Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Some Twisted Reasons For Doing Some Stuff

I'm not at all sure that anybody's going to weep and wail that I don't show up at the SBC Annual Meeting this year, but my pastor and a couple of others have made a deal over it, so I thought I'd explain myself a little. Which will take some doing.

I was a very shy and insecure kid. Low expectations, low opinion of myself, last kid chosen for baseball, unpopular with girls, and the grammar school class brain. A psychologist described it, years later, as the "Fat Boy Complex".

OK, hold that thought.

As a young adult, I read a story in Readers Digest explaining the fact that, the larger the crowd, the less likely it is that anyone will speak up; will take action. When I read that, in the early 1960's, I recall deciding that, since I now knew that, I could no longer be the one to sit and "let Joe do it".

Fast forward to the SBC Convention, 2006, in Greensboro. There was a recommendation on the floor (please filter all this through the fact that I have a lousy memory and also that my presence at the convention was intimidating to me) to encourage churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving. The Executive Committee had introduced an amendment to insert "10% of undesignated offerings" as the suggested amount each church should give.

That amendment was argued back and forth on seemingly pragmatic grounds, and God just really raised my hackles about that .. I mean, Pastors say when you give your money to the church, that's giving it to GOD, and it then is GOD'S MONEY. And the pastor is under tremendous responsibility to see that the local church is a good steward of GOD'S MONEY. How on earth can ANYBODY .. like the EC .. tell them how much to spend where?

Well, my shyness urged me to keep my seat, but something inside me stirred up my nerves and I said to Peg "I'm going to have to speak to this". So I got up and went to a microphone, the first time EVER for something like that, and told the convention what I thought. Nervously.

I don't recall much, but I do recall mentioning its being God's money, and also that GOD was their source of supply, NOT the local churches. If they wanted more money than God was providing, they needed to talk to HIM about that and oh, by the way, since God pays for what He wants done, they'd best look at what they were doing, too, as that was the real key.

I recall a real feeling of exhaustion, but I was refreshed by the kind words of other messengers who said I'd done a Good Thing up there at the mike.

Later, when Wade Burleson made his motion asking the SBC itself to address some things like packing of Boards of Trustees, and the prohibition of speaking in tongues with reference to missionary candidates, I just knew I had to speak up again. They'd referred the motion to the IMB to research and report a year later, which I figured was like asking the class bully if he's bullying people. And giving him a year to answer.

I thought of King Saul, and how he'd gone right on being king after God had withdrawn His Spirit, since he'd learned how to "be a king". And when IMB trustees voted to prohibit candidates to whom God has sovereignly given the gift of unknown tongues, they were on dangerous ground, indeed. I figured I'd best say something, and when I was standing, waiting to speak, Wade Burleson spoke ahead of me, agreeing with referring the issue to the IMB to investigate and report. Well, goodness me, I wondered, what am I doing up there to speak against the action of referring the motion, when Rev. Burleson himself was in favor of it?

It was right then that God spoke clearly to me, telling me "I haven't shown you what I have, so you can sit down and be quiet". So I told the folks just what I mentioned above. Nervously, I might add, as there are all these huge video screens with one's picture, in my line of sight.

I told them that if the SBC itself didn't address these issues, we'd be apt to come back a year later and find the Spirit had departed, and we'd just go on being a Convention, without Him, since we'd apparently "learned how".

As I look back, this has sort of been my tendency. To speak up when I figure nobody else will. I remember when Jimmy Swaggart "fell from grace", the heads of the Assemblies of God recommended a two year course of restoration for him and his church. Rather than submit to that, he took his church out of the AoG. So I wrote him a letter, telling him how unwise I thought it was to rebel against those in authority, and predicting that nothing good would come from his refusal to honor those in authority over him.

I went by he church some years later, and I was really, really glad I'd written that letter.

I once heard Lester Roloff give a rant on the radio, about what he thought was an incompetent airline clerk, and he used the term "Lord have mercy" in his "rant". I wrote him a letter, and said I knew the Lord had mercy, but asked him if Lester Roloff did.

He was killed not long after, in a plane crash. I was glad I'd written the letter.

Well, I've had my say in the SBC. Had a good time being about that work, too, and have loved fellowshipping with the guys at the Annual Meeting. But God has told me that is precisely the WRONG reason to attend. It's not about having a good time, having my say, getting quoted in the newspapers, or appearing on camera. It's not about hanging out with Neat Guys, and it's not about recognition. It's about serving God.

I'd hoped that the Task Force would finally see beyond that "Catch-22" of the SBC, and do some leading. In autonomous churches, pastors and leaders can be as lackadaisical in their approach to discipleship as membership preferences and budget pressures induce them to be. The fact that it took two tries (that I know of, personally) to get a resolution passed calling on churches to clean up their membership rolls, ought to tell you something. As should the fact that it took a motion from the floor to add in a clause calling for corporate repentance for (what Dr. Patterson described as) misleading ourselves and the public by claiming as members, people who had no real connection with our churches. And that amendment passed narrowly, telling me that pastors, in a too-large percentage, don't want to change their counting practices. And weren't sorry for saying they had all this many members when 2/3 of them have disappeared.

Apparently, they haven't repented or changed membership reporting practices..

This is the King's business we're about down here. The SBC acts as if it's theirs. Like .. if WE are not reaching a region, the region isn't being reached. If WE are not spending much money in an area, that area is being "under-served".

Alas, the Task Force, while it could have shown real substantive leadership, came forth with a report that suggested a few notable changes, but nothing that says to me they're doing much more than re-arranging the deck chairs.

So, anyway, God's instructions to Jeremiah, outlined in Chapter 7, verse 16, reached out and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck a couple weeks ago. Herewith ...

"So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.."

And I think back to what I said about what might happen, in Greensboro in 2006, and if I believed what I said then, I'm constrained to either go to Orlando and spectate, or stay away.

I choose the latter. And, according to Tom Parker's comment on my reasons for not going to Orlando, the few little things I've suggested didn't just go unnoticed.

When I was a kid, my family was acquainted with a neighbor family, who absolutely smothered their young son with attention and affection, did his homework for him, his dad even practiced trombone for him, just never let him grow up. He ended his military service in a jail and his dad had to go bail him out. All that time, my family said "isn't it awful....", but nobody ever said anything to them. I resolved, from that point on, that when we all knew somebody ought to say something, I didn't want to sit by and agree. I wanted to speak up.

I have, and now you know why.

1 Comments:

At 12:53 PM, March 12, 2010, Blogger Nathan said...

Bob, I'm pretty sure that I'll never attend an SBC convention (usually a little far here on the west coast). But I am glad you attended, and I'm glad Wade Burleson and Tom Ascol continue to attend and ask questions the establishment would rather not answer.

Inertia is defined as the tendency of a body to maintain its state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. Thank God some will obey and act as an external force in attemtping to reform the SBC. I know it can be an unpleasant job, but thanks to those who obey all the same.

Blessings, brother.

 

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