Monday, February 26, 2007

If THIS Isn't a Wake-Up Call.........

I don't know what is.

Earlier this morning, I was Yahoo-Messengering with my 23-year-old Jamaican friend of 15 years, Keri-Ann Bethune. You can read about her here. She happened to mention that they'd just finished the Assembly of the Jamaica Baptist Union this past weekend. We chatted briefly about it and I asked her where it was held. She said in their National Arena.

Now, Jamaica is a country of something like 5,000,000 folks, so I figured the National Arena was reasonably large, so I asked her about how many folks were in attendance. She immediately snagged the Moderator of the Assembly online (she knows him) and asked him. He said "10,000, give or take a thousand". Since the number of messengers I heard for the SBC Convention in Greensboro was 9,000, I figured I'd try and learn me some other numbers. Boy, was I impressed.

According to the JBU Website, their "Convention" has 302 Member Churches (with 107 ministers), and 40,000 communicant members. The last I heard, the SBC had 41,000 churches and 16,000,000 members. Well, I think I will show some integrity here say we really have only 7,000,000 (with all due respect to the soundly-rebuffed "Integrity in Membership" Resolution that was laughed into oblivion in Greensboro).

Hmmm ... let me understand this thing ... the SBC has as many CHURCHES as the JBU has MEMBERS, and they have as many messengers show up at their annual meeting as the SBC?

What's wrong with that picture? I'm not sure I know, but whatever it is, it's really, REALLY wrong.

Maybe it has something to do with some stuff I see in scripture. Take, for instance:

Proverbs 24:32-34: I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (NIV)

I wonder if that might apply to spiritual matters, too. If it does, it'd make sense, in light of what's going on in Jamaica. Their society is riddled with crime. Almost everyone there knows someone who was murdered. In 2004, the murder rate was 32 per 100,000 population which would equate to 1,600 country-wide. Further, as I recall, it was worse last year.

I read the onine edition of the Jamaica Gleaner, and many is the Monday I've seen that there were a dozen and sometimes two dozen murders in Kingston and Spanish Town over one weekend! People there have reason to fear. The church can hardly afford to be asleep at the switch.

Then, there's the economy. Red Hills Church is a good example. We jumped in with a mission trip in 1992, when they were just starting their new education wing. It was probably 30X50 and two stories, and it took them until the fall of 2006 to finish it. With inflation normally in double digits, they cannot afford to borrow money to build the building, and their annual budget is about what ours is in a typical week. They face financial hardship, all the time.

When you add soaring crime and money problems all the time, you are neither at ease in Zion, nor secure financially, save for dependence on Jesus.

Amos said this:

Amos 6:1: Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! (NIV)

Is the SBC complacent in Zion? Do we feel secure on Mount Samaria? If we were, where would it show?

Are we like Nineveh, which was having a swell time just short of destruction until the people got the message and repented; it was only after that, that the king got the message and repented, too.

If the SBC is ever to get beyond lying about numbers, treating people unfairly, ignoring candidates' calling, spending God's money on things it should NEVER be spent on ... if that's ever to happen, where will it start?

I'm tempted to move to the seashore and start prowling for big fishes barfing up stuff on the beach. I think it's time for Jonah to put in an appearance.

9 Comments:

At 6:12 PM, March 04, 2007, Anonymous Lee said...

I'm not sure the SBC, as an organization, is completely at fault regarding the numbers thing. After all, what the denomination reports as total membership is only what the churches turn in on their annual church letter. Technically, at least, we are all pretty much responsible for that. I've actually succeeded, in two church staff positions, at getting the church to make an effort to be better at keeping its membership roll by suggesting we drop everyone on it with a birthdate from more than a hundred years ago, or numbers for which we had no actual name. We subtracted 500 names from a church roll of 1,100 with a high worship attendance of 250. That was a start.

As to the other things, I think the problem there is that we have become too large, and too self-confident. There is too much power concentrated in the hands of too few people, and it has created trustee boards with a double layer of loyalty, to the point where the majority of those who have their position owe it to those in power, so there is no accountability.

But I think we have some bloggers who have called the trustees and executives to account, and at least enough of a segment of Southern Baptists to the convention, and there appears to be a will and a way to do something about it. I sure hope so. I still believe in the Cooperative Program. The majority of people in my church, including those who make the decisions regarding the stewardship of our tithes and offerings, are seeing what is happening and are at least beginning to believe the CP may not be the best use of our mission money. I'd like to be able to see some things happen that will restore their confidence in it.

Great post. Your heart for the work in Jamaica is very evident.

