Hey folks, it’s time for a new installment of our award-winning “5 Questions with…” series. We’ve been taking a brief hiatus, one that was not foreknown but was indeed predestined by my fall workload.
Today’s subject is Fuzzy Goldenblister, an IMB worker for somewhere between 10 and 15 years. He’s roguishly handsome, erudite, and cooks a mean mac-and-cheese with peanut brittle casserole, but he possesses almost zero people skills. We caught up with Fuzzy as he was polishing a turtle in the back yard.
1. Looking back at yourself and the IMB, what lessons did you learn or mistakes did you become aware of during the year?
I’ve become aware that my views of certain leaders, or at least certain leadership-types, was less than wholesome; I needed to change that. Back in 2008 when IMB went through the re-visioning and reorganization, the new structures required some new leaders. I had some very strong opinions, not all of which were positive, about the wisdom behind some of the choices that were made. I made some of those opinions known, I think, without really helping anything.
Sure, I have the comfort of knowing that I was a conscientious objector, but to what end? I accomplished nothing positive. I lack credibility now and those with whom I disagreed believe they can’t count on my support.
Yes. I might not agree, but I’ll work with them on it.
2. Were you right in your thinking? I mean, were there mistakes in the choices made?
Myabe, maybe not. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter after a while. Personal opinions have their place, and from time to time we need to be willing to voice our concerns. However, I think I interjected my thoughts at a point in the process that had no room for discussion of that type. There are times and places for dissent. There are also, logically, times and places for outward agreement while mentally acknowledging private reservations.
Even if we argue I was correct in my thinking, the new leadership deserved the chance to succeed or fail. What I did was turn every little decision into a referendum on the new people’s job performance.
I decided long before this situation occurred that I needed to find ways to abide by the organization’s decisions or else I needed to find a new job; that’s just my personal approach to things. However, I learned this year that back when all the changes happened I took far too long to say, “This is the way things are. I’ll work within them or I’ll move on.” I learned this year that even as I strongly disagreed with this decision or that one, I needed to support both the organization and love the individuals within it who were at the center of my objections.
Even though the original mistake popped up a few years ago, this was a lesson I learned in 2011.
3. What organizational mistakes did you see in 2011 that you’d like to see fixed in 2012?
Umm….did you even read the answers to the first two questions?
If you want to find someone who made a mistake this year – throw a rock. We’re an inherently flawed organization because we are only human.
In all honesty, though, I think the organization is doing pretty well. We have internal issues that can hurt us or slow the work down, but evangelism and church planting remain the center of the IMB’s focus; it’s hard to make too many mistakes if you keep your eye on that particular ball.
4. Everyone talks about the Cooperative Program and how its downward spiral impacts giving to the IMB. What is your past/future perspective of all of this, and what sort of opinions do you hear from those around you?
What’s interesting about the reduction in giving is that most field personnel I know don’t really talk about it. I mean, we all know very well that giving is down. We are more aware than ever that we’ve got to be careful with how we spend our money. Certain benefits and payouts have been cut to field personnel, and usually, after a little wringing of hands, we all accept that this is simply life. Other than that, reduced giving from SBC churches is not really on our collective radar. I think. Our field budgets are smaller, and we work within those limits.
For my part, I recognize that individuals in the US give sacrificially. The home office makes sacrificial cuts and eliminations. I can and should do so as well.
A philosophy my wife and I use to guide our spending for strategy forces us to ask ourselves, “If I had to pay out of pocket for this project and had the funds to do so, would it be worth it to me?” If the answer is “yes” then we feel better about spending your money on it.
For the future, I expect everyone’s budget to get smaller. I expect that as giving decreases we will have to travel less, train nationals more, and maintain a proper focus on our priorities. In other words, less money is not necessarily a bad thing.
Every once in a while, I look into my crystal ball and wonder if the days of the bi-vocational IMB missionary are not too far off. Yeesh, what a can of worms that would be.
5. Do you see any trends within the organization for 2012?
There are two emphases that are being hinted at right now.
The first is an emphasis on the spiritual care and growth of missionaries. The IMB has always been interested in their workers’ spiritual condition, and opportunities for missionaries to learn and stretch their spiritual understanding have always existed. I could say quite a bit about the IMB’s focus in that area. However, I think Dr. Elliff’s appointment may have triggered the creation of a new sense of need in this area. Dr. Elliff focused on pastoral renewal for a number of years prior to becoming president and it seems he is still emphasizing renewal for ministers.
The second trend I think I see is a move towards more extensive seminary requirements for career applicants. There was a time, many decades ago, when most missionaries were former pastors and as such a seminary degree was assumed. Later, the IMB relaxed some of their rules and simply required 20 seminary hours from the husband (if married) or from the applicant (if single). Later still, the IMB began to recognize that some folks ministered in the American church for years without the benefit of a seminary education, working independently to learn as much as possible while continuing to preach or pastor. These folks were allowed to count their many years of ministry as part of an ongoing educational process, and thus were not required to earn 20 hours. However, with more and more people coming to the SBC from other faith traditions and denominations, the need to ensure a certain baseline of doctrinal accuracy will likely result in more stringent rules regarding seminary hours.
I think this is a good thing. While not every missionary needs to be able to read Hebrew or engage in logical apologetics, we cannot teach that which we do not know. And we can’t adhere to the basics of Baptist thinking if we’ve gotten them mixed up in our journey from denomination X to the SBC.
Last thoughts about the future?
I see a lot of chatter about Calvinism and money and hateful bloggers and alcohol and Caner and Driscoll (neither of whom I know anything about). Sometimes I think we forget that we agree on most subjects. We allow the littlest things to divide us. I know I see it at times within the IMB, with too many personalities jammed together, each with its own vision for the future. The divisions within the body pain me, and I think we should each look toward the new year as a chance to be more united on the things that are fundamental and more gracious about the things on which we disagree. It kills me to come back to the US on stateside assignment and realize how divided we are.