Proposed SBC Messenger Formula: Not Very Small Church Friendly? (by William Thornton)

William Thornton is the SBC Plodder.

The SBC Executive Committee is considering a proposal to change the messenger allocation formula for the annual meeting. Baptist Press reports on the proposal.

Updated qualifications weighed for messengers.

This subject erupts regularly at our annual meetings. BP says that motions concerning the messenger allocation formula have been made no less than 16 times in the past 35 years.

For the past 136 years messengers have been allocated as follows:

  • One per cooperating church.
  • One additional per $250 “paid to the work of the Convention” or per 250 members.
  • Maximum of 10.

Give $2,250 to the work of the Convention? You get the maximum number.

The proposal under consideration would change this to the following:

  • One per cooperating church.
  • One additional per $6,000 given through the Cooperative Program or designated SBC causes or to SBC entities, or, per 250 members.
  • One additional for each full percent of a church’s undesignated receipts through any combination of Cooperative Program, designated SBC causes, or to any SBC entity.
  • Maximum of 10.

Give $54,000 to the work of the Convention and max those messengers, or, get the max if you can come up to 9% of undesignated receipts by adding Cooperative Program giving, designated SBC causes, and gifts to any SBC entity. Or, come up with a way to claim 2,250 members.

There are several ways to look at this:

Large and megachurches need give only a pittance percentage to get their max. What’s $54,000 if you have a million dollar budget? It is the SBC average for Cooperative Program giving, 5.4%.

Small churches have a harder time getting to the maximum, needing to give 9% to SBC causes, far above the SBC Cooperative Program average and somewhat above the average for giving to all SBC causes.. Let’s see. A megachurch can give in those low single digit percentages and get the maximum but a small church has to work much harder to do so. This may be right and proper, large,, heavy giving churches should have more say-so. That is a statement that few of us is willing to express, however.

Who cares? Attendance is way, way down for these meetings and it is unlikely that any fiddling with the formula will make any difference unless we have another knock down, drag out fight along the lines of the Conservative Resurgence. Even then, I cannot see much impact of the change.

Do we really need a messenger reduction plan? Unless scads of really small churches want to start sending more qualified messengers to the annual meeting, which they could do by claiming additional slots for their percentages, it’s tough to see this as providing anything other than that which reduces the numbers of messengers.

What’s the problem? Is the problem low percentage giving? Does anyone think that requiring more of churches to qualify additional messengers will provide any motivation to increase that? I hardly think so. Is the problem low dollar giving? Will raising the dollars-per-messenger figure cause churches to consider and increase giving. I cannot see that. Does the Executive Committee think that there is some compelling reason to make a change other than that the dollar figure hasn’t been changed since 1888. If so, what is that reason?

The proposal sets no realistic threshold of SBC commitment to qualify for a messenger. Since every cooperating church gets one messenger, a church giving pocket change to SBC causes gets a messenger. Jerry Falwell became a Southern Baptist by giving a few hundred dollars out of his mammoth independent Baptist enterprise. This may be what we intend, that any church can be in friendly cooperation by giving very little. Have we reached a point where we should tighten what is necessary for “friendly cooperation” beyond saying that a homosexual-friendly church is not in friendly cooperation?As I read the tea leaves around the convention, the complaint of many is that small churches are under-appreciated for their above average Cooperative Program percentage giving while megachurches are rewarded for their below average Cooperative Program giving. I’m not moved by that argument but that’s the complaint I have heard for years.

Frank Page is quoted as saying that “if the perception is that it will hurt small churches, this is DOA.” While I don’t think this will hurt small churches the optics here look bad for the Executive Committee in regard to small churches. Clearly, the new proposal impacts small budget churches more than big budget churches.

Someone will have to convince me that this isn’t a solution in search of a problem. The Executive Committee chairman even said that this proposal “is not a hill on which to die.”  If the Executive Committee chairman is that ambivalent about it then why are they doing this? I allow for the fact that perhaps a case was made for changes but not reported in the Baptist Press article.One point made was that the Cooperative Program will be mentioned by name if the change is adopted into our constitution. There was no Cooperative Program in 1888. That’s good, though not particularly significant, especially since no church is required to give to the Cooperative Program to qualify messengers.

It is extremely difficult to thread this needle. I don’t detect any agenda on the part of the Executive Committee but I’m guessing that there is less profit and more cost in making this proposal.

What would be significant is if the Executive Committee would pass aresolution that encouraged a minimum Cooperative Program percentage for officers, trustees, and employees. This would be non-binding, simply a statement of the feeling of that group at that time, but it would send the right signal. I don’t see much of a positive signal in this proposal to change the messenger allocation formula.What would really be significant is if the Executive Committee would begin to explore the possibilities of messengers for the annual meeting who are not physically present at the assembly hall. Some form of remote participation and voting may be an idea whose time has come. It is certainly technologically possible. If the idea is to increase messenger participation this is one guaranteed way to do that.

I’m wide open for someone making a case for changing this. So far, it’s been tossed out with yawns and caveats.

Comments

  1. Mark Mitchell says

    Oh my word, what kind of garbage is that. If their plan is to run churches out of the convention this is a good way to do it.

  2. dr. james willingham says

    Thank you William for calling attention to an effort that will only contribute to a dissolution of the SBC and the ruin of the biggest mission force in Protestant History. We are denomination, a work in process and progress, and we are on the verge of falling apart. Consider one little method by which this is being accomplished. It use to be that we had a big SBC Annual that provide us with a list of the names of virtually all the ministers in the SBC with their addresses, etc. Our State Conventions likewise had an annual which even provided their phone numbers. These have been discontinued. Our state convention, BSCNC (Baptist State Convention of North Carolina) discontinued their annual some years ago. Then they had a web site, listing churches, pastors, etc. Within the past year or so, they discontinued the web site. The reason given? Scam crooks were taken the information to do their evil work.

