What will Southern Baptists do in 2014...besides serve the Lord, share the Gospel, minister in Jesus' name and perhaps fuss and fight a bit? Here are a few predictions:
1. SBC Presidential Election; When the SBC meets in annual session in Baltimore June 10 & 11, your humble hacker and plodder blogger plans to attend. I have no idea who will run for president but allow me to make the safe prediction that there will be a megachurch pastor, perhaps an ethnic candidate, and maybe someone involved in the Calvinist/Traditionalist business. If I am able to vote, I will not vote for any candidate whose church does not give a minimum percentage to the Cooperative Program. That threshold percentage will be the subject of a later blog article. To be candid, I'm a bit tired of the megachurch superstar candidates (though I admit I happily voted for Bryant Wright a few years ago).
2. Calvinist/Traditionalist Stuff; Frank Page's informal, ad hoc Calvinist study group is history, pretty much forgotten history at this point. Peering down the months of 2014, I see a renewal of conflict on the macro level and continuing church acrimony on the micro level in regard to Calvinist doctrine and Calvinistic pastors. The best we can hope for is for the year to be quiet in this regard. If there are any major SBC entities who change leadership this year, expect for them to receive keen scrutiny on their Calvinism as well as their connections to Southern Seminary and Al Mohler. Sorry, it's just where we are.
3. Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings; The Lottie Moon offering goal is the same $175 million that we have had since 2009. We haven't been close to reaching the goal but will do better this year than last and will end up above $150 million. Kevin Ezell and the North American Mission Board have actually presented a vision that has registered with Southern Baptists and the Annie Armstrong offering is increasing. I predict another increase for 2014.
4. State conventions; No level of SBC life has suffered as much as state conventions. I predict continued financial shortfalls. One might take the macro view that state conventions have been caught in a major technology and attitude shift that leaves them having to do the very hard work of convincing churches of the value of their mission and vision.
5. Cooperative Program; The CP showed yet another decline last year and that after the tiniest of increases the previous year. I see no shift in long term trends and predict another small CP decline. It is becoming increasingly apparrent that SBC pastors and churches are placing more emphasis and energy in specific, dedicated spending than in our grand market basket cooperative pool. I remind my astute readers that at the SBC level we are now mostly a societal giving denomination with more revenues going directly to SBC entities than to the Cooperative Program.
6. Housing Allowance; Rank speculation here, but I predict that the federal court decision that struck down the laws allowing cash housing allowances to ministers will be appealed and there will be no further decision this year.
7. Plagiarism; My sense is that plagiarism - bold, shameless stealing of other pastor's entire sermons and illustrations and preaching them as if they are one's own - is rampant among pastors. People widely known among Southern Baptists will be confronted with their sins in this regard.
8. Personal predictions; Plodder will once again replenish his pathetic looking wood pile. Although I was rather lazy about it in 2013, I jumped all over it yesterday. I will preach more in 2014 than I did in 2013 and will preach exactly zero sermons with silly alliterative outlines. With no effort at all from me, my total of grandchildren will increase by 50%.
I admit to a paucity of predictions for this year. Sorry.