Randy Adams is the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, an area covering Oregon, Washington, and northern Idaho. He is a supporter of Ken Hemphill and a critic of J.D. Greear or at least of the type of Southern Baptist that JDG represents. Adams classified most SBC churches as “not fully cooperative” about which I had an earlier piece, Who fully supports the Cooperative Program?
In that Adams wrote, “Southern Baptists are at a critical crossroad. One road leads to the continuation of decline in CP missions giving and the continuation of the decline of the SBC (that is a subject for another article, but yes, we are in serious decline by most every measure). The other road will lead us to growth in our cooperative missions strategy.”
I judged this to be a salvo against J.D. Greear’s candidacy and his “not fully cooperative” Summit Church that is the largest CP giving church in North Carolina and which baptizes over 700 per year and is the church from which more IMB personnel come than any other SBC church in the 173 year history of the Convention.
Although we’ve been on the road of declining baptisms and CP giving percentages since before J. D. Greear entered the first grade, it’s fair to attempt to make a point about giving methods and preferences of churches. It is a bit shrill in my view to predict a calamitous future if Ken Hemphill is not elected. Count me as one who doesn’t think the SBC president drives or can steer these long term trends.
Nonetheless, I always appreciate someone like Randy Adams who thinks about how the SBC might be improved and prosper. His blog article of today, Trust and Partnership – A Recovery Plan for the SBC is such an effort.
I might as well be candid about the piece: It is in part an anti-NAMB screed and even promotes a new, anonymous anti-NAMB website. Adams believes that “talking openly and honestly” about our problems is good and I agree. While he talks openly and honestly, others slink around and talk anonymously. Perhaps he would insist on honesty in such things as well. I don’t know who is behind that slick website but evidently they don’t want it to be known who they are.
Adams maintains that baptisms and church starts have declined because of changes in NAMB’s funding to state conventions. NAMB is certainly subject to scrutiny in all that they do but I’m not all that enthused about a return to the status quo ante for NAMB. Pre-2010 it was a hot mess of wasteful spending, overbearing leadership, and fuzzy numbers.
It’s a bit of a disappointment that Adams seemingly doesn’t have any new ideas other than to go back to the system where NAMB collected money from churches through state conventions and then funneled it back through grants. The complaints about NAMB not adequately funding evangelism aren’t all that persuasive to me.
If there is a problem with church planting that is shown in a dearth of new plants then why don’t the legacy state conventions, the sixteen large southern states where most of the money originates and is kept, devote more of their revenues to starting churches, promoting evangelism, and the like?
The churches in these southern states collect about ten BILLION dollars from their members. Isn’t there enough in that to fund evangelism and church plants in Georgia, or Texas, or Tennessee? The Cooperative Program is still a huge funding engine, around half a billion annually. The state conventions KEEP 60% of this for their own use. That’s around $200 million dollars and over NINETY PERCENT of that stays in these 16 state conventions. It made perfect sense for NAMB to put their budget outside the south. How they do it and what the results are fair for criticism.
Part of the complaint is that NAMB doesn’t fund evangelism like they used to. I’d like for state convention leaders, particularly those in these 16 large state conventions in the south, to explain how with their hundreds of millions in revenues they are unable to adequately fund evangelism. It may well be that Washington, Oregon, and northern Idaho deserve more funding. Currently, the object of most of Adams’ criticism, NAMB, provides one-third of the NWBC budget. That third amounts to $1,824,000. I don’t know where NAMB’s $1.8 million is used in the state convention.
But what about this loss of “trust, respect, and true partnership” that Adams would like to restore? I’m all for it. Maybe it would help if leaders (1) stop shaming most SBC churches for not being fully cooperative, (2) accept that local churches should drive decisions about their own mission funding and not people on the SBC payrolls at any level, (3) avoid rancorous partisan fights in our elections, and (4) reject anonymous hit sites in favor of open, respectful dialogue.
I appreciate Randy Adams making an open, honest effort and putting his name and reputation behind it.
If we’re going to have a debate, let’s have a debate. I’m not seeing the seeds for any SBC recovery, either of trust and partnership or of our growth, in Adams’ article. Others may feel differently. I respect and appreciate the job Adams, his staff, Kevin Ezell and the NAMB staff, is doing. No doubt changes are afoot for all of us.
I’m not expecting anyone to step forward and identify themselves as being behind the new anti-NAMB website (it’s easily found) but if any of the astute SBCV readers are a part of it or know who is…let’s be “trust the Lord and tell the people” Southern Baptists. Stand up and be recognized. I have no problem with anyone making their case for different NAMB policies.
This article does not represent SBC Voices nor any other writer, editor, or administrator here. It’s my stuff alone and perhaps I’m missing something in it. Feel free to tell me something I need to know. We are, after all, all on the same side.
See you in sultry Dallas.