Specificity: A Recipe for GCR or Destruction? – Part 2

UnitedPart One of “Specificity: A Recipe for GCR or Destruction?”

Second, as Southern Baptists think through GCR changes, we have to be able to think through what’s good, better, and best. By the grace of God, Southern Baptists are not arguing over whether or not Jesus is the only way to God or anything like this. Instead, we’re having more nuanced discussions. In order for Southern Baptists to come through these discussions more faithful and effective, we have to be able to say no to some “good” things in order to say yes to the “best” things.

Is it important to reach the state of Alabama with Jesus? Of course! Folks in Alabama need Jesus just like folks in New York, Washington, the Sudan, and India. The difference between the folks in Alabama, these other states, and nations around the world has to do with access to the gospel. So, right now there are over 3,200 Southern Baptist churches, not to mention other ministries and denominational efforts, in Alabama trying to reach a total population of 4.6 million people. But in the state of New York there are around 20 million people. How many Southern Baptist churches are reaching them? Only 343 churches! So, in New York, there are almost a tenth of the churches trying to reach almost 5 times as many people! Unfortunately, this is not the exception in the U.S. And these numbers seem like a drop in the ocean when they are compared to the percentage of Southern Baptist churches to population outside of North America. Many of these people groups, whose populations number in the hundreds of millions, do not have any Christian witness in their midst at all. Truth be told, the majority of our money continues to focus on the most reached and most served areas of America.

In light of this, it is important that we learn how to say no to some “good” things in order to say yes more often to the neediest things. This means, it would seem, it is “best” to send the majority, or at least a great deal, of money and resources to the unreached and undeserved areas, which would mean that many “good” ministry options would have to be addressed in other ways.  Surely, this is something that all Southern Baptists can agree on.

If we do, then we will have to be able to say that there are some ministries that should not be approached in the same manner in terms of funding and responsibility in order that other ministries in more desolate places can be created. This kind of thinking will take wisdom and significant courage.

Third, we have to be careful with our language and how we frame the debate. There is no doubt that these are serious and sensitive issues that Southern Baptists are discussing. Many Southern Baptists remain confused about the key issues involved in the debate, having read perhaps one or two articles about it (if they’ve even heard about it at all!). This is why it is critical that the debate is framed properly and language is measured.

There is no doubt that the changes necessary for a genuine GCR will be difficult. Significant change always is. But we have to see that the alternative is worse. Floyd quoted someone as saying, “We can either die a painful death or live a painful change.” He is right. I say we go with the painful change. It will be difficult, but it will not ultimately be devastating.

Thus, the necessary difficulties of significant change should not be added to by unnecessary language. Surely it’s an overstatement to say that the GCR recommendations will “devastate” ministry efforts in any state in the Southeast region of America. If Alabama Baptists cannot make changes without seeing ministerial “devastation,” then who can? After all, there are far more Southern Baptist churches and ministries in Alabama, for instance, than there are in states outside of the Southeast region of America and, without a doubt, amongst the hundreds of millions of unreached peoples around the world. What words do we have left to describe these other situations?

Fourth, we have to understand the nature and role of the church. Southern Baptists have been given a great denominational stewardship. This, of course, is what a lot of the GCR discussion is about. But we need to realize that Jesus did not die for a denomination. He died for the church. The church existed before the SBC and it will exist long after the SBC is gone.

The primacy of the local church means that the church is central, not the denomination. It means that we don’t have to be scared to adjust denominational ministries. After all, Jesus said that the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church. He never promises this for any aspect of the denomination or the denomination itself. If the denomination hopes to remain viable, it will serve Christ’s church. The roles cannot be reversed.

So, will a GCR change the way certain denominational structures do ministry? I hope so. Does this mean that those current ministries will no longer exist? Not necessarily. Perhaps the church of God depending on the Spirit of God can rise to the occasion for the glory of God and meet those ministry needs themselves? I can’t see how this wouldn’t be possible and preferable from a biblical vantage point. Denominational structures are not the church’s life support, they are its helpers.


Southern Baptists have to get specific about the GCR. We must continue to talk about the need of the Spirit to move afresh amongst us. But we must remember that God’s Spirit never moves powerfully in the abstract. When the Spirit moves, he transforms specific characteristics, habits, thoughts, strategies, agreements, and more.

Discussions about these specifics must not only reveal the Spirit’s direction, they must evidence the Spirit’s fruit. There will be disagreements. But we must disagree without being disagreeable. We must exercise patience, love, joy, kindness, self-control, peace, and goodness. A GCR that lacks the Spirit’s fruit is no GCR at all.

But, as opposing sides voice their opinions, let’s remember that one of the most compelling cases for a GCR will not be heard. Those that would make this case do not yet have a voice. These people lack voices because they don’t know the Savior. They don’t know the Savior, in part, because those who do know the Savior haven’t made the necessary changes to deliver the message to them. So they wait, with stone hearts, blind eyes, and deaf ears. They wait for Southern Baptists to get specific about a Great Commission Resurgence. It’s time for specificity.