    What is this? It is the isolation, separation, and segregation of churches and ministers from one another. When we had the annuals, we knew where our friends were. We could get information on churches; we knew what churches were in fellowship with the conventions. Now, we will not have such information available and that is “the short road to disaster.” Due to the loss of so many jobs and the fact that they will never come back without a new spirit of inventiveness, contributions will decline, conventions will find it impossible to sustain their staffs, institutions their employees, churches will be unable to find pastors, and pastors unable to find churches.

    There are other factors contributing to this decline: an ivory tower mentality on the part of many leaders (they do not come out and deal with the average John Doe members and one feels that there might be a sense of the commoners as not worth considering), a lack of sensitivity in dealing with the people who support them (recently one insulted and offended me, and my thought was that he needed sensitivity training)(but I also wondered, if some could be in our ranks intending to drive us apart so that another outfit could pick up the pieces), the failure to know, understand, and appreciate our past (we have a society that has been deliberately deprived of its heritage, a society ignorant of its true history, a society that does not know or realize the implications of Supreme Court decisions in the 1790s and 1890s in which the Justices of that body called America a Christian Nation). There is more, but we need a visitation to overcome the problems discussed.

  3. William Thornton says

    While I appreciate the comments, I don’t see the sky falling as a result of this. As I said, it’s tough to thread this needle, sort of like redrawing election districts. Someone is going to think it hurts them. On balance, there is really nothing in this that I can see that would be favorable to a small church. Perhaps such would appreciate being awarded messengers for their small dollar percentages but they already get the messengers with the small dollars at $250 a pop.

    I wish the xcomm would actually make their case.

  4. says

    I think this is more about rearranging the chairs on the tragic voyage of the Titanic.

    At one time I agreed with the statement that the convention needed to consider alternatives to provide for participation from those who are not able to attend the meetings. But I believe the problem is even deeper than that. The only thing of any significance that takes place outside votes being taken like the GCR etc… is the election of a convention President. For all practical purposes, that is it.

    Look at motions that are brought to the floor; they get tabled or sent to a committee and then they ALL die in committee. Motions made last year and sent to committee will NOT be voted on this year. Resolutions go to the resolutions committee but then those are not binding; and if something does actually go to vote and get approved they are not binding either! Case in point the New NIV issue with Lifeway.

    We have a trustee system in all of our entities and they are not required to listen to the vote of the convention.

    So, in all fairness can ANYONE tell me WHY anyone really needs to go the convention in the first place?

    Nice time; we get to see people from different parts of the country… listen to reports that can be emailed; someone gets to “complain” when an entity president makes his presentation. I am sure that causes them to make sure they tow the line during the year; they answer to the trustees not the convention.

    Oh sure; the trustees do listen to the convention. Right. Like congressmen listen to their constituents in the real world. Seems there are a lot of folks that are more interested in making sure the right people are pleased with what they do or do not do to keep their status among the elite they THINK that are part of. (which may or may not be the case.)

    I can see why a pastor would ask his church to spend $1000+ to send him and his wife to represent their church at the annual meeting of the SBC.

      • says

        Dave,

        I am assuming you are responding to my comment but I see you did not bother refuting ANYTHING I said.

        Other than electing a president, what takes place at the annual meeting that gives ANYONE a significant reason to attend justifying the cost for the average SBC church?

        Are you trying to say the leaders are not more accountable to the trustees than they are to the messengers of the annual meeting?

    • Bart Barber says

      Now that’s irony:

      1. John Mark Yeats, as a messenger to last year’s annual meeting, makes a motion from the floor to revise Article III of the SBC Constitution.

      2. Yeats’s motion gets referred to the Executive Committee.

      3. The Executive Committee approves Yeats’s motion and brings it out as a recommendation.

      4. William Thornton writes a blog post about this motion from the floor that has now made it all the way through the process and is about to come back to the messengers for action.

      5. In the comments about this messenger motion that has successfully made it all the way through, we read: “Look at motions that are brought to the floor; they get tabled or sent to a committee and then they ALL die in committee. Motions made last year and sent to committee will NOT be voted on this year.”

      • says

        Bart,

        I looked at the motions from the last 2 conventions and that was the case. My example might have been off SOME… but you know for the most part that is what happens. My real point was, even IF my example was off,

        WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ANNUAL MEETING AS IT EXISTS TODAY that justifies the cost for most messengers to attend?

        Here we are looking at a motion that determines how a church can get upto 10 messengers and there will be maybe 4000 messengers from 30,000 churches there?

        I am back to rearranging the chairs on the Titanic!

        • Bart Barber says

          Bob,

          Yeah, but you’ve got to admit that it’s funny that you offered that opinion on this particular post.

        • says

          Yea… your comment actually made me smile. I actually remember something said about the means messengers were being chosen. I did not remember a motion being referred to committee on the matter.

          Obviously there are times when something is going to be voted on like the GCR in Orlando as well. Even then the attendance was not that great there either.

          I like attending the meeting… but just not sure it is best use of funds (church or personal) given the minimal significance of what actually takes place in MOST annual meetings.

