Haiti (plus Chrysler, Ford, GM, and the SBC)
The first really serious thing we did in the religious (I was too much of a neophyte to know folks are NOT fond of that word) arena was to go on what was called a "Witnessing Crusade" to Haiti, in 1970. It was a family crusade but our kids were too young, so we went back in 1974 with Brian and Brad in tow. The trips were eye-openers, and self-educators, on several fronts.
One front was the effects of not being able to see beyond the end of your nose.
In 1970, when we rode in a seemingly indestructible Bluebird School Bus owned by the OMS International mission there, we saw vast fields of sisal growing, full of weeds. Dave Graffenberger, the field manager, told us that had always been a big industry for the Haitians, but Dupont had invented nylon rope a few years before, and folks had long since quit buying their sisal to make rope. They were apparently a bit slow to react, down there.
In 1974, we took the same bus trip from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien, through the same fields, now overgrown and full of weeds. The sisal had died off and the fields were fallow. The only trouble was, there'd been an oil crisis in the interim, and sisal was now VERY much in demand, but the Haitians hadn't figured that out yet.
Even though it had been a couple years.
For the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, that was a real tragedy.
Now: there's only so much of that oil down there beneath our feet, and somebody once told me that when you're running out of something, the price is going up. So I figure that gas is going to get about as common as booze in a parsonage one of these days, and that automakers would probably notice this and prepare for it. Aside from an electric car "experiment" by GM ... they worked fine but they called them all in and shredded them ... and a 1960's stab at making small economical cars, it's been mostly the furriners that have figured out the deal and made small cars. And hybrids.
Oh, and in the meantime, Toyota passed Ford And Chrysler in sales in the USA. Right here. What's worse, they came over here, built plants, and made cars using American labor in the process. Hmmm .. I wonder if that's like an IMB missionary resigning and pursuing a different ministry under different auspices, and prospering. Hmmmm....
In the meantime, here sits Detroit ....
See, a lot of years ago I looked at Kia and Hyundai and projected an early demise. I was right, partially, except it was Plymouth and Oldsmobile that bit the dust, not the Korean brands. And now we have the American automobile industry, laying off people and bleeding billions, struggling to turn their ships around and adapt the products to what the people need and will buy, instead of the other way around.
Well, that leaves the SBC. We drop by their showrooms on Sunday morning ... often the only time they're selling their wares ... and see everything is OK. But we check the numbers and find the ghost of Ken Lay keeping the membership rolls, and we say all's well in the camp. And if we're really on top we look across the Pond and say gee, the going's real good over there, ignoring what's happening at the hands of others on foreign fields. See ... there's this excitement ... the expectation of the miraculous, among a lot of others, and I don't find much of that in the SBC and related entities. Sure, we can remember that it took a miracle to save ANY soul, but we don't see many miraculous healings, lame folks getting out of their wheelchairs, deaf-mute folks hearing & talking, or miraculous knowledge popping into SBC minds. And in the meantime, folks who DO believe in all that are seeing just that.
There was a line in the movie "A Family Thing" that has stuck with me for years. It's a long story, but the statement was this: "Happiness ain't nothing more than havin' something to look forward to". I wonder what we have to look forward to, in the SBC.
More of the same?
Continued or increased denigrating of certain gifts?
Continued declines in numbers?
Seminary Presidents continuing to defy the reporting requirements, and continued shaking of their fists at the convention as a whole?
Continued select individuals telling us what else Baptists can't do or have or believe?
Continued misrepresentation and misleading in numbers reporting (the sanctified lie)?
Continued indifference toward the topic of regenerate membership?
Continued dismissal of tenure track professors for gender issues? I've heard of ethnic cleansing. Is that gender cleansing?
There are plenty of good, solid universities and seminaries out there. There's plenty of good Sunday School material around. Ditto for researchers, independent mission boards, etc. So, while the SBC simply cannot exist without the local churches, the local churches can be as baptist as they want, they can teach Sunday School, send and/or support missionaries, and more, and do all that without the SBC.
I DO know that some local folks have decided they won't wait for the SBC to ... oh ... say ... LEAD in the matter of regenerate membership, and they've started adopting resolutions locally. I can't help wonder if the local church would be more or less excited about the future, were they plotting their own course and responding to God's call under the direct guidance of the Holy Ghost, without the involvement of the SBC. And whether they'd be more likely, or less likely, to believe God for all He's capable of doing in our midst, without the SBC.
One thing in all this that's troublesome is that, not only are we a tad short on the sort of stuff Paul & his cohorts saw in the NT times, but we now seem to denigrate those who do expect to see it. Who are the guys who DO see it. We won't even let our IMB folks cooperate with the folks who do (if what I hear is correct), and you'd better be careful what you expect God can still do or they won't let you teach in some places.
I think one of the key stories in this is Jesus taking only Peter, James and John to Jairus' place when He was sent for. Even after He got there, He chased all the skeptics away and wouldn't let anyone who didn't EXPECT a miracle to go in there and SEE one.
The same may be true today. I really feel that SBC'ers have lost our collective expectation of the miraculous. Or maybe we've been led to do that.
Note that I'm not in favor of a non-existent SBC. Not at all. I'm in favor of a believing one, an expectant one, and an excited one. But I've only been a Baptist for about 25 years, and I haven't seen one of them yet.