Louis has been a part of the blogging community for a long time. This is Part 1. Part 2 will come later.
I plan to attend the annual meeting of the SBC in Houston, Texas next week. I am looking forward to the meeting. I enjoy the reports from the SBC entities. I enjoy hearing about our cooperative efforts to share the Gospel and disciple believers around the world.
I also enjoy the fellowship that I have with many people in the SBC. I know people in the SBC from all over the country. The annual meeting brings us all together for fellowship and business.
There are two things that I expect may happen at this year’s annual meeting that I personally hope do not happen.
Here is the first.
1. Making SBC Church Members a Customer Base for Guidestone.
This is the most important issue the SBC will address this year, but most people do not know a thing about it.
In my view, this may be the most important decision that the SBC has ever made, but because it is not overtly theological in nature, it attracts very little interest or critical examination.
We are too busy playing small ball to notice what is going on right under our collective noses.
Guidestone, formerly known as the Annuity Board, historically provided retirement and insurance services to pastors and other workers in the SBC. Those are necessary services since most churches do not have a number of employees constituting a group that would allow pastors and other workers to purchase insurance services. Also, it has been good for pastors to have a place that understands their work and needs with regard to retirement savings.
But Guidestone wants to expand its customer base to include individuals, regardless of whether they work in a church or for an SBC entity.
This is a terrible idea. The reason – it changes the relationship between the SBC and church members.
Church members become a customer base. They become potential purchasers for SBC financial products. This is unprecedented.
Currently SBC church members are contributors to the Lord’s kingdom work, not customers. When the SBC starts treating us as customers for the sale of financial products, that is a new day. And it is a very sad day. It is way too similar to money changers in the Temple.
What if your pastor was also your investment advisor? How would that make you feel?
Do you really want the SBC to become your investment advisor?
What comes next? Guidestone stores with signs saying, “Southern Baptists Investments Sold Here!”
This is also a bad idea because it puts the SBC in a bad light. This makes the SBC look predatory.
The worst religions and cults are usually those that get entangled with their members’ money. “Join our church. Now, let me invest your money!” How does that sound to you?
Can you imagine the charges that can be laid at the feet of the SBC by people outside the SBC?
Do other denominations do this? I really do not know.
Does the Catholic Church sell investment products to Catholics around the world?
Do the members of the Jewish community buy investments from the Jewish Federation or other Jewish organizations?
If they do, shame on them. We should be different. If they don’t, why would the SBC want this to be one of its distinctives?
What has Guidestone said to promote this idea?
Guidestone has said that people want these services.
Really? Says who? It is hard to know how much demand there is for this. If there were (and I seriously doubt that is the case), this idea would have been demanded by people rather than Guidestone. Any claim that people are clamoring for this is anecdotal and self-serving.
And regardless, it is still a bad idea. Have the people who have supposedly demanded this really thought it through? I doubt it.
Guidestone has said that they money it earns will go to help struggling retired pastors.
Guidestone has the Mission Dignity program. That’s great. Let’s just fund that program.
We should not use poor retired pastors as a reason to promote a bad idea. Just because the proceeds of some money making scheme might go to fund a worthy cause does not mean that the scheme should be done.
Giving to the poor is a worthy endeavor. I am perfectly willing, for the sake of discussion, to attribute only the highest of motives to Guidestone. But good motives do not make a bad idea a good idea.
This is such an effective ploy I fully expect to see pictures of retired, impoverished pastors on display at the Convention meeting.
Guidestone says that while financial products are available for sale at many places, Guidestone does some special, unique socially screening not done by others.
This is not accurate. There are many social screened investment products available for purchase in the market. Guidestone does not offer a unique product that is not available on the open market. In fact, Guidestone offers some socially screened products that can be purchased directly from those who do the screening and manage the investments. Most, if not all, of Guidestone’s products are managed by others. Guidestone is a “manager of managers.”
Guidestone will say that it received an award for its financial products.
That’s good, but others have received the same awards. Guidestone has not received any award that has not also been given to others.
I am sure that this idea has proceeded so far along that there will be little opposition to it at the Convention. Most people do not understand this issue. Those who do will not be able to persuade a large majority of the Convention to vote against it.
But there should be opposition.
Guidestone will have some interesting years ahead. As large numbers of Southern Baptist ministers retire, they will be drawing down on their retirement savings. Given the demographics, this may significantly affect the amount of funds that Guidestone has under management.
Opening up Guidestone’s customer base to individuals may be a way to stem the loss that is coming from the payout of retirement accounts.
I would say that does not matter. Let’s just manage whatever we have, whether if be big or small.