  5. Adam Blosser says

    Yeah. I can’t really see how the proposal will change anything. I doubt it helps or hurts either one. The church I pastor would be allocated the maximum of 10 messengers with either the current setup or the new proposal. However, I can’t convince anyone in the church where I pastor that it is worth their time and money to attend even when we are located only 4 1/2 hours south of Baltimore. Bart had some good thoughts on this issue at after the convention last year.

  6. Tarheel says

    “What would really be significant is if the Executive Committee would begin to explore the possibilities of messengers for the annual meeting who are not physically present at the assembly hall. Some form of remote participation and voting may be an idea whose time has come. It is certainly technologically possible. If the idea is to increase messenger participation this is one guaranteed way to do that.”

    I could not agree more.

    • Tarheel says

      I’d also advise not ever having th convention in Houston again. Lol.

      That’s the most boring and expensive city I’ve ever seen.

      Lol

        • Tarheel says

          Oh, I have and I’m not excited about it being there either, I know people who are though….but that is cause they cheer for that ugly blck and orange bird.

          Since its driving distance I’ll likely pick and choose what I attend and skip the majority of hotel expense…although we qualify for 10 it’ll be me and maybe two or three others.

          Last year it was just me.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Expensive? Yes. Boring? Only during the baseball offseason. Go O’s!

          The inner harbor in Baltimore is nice. Baltimore is more expensive than Houston but also has more to do in close proximity, especially with DC only a short drive South.

        • Dale Pugh says

          The future ain’t looking too bright, either:

          2015 – Columbus, Ohio – June 16-17
          2016 – St. Louis, Missouri – June 14-15
          2017 – Phoenix, Arizona – June 13-14
          2018 – Dallas, Texas – June 12-13

          I might make Phoenix and Dallas. Phoenix because there’s always a possibility that Alice Cooper could show up. Dallas because of proximity.

        • Tarheel says

          I rode the buses. No car.

          Taxi’s eat me up though because there were few resturants in walking distance of Hotel or the conference center….which was odd because it was downtown.

  7. Adam G. in NC says

    I’ve been in various SBC churches all of my life and I cannot recall one instance where the words “Southern Baptist Convention” and “Baptist State Convention” were used during a church service. Not once.

    I dare to say that the average SBC church member could go decades without even thinking about them.

    • cb scott says

      “I’ve been in various SBC churches all of my life and I cannot recall one instance where the words “Southern Baptist Convention” and “Baptist State Convention” were used during a church service. Not once.”

      That is just a foreign concept to me. And you live in North Carolina?

      • dr. james willingham says

        Don’t think he ever heard of the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong Offerings either, you reckon? But then, perhaps, he reflects a developing trend.

        • Adam G. in NC says

          Oh, I’ve heard lot’s about Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, but they were just “overseas missions” and “home missions”. Folks probably thought every protestant church has ‘em.

          I’m just stating my experience. I don’t like the fact that the yearly conventions come and go and 95% never knew it happened…but it’s true.

          CB, yes, I live in NC…about 30min from Southeastern!

          • cb scott says

            Adam G. in NC,

            Your lack of knowledge about the SBC while you went to Southern Baptist churches is due to an obvious lack of instruction from your pastors, don’t you think?

            Or, maybe you just didn’t pay much attention to what the pastor said while in your younger years. You can’t be very old now. Whatever the case may be, I do think you are exposing something that has been a problem throughout the years. That problem being there are a great majority of pastors who do not teach those assigned them by God as their pastor/shepherd what it means to be a Southern Baptist.

            However, it seems that far too many are not even teaching people what it means to be a Christian. And that is far and away worse than not teaching them what it means to be a Southern Baptist.

            I think the teaching ministry in Southern Baptist churches has suffered due to the continued emphasis on “Praise and Worship” above the biblically mandated emphasis on “Making Disciples.” I also think the “dumbing down” of our culture has had a very negative effect. Then there is the destruction of the home due to the absence of biblical manhood that has become a plague to our nation and especially to the American church culture.

            Recently I read that only 5% of the American public bought or read a book last year. That is a grievous piece of information.

          • Tarheel says

            CB,

            I will say that there is much of that post I agree with. You’re right on a number of levels.

            The idea of of being not overly sectarian or denominational if you will has pushed many too far to the other extreme of almost (if not completely) avoiding teaching what it means to be a southern baptist and why we should be proud to be one.

          • Tarheel says

            “I think the teaching ministry in Southern Baptist churches has suffered due to the continued emphasis on “Praise and Worship” above the biblically mandated emphasis on “Making Disciples.” I also think the “dumbing down” of our culture has had a very negative effect. Then there is the destruction of the home due to the absence of biblical manhood that has become a plague to our nation and especially to the American church culture.”

            As with so many things though…we agree on the problem but disagree on the cause of the problem and therefore the solution to it.

            The problem in my view is lack, or dearth, of proper teaching ministry in our churches, on that we agree.

            However the cause, in my view is not worship preference…but preaching preferences.

            The lack of consistent expository exegesis both from the pulpit and in the “classroom” is at the root.

            Church members often get steady diets of “pet topics” proof texted from a moralistic point of view instead of rich, deep exposition of the only text that living and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword…that’s not nay able to decipher the human heart – but to correct, rebuke, train, and guide in righteousness.

            The songs we sing, or the way we sing them, is largely irrelevant so long as the lyrics are consistently faithful to the scripture.

            When we preach we are, among other things, showing and teaching our people how to approach and study the Word themselves….if they see us “jumping around” and “glossing over” rather than deeply diving into a text then thats the way they’ll think is the way to study it….and if they don’t study and embrace it themselves….it doesn’t matter what we say on Sundays. They won’t become disciples. The Holy Spirit, by way of the Word, makes disciples. Our job is to teach and preach….that’s the way disciples are made.

