I would like to see a serious effort by Southern Baptists to elect someone other than a megachurch pastor as president of the convention.
While I have no particular complaint about current president Ronnie Floyd, I think he has done a good job, my view is that we lose something valuable by relying on a parade of pastors whose environment is that of the two hundred or so megachurches in the SBC. There are no job demands, no responsibilities, no tasks of the president of the SBC that qualify only megachurch pastors for election. Although the SBC president has to have some level of visibility, there is no requirement that he take every speaking engagement, attend every meeting, or take on tasks that preclude him from managing his church responsibilities while serving as president.
We Southern Baptists are like everyone else in 2016 in that many, perhaps most, of us who try to stay informed no longer have to wait for a printed Baptist state paper or even the Baptist Press stories that are posted at the end of most working days. We exchange information regularly and frequently on blogs. We get feeds throughout the day from a variety of sources. Bloggers like Dave Miller, Rick Patrick, Bart Barber and others have as much name recognition as some megachurch pastors. I am not promoting or endorsing any of these but rather offering reasonable examples of the reality that one need not be a megachurch pastor or a regular speaker at the better attended conferences around the SBC to be recognized.
Frankly, the parade of the same several dozen figures, churches, and entity leaders is tired and old. This “star” system, on balance, probably hasn’t serve us well at times, an assertion that is no indictment of any individual but rather an opinion that when we see the same churches have trustees elected to the major SBC entities repeatedly, often with spouses of pastors and seat-warming laypeople from these churches, such is unhealthy, unfair, unproductive, and to be candid, insulting to the tens of thousands of churches whose pastors and members have no chance of being asked to serve. It cannot be a positive thing for the SBC that in regard to the Cooperative Program, our stated preferable and indispensable giving program, these megachurches are invariably known for giving less that the average SBC church percentage.
An SBC president from outside the usual circles of influence would inject new blood, new ideas, new enthusiasm for a tired and declining denomination. I’m one SBC pastor who has no interest in traveling on any ship other than the lumbering, sometimes cumbersome, manifestly imperfect Southern Baptist Convention. I’d like to see those among us who are rotated every couple of years as captain of the ship to occasionally outside the normal star system that we have been using.
The only times in my experience that we have departed from the megachurch star system for our presidents has been in the election of Fred Luter in 2012 and 2013. Every other president since the mid-1970s has been a white, male, middle-aged or older megachurch pastor. There’s no inherent reason this should continue. It was encouraging in 2014 to see a strong showing by Asian pastor Dennis Kim.
I think we are in the neighborhood these days where, since everything else has changed about SBC life, a non-megachurch pastor can be elected.
I’m not optimistic about this happening but I’d like to see it.