Monday, May 23, 2016

Does the SBC President make much of a difference?

I'd say, "no," that the SBC president doesn't really make much of a difference in the SBC.

Unless we return to some type of decades-long battle between various factions within the convention where several years worth if replacement trustee appointments are envisioned as putting one faction in control of the seminaries and mission boards, the person who is president doesn't make much difference. Any of the three candidates this year would do well. Each would probably bring something helpful to certain segments of the convention.

J. D. Greear would represent a generational and methodological change. If the energy in our convention is moving away from traditional megachurches and their leaders, and I think it may be, and towards a younger set of leaders who aren't tied to continuing things as they are and have been, Greear would be the top example of such.

As pastor of a church who has more people serving with our International Mission Board than any other single church in the convention (perhaps in history), what he and that church are doing ought to be examined and replicated. Greear sagely notes what ought to be obvious to every Southern Baptist, that "the Convention is a temporary tool that god uses to accomplish the Great Commission. It doesn't exist for itself."

Clearly, Greear's church is non-traditional in regard to missions support. Most of their mission giving is not through the Cooperative Program where most of the dollars would stay in North Carolina. The result of their autonomous decision to put funds where they will make the maximum impact on lostness around the globe is that about one in twenty-five of our IMB personnel is a Summit member. If the goal is reaching lost people, exposing unreached people groups to the Gospel, then Summit is doing something worthy of praise and of emulation.

Steve Gaines would represent something similar to Ronnie Floyd in that his church's has recently decided that the Cooperative Program is worthy of greater support. While Bellevue gives far below the average church CP percentage, they have increased it considerably the last few years. If megachurches and celebrity megapastors (and that makes up almost all of our SBC presidents for the past several decades) have some influence on the thousands of average churches and their pastors then I suspect that Gaines' church move to give greater support for the CP will have a marginally positive impact. But since most churches already give a greater percentage to the CP than Bellevue, I can't see much difference.

Gaines has laid out all the non-Calvinist markers and the usual Traditionalist sites and state Baptist news editors will be sure to make these known.

David Crosby, seems to me, would be a good choice. He isn't a megachurch pastor and it would be refreshing in a way to see such a pastor elected over the usual offering of more highly visible pastors of megachurches. Perhaps he would depart from the usual oligarchy in making key appointments.

Were I to be in sweltering St. Louis, I'd vote for Greear and strike a blow for the next generation, for the intensified focus on taking the Gospel to lost people worldwide rather than perpetuating our own, often sclerotic SBC institutions and programs. But, I don't see the SBC president as having much influence over the general direction of the Convention nor over the decisions and trajectory of our 50,000 or so individual churches.

Of the three candidates, I'd view Greear as having the most potential to exert influence. Let's be candid, the problem going forward isn't about convincing younger pastors to lead their churches to give an additional percentage point to the Cooperative Program, it's about convincing these people that our convention structure and entities still have relevance in the 21st Century.

J. D. Greear has stated that "I believe we are at a generational moment in the SBC, and if I can help lead a new generation to embrace the mission and vision of the SBC, and stand hand in hand with, and on the shoulders of, our faithful brothers and sisters who have gone before us, I want to do that."  I think that's where we are and what we need.

Steve Gaines is 59. I can't find David Crosby's age but he looks somewhere in that neighborhood. Ronnie Floyd is 60. J. D. Greear is 43. Al Mohler is 56, Danny Akin is 59, Paige Patterson is 74, Frank Page is 63. I'm feeling a bit old myself.

Consider that Adrian Rogers was 47 when he was first elected as SBC president. Time to pass the torch again. 

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