Comments 0

  1. As a church planter in New England who moved from Alabama I really appreciate this post. If “Southern” Baptists (that is, those who are literally in the South) want some extra cash to spend on Southern causes, why not give above and beyond what they already give to the Cooperative Program? No one is saying they can’t increase their giving so that some of these other ministries in Alabama can be sustained.

    I agree that there are some Southern states that need to broaden their vision. I recently approached a small country church in rural Alabama about supporting our church plant. The chairman of deacons took one look at it and said, “He’s asking for $50,000 the first year…he should be giving US money!” Wow!

    On the other hand, much of my support HAS come from church leaders, church members, and churches in the South and I am very grateful that there are so many who see the field and are willing to share with someone who is out there in the field. For those of us who are ploughing hard ground, our support from some of these Southern states is like a nice tall glass of iced lemonade and the work couldn’t be done without that refreshment. But really we need to be encouraging more people to join us in the field!

    Let’s keep talking up the GCR and let’s keep our eyes on the field!

  2. “So, right now there are over 3,200 Southern Baptist churches, not to mention other ministries and denominational efforts, in Alabama trying to reach a total population of 4.6 million people. But in the state of New York there are around 20 million people. How many Southern Baptist churches are reaching them? Only 343 churches! So, in New York, there are almost a tenth of the churches trying to reach almost 5 times as many people!”

    If we are talking about reaching people for “Jesus” and not for the “SBC” (which many Southern Baptist are dangerously close to saying is the same thing)… Then I think integrity in this discussion must take into account the total number of “Evangelical” Christian Churches in each of these States or Regions, and not just the number of Southern Baptist Churches.

    This may, or may not, change our evaluation of what region of North America we need to focus the majority of our mission efforts upon. However, it will give us an honest appraisal of where the truly unreached people live and where we need to direct the majority of our C.P. dollars.

    Grace Always,

  3. Jedidiah,

    (Sorry that this is long, but you are saying good things and I feel like engaging here). I couldn’t agree with this post more. This type of thinking is what encouraged many of us to sign on to the GCR in the first place. This is the rationale for a GCR and I don’t know many who will disagree with it and still be taken seriously in these discussions.

    I really struggle with the role of both state conventions and local associations. Basically, from what I can tell, much of what they do occurs because the local church is not doing it. Rather, we are sending money to a central location and are paying others to do it. We continue to subsidize Baptist colleges. That is a good thing, but is it producing the desired results? I went to a state university in Mississippi and took part in a vibrant BSU. That made a huge difference in my life and propelled me to ministry, as it did many others. Do we really need to support Baptist colleges when we could have more vibrant campus ministries on secular campuses producing the same results?

    If we are going to have Baptist colleges, then why do also have 6 seminaries? Why can’t those Baptist colleges have schools of divinity, like Duke or the University of Chicago (or Samford or Baylor) and we combine some of the seminaries and Baptist colleges we support? It seems redundant for almost every state to spend millions supporting a Baptist college and to also spend millions supporting 6 seminaries. But, we aren’t having these discussions. We are just telling the states to send more money to pioneer regions.

    The truth is that most of those working with the State Conventions are doing the job that they were hired to do. They are running the system that the churches have chosen. It does little good to even address State Convention leaders on this. What power do they have to change things? If they don’t carry out the will of the churches, the churches will find someone else to do it for them. This is why the litte war that has been going on against Morris Chapman and the Executive Committee is misguided, in my opinion. Dr. Chapman is doing the job that he was hired to do by the trustees of the EC. He is protecting the interests of the CP and the EC and trying to get ministry to funnel through the organization that he was put in charge of. He has done an excellent job of that and perhaps that is what frustrates people. A weak EC benefits other entities that want to see more money and power flow through them, thus it is easy to target the EC. Unfortunately, the autonomous nature of EVERY single level of SBC life from the local church all the way up to national entities means that if anyone is actually doing the job that they were hired to do, then they are likely making other people that are involved in other entities mad.

    Odd that few ever look at the seminaries when talking about such things, but when a Ph.D professor is making less teaching theology in one of our seminaries than I am pastoring my church of 300, then it is hard to ask the seminaries to cut much more. But, that becomes the problem, doesn’t it? At just about every level of SBC life, you can look at real people working real hard not making a lot of money. And, almost all of them are doing what the churches have asked them to do and when they dig in to protect that, they aren’t just protecting their jobs, they are fulfilling what they have been hired to do by the people who pay their salaries.

