Monday, August 9, 2010

Will NAMB really do some things differently?

The headline of the Baptist Press story on the recent North American Mission Board's annual Summer Senior Leadership Meeting was, 'Do things differently,' NAMB's Harris urges.

Harris, of course, is the interim NAMB head, Richard Harris. BP:

Based on current budget commitments to state conventions, current Cooperative Program giving trends will leave NAMB with nothing for other ministry initiatives by 2020, Harris explained to his audience. "We've clearly got to do some things differently," he said.
Will NAMB really do some things differently? Who knows?

One cannot overlook the connection here between CP giving trends (uh, downward, downward, downward) and the incentive to do things differently. NAMB bears watching on this because of past meltdowns, staggering waste of our mission dollars, and endless foundering. I don't question the sincerity of NAMB leaders and trustees to change, and, sure, the adopted Great Commission Resurgence report had NAMB in its bullseye, but I cannot help thinking that Harris fingered the most pressing incentive for NAMB changing: declining funds.

Nothing shouts quite as loudly in SBC life as a declining bank account.

I admit to being the perpetual critic of mid-20th century, expensive institutional denominationalism but this meeting itself, billed as a gathering of “500 state leaders,” bears scrutiny. I suppose NAMB funds this along with the state conventions, at what cost in mission dollars? The problem with NAMBs "metrics" a term Harris used, is not the "500 state leaders." Whatever the cost of this confab, it is chump change in their overall budget; however, such things may represent old line thinking.

Good for whoever asked about NAMB selling their HQ building…

In response to a question whether the entity's building would be sold and staff re-deployed out in the field, Harris and NAMB's trustee chairman, Tim Dowdy, agreed "all options are on the table."

…but it will be a cold day in Gehenna when any SBC entity sells their pride and joy real estate. The Atlanta area office market isn’t so hot now anyhow but, decentralization or not, I don’t see NAMB taking this action. After all, important SBC leaders need impressive, important edifices. I’ll have to be made a believer on this one.

NAMB staffer Jerry Pipes…

...asked the state leaders to agree that in 2012, "we will reach 80 percent or 40,000 of our SBC churches. And we want to see 1 million people accept Christ and be baptized in 2012. Can we all agree on that?"

Well, Baptists like big, round numbers. Ask Bobby Welch who did the million baptism thing four years ago. NAMB staff and state leaders can certainly pick goals and agree on them, after which…what? But, I like the way Frank Page talks:

"Votes can be taken, councils and task forces can come forth with their recommendations," Page said. "What will we listen to? Task forces from Nashville? Convention directives? I challenge you to be men and women responding only to God's call. Your state, your association or your church will not see a revival of God's Holy Spirit because of some denominational directive. Hear the call, heed the command."

Decentralization and the Cooperative State Agreements?

Nothing concrete. I’d just like to lay eyes on one of these Cooperative Agreements. So far, I know they exist but nobody is willing to allow an ordinary SBCer to see it.

New NAMB leader?

Nope. Nothing yet. Richard Harris would be a safe choice, a known quantity. He has done a creditable job as interim...but what do I know?

1 comment:

Norm said...

William quoting Page: "What will we listen to? Task forces from Nashville? Convention directives? I challenge you to be men and women responding only to God's call....”

Norm: Translation: If it is something that I can agree with, then listen to the report; it is from God’s anointed. But if the report is not something I can agree with, then listen to God, instead.

When will this tired preacher-rhetoric cease? God works through people that more or less get it right, notwithstanding the unit of analysis being a committee or an individual. The point: it’s not that simple. Perhaps this time A, but next time B, perhaps this time neither A and B or perhaps both A and B, etc.. The problem with SBC decision-making is that it tends to be only either-or and stiffly tradition-bounded, both of which tend to stifle creativity and energy, thus denominational vitality.