We should really elect a “regular guy” as president of the SBC shouldn’t we – someone who pastors a normal-sized church!
For all our lives the presidents of the SBC have been luminaries and mega-church pastors – celebrities who live in different worlds than we do. They don’t really understand how we live and we don’t really understand how they live. So every year people start suggesting that we run a non-mega pastor for the exalted office of president of the SBC. The nominations usually begin with the good Dr. Bart Barber – frankly, I think he is an excellent choice, but he assures me he will not allow his name to be placed in nomination. Someone usually suggests I put my hat in the ring as one possibility.
If you saw the mess on my desk at my office, you’d realize how silly the idea of me as President of the Southern Baptist Convention really is. The administrative responsibilities of the job would likely give me an aneurysm. I think I could moderate a meeting (with the help of the inimitable Barry McCarty). I’d love the speaking engagements I might get – you know how I love to bluster. I’ve got a few cherry sermons I could pick! But the administrative tasks of the office would absolutely blow me out of the water.
It is generally known that serving as president of the SBC was for many years a marker of trouble in the president’s church. The demands of the job and the time away from the church caused a lot of problems. That was at mega-churches which had more people on staff than many of our churches have in attendance on Sunday morning! SBC presidents today are advised to travel during the week but to make every effort to be in their pulpit on Sunday. That might work for Fred Luter or Ronnie Floyd, but at Southern Hills in Sioux City, I can’t just show up to preach on Sunday and let my staff take care of everything the rest of the week. I’ve got two good associates, great deacons, and wonderful ministry team leaders, but at a church that runs 250 on a great Sunday, the Senior Pastor (you whippersnappers would call me a “lead pastor” – whatever that is!) just can’t be gone 150 days a year.
One day in church, at both services, I asked how many of the people who attended SHBC had a Southern Baptist background, who had been Southern Baptist before they joined our church. Outside of the three staff families, there were maybe 2 other families. Out of somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 folks who call this their church home, far below 10% of our people have a Southern Baptist background. In my 10 years, no one but Jenni and me has attended an annual meeting. My folks don’t see themselves as Southern Baptist. They give to missions – generously. But one of the things I’ve had to fight hardest for is to keep giving percentages to missions through the CP. That is just foreign to most of my folks.
I say all that to say that my church would not understand why the pastor is gone again this week speaking in some conference somewhere to people they don’t know because he got elected to a position they don’t know or care about.
Pastors of medium to smaller churches – would your churches be honored that their pastor got elected president of the SBC? Oh yes. It would be quite a thrill when they saw their name and the church’s name in the press. But after six months, a year, 18 months, when the pastor is gone all the time, when he’s not there for weddings and funerals, to give counsel, when he misses meetings, when the church is floundering because he’s off at another meeting or on another speaking engagement, would your church begin to grow resentful? Take off your rose-colored glasses. Your church would get restless and grumpy at your constant absences.
I mentioned this in the comments in another post. You aren’t going to like it, but I think its true.
It takes a mega to make a president (of the SBC).
Think about it.
1. Mega church pastors get to be mega-church pastors because they have the vision and force of personality to set the tone for a denomination. I’m more of a consensus builder. The SBC president needs to be the driven vision-caster more than the consensus-builder. My style works well in a church my size.
2. Mega church pastors generally either have the administrative ability and vision needed for the job or have sufficient staff to handle the job. I have an administrative assistant but she has not time left in the week to do SBC business. All her time is used up getting SHBC work done.
3. Mega church pastors have to do press, interviews and make public appearances, the kind of things that are fraught with perils and minefields. I’ve done a few interviews and things, but I’m a novice. Imagine the first time I’m invited to do some big show as the president of the SBC and I say something stupid. Dr. Mohler, Dr. Moore, the megas who have been president – they’ve learned to do that kind of thing as they’ve been in the public eye.
4. The financial commitments of the SBC president are scary to someone who generally maxes out his expense account by the end of the summer. I get an expense account, but often it is gone by the time I finish paying off my SBC convention expenses. I’ve never had to worry about giving money back on that. I don’t know the details of expense accounts for the SBC president, but the whole thing scares me a little. I know this – I couldn’t self-fund it!
5. Let’s face it folks, the job of SBC president is a mega-job. Mega-church pastors are mega-church pastors because they are wired that way. Their gifts, personality, calling – however you bill it. Maybe, somewhere there is a pastor of a small-to-medium church who is able to handle this job. But guys like that usually move up.
6. The mega church pastors have extensive staff to keep the home-fires burning while they are out doing their denominational service. In a mega-church, the Senior Pastor is a vision-caster and idea-guy who doesn’t involve himself beyond preaching Sunday and vision-casting for the church. He’s less hands-on than pastors like me. So, while he’s out and about he can continue some of that vision-casting (I actually hate that word!) and preaching and let his staff carry on. The two years of service as SBC president would likely devastate a church like mine. My church would suffer – severely.
Frankly, I question whether the decision to allow myself to be nominated as SBC president could be justified as anything other than an act of ego, based on the likely destruction to my church. That would almost certainly be true of any small or medium-sized church. I’m not sure that the job of SBC president, as it currently operates, can be handled by anyone but a mega-church pastor.
- Would it be an honor to be elected SBC president? Of course!
- Would it be fun to serve? Duh.
- Could I perform some aspects of the job passably? Maybe. (A few, not all.)
- Would there be advantages to having someone that understands the normal SBC experience in office? Perhaps. I think there would.
But I’m afraid that those who think that us regular guy pastors can tackle this job may not understand the realities of this job, the demands it places on the president’s time and on his church.
As much as we’d like a regular guy to be elected, you should only nominate one you strongly dislike as an act of vengeance! That is what I believe it would be in the long run for the “regular guy” pastor who is elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The honor would become a curse.
Come to think of it, maybe that is why people keep bringing up my name.