    So, what is the answer? How do we get out of this situation where each autonomous entity continues to battle for a larger piece of a shrinking pie? There must be a change of thinking in the churches. Any attempt at denominational reform from the top-down, i.e., dealing with the money and structure that is just a reflection of the will of the churches, is destined to fall short and fail in our ultimate goal of reaching the nations for Christ. Should we reorganize? Absolutely! But, we should do it when the churches are engaged and are calling for it. The problem is that churches are disengaging because they can’t access a system that is not designed for them to participate with but instead, is designed for them to pay into. The real issue there is not Executive Directors, State Missionaries, or NAMB, but rather, it is a problem more closely located in the hearts and minds of trustees and committee members that make the real decisions that affect how our entities and state conventions function. And, they reflect the will of those who have put them into power and tell them what to do.

    Again, we need a heart change.

    But, identifying Rick Lance and Gary Swafford in Alabama as guys who are a part of the problem is missing the point. They are doing the job that Alabama Baptists hired them to do. If they don’t do it, Alabama Baptists will find someone who will. I don’t blame them. I blame us. If we told them to do a different job, they would do it. But, it is easier for us to focus on those guys because they are identifiable. If you want to find the real problem, you have to root out 60-90 years of Baptist institutionalism in Alabama that is connected to old churches, families, endowments, legacies, and Sunday School classes full of Senior Citizens who have given money all their life – and the GCR isn’t going to do that. The truth is, we’ve taken their money for the past 100 years and have built the system we have with it. To now blame them because the system isn’t working only creates anger and disillusionment. And, then that system will rise up, turn on you, and tear you to pieces even as it dies a slow death. Jesus said something about new wine in old wineskins. But, if we put effort into connecting local churches together with the Missio Dei, and have real dialogue with the caretakers of the system (whose hearts are generally for the Lord, by the way), then we can remove impediments to the flow of mission from our churches through our structures and to the areas of greatest need. Or, maybe local churches bypass the established system altogether, but we celebrate the work being done and we declare the SBC to be wherever a local SBC church is doing gospel work, instead of what just comes through the denomination.

    Anyway, I have said too much. But, when you look at both the desire of the GCR (which I radically share) and the situation that we find ourselves in, the only answer is to start at the local church and not at the top. That might be harder and take real relationships, but I don’t see it working any other way. I’ll be writing a concrete proposal for how to do that on my blog later this week.

  4. Jed,

    State conventions in the South will suffer very little from the loss of NAMB partnerships. You’ve concentrated on Alabama, but nearly all of the concern over GCR that I have read has come from states outside the South. I serve a church in Colorado, where the majority of our state and association budgets come from NAMB. We are not afraid of the specifics because we understand that something needs to change to reach the many lost people in our state and around the world. What we want to see is more specifics. Namely, what will happen to our current church planters? How exactly will more church planting get done here when our local coordinators are defunded? Will ministry on college campuses be able to continue? Etc…

    I am both very excited and a little cautious about the report. My excitement comes from the fact that my church’s CP contributions will probably be used more effectively for God’s kingdom around the world. My caution comes from the lack of specifics. I know there will be a new system for reaching states like Colorado, but very few hints have been given about what the new system will look like or how the transition will take place.

    Best case scenario: During the 4-year transition, NAMB will funnel even more money to church planting in non-Southern states so that everyone can see how effective the new system is and never miss the old one.

    Wost case scenario: During the 4-year transition, most of the non-Southern church planters and strategists lose funding, move to the South to find jobs, and later down the road get replaced by people who were hired in suburban Atlanta.

    So far, the message that has been perceived in Colorado from the task force is, “Just trust us… the Great Commission will be carried out better in Colorado when we take away most of the money that your state convention and associations have to work with.” For now I think most of us do trust them (including me), but we will need more specifics very soon.

  5. Post


    Thanks for your work in the Northeast! I’m glad that you’ve found this post helpful. I agree that we need to recognize the great help that has come from the Southern Baptist churches in the Southeastern part of America, while at the same time casting a vision for more. Thanks for joining in the conversation!


    Thanks for the input. I totally agree that we should “direct the majority of our C.P. dollars” towards the really unreached people. I’m glad to include the number of churches from other denominations in the calculations as well. But I still think that it will be the case that the Southeastern region of America is the most reached and most served area of the country and the world. And, the same places that I’m talking about reaching would continue to be the most unreached and under served. So, I’m glad to include all denominations in this discussion. Before we go that far I think we’ll have to achieve including these unreached and under served areas in our conversations first.