          • cb scott says

            “However the cause, in my view is not worship preference…but preaching preferences.
            The lack of consistent expository exegesis both from the pulpit and in the “classroom” is at the root.”

            Hey Skywalker,

            What do you think I am talking about. I am talking about a change that is older than you are. I am not talking about “worship preferences” The concept of “Praise and Worship” taking the place of “Disciple Making” was beginning to occur in Baptist life just about the time your daddy asked your mama to be his bride forever and always.

            I know that to be a fact, now that I know who you are.

            Churches (make that Pastors) began to promote a concept that there needed to be less biblical exposition and teaching and more emphasis on worship and praise.

            I am not talking about styles of music here. I am talking about the move away from biblical preaching and teaching. Thrust me, I am not a “pipe organ” guy.

          • Tarheel says

            Ok….I gotcha now.

            I agree with you since you elaborated it….guess I misinterpreted what you were saying about “praise and worship”…. Ya gotta admit that’s not an uncommon target of blame from people the age of my daddy. :-)

          • cb scott says

            Tarheel,

            A lot of the guys here will probably remember the efforts made by Southern Baptist churches to combat the “Charismatic Movement.” Rather than just be strongly biblical in all things, many tried to emulate the way the Charismatic churches worshipped.

            It did attract some people, however there was a definite “dumbing down” in Baptist life about biblical preaching, teaching, and disciple making. . . . . and then came the “Greenies Movement.” Boy howdy, that one was a hard cat to clean after.

          • Tarheel says

            I am 100% with you.

            I have SBC friends who proudly refer to themselves as “Bapticostal”. By that they primarily mean emulating a mode of worship.

            Re: you cat analogy.

            I hate cats…they’re so vile Satan kicked them out of hell and the ended up here on earth. Why anyone woukd want a cat as a pet completely baffles me.

          • Tarheel says

            My brother and I wanted a dog and mom and dad got us a cat.

            I’ve never completely forgiven them for that. :-)

          • Adam G. in NC says

            C.B. and Tarheel,
            You’re right, the pastor’s really didnt teach us what it meant to be baptist other than “we dunk ‘em deep” and “OSAS”.
            The “pet topics” approach to preaching was what I was raised on. Never heard expository preaching until I was an adult.

            I will say that if I wasnt listening then nobody else was either…

            I’ll say this in all honesty, after I was truly saved, the less “baptist” I felt (and was told so), but after putting myself around some godly S.Baptist men, I actually found out I was truly becoming more Baptist in the biblical/historical sense.

          • Bill Mac says

            This is an interesting study in north/south cultural differences. Up here (NY), hunting rabbits with dogs is perfectly normal but hunting deer with dogs is anathema. In fact dogs in the woods during deer season are in mortal danger.

  8. Rick Patrick says

    “What would be significant is if the Executive Committee would pass a resolution that encouraged a minimum Cooperative Program percentage for officers, trustees, and employees. This would be non-binding, simply a statement of the feeling of that group at that time, but it would send the right signal. I don’t see much of a positive signal in this proposal to change the messenger allocation formula.”

    We should be talking percentages—at least if we still believe the adage “not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.”

  9. Tarheel says

    So you’d hold qualified applicants for employment and volunteer positions that responsible for decisions they’re not completely in “control” of?

    Im not sure I’d support that.

  10. Bart Barber says

    Under the proposal the new maximum would be 12, not 10, messengers. There are 2 messengers for any contribution at all, plus a potential of 10 additional messengers earned through contributions.

    • Adam Blosser says

      Ah, thanks. Still doesn’t change things for the church I pastor. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. I just expect that there is a very small percentage of churches for which this would actually change the number of messengers they send to the meeting.

  11. Bart Barber says

    I have opinions about this recommendation and will place them in a separate post. I’m giving notice of that not to undercut William’s comment thread, but simply to explain why I’m not replying with a whole lot of substance here—keeping my powder dry, I am.

        • volfan007 says

          probably not even the ones within 2 hours……I bet the Churches that actually bring their allotted amount are very very few and far between. I bet…even if the meeting was in Nashville and Memphis….that my Church wouldn’t send anyone but my wife and I, and the DOM and his wife of the Association…..they belong to my Church. And, I’ll bet that most Churches around these cities would say the same thing….the Pastor would probably attend….and, he would be about it.

          David

      • cb scott says

        Bob Hadley,

        Back during the CR, the church to which I served as pastor sent the whole number every year for several years.

        • volfan007 says

          Now, during the CR, that was another story. I was in Dallas and Atlanta when there were over 40,000 people in attendance. Those were some wild days.

          David

          • cb scott says

            Vol,

            Do you remember the day the sewer system in downtown Dallas went down and the downtown town area eateries ran out of food during the SBC?

          • volfan007 says

            CB,

            I can’t remember that….I just remember the incredible lines at restaurants….and, the tension in the air…and, just being overwhlemed at all that was taking place…..I was a Seminary student at Mid America Baptist in Memphis at the time, and on part time staff at the Leawood Baptist Church under Dr. Jerry Glisson.

          • dr. james willingham says

            Volfan, the number of messengers was about 55,000, if memory serves correctly, and, CB, I remember the sewage system going down. do you remember the rumors of a plot to explode a bomb in the convention center?

