I have said for a long time that what the SBC needs right now is an Adrian Rogers, a statesman who can bring us together and unite us around the task that we have. There is a lost and dying world. Every day we awaken, the church has fallen farther behind in the task of evangelism and instead of accomplishing our work, the SBC is engaged in petty squabbles and distractions from our gospel task. We need someone who can forge a trail for us.
I believe that perhaps God has provided Dr. Frank Page for that role. He just delivered a powerful and unifying report (well, part 1 of it) and I will try to share some of it with you. He called it “The Concerted Effort.”
The Concerted Effort: Frank Page’s EC Report
After some testimonies about the importance of the Cooperative Program and cooperative missions in general, he gathered the entity heads, ethnic fellowship leaders and the state convention presidents to publicly announce their “Affirmation of Unity” statement.
Then, Dr. Page addressed the “Principle of Honesty” and said it was time for some straight talk. He did so. He then made about 5 statements of honesty that we need to face.
1) We have not done enough in the area of ethnic diversity
Dr. Page seems to be getting out in front of this. There was some sense that perhaps the structure was dragging its feet on the issue, but it seems as if they are leading on ethnic diversity.
2) We have not listened as well as we should.
He may have gotten to the heart of the issue. We are all talking about one another and at one another, but we do not always listen to one another. I get frustrated sometimes when I say something, then someone responds to “what I said” and their response completely misrepresents what I said. I probably do that to others at times. It annoys me when it is done to me.
We need to be very careful to listen.
But one of the chief complaints against the leaders of the SBC is that they do not listen, that they lead from the top down. Frank Page committed himself and the EC to listening, and if he follows that plan, it will go a long way toward changing the denominational zeitgeist in some important ways.
3) Our greatest need is a heaven-sent revival that begins in our own hearts.
He addressed the GCR and the response to it and identified what he believes is the key issue facing us. We have spent a lot of time discussing logistical and organizational issues, but the real issues that face us are issues of the heart – spiritual issues.
We need to address certain issues of organization and strategy, but what we really need is a work of God on our hearts that would cause us to place the mission of God as the highest passion of our hearts.
4) We have been headed in the wrong direction in many ways.
Building on the last honest statement, he showed disturbing trends that reveal a deep heart issue. He gave two statistics (and I did not perhaps copy them exactly – check Baptist Press for the most accurate numbers). In 1989, Baptists gave 16.54% to total missions (CP and everything else). In 2009 that number fell to 12.32% – a drop of 4.25% (or so). As for CP, in 1989, we gave around 9-10% (this is the one I didn’t get) but CP giving has also dropped around 4.25% to 5.86% (which would make the original figure around 9.1%).
The problem is that churches are keeping more money for themselves and giving less money to missions – pure and simple.
OBSERVATIONAL NOTE: We have said that giving to other missions sources is a threat. If I understand it correctly, churches are giving just about the same to other missions causes that they used to. The drop has all been in CP giving. We are not do MORE “other missions” we are just doing less cooperative ministry.
5) Christlike selflessness is our only hope.
If the SBC is going to reverse our decline, it will not be a strategy, a program, a promotion or a restructuring that does so. It will be the rise of Christlikeness among us. People will become more radical in their commitment to Christ and will give more. Churches will catch a vision for world missions and give more (and go more, etc). Our convention will do what it needs to do to put more money into missions.
Page is putting his money where his mouth is. The EC requested a reduced budget allocation from 3.4% to 3.2% for the next fiscal year and is working toward the goal the GCR recommended of 2.4%. The reductions in the EC budget are going to the IMB. Good work.
One thing I didn’t understand. As we voted on the recommendations from the EC, we voted on 1 and 2, then on 10 and 11, then 4, then 3, then 5. The order is a little bit strange. Oh well.
The Ethnic Diversity Study Vote
A pastor (Channing Kilgore?) made a motion to amend the recommendation, which would have cut the heart out of the ethnic diversity motion. He wanted to replacee ethnic diversity with “gospel-centered” – essentially rendering the recommendation meaningless. I will assume that the pastor who made the motion is not a racist and does not support racism, but his motion would have been a disaster for the SBC. One pastor who has a multi-ethnic church (you can get all the details in BP) delivered a powerful word against the amendment, and a San Francisco area DOM also gave a plea to defeat the amendment.
The Amendment was defeated somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-20. The recommendation then passed by somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% or even higher. There were just a handful of people voting against ethnic diversity as stated in this recommendation. Thank God.
NOTE: The same guy who made this motion stood later to challenge Thom Ranier and got a real smack-down. Evidently, he is well-known at Lifeway for constantly complaining about the book choices at Lifeway. It was quite a moment.
While I thought his motion on ethnic diversity was awful, I sympathize with the Lifeway issue. But at some point, when we have made our case and made our stand, there is a time to just realize that I’ve had my say but I am not going to have my way.