such ministry… unless you are a minority mission point. For them, moneys can be used to pay a stipend for a staff person (an example given).

Maybe I just happened to be in the right place as God has led but in such a place I did not have good vibes about the state level work. Not that we needed anything but we never were left off the list when asked for money.

One last point here – I do not know if or how many state staff have been let go or reduced in pay, or taken on extra work but I do know many churches who have faced the same thing and I am convinced that if the local church dies, the state convention really won’t be needed anyway.

Remember, I liked the state guys I got to know, good guys, every one of them.

Rick Patrick

Jerry,

You may indeed be a prophet. Historically, our associations came first in Baptist life, followed by our state conventions, our national convention, and our international missions work. This follows the biblical pattern of Acts 1:8 perfectly.

Today, as you noted, many voices claim our associational and state structures are no longer needed but are simply a drain on the missions pipeline. This deconstruction of our Southern Baptist organizational layers is unprecedented. We have no pilot program for this initiative. We do not know where it is headed.

I could not agree with you more that one day we may look back on this experiment and say, “Why did we ever try to kill the state conventions and the local associations? Why did we ever bite the hands that have fed us all these years? Why did we assume churches would remain loyal to national partnerships in the absence of strong local partnerships?”

If the Great Commission Resurgence doesn’t seem to be working, is it not appropriate for us to question the underlying assumptions that led to its creation? Thank you for your excellent essay. I join you in grieving the disrespect shown to state conventions and local associations during these days.

    William

    Rick, no one i know or have heard has called for killing either SCs or associations. Your state convention still gets 58% of every CP dollar. Can’t it make do with that? Associations get zero percent but almost all manage to stay intact. If your SC wants more let them convince churches of the value of such. Complaining about the GCR isn’t a plan for your state convention’s future and I don’t agree that it much of an explanation about the past, either. All multi-level institutional structures have had difficulty.

      Rick Patrick

      William,

      Granted, the term “kill” regarding the state conventions is hyperbole. But if a large megachurch in a state gives $0 through the state convention, you get the idea. They just don’t respect the role of the state conventions. They consider them “bloated bureaucracies.” Associations get zero from CP but most churches gave 2-3% historically, although many have dropped that percentage significantly today. Again, maybe they are not trying to “kill” the organization, but they are starving it of its historic funding levels.

      Regarding the GCR, I just don’t think we are experiencing one. No one really talks about it anymore. The stats don’t prove any real resurgence. We have slightly changed a few funding percentages in our formulas. I’m not sure these “new ways” of doing things are at all better than the “old ways.” Instead of making things better, they may be making things worse. I’m just about as sad as Jerry is about the SBC these days. I don’t believe we need a reformation. I believe we need a restoration.

volfan007

About 12 years ago, I had a DOM tell me that we would see either the local Association, or the State Conventions go away; disappear. He told me that there was really no need for both. And, his idea was that the local Associations could do everything that the State Conventions were doing, AND it would be more locally controlled. I thought that seemed like a far out, far away prediction. Maybe he was right? Maybe we’re seeing what he predicted 12 years ago?

David

Lydia

“Killing State Conventions, I believe, will not strengthen the LMCO, Missions, or the CP. On the converse, I believe it will ultimately kill the SBC. It will not be quick or easy, rather it will be slow and painful”

I agree with this for another reason. Any time something like this gets further away from the people and their money it is centralization. Centralization is giving a few people the power to make all sorts of decisions for the many. It just works that way because of the distance created. You need to be able to meet and know the people who are making the decisions about spending your money and do local things with pooled money. If anyone has proven the CP has a HUGE problem it is the mega churches who have been doing their own missions thing for years. .That is possible in a global economy like never before.

So, we appoint mega church pastors who only see the “beauty” of the CP when they become President of the CP. Strange how that works.

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