I currently have the privilege of serving on the Committee on Nominations of the Southern Baptist Convention. I have had the responsibility of representing Mississippi Baptists on this committee three times now. This year I had the honor of serving with a layman from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A couple weeks ago I emailed our finished product to the Executive Committee of the SBC. We finished our work ahead of the deadline. Our recommendations await approval of the entire Committee on Nominations which will meet in Nashville in a this week. I would like to share some misconceptions that a few people may have about the work of the Committee on Nominations.
- There is the misconception this is a good old boy network.
Not once have I had a personal relationship with the president who started the process that ultimately named me to the committee. I have met Steve Gaines and Bobby Welch who were presidents when I was nominated to serve on the Committee on Nominations. However, these gentlemen could not pick me out of a lineup. I am not their guy in any way. To be honest, the first time I served was so long ago I can’t remember who the president was, I believe James Merritt. Again, I rode with James Merritt across the state of Mississippi once in a Nissan Altima but I am certain he has forgotten our few encounters.
Members of the Committee on Nominations are recommended by members of the Committee on Committees. Some of these guys knew me when they recommended me but some of them did not know me personally but knew of me and the churches I have served. For whatever reason, out of the blue, three times I was asked to serve. It was a shock to me all three times. I am not part of any network, and truthfully, as I aged I became more interested in pastoring the one church I am honored to serve and less interested in being well known. I may be the most disconnected pastor in Mississippi. I serve in anonymity.
- There is the misconception the president pushes his agenda through the Committee on Nominations.
I lived through the Conservative Resurgence. I am aware how the trustee system operates and how electing presidents can steer the SBC ship. However, to steer the ship requires several presidents elected consecutively who campaign with a stated agenda. I am not talking about a stealth agenda but one that is shared throughout the convention and publicized extensively. This type of influence requires a network of supporters that will ensure the president’s Committee on Committee members from each state convention are on board and will stack the Committee on Nominations with people who support the cause. Such a network has not existed probably since Morris Chapman was elected president in 1991.
Bobby Welch had a passion for seeing people baptized. When I was named to the Committee on Nominations while he was president I received correspondence from him asking we look for candidates who emphasized baptism and Cooperative Program giving. Steve Gaines sent no communication to me. James Merritt, or whoever the first guy was, sent me no such correspondence. Let’s be clear, the only conversation my partner and I had with our nominees was will you serve and will you fill out this biographical form. Not much agenda there.
- There is a misconception that large church pastors dominate the numbers on the boards of trustees for our entities.
This year, my partner and I had the privilege of nominating 4 first-term candidates and 4 second-term candidates. Of the 8 candidates that Mississippi will nominate 4 have church membership greater than 1,000 and 4 have membership less than 1,000. The largest church membership of any individual we nominated was 5,943. This recommendation is of an individual who is not a staff member of this church. The smallest church membership of any individual we nominated was 256. Of the 8 candidates we nominated only 4 are serving as pastor and 1 of them is an interim pastor. Large church pastors may dominate the trustee meetings but they do not dominate the numbers on our trustee boards.
- There is a misconception that CP giving determines nominations to trustee positions.
I received no correspondence encouraging us to nominate large CP% givers as trustees. There was a time when my philosophy was, “if a church doesn’t make a substantial investment in our CP that church shouldn’t be allowed to provide the leadership for the SBC.” I no longer feel that way. I have taken my cue from the SBC. We nominate and elect people for president who give small percentages. For this reason, no consideration was taken concerning CP giving on my part. Among our nominees the highest % given to the CP was 14%. The lowest % given was 1%. The average CP % for our 8 nominees was 6.5%. It is worth noting that two churches gave 1% but one of them is a church plant and I am grateful for church plants that give to the CP.
- There is a misconception that people who serve on SBC boards are wined and dined on CP money.
Again, this will be my third trip to Nashville to serve on this committee. The first two times we were put up in a modest hotel in walking distance to the SBC Building. We began working on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. We had refreshments and met fellow committee members from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. We took a break for dinner which we ate on site. It was an adequate meal but was in no way elaborate. We had refreshments before our morning work session on Friday. We adjourned our meeting on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. and started home. Every SBC member can be proud of the way our Chief Executive Officer and his staff are conscientious about spending CP dollars. Committee Members feel appreciated but nothing is lavished on them.
Finally, let me make a request. If you want to make a recommendation to your state convention’s members on the Committee on Nominations please do the work to see if the position you are recommending is actually open and if the person currently serving is eligible for a second term on the board. I had dozens of letters of recommendation sent to me and only one recommendation was for a position that was actually open. Having served two 4-year terms as a trustee at one of our seminaries I am persuaded a second-term trustee is more prepared to do a good job than a first-term trustee. I spent at least half of my first term learning the procedures, people, and policies of the seminary I was serving. Most trustees are better in their second term than their first. For this reason, I am inclined to nominate a candidate completing a first term for a second term. On Thursday please pray for your Committee on Nominations as we meet to put together a list of trustees for our entities which you will vote on this June in Dallas at our annual meeting.