          • volfan007 says

            It was either in Dallas or Atlanta that a liberal just got red faced mad at me, and he lit into me like a dog after a bone. He was mad, because he was watching me vote. And, when I didn’t vote for Winfred Moore as 1st VP, then he just exploded on me. I just stood there listening to him for a while, then Dr. Glisson stepped in, and shut this man up.

            Boy, I saw a lot of angry mad people at the SBC’s in Dallas and Atlanta in the 1980’s. The liberals were extremely mad. Those were definitely some interesting times.

            I remember, one time, my wife and I were trying to find a restaurant to eat in….I’m not sure which SBC it was..and, all the restaurants had lines out the doors at a Union Station, or some kind of food court….all had huge lines except at one restaurant. Well, we raced down to that restaurant before the crowd got to that one. It was a restaurant that we’d never heard of. It was called Hooters. Well, once we got in line, and glimpsed into the place, we realized why the line was so small at this one!!! lol. Needless to say, we didn’t eat there, that day.

            David

  12. William Thornton says

    Two per…read right over that.

    Two plus the ten percent = 12 with the 10 max removed. The explanation was lacking here.

    There are few churches presently that cannot send at least pastor and wife but the two per would lock that in. Still easier for a big budget church to get to 12 than a small budget church.

    The proposal is begging for some justification. I look forward to Bart Barber’s post. Perhaps he has it or has heard it.

  13. dr. james willingham says

    What we need, desperately need, is a Third Great Awakening. Such a visitation as will quicken the interest of the people in the cause of Christ. However, we are equally afraid to say anything about theology, because some get offended even when no offence is intended, Biblical theology (while I love systematic theology, it is biblical that comes first) is really asytematic or, better yet, asymmetrical; it is like the positive and negative poles of an electric or magnetic field, a dielectric field like the objective and the subjective approaches in counseling. The both/and approach enables and empowers the counselor to deal appropriately with situations as they arise; it provides the tension that leads one to being balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic. Somehow the failure to appreciate and appropriate the intellectual approach has led us into an immense bog (no, I am not talking about blog) from which only a supernatural hand can deliver us, a hand that is evinced when thinkers really come to grasp the infinite mentality of the Omniscient God.

    Group think is also a problem. People fear to contradict the accepted view, and the result is leadership that ends in disaster. Exceptionalism then comes to the fore as a way to escape such dead end trials. Must cease now as I feel poorly.

    • John Fariss says

      “Biblical theology . . . is really asytematic or, better yet, asymmetrical; it is like the positive and negative poles of an electric or magnetic field, a dielectric field like the objective and the subjective approaches in counseling.”

      I like that. Very well put!

      John

  14. Doug Hibbard says

    I figure it will pass without too much thought, unless it disqualifies anyone who is present in the voting.

    It doesn’t really hurt small churches, especially those of us who cannot fund attending the meeting anyway. All we’ll do is sit at home and think about how 12 messengers might have voted had we been able to afford the trip, instead of how 10 would have voted.

    I’m trying to mathematically figure how this would change anything–most churches that don’t give $12,000 give based on a percentage. The churches that stress how much they give as opposed to percentage amounts are usually well above that, at least in terms of giving enough for the messengers they bring. It’s not a CP number, after all–it’s still any form of giving to SBC causes including all designations.

    So, in summary: it raises the money necessary to give, unless you’re a percentage giving church. It does nothing to make annual meeting attendance more affordable or accessible to those whose budgets do not fund travel. It may or may not be seen as bad for small churches, but the small churches that feel underrepresented already won’t be there to vote on it, so our feelings won’t matter anyway.

    It’s flying under the radar because it changes nothing about who will attend the annual meeting or how it the SBC will actually operate.

  15. says

    After reading this I would move to amend:

    One per cooperating church.

    One additional per $2,500 given through the Cooperative Program as recorded in the Annual Church Profile provided by the church to the convention or, per 250 members.

    One additional for each full percent of a church’s undesignated receipts through any combination of Cooperative Program, designated SBC causes, or to any SBC entity.

    Maximum of 20.

    I mean, why stop at 10 messengers? Why not produce 20 messengers as we are looking at a percentage given to any convention cause. I have restricted the initial gift to CP. To increase messengers we shouldn’t worry about CP we should acknowledge all gifts to the SBC. But, this should not be done just based on someone’s private numbers given when someone from Nashville calls. It should be done under accountability. That is the reason for the ACP requirement.

    – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/proposed-sbc-messenger-formula-not-very-small-church-friendly-by-william-thornton/#comments

  16. volfan007 says

    I know that some of you thought that Houston was boring. Some of you are doubting that Baltimore will be any better. So, I thought I’d give yall an exciting Saturday night on a front porch in Tennessee.

    http://youtu.be/h8rnHXV7A8Q

    David :)

        • cb scott says

          That was one cool ‘coon. and the hillbilly was not a bad dancer either.

          BTW, (even though it has nothing to do with this post) I just want to state that Dr. Bailey Smith is one of the greatest evangelists in Southern Baptist life. The Lord has greatly used him in our time ad still does. Recently, I heard him preach here in Georgia and two pastors and one deacon were saved. There was no strong invitation really. Bailey just shared the biblical gospel at the end of his lecture and three grown men in their 50s-60s came froward and professed Christ as Savior and Lord.

          God is still blessing Dr. Bailey Smith with a harvest ministry to the advancement of the Kingdom and God’s glory.

          • Chris Roberts says

            Two pastors and a deacon illustrate his ministry wonderfully. Bailey Smith: saving the same people over and over for 30 years running.