    Wow! Thanks for the post! I won’t do you justice, but I’ll say a few things. First, I do think that we should continue to fund baptist colleges and universities, while holding their trustees to high standards. To throw in the towel on the whole Baptist colleges and universities would be, at the very least, very bad stewardship. Secondly, I think we should keep all of our seminaries. I believe that our seminaries are one of the greatest things that we have going. And listen, they are fulfilling their important work even as they downsize and cut jobs. I haven’t seen any articles by these schools about the great cuts that they had to make. Also, I know there is the view that we might should consolidate our seminaries. If this is so, which ones should go? I think this would be a bad idea. If for no other reason, the seminaries that are often given as an answer to this last question, are the seminaries that provide for us a foothold outside of the Southeastern Region of America. Third, I think that state and national level leaders were given specific job requirements within the overarching framework of the Great Commission. I don’t think they were simply charged with maintaining the status quo. Even if they were, I’m not sure what they’d be maintaining. After all, when you look at the history of the denomination and all its entities, you find quite a deal of change. For instance, the Alabama State Convention had a CP giving of 50/50 for several years. Their convention is not too unique. Now, of course, I don’t mean that as a personal attack on anyone. I’m simply pointing out that we can all use the past as a point in our arguments to a certain degree. The reason I chose Alabama simply was because of their words in the recent BP News article. Fifth, I agree that this has to be a church driven thing, but, to a certain degree, it has to include the “top.” After all, the “top” is filled with pastors of churches, amongst other things. But you’re right, if the churches shrug their shoulders at this, then there isn’t a lot that the “top” can do on a national level. Not sure if I’ve addressed everything, but thanks for the comments.


    Thanks for your comments and your ministry. While you hope for more specifics, many say there are too many! Regardless, I do think there will be more specifics in the days ahead. This was one of the key reasons for the GCR “progress report.” It allowed for a time of feedback. I think this was a wise decision on their part and will result in an even stronger final presentation. There is one thing we can all agree on: If they argue for a restructuring of NAMB in order to reach the under reached and under served, and this leads to a weakening of current efforts (not an increase), then this problematic. Like you, I think that they will deliver. Before specifics can be addressed, the big picture had to be. Now that it has, I think the proper specifics are starting to take form. It will still be a challenge when it is all said and done though. Thanks for your comments.

  6. Jed,

    You kind of proved my point. You say that we should keep all of the Baptist colleges and seminaries. You can probably make a good defense of your position. I am not necessarily for eliminating the Baptist colleges and seminaries, but the 57% that Alabama keeps goes toward real things. Other people can make an adequate defense of their ministries as well. This is the problem. There are few things going on in Baptist life that everyone would agree is a complete waste of CP dollars. This is where you have conflict. If we cut resort ministries, we’ll have people step up with testimonies about how they came to Christ through resort ministries. The fact that we aren’t hearing anything out of the GCRTF about our seminiaries tells us just how powerful our seminaries are in SBC life, while statistics show that a majority of seminary graduates are not in full-time ministry 5 years after graduation. I am a product of an SBC seminary (GGBTS) and I loved my time there. I would defend our seminaries along with you. But, I am just trying to make a point.

    This is why these type of structural changes must start with a change of heart in the local churches. Sure, if there are things that we can do nationally to facilitate this, let’s do it. But, revamping NAMB isn’t going to create a GCR. It will do some good for a little while, and we might see some churches planted out of it. But, will it solve the problems that we face? No. In 5 years, we will be in the same place and then we won’t be able to push for a GCR, at least nationally. It will come through people just doing their own thing, which might be good for the Kingdom, but if you are trying to keep the SBC relevant to the local church and pastor and seminary graduate, you are now further down the road on that goal.

    Listen, I agree with what you are saying. You and I could probably sit down, have a cup of coffee, and have great conversation and barely disagree at all – certainly not over a desire for a GCR in SBC life. I’m just trying to tease out the details of how to actually see a real GCR take place. I am struggling with how the concrete recommendations of the GCRTF will get us there and am concerned that if they just deal with top level issues, the moment of possible reorientation will pass us all by.

  7. Alan (and Jed and everyone else!)

    You’ve hit the nail on the head: all the money is going to real people in real ministries with real results…but are we spending it on good things and not neediest things (to borrow Jed’s wording)?

    Baptists are notorious at the local church level to keep doing programs because “it saved little Alan seventeen years ago…and it can save one more!” My own church radically changed VBS last summer (i.e. got out of the church building and into the local parks) and you would have thought that we were denying the Trinity in the initial discussion!

    We must take the hard look…probably have to cut traditional/historical/generational (read: Baptist homes, colleges, retreat centers, etc.) to do what we can with what we have. BUT, and this will in the long run make or break any changes, we must also inspire the pew-sitters to give more and to sacrifice their comfort for the lost. Jon Akin (over at Les Puryear’s blog) said, “Some say we don’t have an efficiency problem we have a heart (giving) problem. I would say we have both.” Jon, how right you are!

  8. Andrew,

    I agree with you on the efficiency thing. I could make some suggestions on how to get money to where it is most effective that would make your head spin. My personal perspective is probably more radical than anyone would go for – including the authors of this blog. However, I also recognize that there are a lot of good people that also have their own perspective. I can make a great case for mine, but unless I am listening to the guy next to me who sees things differently, all that we are going to have is conflict.

