Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: The Disassembly of the SBC, the CP, Etc?

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Disassembly of the SBC, the CP, Etc?

I thought about listing the six Components and observing things about each, but decided against it. Instead, a modern-day parable followed by some conclusions.

First, another premise: God does not give us sway over the "Ends". He gives us the "Means", and He is solely responsible for the Ends. You know .. like some plant, some water, but God gives the increase?

Also, the GCRTF Report is all about numbers. It appears to me that the only way anybody knows whether they're doing the right things is by numbers.

That ought not to be. I am called, for instance, to teach. I don't teach so people will learn, so the Bible will impact their lives, so they'll be more faithful church members, or so people will like what they hear and keep coming back. I teach because God calls me to, and the results are completely up to Him. To relate the results to my methods is to take credit where I don't deserve it.

I knew of a missionary in a Mid-East nation who was there 7 years before anyone came to saving knowledge of Jesus. I didn't understand it then, but I do now. He was called to be there.

Another thought: the SBC seems to think that, if we're not working somewhere, nobody is. I know how many fewer SBC churches, compared to population, there are in Chicago or Indianapolis, than there are Birmingham or Atlanta. One might look at the numbers and say that the Northern cities are "under-reached", but that is simply not true. We do have churches there, and there are plenty of other churches, too. So the issue may be more "making baptists", than "making disciples" (which we don't seem all that good at, anyway).

I know of churches that phased out Sunday School in favor of small groups, along the perceived biblical model of meeting in people's homes, breaking bread together, things of that sort. I know of one such church that experienced drastic decreases in giving during the current economic downturn, and that caused me to wonder whether there was a connection. Could it be that moving certain church functions outside the church somehow dissociates the activity from the church? Might it be that participants feel less a part of the church, under those circumstances?

Which brings me to one recommendation of the GCRTF, that Southern Baptists "...celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving ..." (note they capitalized "Giving", which seems to make that a "thing" .. a "program") ... "that goes directly through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or a local association". WHY would we want to do THAT?

The two criteria for being an SBC church are "friendly cooperation" and contributing to the CP. And, we're told we're to trust the system .. the trustees of the various entities .. the cooperative nature of the Convention .. the congregational nature that's built-in .. and work through the channels, etc. But now we're supposed to condone a change in the Cooperative Program .. one of the two SBC fundamentals .. apparently because some churches and/or their leaders don't like the way the CP money is distributed.

To my knowledge, our CP setup is closer to uniqueness among denominations than is the BF&M. Our SS class did an extended study of the statements of faith of four different denominations (including the BF&M) and on most doctrinal points, the class couldn't tell which confession (say, about Jesus or about the Bible) was which. That leaves the CP as likely being the most distinctive thing about the SBC, and the changes recommended are liable to be its downfall.

Just as moving small groups out of the church may have contributed to drastic changes in at least one particular church.

I have to wonder if perhaps some key Task Force member(s) send the bulk of their "SBC causes money" somewhere besides the Cooperative Program.

Oh. Right.

Speaking of the CP, it seems to me the closest people to help the local church accomplish the Great Commission, is the State Association. Tell me how the proposed change in "Great Commission Giving" is going to help the funding of the State Conventions!

Component #2: NAMB may need to change its focus a bit, but "reinvent and release"? Perhaps .. but if they were to see their goal as helping the local church fulfill the Great Commission, including reaching the people groups the GCRTF seems to think they're not reaching now, wouldn't they be doing what they should? And that, with people groups right where the local churches and NAMB have people right now?

Component #3: I don't like this one at all. I don't see how that change, apparently calling for putting more people in the field right here, will do much more than fuel the speculation that the real aim is to consolidate IMB and NAMB. Does anyone else think that would have been a recommendation if there hadn't been such a flap about it?

As to the other recommendations, sending more money to foreign missions always seems a good thing. If it weren't that we're doing such a lousy job making disciples here at home.

I am reminded of restaurant health inspectors, who always seem to find something, fueling speculation that, if they don't, the boss will think they're not doing their job. Let's hope that's not the case with the GCRTF.

And that some of the things that seem obvious, aren't.


At 9:05 AM, March 02, 2010, Blogger John Notestein said...

Why do you think it is we SBC folks seem to equate success wih increased numbers (people, money, square footage of church buildings, numbers of missions eforts supported, etc)? I have wondered this for a long time. It sometimes feels like we are in the sales or marketing business, and that we have to survey the potential customer base as to what they want then turn around and 'sell' it to them. Manbe the ways of the world have crept into our view of God's plans and we are simply helping Him along. I for one believe in the power of God to effect the ends and try to let God use me however He wants. I too leave the results to Him and don't measure my success by numbers. If we continue to stress numbers, the church we create will be unrecongizable because we wont't see people, just numbers. Thanks for pointing that out.

At 9:23 AM, March 02, 2010, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks for the comment, John.

"Evangelization" is simple to do, easy to offer, cheap to obtain (for us), and quick to count. Discipleship is work, takes time, is difficult to assess if it's the results you are interested in, and usually has unpleasant elements (say, the conviction of the Holy Spirit as to elements in your life).

Do the math.

At 10:16 AM, March 05, 2010, Blogger Nathan said...

Bob, thanks for your comments on the GCRTF Report. I think your experience outside the SBC affords you a perspective which is needed by the SBC in particular.

For all the billions of dollars and millions of hours spent by thousands of SBC churches and agencies, the evidence of maturing, Spirit led believers doing the work of God is sorely lacking (me and my church included).

I am an accountant by training and experience. I know numbers and processes, but the Lord's Church has never been a "company" which will ultimately be reformed and inspired by better budgeting and management techniques.

I don't doubt the sincerity of the GCRTF Report authors, but I am concerned your more basic concerns have not been addressed. Indeed, perhaps they can only be addressed by the local church.

Thanks again.

At 11:19 AM, March 05, 2010, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thank you, Nathan, both for your comment, and its content.

That's the real self-imposed "catch-22" of the SBC. Discipleship of the believer in the local is the area that is most in need of help, and that's the area that the "greater SBC" will not deal with.

That accounts for a lot.

Thanks again.


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