          • cb scott says

            Chris Roberts,

            You really have no idea what you are speaking of here. The meeting was not a revival service. It was a one day conference and pastors here in Georgia were the attendees. At the end of the conference, Bailey shared the gospel. No pressure, not an “alter call” as you term it was really given. However three men, having been in Christian service for a long time came to the front, before a house full of pastors and GBC workers and stated they had been born again during the time of the conference.

            It was truly amazing.

          • Dave Miller says

            Chris, that may be one of our more cynical comments ever, and in the light of Matthew 7:22, not biblically supported either.

            It would be clear to me that there are likely pastors and church leaders who have never really been converted. The salvation of three people ought to be a cause for rejoicing.

            That you use it as a cause for insult says more about you than about Bailey.

    • John Fariss says

      David, are you SURE that scene was in Tennessee? It sure looked Alabama-ish to me. (No slur here. Remember, I am from the tail end of the Appalachians in eastern Alabama. raised at the foot of Horn’s Mountain in Talladega County).

      John

      • volfan007 says

        John,

        It could probably be from any rural, Southern state. Did you notice the fish fryer on the porch? lol

        David

  17. says

    I hear a lot of folks here talking about nothing important happening at the Annual Meeting, or their not being very interesting. It reminds me of the time I served on our local City Council, many years ago. Occasionally we’d act on something controversial, and we’d often hear “I would have been there if I’d known something important was going to happen”. That always brought a bad response from me … it was ALL important, whether it was interesting or controversial or not.

    Same is true with the SBC Annual Meeting. And I have to wonder what the preacher reaction should be to people not attending business meetings because “nothing important was going to come up”.

    I seriously doubt that the requirements for number of messengers has had much effect on how many are sent. Pick a number and let every cooperating church send them. When we have 41,000 churches and 4000 messengers, while Jamaica has 40,000 MEMBERS and 10,000 messengers show up at their annual meetings (last I heard) it’s obvious what we’re doing isn’t getting the job done.

    Incidentally, my wife and I are living within our Social Security Income, and we go to the Annual Meeting. I think almost anyone or any church that WANTS TO, can.

    • says

      Bob

      My objection is not whether it is interesting or not but to me in reality the whole meeting is primarily for reports and a very limited involvement on the part of messengers making it really not very important for messengers to go to the expense or take the time to come.

      That is MY take on the meetings. The only real reason the presidential election is of any real significance is his power to nominate the committee on committees that in turn nominates the committee on nominations. Obviously the president represents Southern Baptists but his responsibility in naming the Committee on Committees can help shape the theological direction of nominations for vacant trustee positions which was the tool that brought about the CR in the 80’s. This responsibility is still a highly significant role today.

  18. william thornton says

    The change that allows two messengers per church in friendly cooperation makes this more friendly to small churches than not. Pastor and his lovely wife may both go, and they are about the only ones who ever go from small churches.

    • says

      Honestly, my church is not tiny. We have a budget of 450k per year (never really reach it, but that’s the budget) and generally no one but Jenni and I go to conventions. If all churches only got 2 messengers it wouldn’t affect attendance dramatically, would it?

      (Oh, one of our state staff is a member and if he goes we have 3 or 4 messengers).

      • William Thornton says

        Not unless there was some big train wreck going on where votes were needed and I think someone keeps up with messengers per church.

  19. says

    I am a member of the Executive Committee. Not only that, I am a member of the work group responsible for By-laws. I am a Director of Missions of a small association in Alabama comprised of about 75% bi-vocational churches. Understand this, I would do nothing to hurt the representation of the small churches in the convention. Let me clarify a few points: First, the proposal starts with TWO messengers, not one, for any donation to the convention. The rationale behind this is to increase participation in the convention, as usually it is a pastor and wife who represent the majority of churches who send messengers. Then, the $6,000 figure is an update of an archaic formula for representation that has not been changed since 1888! $6,000 in today’s dollars is equivalent to $250 in 1888. Also, the cap is 12 messengers, not 10, as stated above. If figuring by percentage instead of dollars, this is to lift up the goal for full representation at 10% of undesignated receipts. So 2 for any portion, then 1 more for each full 1% of gifts = 12 messengers, if you give 10% to convention causes. If a church with $50,000 income gives $5,000 to convention causes, they will get the same number of messengers as a church that gives $60,000! The average number of messengers is currently at 2.3 messengers per church who attends the SBC. We would like to see that number increase, not decrease. These are just a few observations. I would encourage the author and everyone who reads the article to read the by-law recommendation for themselves. I, for one, am encouraged that we are trying to deal with the issue instead of tabling it again for someone else to deal with later because it is not an easy thing to deal with. I would be glad to answer any questions about the by-law recommendation, as I have heard all the pros and cons in work group and in committee discussions. Let me assure you, this was vetted heavily and revised several times before it came out to the public forum. And the reason it did come out was to get input from Southern Baptists before we discuss it again in June prior to the convention. Frank Page said to the Executive Committee in plenary session, “if this is perceived as being harmful to small churches…. it is DOA….we will never bring it to the convention floor.” It has to be passed by messengers in two consecutive conventions to change. The process is long and fraught with difficulty for a reason – we should think long and hard about any changes to our governing documents. I, for one, think this can be a positive step in the right direction, as we promote the Cooperative Program in the article for the first time, we define what convention causes are, and make provisions for churches enduring hardships, as well. Read the proposed article, hear the arguments, and then decide whether or not you can vote for it.

    • Adam Blosser says

      Thanks for stopping by to discuss. I don’t think it hurts representation from small churches. I just don’t think it helps either.

