A Warning from California State Convention President Walter Price (part 1)

california-state-main-150x150Baptist21 would like to make you aware of the California Baptist State Convention President’s Address. The President of the California Baptist Convention is Walter Price (check out his blog). Walter Price is the Pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California.

Baptist21 was provided this transcript by Mark Rogers and will post it in full. Below is part 1 of Price’s Address.

President’s Address

Delivered by Walter Price at the California Southern Baptist Convention on November 11, 2009

I love the Southern Baptist Convention…. Sometime around the middle of January, 1947, I attended Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, for the first time. I was born nine months later. Yes, I was a Sunbeam. Now, your age, will determine your reaction to that statement. Some will rejoice. Others will stifle a yawn. But in the words of Ulysses Everett McGill:  I am bona fide (as a Southern Baptist).

I love the California Southern Baptist Convention….Through the ministry of a CSBC church this life-long Baptist boy was truly converted by the grace of our glorious God. The majority of my adult life has been as a part of the CSBC. I am a California Southern Baptist.

I love my Association….I’ve had some world class DOM’s in the Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association, brothers whom I love and deeply respect.

I love the California Baptist Foundation….Through the ministry of the CBF helping our folks with their wills and trusts over $3.5 million has been committed to Kingdom work through the FITP Church in Beaumont.

I love California Baptist University….Cut me I bleed blue and gold; I consider myself a walk-on alumnus. Three of my five children have degrees from this school. God willing the fourth will this year and Omega will next year.

I’ve said all that because it’s important that you know from whence I come. I am fully aware that some, perhaps many, will not like what I have to say today. I can’t help that. But I do not say it as an outsider. I have simply prayed for God to help me say what needs to be said and to say it with a humble and gracious spirit.

TEXT:  1 Cor 3:1-9  (stand and remain standing by ages from 65+ down)

Danger Ahead

In his challenging new book on spiritual disciplines entitled Soul Shaping, Jim Wilson tells the story of how the loss of one little key to a lock was a major contributor to the sinking of the Titanic. “Historical accounts say his superiors reassigned second officer David Blair, the owner of the key, to another ship at the last moment. In his haste to leave the ship, Blair forgot to give the key to Charles Lightoller, his replacement. Because Lightoller didn’t have the key, he couldn’t open the locker that held the ship’s binoculars. Without the binoculars, lookouts in the crow’s nest had to rely on their unaided eyesight to scan the horizon for dangers. Because they didn’t see the iceberg in time, they couldn’t warn the captain of the impending danger.” (Jim Wilson, Soul Shaping, p. 24)

So far in this convention you have heard some wonderful heart-warming reports of great ministry taking place. I am deeply grateful. In every way I affirm all that God is currently doing through us. But that is not my purpose today. Today I want to try to be somewhat prophetic. Our situation as a state convention is critical and we are partying on the Lido Deck. This is one man’s meager attempt to get out the binoculars.

Please hear my heart. I am not here today to claim the demise of the CSBC. It hasn’t happened…yet. What I am here to say is, ‘There’s an iceberg off the starboard bow and we better wake up.’

What is the iceberg? You already know. You saw it yourselves when I asked you to stand by age groups. The time has come for someone to sound the alarm. I do not purport to speak for the younger generation. They are eloquent in speaking for themselves. But the signs that I see are not encouraging. For all intents and purposes, except for a very few exceptions, we have lost those in their 20’s and 30’s.

If that statement causes you to react against them from under your gray hair, you are way off the mark. These young Baptists are passionate for the Kingdom of God. They are passionate to see people from every tribe and tongue and nation gather round the throne and worship our Holy God. Theirs is not a youthful rebellion. For them it is a matter of (and this is my word not theirs) stewardship. Is this convention the way that God wants me to invest my life, my time, my energy, my resources? I’m afraid many of them are finding little reason to answer in the affirmative.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want to cooperate. They love the way we do missions, real missions, not the labeling of anything that moves as missions. They love our cooperative approach to education. They long to stand alongside others in compassion and social justice ministries. But they don’t want to be a part of what to them appears to be a bloated, wasteful bureaucracy.

We have bemoaned the absence of the young crowd for years now. The discussion in the hallways, bookstore and exhibit area has often centered on this concern. We have said we need to get them involved. But what we have most often meant by that is we need to get them involved to do things the way we’ve always done them. I think I can safely say to you today, they are not interested.

Another very subtle nuance to what I hear from the next generation is the object of their focus. When they do discuss the future of what we are doing in a positive light; when they do offer insight and hope into how the ship might continue to sail, their primary interest is focused on the long term of the national SBC, not the State Convention. We should pay attention.


