Here are a few questions for the SBC hoi polloi:
Church revitalization has been a buzzword and a watchword since I took my first church in 1982. Do those who are practitioners and contributors to the concept have honest metrics that actually demonstrate the success or failure of revitalization efforts? I’m not accusing anyone of anything, just asking. What is the measure of church revitalization? Baptisms? Membership? Programs? Congregational happiness? We are a slightly declining convention of churches. The state conventions have revitalization staff, hold revitalization conferences, offer revitalization resources. Associations make attempts at this as well. Do any of these have demonstrable successes or is it just expected that with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, SBC entities should do something for revitalization?
If we’re not baptizing as many folks, if we have lower attendance, can claiming to be a healthier church be an appropriate metric? I understand the thinking but it sounds like a sales pitch to me. Same problem here with vague and undefined language. Better question, since state conventions like my own have long years of declining baptisms, will we start hearing about how we’ve worked hard to improve church health rather than more concrete measures? After all, we can claim greater health in spite of declining numbers. States spend around $300 million in CP money. What, ultimately, are we getting for that kind of investment? Staff, conferences, slogans and programs that cannot be measured? Just asking.
Nothing describes the SBC like our venerable Cooperative Program, almost a century old now. If the percentage of church offering plate dollars that go through the CP is a measure of CP market share, then we are managing a declining legacy brand. “Market share” has declined by over half over the last 40 years. Whatever eruptions of concern we go through, and we are in a years long push to reduce state convention share (the reduction is negligible to church members, a few percent), the bottom line has remained the same: we’re losing ground with the churches. We are plunging towards 4% in CP percentage. Can this ground be regained? Double digits are a fantasy dream.
Responding to clergy sex abuse
The SBC of 2019 doesn’t resemble the SBC of previous years in this regard. There was a time when Baptist Press would not touch a story of clergy sex abuse in an SBC church. There was a time when local church autonomy was the standard answer to questions of what “the SBC” does to stop sex abuse in churches and by clergy. Now, the deplorable topic is the subject at every level of SBC life. What remains to be done by “the SBC” about sex abuse?
Victims are given voices but they are, according to some, the wrong victims. Thorough, solid materials and programs are provided, many of these are free, to churches but the sources are suspect to some. The private MinistrySafe organization is the main source for SBC churches, at modest costs (my medium-sized church pays a few hundred annually for this), but is heavily criticized. Another organization, GRACE whose founder and Executive Director is Boz Tchividjian, is praised and preferred. Oddly, there is some competition for the attention and funding on church sex abuse resources. Both MS and GRACE will be featured at the national ERLC conference on sex abuse in October. SBCers are exposed to both. In my view both do well.
What remains to be done? Well, the creation of an SBC database of convicted, confessed, and credibly accused SBC clergy has yet to be created. Best I can tell, no one in current leadership has taken that off the table.
The beleaguered patriarchy
Exactly what place will the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood find going forward? I’m not seeing much of a role, but then maybe they will change the archaic name and try to find a place.
SBC President, 2020
Who will venture a run at the position of SBC president next year? Some have predicted that Tom Ascol, president of Founders Conference will run. Frankly, unless he comes out for pet eradication, I can’t see how he could have made himself less electable. I will make a wild conjecture that some megapastor will be hungering and thirsting after the position, although I still have the faint hope that some non-mega will be elected in my lifetime.
Why don’t I fish more? Good question. I could fish any day of the week, including Sunday if I wanted. Nah, too hot; too cold; too windy; too sunny. Blah. Blah.
Distinguished looking fellow, that.