      You mention the proposal to start with two messengers for any church that makes any contribution at all rather than only 1. Do you have a stat for the number of churches who participate in the annual meeting and are only allotted 1 messenger. I cannot imagine that it is very many.

      Other than adding a messenger slot for the pastor’s wife to vote as well, can you explain how the proposed change will increase representation from small churches?

      • Tarheel says

        Adam..it seems that the tying of messengers to percentages rather than solely by numbers could allow small churches better representation, provided they are giving a good percentage….the way I understand what Mr. Loggins said is that;

        mega church A gets the maximum number of messengers allotted with a contribution of $300,000 of their 3M dollar undesignated receipts.

        Small church B gets the maximum number of messengers allotted with a contribution of $5000 of their 50K dollar undesignated receipts.

        • Tarheel says

          If my understanding is correct…I will support it.

          Seems the 2 per friendly coopering church will help all small churches get more representation and those who are willing to give higher percentages can have just as many messengers as those who give big dollar amounts.

          Only pause is this; The megas will get their messengers no matter what…either by percentage or by dollar amount. But honestly….they are paying bigger chunks of the bills and should not be ‘punished’ for getting more receipts…

          This seems to strike a good balance.

        • william thornton says

          Wrong. A megachurch gets the maximum of 12 by giving $60,000. They go with the dollars while the microchurches have to go with percentages.

          • Tarheel says

            Yea, I was refering to the percentage calculation….it was 10%

            I am aware that mega church can also reach max with 60k under this proposal …. I think, solely my opinion and my hope, that this is the beginning of an incremental approach toward percentage messenger allotment only.

            Not equal amounts, but equal sacrifice.

          • William Thornton says

            You will die disappointed in the percentages. Your best hope is that the slide stops and stabilizes around 5%.

          • Adam Blosser says

            Tarheel, why do you want to limit messengers from the bigger churches? I can’t imagine that there are many churches, if any, that determine how much the will give to the SBC based on the amount of messengers it will afford them.

            Also, while 10% of a mega church budget is much greater of a sacrifice than many are currently making, it is not equal to the sacrifice of a church giving $5,000 when they take in $50,000.

            Joe church member who makes 200k a year and gives 20k to the church is not sacrificing as much as Sue church member who makes 30k a year and gives 3k to the church. That is not an indictment against the wealthy; it is just the reality of the situation.

          • Tarheel says

            Adam, I don’t want to limit….they only limit themselves by their commitment.

            5% is 5% and 10% is 10%.

            To say that it is less of a sacrifice if you have more receipts is not fair. Presumably With the bigger receipts come bigger expenses, bills, etc….

            Taking an equal percentage off the top is equality….if a mega and a small give 10% it still leaves them with 90%. Provided their both spending within that 90% it makes no difference “how much” that amount is.

          • Adam Blosser says

            I don’t have a problem with a switch to percentages, though I prefer the proposed plan to a plan that is strictly based on percentages.

            I disagree that 10% is the same degree of sacrifice regardless of the dollar amount. I also realize that it is closer to the same degree of sacrifice than basing it on a strict dollar amount.

            The proposal isn’t bad. I still say it doesn’t change anything. That doesn’t mean it is a bad proposal though.

          • says

            The fact is that megachurches are different. Because of their size (and nature) they can and do accomplish missions on their own. they can fund their own work.

            My church gave a just over 50,000 in CP offerings last year, and maybe a total of about 100,000 to all missions endeavors (including Lottie, Annie, Local Missions, association, mission trips, etc).

            What could we do with our offerings if we did it all by ourselves? We could fund one or two missionaries, somewhere. We could support a fair number of missionaries with $100 or so a month. there are some things we can do.

            But our 100K is MUCH more effective used in cooperation with other churches’ 100k, and 50K, and 5k, and 500K. For us, CP is the most effective way our church can do missions.

            If we had a million dollars available for missions, would I feel the same way? Obviously, a lot of megachurches think they can do better with part (or all) of their missions $ than the CP can.

            But, my point in all this rambling is pretty simple. Megachurches are different. And two things remain almost as sure as death and taxes.

            1) Megachurches are going to continue to give lesser percentages than smaller churches, on average, to convention causes.

            2) SBC Presidents are going to continue to be selected primarily from SBC’s megachurches.

          • Adam Blosser says

            No doubt. I was reminded yesterday of the importance of the cooperative program.

            We had a missionary couple sharing with our church yesterday. They are going to Central Asia to share the gospel with an unreached people group and hopefully plant a church there. They are going with an organization other than the IMB so they are spending this whole year traveling around to churches raising support. This kind of fund raising is very time consuming and expensive.

            Most of our giving to missions is done through the SBC and our state convention. We have a few mission partnerships outside of that which creates opportunities like yesterday to have missionaries in our church that we are directly supporting financially.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Small church B that gives $5,000 already gets the maximum amount of messengers under the current format. In fact, small church B can cut that number in half and still get the maximum amount of messengers under the current format.

          • Tarheel says

            But I think it’s a healthy change to move toward representation on the basis of percentage contribution….this is a step in that direction.

      • says

        Adam, it is a pretty simple calculation. If a church gave less than $250 to CP causes, they would be eligible for 1 messenger.

        I guess I have trouble seeing a church that gives that small an amount caring enough to send multiple messengers to the SBC, but who knows?

        • Adam Blosser says

          Yeah, I get all that. I would just be interested to see some statistics that demonstrate how this proposal would actually change anything in reality.