Here is my prediction: First, without radical transformation soon, within 15-20 years (optimistically) the CSBC will be either extinct or impotent. We will be, at best, a loosely knit convention of various ethnic associations. I am in no way being critical of ethnic associations. They are already here and are doing wonderful things for the Kingdom. If anything, we should learn a lesson from them regarding our Baptist polity, and that is that it’s okay to have an Association based on something other than geography.

Secondly, without radical transformation, the Cooperative Program, as we know it, will no longer be a viable tool for cooperative Kingdom work. Some will accuse me of criticizing the Cooperative Program. They will be incorrect. I am deeply indebted to the Cooperative Program for many things in my own life. I love the genius of the Cooperative Program. But my indebtedness to and love for the method is not the issue. The issue is whether those who are coming behind us believe that this is the best way to use their time and resources. If they do not, it will die a natural death and it probably won’t be slow in the greater scheme of things.

Comments 0

  1. I was there when he preached that message. Surely, many people responded in their own way (just look at Timmy Bristers Blog for that week). I agree with Dr. Price wholeheartedly. We will either change or die. I will have some notes about this at my blog later on.

  2. This message is accurate and timely. I pray that it is heard across our land.

    Ten years ago we launched a comprehensive Transformation & Renewal Ministry to bring correction to this brutal reality. We have been shunned by the ‘gate keepers’. There are no quick fixes for this circumstance. I met with some Denominational Leaders (sic) in August 2009 to present the Transformation & Renewal Process God has graciously enabled us to develop and test. The following is a direct quote by one of those men after I had just stated that there is no quick fix for what we are facing:

    “Tom, this is a 36 month process. We are hemorhaging. We need a quick fix.”

    I invite all those that are seeking a comprehensive and effective process that brings Transformation, Health & Effectiveness to the ministry of the local church to contact me at 803 776 5282 or info@igniteus.net. I will send you letters of affirmation from five (5) Pastors written in October 2009 by Leaders who have engaged the process. These are churches from 85 to 1,200. They testify to the Reformation and Renewal that God has worked in their ministries. Individual believers as well as the entire body have been Transformed.

    This is not for everyone. We utilize a Readiness Inventory and seek to enlist those who have a passion to be Transformed and the necessary skill and competence to complete the process with effectiveness.

    I pray that God is gracious and that we act prudently in the face of this issue. 15 years is a gracious time line. Praying for you and for the churches of our land.

    In Grace,
    Tom Fillinger

  3. Gentlemen,

    I think the problem has been laid out quite nicely. Dr. Price is to be commended for sounding the alarm. I take no umbrage at anything he said (sadly I wasn’t at this convention). However, I am very concerned for any “solution”. The very term has in it the core of the problem. The coming issues are not something to fix. They are a reality of what -is- and will continue to be.

    We have seen such a shift in the culture that it can only be equated with one other shift in history, the Enlightenment. This new shift has rendered many things that were held in the past as obsolete to the younger generation. Please don’t get me wrong. It is not that the older generations just “aren’t with the times.” It more at the level where the younger generation has grown up with a different language and thus, the primary grid for view all of life, association, and structure (to borrow from Kant) has been changed.

    My generation and younger, more the most part, does not want to be part of a “system”, “legacy”, or “institution”. We (and I am painting in broad brushstrokes) want to be relationally part of a group of people that are actively making a difference. While there is recognition of the necessity for organization, it isn’t for the sake of being organized, but for the sake of doing ministry in the local area.

    In that sense, as long as the CSBC is perceived as part of an institution, legacy, or overarching structure, it will not be engaged by the younger Christians (in my opinion). That means not just reorganizing structures, but reinventing the CSBC to become a support mechanism to the 21 century churches in California.

    Let me finish with this statement. I have had very good interaction with the state offices. I have benefited in numerous ways. I think the CSBC is excellent in the two or three areas I have had personal interaction with them. However, notice how I am stating it. It is ALL about relationship, and nothing about them as a structure or organization.

    Like it or not, that is, in my opinion, the future. Relationship. Even in the secular world. And we as Christians should be rejoicing, because that dovetails beautifully with the Gospel.

  4. Post

    Christian, I think you are on to something, and I hope in part, that is what is going on with the GCR. The possible reinvention as you put it. I agree that many, if not all of the younger guys that I meet (and I only mention “younger” because that is my peer group, I am sure there are some older that agree) fall exactly where you say, they do want cooperation, but not for coop. sake. It is the hope of most them, and myself as well, that the convention at all levels will be a servant to local churches and look different than it does now. Thanks for your insight,


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