Thursday, April 14, 2011

How a Plodding Pastor looks at his SBC agency/institutional leaders

I’ll be honest, brethren, I don’t understand this business of submitting to authority in SBC life. We SBCers are notable for being unmanageable and recalcitrant. Sometimes we don’t even submit to Jesus’ authority over us but in no case has it ever been demanded of us that we submit to the authority of denominational employees.

Best I can tell, Jesus isn’t the CEO in any of our agencies and institutions and, forgive me, but I reject the ‘God’s man’ assertions also, else I have to conclude that God is an terrible judge of character and skills; however, I’m pretty sure all of our leaders are sinners saved by God’s grace just like me.

So, here’s how I look at my SBC leaders and what I believe they deserve.

1. They deserve my respect and courtesy, a simple matter of civil, Christian treatment of your brethren.

2. They deserve my careful consideration of their decisions, policies, and leadership. I am perfectly willing to listen to what they believe God wants them to do in leading their agency or institution. I presume that they have made a conscientious, prayerful, deliberate effort to carry out the work of the Lord and they have a right to expect me to give them the same conscientious, prayerful, deliberate hearing of their proposals.

3. They deserve the benefit of the doubt from me, and I will grant that. Since I am not a missiologist, a heavyweight leader, a church planting expert, and since I don’t know everything about SBC life that these leaders know, I will gladly grant to our SBC leaders the benefit of the doubt in most matters. I am willing to support, most of the time, those who have greater experience, success, insight, and training in these areas. If I have doubts and reservations, I’ll still yield to them on that, most of the time.

4. They deserve honest, courteous criticism from me. And I'm happy to give it.

5. They deserve, always, my prayerful support as they do their jobs.

6. Our SBC entities deserve my financial support. I am an SBC pastor. This is what we do. There has never been a year when my church has not given to Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, and the Cooperative Program. The level of support may vary and no one gets to demand any set percentage or amount, but before I switch financial support to a non-SBC ministry, our SBC entities deserve patience and an opportunity to correct whatever has made me consider a change.

I don’t believe that SBC leaders deserve more than these, nor do I believe they deserve less.

25 comments:

Tom Parker said...

William:

I 100% agree with what you have posted. I have never in my 37 years as a SB heard of this submitting to the authority in SBC life.

Jared Moore said...

Tom & Will, I agree with this as well. What I'm arguing is that we should follow those in leadership over our various sbc entities so long as they're not violating Scripture. Yet again, we're arguing the same things. It's voluntary submission... for, in order to follow anyone, you cannot be leading.

Tom Parker said...

Jared:

When you and others say we must submit to these authorities, I am missing how this is voluntary submission.

William Thornton said...

I think, Jared, that your principle of following save when they violate Scripture, is insuffiently precise. You can do a lot of things, waste a lot of money, have foolish (though not unbiblical) policies withougt violating Scripture.

I've never heard any SBC leader ask for submission not even voluntary submission. That would be unthinkable.

Jared Moore said...

Tom, I challenge you to find anywhere that I've said "We MUST submit to these authorities." I've argued that we should submit... meaning, we should voluntarily submit for the sake of the gospel and cooperation.

William, misuing funds is a violation of Scripture. I mean, it doesn't have to be explicitly biblical for us to rebell; it can indeed be implicit.

I think "volutary submission" is implied whenever leaders request that we trust them and follow their leadership. How can you follow someone's leadership without submitting in some form? Especially if you disagree with them, and yet, are still voluntarily following them?

Tom Parker said...

Jared:

When I was a younger man, I just did not know when to quit a discussion. But as I have gotten older I hope I have a better sense of when to quit a discussion.

You and I are like two ships passing each other in the night.

I shall leave this discussion now.

tikesbestfriend.com said...

William,

I find myself agreeing with you more times than not. I appreciate your words, and I wish that more people would read your writings.

Tim

William Thornton said...

Jared, you are stuck on submission to authority. I can only hope that you really don't believe in what you are saying. At any rate, you can't finesse your way out of the problems it causes in this context.

Thanks for the civil discussion though. And, I'll leave it to you to find any SBC leader who has or does ask you or me to submit to their authority. If you do, please let me know.

Thanks for the kind words, Tim. I wish you felt better about things SBC. We need your kind of folks.

Jared Moore said...

William, how does submitting or following Ezell's leadership OVER NAMB violated local church autonomy or Baptist ecclesiology?

Jonathan said...

I've scanned the comments of this (and the previous) post where Jared has been attempting to explain and defend the comments regarding submission to Kevin Ezell and the NAMB. In reading His comments, I feel like I'm reading some discussion board comments that I might have written 15 or so years ago when I was a young man. I love the enthusiasm but I do see a slight bit of danger that comes from his use of some specific words.