          I am with you. I cannot imagine a church that didn’t care enough to give at least $250 would care enough to send even 1 messenger to the SBC.

          I don’t mind changing the formulas for messenger allocation as long as we aren’t under any illusions that it will increase attendance at the annual conventions.

          • Adam Blosser says

            And I don’t mind this proposal for changing the formulas. I just don’t think it harms or helps anyone in reality.

  20. william thornton says

    Question for my SBCV friends:

    Does any church have to give a single dollar to the Cooperative Program to be in “in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work”?

    While the proposal further describes money given including naming the Cooperative Program (“through any combination of gifts through the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity”), it doesn’t require CP giving.

    As for the ease with which small churches may have messengers, they get one now and a second for $250. The change would give them two instead of the one. Very few churches don’t give the additional $250.

    I cannot see this increasing participation. Neither do I see in harming any church’s participation.

    According to the rationale its easy now for small churches to get to the maximum number. It would be harder for small budget churches to do so under the new language but would be no harder for big budget churches, not that I have ever heard any church complain the they wish they could have qualified more messengers for an annual meeting.

  21. dr. james willingham says

    You all should try going to an annual meeting with a son who is a preacher, too. We attended the SBC meeting in 2006 at Greensboro, but the one I am concerned about was the BSCNC. His idea was to set there with his eye fixed on the speakers, focused on everything taking place. Mine from the days of the Moderates in power was to visit in the halls with friends or check out the book store. Problem was I saw very few friends (they all had retired or been promoted, we trust, to a better place) and could not afford the books, prices being what they are for what I would want. Controversies might be exciting, but the regular persevering faithfulness is what wins in the long run. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Having lived and worked on a cotton farm, I can appreciate the value of repetitive effort. Think of the Karate Kid and he learned from painting and other tasks. Boring things might seem that way, but they can open doors to vistas never imagined by those who reject them for such trite reasons. Taking 3000 5×8 notecards for 6 years might seem boring, but the knowledge gained proved invaluable. I once shared what I had gained from that research with the Chairman of the Psychology Dept. at NC State U., and he wanted me to do a M.A.; Ph.D. under him as he was working on ideas and their influence on human behavior. I told me wife that I thought I would get a D. Min., because all I wanted to do was preach. She said, “You will be sorry.” She was right. Later, I earned a M.A. in Counseling from Liberty due to the problems I encountered in one 3 month period in my last pastorate and wound up in a bi-vocational situation where I was a counselor in a Senior High with 1800 students. In addition to Career Counseling, etc., I had to handle incest and pedophilia cases as I had written on the subject. Since I knew somewhat of the requirements of the law, I was given the responsibility for that pathology. The school was big enough to have some 6-8 counselors. Every one had assigned tasks like that. Life is never simple or easy or straight forward; it is often complex, dizzying, sordid and sorrowful, full of traumas hard to imagine. But God is still working, and He usually chooses the long, hard way to get things to done.

  22. Bill Mac says

    Grains of salt all around while someone who has never been to a convention opines, but I have to go with Bob H. here, and wonder out loud how much really is accomplished at the SBC that has any lasting impact. If folks were really interested in hearing from average SBCers, they would enable virtual participation. From my vantage point it looks like the convention is an opportunity for mega-church celebrities to wield power and an opportunity for the few average folk who attend to bask in the glow of mega-church celebrities.

  23. William Thornton says

    I think the stage is set for some nonmegapastor, heavy CP supporter to be elected president, primarily due to social media and blogging. I’d like to see a test case…probably not this year though.

  24. Bill Mac says

    Has anyone really answered Plodder’s most important question? What “problem” are they trying to solve?

  25. Adam Blosser says

    No. I am not sure there is an answer. There are some obvious problems related to the cooperative program and attendance at annual meetings but this plan doesn’t fix any of them.

    Again, I don’t have a problem with the change as long as we don’t pat ourselves on the back at the end like we actually did something.

  26. William Thornton says

    Bart has a piece on this coming. A la Michael Corleone, all of your questions will be answered at that time. Perhaps the motion maker will offer something in that.

    I think that the Xcomm’s proposal is a good case study in how NOT to rollout an important SBC constitutional change, though there’s plenty of time to clean up the mess before Baltimore.

  27. says

    As the one who made the motion, I am happy to address the issues that brought about the motion in the first place.

    As to the solution, I did not have a hand in that and only made a motion that we reconsider a portion of our constitution that actually pre-dated the CP. Even then, the base dollar amounts represented significant sacrifice where today it is a pittance. Even in 1925 with the founding of the CP, we had already used the $250 dollar mark for 37 years. In 1925, $250 bought you a Ford Runabout (brand new) and $250 was 20% of the average household income during the period.

  28. says

    I don’t have anything helpful to contribute to the larger discussion; just an observation. It seems to me that smaller churches have problems either way. Under the current formula, it costs more to send someone than it does to secure their seat if the church is any distance from the location of the convention meeting. So it won’t make much of a difference that small churches will earn less seats. They have less people who can go and less funds to send them anyway.

  29. aaron says

    What is the percentage of people who attend the conventions that have no denominational job. If you took out employees of baptists schools/seminaries, state convention employees, and DOM’s I bet the attendence would be cut in half.

  30. Tarheel says

    At least in half. Maybe more. Don’t forget to add Seminar students who choose the convention attendance class credit…that’s probably not a real large number but it’s a number, like the ones you mentioned that bring people to the convention that likely otherwise wouldn’t be there.

    I’d say in Houston it was like 65/35 employees probably.

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