The BBBCC brain trust was deep in conversation and frustrations were running high. For decades, they had been the premiere denominational construction company, building a Baptist convention that was the envy of other denominations. Its headquarters were an architectural wonder, its schools the envy of the world. It had great convention edifices in states throughout the South, with successful building projects both here at home and in foreign lands. The Building Better Baptists Construction Company was an example to the entire Christian construction world.
As time went on, though, people began to notice that some of the buildings were getting a bit rundown and signs of crumbling were starting to show. The alarm went out that substandard mortar was being used in the brick construction the BBBCC had made famous. The supplier, Modernist Mortar, was producing a weak product that would not hold the bricks together. After a fierce internal battle, the BBBCC returned to the use of an older, better mortar that would hold the bricks together. It was assumed that all would be well from that point onward.
It was not. Signs of trouble began to pop up all over in the buildings that had been constructed by the BBBCC. At first, most in the company denied the trouble was real and resorted to simple solutions, such as changing the names of the products offered and the use of new slogans for the building company. Alas, these made little difference and the crumbling of the buildings continued. “A Million More in 2004” fell flat.
A company-wide push was made for new programs and training curricula to teach the workers to be more effective in building the buildings, but these training sessions were often poorly attended and those that were popular faded quickly and did not affect the overall problem. Buildings continued to crumble.
The slow process of crumbling accelerated, and so the company leaders devised a “Great Construction Resurgence” to renovate the entire structure of the company. Statistical analysis showed that this was necessary, but the GCR had little effect on the real problem. Buildings continued to crumble, and the rate seemed to accelerate, in spite of this well-intentioned effort.
Many within the company proposed new strategies and changes in leadership styles, while others developed even more seminars and methods to combat the problems. The various divisions of the BBBCC began to use screening programs to find workers better suited to constructing great buildings and massive efforts were put into the modernization of the infrastructure of the company, but no matter what was done, it seemed as if the crumbing continued. Networks formed within the company advocating a return to the older ways of building, claiming that “if we just did things the way we used to do them, all would be well.” Buildings kept crumbling.
Many people despaired and walked away. “The BBBCC is useless and cannot build a decent building anymore,” they said. Time to abandon this sinking ship.
One day, one of the workers noticed something that changed everything. He picked up a brick and accidentally dropped it. It shattered into pieces. He began to test the bricks that he was using in his BBBCC construction project and realized that many of them, perhaps most, were defective – weak, easily broken. The problem wasn’t the mortar – it was good. The problem wasn’t building programs or strategies, leadership styles, or any of the things the BBBCC had been emphasizing. The bricks they were using were substandard and substandard bricks will never build solid buildings. The BBBCC realized the source of the problem and that solving the brick problem was fundamental to everything else. No strategy, program, motivational effort, or leadership style could counterbalance the use of substandard bricks.
I haven’t been writing much, but I”ve been reflecting much, and I believe that the issues of the SBC are more at the local level than the national level.
We all agree that there are problems in our convention, do we not? We have a statistical decline that is actually decades old, but has become pronounced in recent years. We are increasingly splintered and seem to be unable to agree either on what is wrong or how to fix it.
Of course, there are convention issues, which need to be addressed and corrected. However, we are a convention of congregational churches and that means something. Our problems are church problems and those church problems tend to rest in people who comprise the churches. When people are not walking right their churches will not function properly and the convention will have problems.
Our root problem is not cultural marxism or liberalism or any of the things that we are bandying about today. The core issue in the SBC is that too many of the members of SBC churches walk in the flesh instead of in the fullness of the Spirit, holiness is often absent, and we are seeking our own instead of the Glory of the Savior. Obviously, a generalization such as this one is not meant as a universal description. There are believers who live as they should and churches fulfilling their Great Commission. The problem is one of percentages. There are so many flawed bricks that no matter what we do as a convention, nothing seems to change.
We have a brick problem. The basic building blocks of our convention are flawed. We corrected the “Modernist Mortar” problem in the CR and expected a sort of Baptist utopia – evangelistic success, church growth, and midichlorians bringing balance to the force. That our decades-long slow decline accelerated after the CR instead of reversing was a shock to those of us who poured ourselves into the “Battle for the Bible.”
If we want to see the issues in our convention turned around, we must not start with Nashville or Alpharetta or Richmond. Yes, there are issues that need to be addressed in those places, not ignored, but our primary focus must be where the primary problem is. We must build better bricks. We must build better Baptists. We need to not only lead people to Christ, but teach them to obey everything he commanded. We must disciple people who walk in holiness under the Lordship of Christ, who live for the Kingdom of God, not for this world, who live out the Fruit of the Spirit, not the deeds of the flesh. Those kinds of people will gather and form Great Commission churches that will affect their communities radically for Christ. Enough of THAT kind of church will form a convention that will change things radically at the state and national level.
I have not been writing much recently, but I’ve been mulling things over quite a bit. I wrote the other day that I want to spend more time proposing solutions than calling out those who are doing things wrong, as I see it. For some time, a series of articles has been forming in my mind and heart. I have set out, to this point, a series of seven principles for “Building Better Baptists. Nothing is revolutionary – it is more of a back to basics thing than new revelation!
I begin this series with the firm conviction that nothing we do nationally or at the state level will work until we devote ourselves to producing better bricks to build with, until with Build Better Baptists.