Sad Days Among the SBC

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.