I think the following 3 comments go a long way in explaining his intent (and Jared, please correct me if I'm off base).

"I think for the sake of gospel cooperation, out of respect for our brothers and sisters that voted maybe contrary to us, and the fact that we're disagreeing over non-essentials, should lead to our cooperation and support."

A qualified "yes":

1. For the sake of gospel cooperation, we should definitely cooperate.

This one is obvious. There is no cooperation without...cooperation. Just be clear that cooperation is not a top-down concern.

2. Out of respect for our brothers and sisters who voted contrary to us (on the GCR recommendations) we should definitely cooperate.

This one looks obvious but is a bit tricky. I know a number folks who have a close relationship with Ezell and I have no reason to disrespect him. The problem with respect is the lack of respect that was given to those who asked legitimate questions about his leading his former church to barely (and sometimes not at all) provide financial support to the CP and NAMB (remember the slur about bloggers who were being critical while sitting in their mother's basement wearing a housecoat?).

Now, should we, in turn, respect Ezell and these other brothers who were disrespectful and dismissive towards folks with serious questions? Yes. Absolutely.

3. The fact that we're disagreeing on non essentials...we should definitely cooperate.

This one is a bit less difficult and depends on whose ox is being gored. But, in general, yes.

"Although I don't think it's "blind submission," but, eventually we're either going to support Ezell or not. We should share our concerns; however, since it's not a biblical issue, I think we should support him and NAMB... and encourage others to do the same."

I read through this several times, not sure why it sounded strange. Then it hit me, I'm supportive of doing the work of the Great Commission. That's where my loyalties and passions are, not in the temporary means of doing so. So the emphasis on supporting Ezell and the leadership of the NAMB seems a bit backwards. The entire purpose of his job (and the existence of the NAMB) is to support the churches of the SBC in accomplishing the Great Commission. The issue, then, becomes the evaluation of how well Ezell and NAMB are supporting the churches in this mission.

After all, according to historic SBC polity, the churches are at the top of the leadership chain and are ultimately the ones that Ezell and NAMB must submit to, right?

"I have yet to read any of you guys that are against the GCR come out and say, "We SHOULD support NAMB." If you have any links to such articles, I would be encouraged by them."

The burden is not on me to support the NAMB, the burden is on the NAMB to produce. I'll pray and contribute in a number of ways but it is reasonable to take a wait and see approach...at least for folks who've been around the SBC block for a few decades or more.

David Montoya said...

William,

You are kind. The convention is not a local church but a servant of the church. I believe the leaders of the convention should themselves have an attitude of submission instead of an attitude of entitlement.

I still think it is going to be a solemn, sad event when we stand before the throne of our Lord and he asks our "leaders" to give an explanation for the salaries and perks they accepted.

It will be really interesting to hear Dr. Paterson's explanation for Pecan Manor and his "not for profit" he used to filter money to his children.

Anonymous said...

Its my understanding that the salaries are set by the trustees so it really isn't the leaders fault but that of the trustees if you think they are paid too much. I imagine there will some pastors standing in the line before the throne justifying their huge salaries too.

Jared Moore said...

Jonathan, I believe we have entrusted NAMB. I agree that they're our servants; however, we have entrusted them with this service. They need our support; they cannot function without it.

Also, what are you "waiting and seeing:" about? Shouldn't you provide support until they give you a biblical reason not to support? They will be more effective with your support than without it.

tikesbestfriend.com said...

I'm becoming more and more leery of people talking about needing "biblical reasons" one way or another regarding NAMB. One reason being, our inherent ability to throw our interpretations out there as the "biblical truth.". I liked it better when it was about Jesus, and not biblical truths.

Anyway, concerning NAMB: if we serve in a church that cooperates in this thing we call SBC life, let us do our part and take up an Annie Armstrong Offering. We need to actually promote it, preferably more than with just a poster in the parlor and a note in the bulletin. Let's at least give as much as we did last year. Is that conceivable?

Let us pray for NAMB's success in ministry. Let us pray for wisdom in it's leadership. I would also pray for transparency in action, and clarity in it's communication.

Is this "owed" to the organization? Of course not. That would be similar to coercion, not cooperation. Instead, it has to do with identity. If we are going to claim to be Southern Baptist, then let us support the causes that we choose to be identified with.

Tim
(and this coming from a poor example of an SBCer)

Tom Parker said...