    I don’t disagree that we need more efficiency and there are lots of decisions that can be made amongst our national entities to free up more money for missions and church planting. The question is, how do you come to those decisions? The answer that is put forward will be very interesting.

  9. Alan,

    I very much enjoy reading and hearing your thoughts. I think if we had more pastors who think like you we would be further down the road to a GCR b/c local churches would be owning the ministry. Let me try to interact briefly w/ what you’ve argued.

    Yes state conv/local assoc are doing ministry for the local church. I know you agree that has to change! It has in some associations where they are now resourcing ministries instead of substituting for them.

    I don’t think the local churches are driving the current system (I could be wrong). I think the average local church has no idea what the system is and how the money is spent. I say this partly b/c I’ve been in 3 churches in 3 different states in the last year where I broke down what the CP is and does, and in each instance the congregation got angry that we spend so much on ourselves (could be hypocritical given church budgets, but it was the reaction).

    Also, just b/c someone was hired to do something doesn’t mean that they can’t show courage by leading into a new direction. This has happened in several places. See Mike Day in the Memphis Association or what Bill Agee did in the Central Assocation in Phoenix. When they changed the way the Association operated the churches were ecstatic (but not some established state & assoc workers)! We will be running an interview telling Bill’s story soon.

    In terms of the “war” w/ Dr. Chapman & the EC. I don’t wanna delve into this too deeply, but I’m sure some would argue that their actions have not protected the interest of the CP at all but further served to weaken it.

    I hope your comment about anger developing if someone in another entity is doing a good job is wrong. If that is so then cooperation is dead b/c we are too prideful and territorial. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I sure hope you are!

    The rub in all of this is your statement that piggybacks on Jed’s comments that at every level it is difficult to decide where the waste is b/c everyone can come up with a justification (probably a gospel sharing one!) for their position. Leaders are going to need to make difficult decisions. This has happened in some places.

    You are right about bottom up momentum. The CR worked b/c it was the will of the churches. The GCR will if it is the will of the churches that they want to change the status quo and do differently. If they don’t then it won’t happen and no recommendations from a committee can change that.

    I think the TF believes it IS the will of the churches. The hope is if we can put a positive vision out in front of the churches that shows where changes need to be made and offers hope for more effectiveness in the future then they’ll rise to the occassion. I think we have such recommendations (or at least a start in the right direction that will have to be carried out fully at local levels).

    I think the churches are calling for it (95% from the convention floor). Some need to be shown how it can happen. Others are disengaged b/c they’ve lost hope in the system, and that’s why it needs to be reorganized. I think churches are increasingly frustrated with a “pay into” system and want it changed. I believe if you asked the TF they would say that is what they want!

    I agree that much lies with the trustees. They need to show courage and leadership.

    I disagree a little with your assessment of Alabama Baptists (and I don’t want to pick on those guys specifically b/c I do believe their hearts are for the Lord). I think they are being told to do a different job but they don’t want to do it. They want to continue to do what they’ve done. I think that’s true at all levels and not just this specific case.

    I agree with your statements about the Missio Dei, connecting local churches, removing impediments, and all of this being centered on the local church if it is to be effective. But I do think structural changes can help local churches cooperate together more effectively and unencumbered.

    My hope is that entities at all levels will adapt from a pay in model to a serve the local church model (that was the case at their origins).

  10. Alan,

    One more item (sorry). I look forward to reading your proposal.

    You are right on about this having to take place at the local level.

    However, the GCRTF can only address issues at the national in terms of mandate. They can make suggestions for individuals, churches, assocations, and state conventions but can’t mandate anything. I am assured that they will make strong suggestions for how a GCR can take place in the final report, but they have no authority to make it happen.

    I pray the moment doesn’t pass us by, butI do think reorganization/restructuring, whatever we want to call it, is not a non-spiritual issue. There are things that can be done to help us cooperate together better at the local level.

    I think some of the heart issue comes in on whether or not we are willing to cooperate together in a different way than we have done before to participate in a greater way in the Great Commission and focus on others rather than ourselves.

  11. I’m grateful for the discussion that is happening here and think that it is going in the direction that is hopefully happening at the TF level – working through issues of specificity and providing examples of how we can “cooperate together in a different way”, to use Jon’s words. I wanted to suggest one possible way for the TF to present their suggestions at the next meeting since “the rub” seems to be with specific ministries and the fact that, as Jon said, “it is difficult to decide where the waste is b/c everyone can come up with a justification (probably a gospel sharing one!) for their position.”.

