A little Melville goes a long way in today’s SBC.
Our venerable North American Mission Board is the SBC Moby Dick, the enormous spermaceti whale and object of the crazed, morbid, and ultimately fatal quest for vengeance by Captain Ahab and willing crew.
NAMB trains planters, plants churches, supports plants and has received record and near record offerings for years, indicative of the support of Southern Baptist crossroad churches and Baptists in the pews. The energy of a small cadre of the disgruntled, unhappy, malcontents has long been channeled into relentless, unhealthy quests. But, in SBC life there’s always a substream of discontent and self-declared grievences. Look for many of these to be or have been on the denominational payroll. In a sad sense, this is the SBC we have had for two generations.
In 2023, the Cooperative Program is waning as we approach its centennial. The SBC is being sued by our government, sex abuse victims, and even a former SBC president. Discussions center around survival, around preservation of institutions, not the quest for souls and establishment of healthy congregations of followers of Christ.
We have a controversial and highly publicized amicus brief dealing with a Kentucky sex abuse case. Who is surprised that anti-NAMB crusaders and their shipmates see an amicus brief as another harpoon to thrust at the white whale of SBC life? You can sign on to this brief and up until today, unbelievably, you could do so without even reading it. Who would do that? Ahab and his mesmerized crew, I suppose.
Western state convention CEO, Randy Adams, a longtime NAMB critic seems to be the visible leader of this latest quest. I don’t dislike Adams and have supported some of his ideas. This isn’t one of them. He ran for SBC president in 2021 and received 4.71% of the votes. His pre-election tabloid, a collection of gripes about NAMB and the SBC, didn’t seem to help him. I doubt anyone will try that again. But, if there’s a way to gig NAMB he and others will find it and use it.
I question no ones motives but if one designed a recipe for SBC decline and failure, it would look like what we are seeing here.
Consider that Lifeway Research optimistically reports that “6 in 10 Southern Baptist churches are either growing or are have plateaued.” We do know how to spin stuff in this man’s convention. Another way to present that research would be to say “Over 80% of Southern Baptist churches are either declining or plateaued.” Lower the boats, men.
I’m hearing more people who just want to disengage and who are weary of the constant internal bickering. Any church can support SBC entities directly without any cooperative giving and without having to think about our dysfunctional Executive Committee or deal with the supposed outrages du jour.
But, if you want to make a movie with Gregory Peck about SBC characters, issues, and travails…I’ll tune in for that. Alas, there are no longer any compelling lead characters in our convention. Adrian Rogers will have been gone for 18 years next Wednesday.
I’m a little depressed about it all.
Quotes are from the 1956 Moby Dick movie. I’ve read the book, every word in it, the long version.
I like Moby Dick as a picture of the SBC. I like Wagner’s Gotterdammerung even better, but we don’t allow female warriors, Valkyries, in the SBC. The CMBW doesn’t allow that, not even if you call them “ministers” instead of “pastors.”