Tim:

You said:"Anyway, concerning NAMB: if we serve in a church that cooperates in this thing we call SBC life, let us do our part and take up an Annie Armstrong Offering. We need to actually promote it, preferably more than with just a poster in the parlor and a note in the bulletin. Let's at least give as much as we did last year. Is that conceivable?"

Tim what breaks my heart is that many poor examples of SBCer's do actually promote AA and encourage themselves and others to give as much as they did last year even though they do not feel at home in the SBC.

What I'm hearing you say that as "a poor example of an SBCer"--now remember those are your words you still financially support SB causes.

I often wonder if those people that are not really happy with the SBC if they quit their financial support of LM and AA what would happen.

Anonymous said...

If a church believes in missions (and hopefully they all do) then they should support missions where they live and then send their monies to the SBC via Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. That way at least some of it gets to the mission field where it belongs. The sad thing is that I seem to remember a study that said that only 5% of the money you give actually makes it to the mission field. Makes me want to cut administrative costs somewhere.

William Thornton said...

Anon, how about a citation for your 5% figure?

Typically this is what you might have out of a CP dollar: 20 cents to IMB, and most of that for mssy salaries. Some of the CP dollar goes to NAMB so add some for that. Total is much greater than the five cents you posit above.

If it is meant that your general offering plate dollar yields only 5 cents to the mission field, it may actually be less than that.

I would be more concerned about your principle that a church should support missions locally THEN send money to LM and AA. That is a strategy that means we put almost all of our dollars in gospel saturated America and a few leftover crumbs in the vast parts of the world where there is little or no gospel witness. God forbid.

Anonymous said...

A study was done a few years back by an influential pastor in Houston and that was the figure they cited. Seems to be fairly accurate. Don't read too much into the order I said about missions. Just do it.

Anonymous said...

Just looked it up and the study was done by John Morgan. Sorry to be so slow in finding that for you.

Justin Owens said...

William is right, at least for our state, that about 20 cents of ever $1 given through the CP makes it to the IMB, which I think would mean roughly another 10 cents goes to NAMB. And if even only half of that made it to actual missionaries that would still be 15% of every $1 making it to missionaries.

Jonathan said...

Jared: "Jonathan, I believe we have entrusted NAMB. I agree that they're our servants; however, we have entrusted them with this service. They need our support; they cannot function without it."

We, as the SBC, have entrusted NAMB with a number of specific tasks and have, through the BoT, have entrusted Ezell with the task of leading NAMB to meet those tasks. Do they need our support? Well, they need our offerings, without which they will not have a budget to utilize in accomplishing those tasks. The question is, do they deserve this support? The recent history of NAMB leadership (10-15 years) does not provide confidence in this area.

Jarod: "Also, what are you "waiting and seeing:" about? Shouldn't you provide support until they give you a biblical reason not to support? They will be more effective with your support than without it."

I'm waiting to see if Ezell will actually lead the NAMB to provide a return on the investment of CP dollars. The burden is on him/NAMB to produce, not on me to provide support until they do. By giving Ezell an opportunity, even though he is a very recent convert to the concept of CP giving and NAMB financial support, I/we are showing a very gracious support.

Concerning a biblical reason to not support, the mismanagement of NAMB over the year; the reputation of the NAMB as a jobs program for the friends of the powerful are sufficient reasons to find other, more efficient uses of our mission offerings.

Despite all of this, I am willing to continue to support Ezell and NAMB but there is not an inexhaustible support of support, especially among the majority of SBC churches who experience the fact that they will never have a voice at the leadership table. The current SBC leadership model is, essentially, "send us the money and we'll make the decisions". That will only work as long these decisions inspire confidence.

Reduced offerings are proof of the waning confidence and are the best indicator of how well SBC leaders are performing.

Jarod, I'm the son of a pastor/missionary/former DOM. I've been active in Baptist work at the local, state, and supportive of conservative work at the SBC level for more than 35 years. What I've experienced firsthand is that the most effective use of SBC dollars are by ground level missionary folks on the international and domestic front...but only when they are free from micromanagement. You never hear about waste from IMB field level personnel in 1040 areas. But there are frequent accounts of large amounts of money spent in areas of SBC agency executive control. I spend time on the international field and hear the frustration of our front line warriors. I don't have to take a "wait and see" approach to these folks.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan -

How does one get a job like yours where rubbing elbows with my heroes on the mission front can be done?

Jon Estes

Jonathan said...
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Jonathan said...
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William Thornton said...

I removed a couple of Jonathan's comments at his request. I did appreciate his saying the following:

"I have a profound respect for field personnel and a profound skepticism of the SBC's management structure. That God continues to bless our mission efforts in spite of what looks more and more like a culture of personality is very humbling."