I’ve never been called a prophet nor do I have a reputation for insightful brilliance, so take this all with a grain of salt.
The BCS-ination of the SBC
I enjoy college football as much as a good many people, though not as much as some nut-jobs out there. However, a recent trend has set my teeth on edge: small and mid-sized football conferences are losing their best schools to the major conferences: Big 10, Pac-12, Big 12, Big East, ACC, SEC, etc. These conferences in turn set most of the rules and dominate the airways. Smaller groupings lose their best schools, players, and income sources to the big dogs who rather unapologetically believe they set the pace for the rest of the nation. Some sports pundits have wondered whether we will end up with 6-10 mega-conferences at some point, effectively killing small conferences. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is what drives this consolidation of power, and I wonder if the BSC has come to the SBC.
As I watch megachurches, with mulitple campuses (each of which with 3 services hosting 4,000 people each), I wonder about the impact on smaller churches. Are they losing their most promising leaders to churches with deeper pockets? Is the small, intimate church an endangered species in some places? Will rural pastors forever lose their voice in the cacophony of megachurch pastors who write books, dominate the airways, and set the standards? Will SBC associations consist of 3 megachurches who control the rest through voting blocs and money flow?
An Uneasy Arranged Courtship Between IMB and NAMB
I don’t actually think that the IMB and NAMB will ever wed. However, I can envision the possibility that SBC leaders might look at the increasingly diverse United States and conclude that NAMB needs spend a little structured one-on-one time with the IMB. The goal would be an understanding of the IMB’s approach to reaching out to a variety of ethnic groups. IMB and NAMB would comply, spending vast amounts of time learning from one another, but I imagine it would be an awkward thing. Sort of like taking your wild and crazy cousin to the prom: a good time will be by all, and yet it’s just gonna feel weird.
IMB Missionaries Who Have Real Jobs
There’s sort of an awkward joke among lots of IMB folks, one that stems from some bad familial reaction to the missionary call. It goes like this: “I like working for the IMB. Beats having a real job, that’s for sure.” It comes from parents and siblings who say, “When are you going to come home and find a real job?”
I suspect the day will come when the IMB just might have to ask some of their people to be bivocational international missionaries. With more and more groups competing for the same SBC dollars, I imagine that the IMB will either have to reduce the size of the missionary force or seek out more creative ways of funding workers. Who knows…perhaps the uneasy IMB/NAMB relationship will allow international missionaries the chance to examine the bivocational pastor/missionary types who remain in the US for ministry.
Yeah, I know house churches abound. I just wonder if the current political and social trends are going to someday make house churches the most attractive option.
In various places around the globe, governments place limitations on the local church. Churches in Country A must have a building with an address that is documented and registered in a gonverment office. Churches in Country B have to sign a non-opposition agreement to show their support of the current regime. You get the picture, yes?
You know how some Christians and missionaries get around this? They meet in unofficial, unregistered, undocumented house churches. In their house churches, they endorse political candidates, speak out against immorality, and choose leaders without public pressure to accept those who do not fit Biblical qualifications. And it makes me wonder: when will it come to this in the US? When will the freest form of Christian worship take place in living rooms instead of worship centers?
Blurring of Institutional Roles
Blurred lines today:
-IMB missionaries include theological education of nationals as one of their normal roles.
-Individual churches in the US sponsor their own international and domestic missionaries.
-NAMB works extensively with non-native ethnic groups.
-Seminaries are so involved in missions they have their own missions department and building.
It makes me wonder: how much more blurring will we see? Will NAMB print their own books? Will churches start seminaries?
I don’t think these are bad cases of crossover between one agency and another. Specialization can be taken too far, you understand. I just wonder if the bold lines that always marked the end of one agency and the beginning of another are going to start disappearing.
There you have it, folks: an official waste of e-ink.