    Part of the root of this problem seems to be (as others have pointed out) that we have allowed much of our ministry and evangelism efforts to be taken out of the local church and moved to the associational, state, or national level. Some of this is of course reasonable – it makes a good deal of sense for our churches convention-wide to have a centralized (or regionalized, if the NAMB proposal is accepted) agency helping those churches to send missionaries and plant churches. This could also be said of our colleges and seminaries, along with some other agencies. In other words, some tasks require a greater level of cooperation on an associational, state, or national level because it is more feasible for many of our churches to minister in these areas through these agencies (and here I am considering the fact that most of our churches are below the 200 member mark). This does not deny the crucial part of the local church, but it also recognizes the beneficial nature of greater cooperation in terms of agencies in these ministries.

    But on the other hand, it seems that our local churches have given over ministries to the association, state convention, or national convention (although I’m hard pressed to think of an example for the last) that would probably either a) be better handled by a few local churches or b) could at least be handled adequately by a few local churches **if it is deemed necessary in order to use our CP dollars more wisely**. Therefore any suggestion of specifics in a GCR should include suggestions about what ministries (i.e. for example, resort ministries in L.A. – lower AL) **can be adequately handled by a few local churches**.

    Therefore in terms of the TF’s next recommendation, I think it would be helpful for them to lay out some specific examples (e.g. AL resort ministries) that could be kept if it is deemed necessary by the local churches but would be handled by the local churches’ budgets and not by CP money. This would eliminate some of the fear that seems to be coming from many of those employed by smaller ministries that their jobs would be eliminated while at the same time freeing up CP dollars for those ministries in which we cooperate on a more national level – i.e. IMB and NAMB. Of course, in some instances there will be no way around the fact that some ministries will have to be cut no matter how it’s spun, but I think if the TF gave some specific examples of how it would look for some of these smaller ministries it may alleviate at least some of the trepidation we are starting to see after the first TF recommendation.

    Matt Emerson

  12. Jon,

    We are basically in agreement. I also understand the limitations of the GCRTF. My point, however, is that they can make lots of recommendations for the local church that work their way through NAMB and the State Conventions and local associations. My recommendations can be found at http://downshoredrift.com. I put them up today. I know that all of this is difficult, but if you start with what churches are already doing well instead of trying to get them to do a denominational program, they will have an intrinsic motivation. Who is not excited about the work that they are doing? Who does not want to put their church on display and help other churches? Who would not want to see their work expand as they partner with others? Most pastors and churches would jump at this, especially when you think about making both a local and global impact. I think that the SBC structure can encourage that and serve that movement instead of hindering it. But, the river has to reverse course, so to speak. Instead of everything flowing to the entities through the CP, we need to understand that the river, in many cases, should flow directly from the churches themselves with tributaries running through the CP. In essence, that is already happening. What if the SBC recognized it and assisted it in the RIGHT directions? That could be huge.

    I’m not against denominational restructuring. I just don’t put much hope in it if it is not connected to the context of local church renewal.

  13. Bryant Wright, a candidate for SBC President this year, has shared some of his thoughts on this topic on his blog: http://www.bryantwright.com.

    He affirms the role of associations and state conventions (especially those focusing on pioneer states and cities), but his heartbeat ultimately is to get the more missions dollars to the most unreached areas of our world.

  14. Two sacred cows, that need the slaughter house.

    1) Secret or private meetings.
    2) Baptist Education.

    1. There is no such thing as a private meeting for a public organization.
    The heathen call what our trustees do in ‘private meetings’ a criminal offense. I live in New Orleans, well known for corruption, and they wouldn’t even consider trying to hold all their business meetings in ‘private’. The baptist press should be in everyone meeting to independently verify what is going on every time. There is no reason the HEATHEN should be more transparent and honest about their practices than believers.

    2. Baptist education is bloated, and expands based on baptist politics not for advancing the Gospel or for the reasons will tell Old Sister Jones she should give to ‘missions’. In Louisiana, we give 15% of all CP dollars to our local college and only 18% to International missions, and 8 percent to NAMB. Which means, we give out brochures about church planting, but really more money goes toward the local football team. In response to another poster, someone said the seminaries receive less money than NAMB so, we don’t really need to talk about them. It’s less than 1% less than NAMB! The GCR needs to talk about how we educate. Currently, New Orleans Baptist and Southeastern both have an extension center in the same town, Orlando, FL. Why? Why the Cooperative Program not fund extension centers and online learning from our seminaries? Why has no seminary president kept track of the effectiveness of actually doing their job of training people for ministry? Why, because there is no transparency, and they can run things however they like in ‘private meetings’ as long as we keep sending them money.

  15. Post

    Guys thanks for the comments. I think a lot of helpful things have been said. There is still a lot of work to do!

    Thomas, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about private/secret meetings. I think most Southern Baptists are okay with and recognize a difference between “secret” meetings and “private” meetings. I also think most would not hold that “private” meetings and transparency are mutually exclusive. Private meetings allow for brainstorming sessions with safety. The safety is a safety from being taken out of context, etc. Also, I should add, the GCRTF tried to make their report available live (transparency) but the Executive Committee wouldn’t allow it. I think overall that the GCRTF has struck a very nice balance on handling public and private meetings. If you don’t, that’s okay.

