Saturday, November 21, 2015


1) I'm getting old.

Now ... there are several other points I've come face-to-face with, in the recent past. In addition to the obvious thing of age ... I'm 77 ... there's also arthritis, titanium knees, and a host of other vagaries that come with advancing years.

But there's also another factor to consider. From 1975 to 1984, I traveled extensively, on business. The four corners of the country and lots of places in between. And regularly to London.

Plus, Peg and I traveled somewhere special every year, generally March 13th to 20th. The 13th is our anniversary and the 20th is her birthday, so that was a handy way to cover both with one trip.

We went to Cancun, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Jamaica, Germany, and probably some other places I've forgotten. When I add them up, I've been in 126 airports on 3 continents!

So .. the elephant I faced this last week was that I really don't want to travel, for pleasure. Which it isn't, any more, anyway. I came to this realization while at the Alabama Baptist State Convention's annual meeting, this year in Daphne. I decided this mainly because we had an ideal hotel, 3 minutes from the meeting site, and I still did not enjoy the trip one bit. Oh, I saw a few good friends, but they're mostly local and I can see them here in town, much more easily than I can, after traveling 200 miles.

I don't like travel any more, unless it is for a purpose. Such as being part of the State or National SBC, which I have done several times. But which brings me to the other point.

2) I've already said it.

But the SBC leadership won't face it. Their elephant is the failure of the churches, for the most part, to make disciples. Which happens to be ... hello .... the Great Commission.

I say that because, according to numbers published in The Alabama Baptist a few years ago, attendance in SBC churches, in the 6 big population areas of Alabama, is 33.28%. When you consider that attendance includes pre-schoolers, children who aren't counted as members, and other visitors, I think it's safe to assume that fewer than 3 out of 10 members are in church on any one Sunday.

Oh ... just by way of information, other reporting denominations' attendance is 53.97% of membership. Hmmm .... so much for the SBC's collectively being the "crown jewel of God's plan to evangelize the world." Which, yes I did, I heard someone say about the SBC.

Ask yourself what would happen, to your employer, if 3 out of 10 employees showed up for work, except maybe the days before holidays (so they could get holiday pay).

I have also asked Sunday School Teachers, Deacons, individually and in meetings, why you have to be baptized to join a Baptist church. No one, in 6 years, has ever given me the right answer!

I see absolutely no evidence, nationally, that our churches are effective at making disciples.

The IMB cutback raised a mighty uproar, mostly concerned with we ought to be ashamed. That churches ought to give more. But what I have heard no one, at any level, say is that God is our source of supply! 

And He still does pay for what He wants done!

Not only is God our financial source, but He also has supplied us with every person who has ever walked through our doors, down our aisles, into our baptistries, and onto our membership rolls. And I've already stated what we seem to be doing with them. 

Or not doing. And remember ... God sent them to us ... every one ... to make disciples!

I said as much from the floor of the Convention, when we were discussing the "alternate descriptor" ... "Great Commission Baptists".

I also said this, personally, to people in the highest levels of management within the SBC. Again, both Alabama and nationally.

Add it all up and I think the plain fact for me is that, unless something new arises, on some other front, which indicates to me that I should attend the conventions again, that my tour of duty in all things SBC, has come to an end. I want to concentrate the energies and ideas I do still have, on the mission field in which God has placed me. 

Right here at home.


At 5:30 PM, December 03, 2015, Blogger Unknown said...

Bob, you are correct. Making disciples is the church's first priority but our weakest link. I think perhaps part of the failure is because those who lead (conventions, seminaries, pastors, teachers) have themselves rarely or never been on the receiving end of discipleship. Maybe that's why your consistent plea for discipleship falls on deaf ears.

May God bless you in His ministry through your life. I and many others have been edified by your postings. And that is a good legacy.

Nathan Petty

At 12:47 PM, December 04, 2015, Blogger Lee said...

On occasion, I will find a topic on which I may not share your opinion. But on most things SBC, that's not the case. You've been the SBC blogosphere's most consistent voice on the subject of evangelism, or the lack of it, and on honesty in church membership. And you represent exactly the kind of person who should be in attendance at those conventions, not afraid to speak your mind, no personal interest or kingdom building project to protect, not worried what the folks back home might think or say. The leadership may not recognize it, but you will be missed.

I was fortunate enough to be a staff member at a church that wasn't afraid to make its membership tool an active, usable roll and a genuine measure of progress. Subtracting over 580 names from a 1,000 member roll got the attention of the local association. We used three criteria, removing those who responded to a letter and asked to be removed, those whose birthday was 100 years or more from the date we started (except the three who were still attending), and those who did not respond to the letter, and we got it back "address unknown," or who hadn't attended in the previous 5 year period. We got to a membership of about 450, which was more consistent with our average of 350 in worship each week, and included some inactives and some shut ins whose circumstances were known. Keeping up and making contact was relatively easy after that, and the church realized that if we were seeing a loss by death and transfer of 35 members annually, and we baptized 8 and saw 10 join from another congregation, the figure would go down instead of up. It didn't really change the mindset when it came to evangelism, but at least the numbers weren't lying.

Keep blogging. There are those in the SBC who know you, and might even listen to what you are saying.

At 4:04 PM, December 04, 2015, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

It's been a bit over a year, and I don't see any changes from Frank Page's or Thom Rainer's direction. Perhaps in the polity of the SBC, those who can't control won't lead. Or it takes longer than a year.

Either way, I've said it and now it's up to God to change what He wants to change.

Thanks for the kind words, Lee.


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