Friday, June 17, 2016


Figured that might get your attention.

Did a bit of checking and found that the flag we see here was actually the flag of the Northern Virginia Army, and was used unofficially as the Confederate battle flag. There were several different versions as to number of stars, height/width ratios, etc, but nonetheless it's the one we usually visualize when the topic comes up.

Which it did, this week, at the SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis. Well, everybody else seems to be expressing an opinion on the Resolution decrying the display of the flag, so I might as well jump in, too.

Translation: haven't had much to write about, lately, so might as well pick up on this one.

Personally, I like the flag. But remember .. I was raised in Indiana, so I view it through the eyes of my childhood memories, associating the flag with the South, Dixie, The South Will Rise Again, and y'all. And I like all that.

Even the banjo on my knee.

OK. What are the reasons for displaying the flag, nowadays?



Uhhh .... tradition? I guess. I can't think of any other reason to fly the thing.

What are the reasons for NOT flying the flag. I can think of one, which is really sort of two. Namely, the flag was born of the Civil War, which was brought about by the practice of slavery. To one extent or another. And slavery is a historical fact, so why shy away from historical facts?

Because American slavery was racially based, and those in the Black Community might well be offended by celebrating that in any way.

Think of it. The Ku Klux Klan is a historical fact, but do we celebrate that by flying their flag? Or how about the American Communist Party? Or the American Nazi Party?

I've been to Germany a couple times. You don't see any Swastikas flapping in the breeze over there. In fact, there are "Documentation Centres" around the nation, displaying graphically and openly all the atrocities of the Wars and the Holocaust.


"That this may never happen again".

So, why the necessity to fly the Confederate flag? I guess I could make an argument for the same reason, but there's a bigger one to consider for us, as Christians (not just Baptists).

I said it a couple paragraphs ago. Some may be offended by it. And there's no "IF" about it, anyway. Rev. Dwight McKissic, who brought the Resolution before the meeting, has stated that he and his people do find it offends them. And just last week, a young black lady ... a member of FBC Pelham and a good friend ... happened into (a name God sometimes uses...) a restaurant where Peg and were having lunch. I invited her to sit with us, which she did, and knowing the resolution would come up this week, I asked her how she felt when she saw the Confederate flag (whatever you may call it).

She said she understood it, but still had some misgivings about it. Some troubling emotions.

Bingo! I told her that her feelings alone would be enough for me to never display the flag again (which I've never done, anyway).

1 Corinthians 8:9: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak."

OK then. Let's act like we believe that. And let's be open about it, so we know the world will see us and our transgression, should we violate our duty to act like we believe what we profess.

Maybe that's one reason some seem reluctant to jump on the "no fly bandwagon". The world will see, and the world will know.

Good. But that gives rise to a few other thoughts.

We firmly believe in the Great Commission ... to make disciples as we are going. And we get all proud when numbers are up, and duly chagrined when attendance or churches or baptisms are down.

Which they are, at present.

We pay a lot of attention to those numbers, and talk about them a lot. But some numbers I don't hear about much are attendance, and what the reveals when compared to membership. Last numbers I saw published in the Alabama Baptist showed that, in the 6 biggest areas of Alabama, attendance represented 33.28% of membership.

That means, on the average, 66.72% of our members aren't studying or worshiping on Sunday. And remember ... attendance includes infants, toddlers, children who aren't members, and visitors!

It's hard to say we're fulfilling the Great Commission when 2/3 or more of the people sent to us, by God, think it's OK not to be there. And they think that because it is. We haven't insisted on attendance, and we haven't disciplined non-attenders.

I have to ask which is more important. The flag, or making disciples?

The answer is neither. It's like asking which wing on an airplane is more important. So ... where's the attention on making disciples, or our lack thereof?

Let's not just settle for a win in what's obvious.


At 6:53 PM, July 28, 2016, Anonymous Lee said...

Several years ago, as a discipleship pastor, I led a traditional, inner city SBC church through a membership "house cleaning." We had a weekly average attendance of about 350, with a membership of 1,100. We started by eliminating everyone on the roll who had a birthdate that was 100 years old, or older, and that criterion deleted almost 300 inactive members. We then placed all names of members who hadn't attended in at least 5 years in a stack, and went to the expense of sending "return address requested" letters to ask if they still wanted to be members. A "no", or a returned envelope "no known address" removed an additional 300 members. It also produced about 10 or 12 people coming back to church who hadn't been for a while. We were still about 150 members above attendance, but about 75 of those were either shut ins, or just not regular attenders. You've kind of been a champion of honesty in membership numbers among SBC churches. How would you go about helping churches get to a point where the membership reflects real attendance, so that churches know where they need to go.

At 8:21 PM, July 28, 2016, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Appreciate the comment, Lee. And admire the work done at the former church.

We took a different tack when our new pastor came in March of 2015. After a few months, he introduced a program of visitation; he enlisted willing participants to actually go and visit every member of the church. Even the volunteers got a visit.

We were on the team and we were also visited. Our protocol was simply to visit. If someone said they weren't attending, we'd discuss what was going on, and how exciting it was. If they were attending somewhere else, we asked if they wanted their name on our membership roll (they all said no..).

I do not know the final outcome, as there are a few families yet to be visited. But I know we previously had about 3,100 members and in the first 4 weeks, we removed 600+ people. We finished all the families we'd been assigned so are kind of out of the loop. But I do know that we have had a bit over 300 new members join in the last 15 months and attendance is up about that much, so things are improving.

The baseline was 3,100 members and attendance in the mid-700 range (including infants, etc, and visitors). And one of the reasons I've hit the honest numbers thing is that our church gained members when we moved into our Big Red Brick Building on the Highway, in 2000, and our attendance immediately went to 1,000. Over 15 years, we plateaued and then declined to that 700 figure. If we don't admit the problem, we can't ever solve it. And I think FBC Pelham is doing that.

Thanks again for reading and the comment.


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