    Also, I think we disagree over Baptist education (which is okay!). Maybe some aspects of Baptist education is bloated, but I’m aware of a lot of Baptist education institutions that are not. And, if they are bloated, receiving 15% of CP dollars, how should we describe those who receive a higher percentage? Maybe educations isn’t as much as a focus (although the GCRTF has focused on every aspect of SBC life) because everyone generally agrees that this is one of our stronger points (although there are a number of Baptist colleges that need serious work)? And while seminary Presidents haven’t “kept track of the effectiveness of actually doing their job” (even if they did, many would probably question their conclusions, citing a conflict in interest anyway), I think most people recognize the general theological health of the SBC when compared to other denominations (a credit to our seminaries and colleges in some part) and studies like this http://www.edstetzer.com/2010/03/new-research-on-pastors-semina.html point towards “effectiveness.”

    Thanks for your comments,

  16. I agree that seminaries are doing a great job. I just can’t see cutting them back in any way.

    Here is the “typical” career path for those who enter full time service — such as pastors — in the SBC.

    (1) Involved as a kid in various “programs” — such as Awana

    (2) Attend various “youth camps” or “youth meetings”

    (3) Go to a Baptist College

    (4) Go to a Baptist Seminary

    There are many counter examples but still this is normative.

    I don’t think any part of this chain should be cut back. A couple of these ministries — namely the “youth camps” and Baptist Colleges are run by the state conventions. (Or at least state conventions play a major role in running them in many states)

    That’s one reason I’m having trouble with trying to actually identify what should be cut at the state convention level.

    Rhetorical question:

    But if local churches or groups of local churches take on running various things that the state cnvention now runs then that would actually be great because these operations might operate with lower overhead — right?

    But another result might be that some things which are currently run by the states might become more “inaccessable” if they were run by groups of churches because churches would likely have to run camps and schools on a breakeven basis and charge higher user fees while in some cases state conventions subsidize these.

    So perversively, cutting back on state budgets might cost churches more later when services which were previously were “free” from the states because they were bundled into services “purchased” by CP giving are replaced by a la carte charges assessed by clusters of churches for each service they provide.

    Be careful when asking states to cut back on ministires, because you might get what you asked for and end up regretting it.

    However, if the local church is willing to pay the higher frieght for these services — which they purchase from each other — then this might be good since CP money flowing to the states would not have to support such a large “state footprint” and would thus be available to be sent to Nashville.

    In my opinion, the argument above is key in acessing the role of the states and determining the extent that the states are “bloated and bureaucratic”

    The problem is that it is almost “impossible” to do a cost/benefit analysis on these two alternatives that is applicable “across the board” — because the situation varies so much from church to church and state to state.

    I guess the only way to test this is to compare states passing through 70% of CP funds to Nashville vs one that only passes 40% of CP funds through Nashville. Of course, such comparisons might be “unfair” because some states don’t run colleges and/or don’t run Children’s homes, and/or don’t have major youth camp operations, and/or don’t operate senior homes.

  17. Roger:

    “Of course, such comparisons might be “unfair” because some states don’t run colleges and/or don’t run children’s homes, and/or don’t have major youth camp operations, and/or don’t operate senior homes.”

    (Also) to answer your rhetorical question, but is that the business the state conventions are supposed to be in with CP money?

    Are those ministries good things? Yes.
    Are they (at least nominally) called for in Scripture? Yes.

    Are they more a product of the “career path” for Southern Baptists, from cradle to grave?
    Are they effective use of our cooperative money for the gospel and the kingdom?

    That is how we “actually identify what should be cut at the state convention level” – is it work for the gospel and the kingdom?

    In my opinion, the children’s homes and youth camps are in…the colleges-I’m going with Alan: BSU > Baptist College. Along with the retirement homes, they need to be spun off to be self-funded, but convention-controlled (a la GuideStone and LifeWay: we elect trustees, they raise their own support).

  18. Pingback: With all the talk, where are we being led? « A-dub's Weblog

  19. Roger,

    I agree with what Andrew is saying about how we assess this. Do States NEED to be doing those ministries?

    Andrew is now getting down to what Jed is calling for in this post, making actual assessments of ministries. I would probably disagree slightly with Andrew on which ministries should stay and go (i.e. I think Union > BSM, but there will be exceptions), but at least we are discussing some difficult things now.

    Now to answer some of your questions (quickly I hope):

    The problem in my view is that state conventions are not supposed to DO ministry for the churches. They should be resourcing entities. So, one example is the Central Baptist Association in Phoenix. They sold their camp, and then rescourced the students in their association to go to a camp. They weren’t paying all of the overhead tho and staffing… They were able to go from $200 a month for church planting to now I believe $20,000 a month!!!