 
At 6:32 PM, March 04, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

I think that assigning responsibility for the fact that half or more of our membership is missing in inaction is about like deciding which wing on an airplane is responsible for its flying. The churches and the organizations together created the atmosphere in which this sort of thing is ok. Encouraged, even, since numbers do count, regardless of denials.

WRT Jamaica, they had 25% of their members there. We had less than 25% of our churches. who even had a messenger at the convention.

I agree with your 2nd paragraph completely.

Interesting point about the CP. Our church has a real heart for the Red Hills Church, and I wonder why it is that the SBC / IMB hasn't figured ou tthat it ought to be a channel for fulfilling the local churches' dreams, rather than trying to induce the local churches to be burdened about what the IMB wants to do. Personally, I have heard more than enough about missionaries who died 100 years ago.

Thanks for commenting, Lee. I hope this finds you well.

 
At 11:42 AM, March 06, 2007, Blogger G. Alford said...

Bob,

Part of the problem is that the “powers that be” in the SBC do not want every church to participate in the annual convention… if every church sent their messengers they just might not be able to control the outcome so easily.

I have been asking for some time now why we must spend $1,000’s of dollars to send messengers to the convention in order to be represented and have our voice heard (to vote)?… They certainly allow our churches to mail in our CP dollars, but do you think they will allow us to vote by mail… NO WAY!

I bet if someone suggested the CP dollars must be hand delivered at the convention they would think you absurd…

You said only 1/4th of the SBC churches are represented at any given convention… so that means the 3/4th of our SBC churches (mostly small churches) are never having their voice heard… I don’t think this is the churches fault when you have what is an essentially a poll tax of $1,000’s of dollars imposed by the SBC just to vote…

Grace to all,

 
At 12:12 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Greg:

First, I was being kind. There were about 9,000 messengers signed up last year, here. At that, many came from churches with several messengers (ours had 8).

Second, I've always figured God pays for what He wants done, and if the local guys see themselves as a part of the organization, which they are, then God'll provide the way for them to attend.

When I was a deacon, folks used to say "Well, I'd have come to the business meeting if I'd known anything important was going to go on". That always set me off as all the business of the organization is important, as our current status reveals.

Anyway, soap box returned to closet. Thanks for commenting.

 
At 12:28 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Bill Scott said...

Bob,
I must admit that I read your comments regularly on Wade's blog. I always find them insightful and thoughtfully worded. I haven't ever looked at you blog though!

I agree that the contrast is shocking to say the least. I do believe that there are other examples to be found in the developing world of a fervency that is not to be found here in the USA.

I was shocked a few years back to hear that churches in Brazil and other countries around the world are sending missionaries to the USA! I guess that really does show that missions begins at home.

As to what to do - I don't know that there is any one easy answer. America is headed for another "attention getter." Jonah was able to fortell of an impending judgement and that was enough to bring repentance. I really feel that we are beyond the warning stage. I fear that America won't be awakened until the bed in which we slumber is shaken.

Serious involvement will only occur when we take our committments seriously. If we don't have committment then I guess we need to examine our faith.

 
At 1:07 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Bill. Thanks for looking in and commenting.

Just think about one of the reasons for shooting down the "Integrity in Membership" resolution at the SBC last year. They said all those "invisible members" are good prospects! They were admitting that we're only half here, and that means churches are a mix of (at the very best) half hot and half cold. And you know what that produces.

Like I said, they don't even seem to realize.

Anyhoo, thanks for the kind words.

 
At 2:55 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Greg. I certainly understand.

As I said when I spoke to the EC's resolution, and the proposed amendment to the motion, to inlude a suggested 10% amount, nobody outside the local church can tell the local body where that money should be used. I'm all for the CP, but that's God's money that the church has and they must hear from God where to spend it.

I do know that what we've always done has produced what we have now. If we're to expect anything different in the future, something's gotta change.

I appreciate your comments. Please do come back.

 
At 9:46 PM, March 15, 2007, Blogger GuyMuse said...

I absolutely loved this post! LOL!

It just goes to show that for all our talk about our might and power as a denomination, there is a quiet revolution going on with the shifting of Christianity moving South. I firmly believe in ten years, the center of Christianity will be in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Missionaries from these countries will be sent to the USA to try and convert the "heathern".

It is indeed a "Wake-Up Call"!

 
At 10:30 PM, March 15, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Guy: Thanks for commenting. You may well be right, too!

We have a team in Ecuador even as we speak. They're with E3 Partners and you can see what they're doing here.

Funny thing: I get a lot of hits on this site but very few comments. I wonder if I'm inscrutable, confuse people, or just intimidate folks. I don't think it's the latter, as that's tough to do in a pink hat.

Anyway, thanks for commenting.

 

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