Part One of this Series, Primacy of the Local Church
Part Two of this Series, Primacy of the Local Church Continued
Part Three of this Series, A Streamlined Network
Conclusion- Many seemed to be concerned about the future of the SBC, though they may be concerned about different things. Some are concerned that the SBC way is being lost because of a younger generation that is not “loyal” to the SBC as the past generations have been. They fear that cherished structures, programs, and the organization of cooperation itself might crumble. In response many tighten their grips on the way it has always been done. It is true that younger pastors (and some from all generations, we speak more of our peers because we know them best) do NOT have brand loyalty to the SBC. Younger pastors are convinced from the Scriptures of the primacy of the local church so they want to focus their efforts on their church and the mission God has given to it. They do want to cooperate with likeminded brothers and sisters to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to reach the nations.
So, they will cooperate with the SBC, but only as they see the SBC helping their local church fulfill its mission. They will love and be loyal to an SBC that serves local churches but they will not remain with an SBC (or individual entity) that sees the churches as servants to the denomination. Sadly, these pastors can see when denominational entities say with their lips that they are servants to the churches but their deeds betray that the reverse is true! If the SBC wants to be a vibrant network of churches turning the world upside-down with the Gospel then it needs to become less bureaucratic, leaner, and more oriented toward serving the churches. Losing brand loyalty is not a bad thing because we were never commanded to be loyal to the SBC, but rather King Jesus and His Word! We should not be about building the kingdom of the SBC. This loss of brand loyalty means that the SBC and its individual entities need to start justifying their existence to local churches, not expecting the churches to give more out of a sense of loyalty. This justification will mean showing local churches how the denominational entities are serving them and helping them in their mission. In the case of the home mission board this means local churches being aided by the board in planting other local churches.
You will notice that we have tried to use the phrase “church planting network” more than the phrase “home mission board,” and there is a reason for that. We believe that this board should have a singular focus. We have talked with ministers young and old from all parts of the country, and we often ask the question, “What is the best thing the SBC does?” Without exception every one of them mentions the IMB. Without exception none of them has mentioned NAMB (this is NOT a representative poll, just representative of the ministers that we talk to). When we probe further for why they love the IMB so much, the answer usually centers on the “singular focus” of the IMB. The IMB’s strategy is planting churches, so everything they do serves that strategy. This is also one of the strengths of the Acts 29 network. They are singular in focus. Unfortunately, our church planting network engages in lots of things that are not serving church planting, so it lacks a singular focus. Does this mean that a national church planting network should not be involved in other ministries? Maybe! What we would say is that these efforts divorced from a focus on church planting or church revitalization should be discontinued. The efforts of the church planting network should be ministries that aid planting, leaving social ministry to the local churches that are planted (or to the state conventions who then rally local churches to the social cause).
So our answer to the question, “What is one thing that will help bring about a Great Commission Resurgence?” is “a vibrant church planting network that focuses on church multiplication brought about through the local church.” This will energize young people. This will energize congregations as they seek to be on mission through the multiplication of their church. This will energize our baptisms, giving, and membership. This is what we must be about, healthy church planting. A trim network will help serve churches in this endeavor. And the promise that propels the mission is that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, not the SBC, will triumph over Death itself.
Jon and Nathan Akin
thanks for your hard work on this topic. Couldn’t agree with you more! I hope we will see a shift in the future.
Either you guys have set up a straw man in your first article or you really don’t understand the church planting strategy of our entities. In your first article you state, “Good parachurch ministries facilitate the ministry of the church. Bad parachurch takes ministry from a local church and does it for her. Bad parachurch says, ‘Give us money and people and we’ll do ministry for you.’” We believe, unfortunately, that our North American church planting network has operated under the bad parachurch category in the past, supplanting the church as the vehicle that plants churches.” Could you give your readers an example of NAMB, a state convention or an association starting a churches without the integral involvement of a sponsoring church. I suspect you cannot and if not, for the sake of your integrity and God’s kingdom would ask you to retract that statement that give your readers a false perception of the methodology of our agencies and boards.
Let me give you an example of how our entities facilitate churches starting churches. A close relative of mine has served three associations as a church starter strategist. Over a six year period in one association he brought churches, leaders, resources and training together to start over thirty both ethnic and anglo churches in a large metropolitan area. Each church was started by a sponsoring church with the help of other cooperating churches. It is not likely that many of those churches would have been started without the help of a “denominational bureaucrat.” By the way, his salary was jointly funded by NAMB, his state convention and the local association. Of course from your perspective, he should jus t move out of the way as part of the bloated bureaucracy and let Johnny hunt do it. WE are starting between 1400 and 1800 churches a year as a denomination. We can and must do better but to suggest that our denominational efforts are broken is just flat wrong. There is nothing in the SBC that is holding churches back from joining together to carry out the strategy that you suggest.
Smart thinking – a clever way of lokonig at it.
I am sorry that our posts have angered you to this degree. That was certainly not our intent. Our intent was to get the conversation moving. Also, it was not our intent to act like everything is broken in the SBC but to simply cast a vision for how we might be able to do this better. That inherently means some critique of how we are doing things currently.
Let me try to respond to some of your questions and ask some of my own. I really do want to know what I am talking about, and if we have said things that are not true then I do want to understand things better.
1. I want to refrain from mentioning specific names that fit what we have said about bad parachurch in the SBC. I know that will be perceived as a cop out or as evidence that I don’t have any examples. Let me assure you that is not the case. However, I do not want to throw people (some that I know and love personally) under the bus on this by naming names. If this answer does not suffice then I’ll be happy to further clarify.
2. I want to ask you to help me understand what a “sponsoring church” does. What does it mean for the sponsoring church to be integrally involved? Could you flesh that out for me? I am genuinely curious.
3. I rejoice in ANY churches that are started! So, I do not want to speak disparagingly here. But, it seems that the example that you give of your relative is exactly what we are talking about. He organized churches, leaders, resources and training to start over 30 churches…
4. Why are many SBC prospective planters choosing to plant outside of sbc entities? And why are those who choose to plant within the sbc doing it to “bring reform from within the system”? Also, are our survival rates as good as other networks? From what I understand 60-something % survive…
This all great stuff on CP for the SBC. It’s really encouraging to hear about this… I am looking to help a friend named Jason Hampton hopefully plant an Acts 29/SBC church called Redemption Hill in Indianapolis, IN. He’s been a church planter in residence at The Point Community Church under Rick Long in Frankfort, KY for over a year. I’m curious to if there’s any contacts you could give me. We’re looking for partnerships… Thanks and God bless.