Thursday, June 2, 2016

It's time for a modest generational change in the SBC

J. D. Greear is 44. Steve Gaines is 58. David Crosby is (I think) 63. Ronnie Floyd is 60.

I like the idea of a modest generational change in the SBC President and think that J. D. Greear would offer much more than either the traditional megachurch pastor Steve Gaines or the traditional large church pastor, David Crosby. All are good men who have accomplished much.

If past history has shown us anything in the vision and thrust of the person occupying the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention it is that they do not have broad impact on the behavior of other pastors and churches. If we were in a mode where there was some overwhelming issue that needed to be addressed in our entities, the SBC president could tailor his committee appointments to try, over time, to make changes.

As it is, we are a declining denomination. The decline in Baptisms is a grave matter. I know of no better, no more enthusiastic leader than Bobby Welch who attempted single-handedly to inspire pastors to win people to Jesus and baptize them. There was no lasting success from that effort that I can see, statistically.

All the candidates favor spiritual renewal. I see no difference there. I also fail to see any connection between the visionary SBC president having much influence in calling the SBC to repentance and renewal, as if the SBC were a local church.

We have seen a staggering decline in our missionary numbers. The traditional missions support methodologies have failed to yield sufficient funds to keep people on the field; hence, the voluntary retirements and resignations of about 1,000 missions personnel.

No one. No one, expects the Cooperative Program to sail upward sufficient to supply an additional $50 million or so annually in IMB funding. For that to happen CP gifts from the churches would have to increase about $150 million annually and the record is that gifts are slightly declining.

The CP is doing well and there is rejoicing in Nashville when CP revenues received there are flat and not declining. If they tick up a little bit, it's hallelujah time. No SBC executive expects a dramatic shift in CP trends. There is not one of our entities - not the six seminaries, not NAMB, not IMB - who is planning for the future and expecting to have considerably greater sums of CP money to spend. They are looking elsewhere. I see none of the three candidates leading the SBC back to double-digit CP percentages.

Both Gaines and Greear's churches give considerably below the SBC CP average, but give large sums and very large sums to SBC causes. Crosby's gives more than the average to the CP. The future in SBC international missions support will probably incorporate some hybrid arrangement that engages churches and IMB directly. Greear's church is one of a few who do this with great success and who do it through IMB not some other mission sending outfit.

The current trend of state conventions slightly reducing their percentage take of the CP dollar is incremental and not likely to have any substantial impact on international missions. Moving from about 61.25%, the current take of state conventions, to 55% would have yielded approximately another $17 million for IMB this past fiscal year. While that is real money, it is only about a 6% increase in their budget. Factor into this the reality that states are moving slowly downward in their percentages and may not reach 55% for a number of years. State conventions do a lot of good work but it isn't hard to see the pressures they face to maintain their own ministries and staffing.

If the goal is to reach the nations, to labor among unreached people groups, to engage unengaged people groups, clearly the old mission support mechanisms are doing well but not well enough to stave off substantial reductions in IMB personnel. New, hybrid, mechanisms clearly have had some success.

We ought to be open to God using something beyond what we have done in the past.

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