In the last two posts, I mentioned a few of reasons why I love state conventions and what I’d like to see state conventions change. But change is hard. Yet, there are a few reasons why I think at this time state conventions are in a position to make more drastic changes than they could in the past.
- The nature of training and networking has changed too much not to make drastic changes – Over the course of the last couple of decades, growth in technology and the number of events offered has changed the nature of training and networking. It is no longer the case that pastors see state conventions as a primary way to get trained and network. Technology has changed the way we connect, grow, find encouragement, and all the rest. With the advent of social media, many of us are more connected with friends around the world than we are locally. Sure, we go to the local meetings, we have coffee, but the deep relational connection happens where it happens most naturally. This connection, or at the very least, and training usually takes place outside of our geographical area. Because of this, most pastors are getting trained by people all over the world without leaving their home. If state conventions never offered another event, it probably would not have any impact on most SBC pastors. The fact is they have other events that they go to or watch online that serve their needs in a way state-sponsored events used to before the dawn of the internet. Events are everywhere. With technology, our relationships are everywhere. It’s time for a change.
- The nature of SBC loyalty has changed too much not to make drastic changes – Southern Baptists are reaching less lost people and having less babies. This means fewer and fewer people are growing up in the SBC system. With fewer people in the system, fewer people feel a natural loyalty to the SBC. This means SBC institutions like state conventions will need to do a better job casting a compelling vision if they want to attract and keep pastors on board. Loyalty to the SBC is rare. Without drastic changes from state conventions, it will become more rare. This isn’t horrible news though. After all, pastors that pass through a system designed to advance the gospel shouldn’t lead to blind loyalty, it should lead to greater gospel advancement. We shouldn’t be offended by questions about the effectiveness of a system in advancing the great commission by people who have benefited greatly from a system designed to teach them to advance the great commission. It’s evidence that the system worked. If we produced status quo leaders, we may end up with big budgets, but we’d have little impact. The lack of “SBC for SBC sake” loyalty is more and more present. This reality shouldn’t scare us, it should propel us to make drastic changes for the kingdom.
- The length of this conversation is too long not to make drastic changes – When you talk to leaders who were young pastors during the conservative resurgence, about state convention allocations, they often try to encourage you with the fact that they used to have the same conversations. Because of this, they want us to know they “get” where we are coming from. While it is a kind gesture, it is also a scary reality. We’ve all had the conversation with the college student that lasts forever and seemingly got nowhere. Not many of us want to have that same conversation the next day. In a similar way, why should we believe that our conversation with state conventions will be any different than the one that’s taken place over the past couple of decades? That one only ended up in .06% to 12.45% budget changes. We’ve been talking long enough. In order to gain confidence among young leaders, a little more action is needed.
- The nature of the mission is too urgent not to make drastic changes – It is so hard to wrap our minds around the fact that tens of millions of babies have been aborted in our country legally. We live in a country that makes Moses’ Pharaoh and Jesus’ Herod seem moderately pro-life. Similarly, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that thousands of people groups have no gospel witness in their midst. We live in a world where people will live their whole lives without ever hearing the gospel in their language. Surely, we should all feel a sense of urgency to want to change that fact. State conventions can help make a difference in the advancement of the gospel by thinking through their ministries and budgets while listening to the voiceless people in these unreached people groups. Heaven and hell are at stake. The gospel makes the difference. The mission is too urgent not to make drastic changes.
I love the SBC. I’m all in with the SBC. That’s why I hope and pray the SBC will make drastic changes for the sake of the kingdom.