    I’m not sure about a cost/beneift analysis. It is true that each church and each state convention is different, so cases will be different. However, there are currently NO state conventions that send 70% of CP on to Nashville.

    I hope this helps. there are examples of associations adapting and changing to a resourcing instead of substitute ministry entity and thriving in the process! We need more!

  20. Jon,

    “I would probably disagree slightly with Andrew on which ministries should stay and go (i.e. I think Union > BSM, but there will be exceptions), but at least we are discussing some difficult things now.”

    Yes, there will be choices to be made…and in regard to Union, I think the option should still be convention-governed, but self-funded. Large, “popular” Baptist schools will only have a few years of painful transition in funding…look at those that broke away from their conventions. And they wanted to break away from only the control, not the funding (hence the perception that they were trying to employ the dreaded double-speak and procedural loopholes to garner such escapes).

    Of course, each state will make their own decisions…but they need to be substantial if this whole Cooperative plan is going to work!

  21. Jon:

    I agree your question is valid; namely do states (or any other Baptist Church or entity) NEED to be doing this? [Where “this” is any particular activity that takes time and money]

    Particular definitions for “THIS” in various contexts:

    Local Church:
    1. Paid nursery workers
    2. Having one or more pastors (or counselors) on the staff that assist in marriage / crisis counseling
    3. Pastors who are involved in visitation to shut-ins and those in the hospital and assisting in benevolence and interfacing with those who have had major life situations such as terminal illness and death
    4. Having a person of the staff in charge of “media” such as running sound, video, power point
    5. Paying an organist and/or pianist
    6. Having people who run women’s ministries, men’s ministries, youth ministries, the print shop, etc.
    7. Paying someone to be a “Sr. Pastor”, “Executive Pastor”, “Assistant Pastor”, “Associate Pastor”, “Recreation Director”, “Food Service Director”, “Preschool Pastor”, “Student Associate”, “Children’s Pastor”, “Facilities Director”, “Music Associate” (i.e. music librarian who also does orchestration for Sunday services), “Director of Music Ministries”, “Minister to Men and Families”, “Minister to Youth”, and “Women’s Ministries Director”
    8. Paying for 401K, and Healthcare for all of these people through a vehicle such as Guidestone

    State Convention:
    1. Actually paying people with real dollars to run youth camps, youth homes for orphans, and senior citizens homes for those who need assisted living
    2. Paying people to run media operations such as state newspapers and websites
    3. Paying someone to head up men’s ministries, women’s ministries, cowboy church, prison ministry, evangelism, and church planting
    4. Paying someone to be the “executive director”
    5. Actually paying people to run a Baptist University such as: president, dean of students, professors, director of development, alumna relations, and coaches of sports teams

    National Entities:
    1. Paying people to be missionaries
    2. Paying people to be church planters
    2. Paying people to keep track of the Annual Church Profile and manage the Cooperative Program and the fund flows
    3. Paying people to run seminaries: President, Deans, Professors, Director of Development, Executive Assistant to the President
    4. Paying people to develop and maintain publicity: Such as web sites, alumni relations, and printed newsletters
    5. Paying people to setup meetings such as alumni dinners and BoT meetings in various cities a number of times each year.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Now here is your assignment. Remove the identifier which designates if a given person is on the payroll of a local church, a state convention, or a national entity. OK, now having done this — RANK THEM BY IMPORTANCE given special attention to Biblical guidelines.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and admit to you that probably 90% of the jobs are NOT IMPORTANT if we really cut to the chase – regardless of whether they are on the payroll of a local church, state convention, or national entity.

    However, at the same time, and paradoxically, I support ALL of them and gladly contribute to pay the salaries of all of these guys (and gals).

    I say this with humor [which does not come through on the web very well because I have to use written text]:


    Jon, I think the “only” dissonance between your view and mine is that you have a default predilection that if a person’s job is funded by a state convention that automatically moves it to a lower level on the pecking order.

    I’m being facetious I admit. But what would you say if I came out with a pompous statement that says, “I am not willing for a state to lay off a single person until the seminaries get rid of anyone who runs their websites, or who works in the development office, or who is an assistant to the president who sets up alumni relations or who works out arrangements for guest chapel speakers.” Of course, I’m not calling for this.

    My overarching point: The devil is in the details. And each person thinks that the low hanging fruit is in the other guy’s bailiwick.

    Roger K. Simpson
    Oklahoma City OK

  22. In my previous comment the stuff between the greater and lesser signs was left on the cutting room floor for some reason. I guess BLOGGER’s scan took those two characters as a demarcation for the beginning and ending of commented text.

    So here is the stuff that was left out:

    Get this: I’m even happy to pay 1 / 16,000,000th of the salary of Daniel Palmer who was my former sparring partner back there in Wake Forest. [Now Daniel and I are totally on the same page and there is not a nanometer of daylight between us]

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