Friday, January 25, 2008

On the Fate of the Trusteeship of Wade Burleson

I am not in support of Hiram Smith's motion to remove Wade Burleson as an IMB Trustee. I will vote against it if it comes to the floor.

Reason One: Burleson and His Cause Thrive Off Of Such Actions. A thousand posts on his blog could not do for him what one stunt like this does to help him. My father-in-law likes to quote a movie about Gov. Huey Long in which the Governor purportedly says, "It's our enemies that make us and our friends that break us." Never has this statement been any more true. Burleson's affiliations with the Jimmy Carters and CBEs and CBFers of this world reveal his preferences and hurt his cause. For whatever my political analysis is worth (and I do not pretend that it is disinterested or objective), I think that Burleson has committed a large number of missteps that have hindered the movement that he has tried to birth. Were it not for his enemies, Burleson's movement would be dead and gone already. Burleson as a one-term trustee who loses every vote and then ends his trusteeship by natural causes—what's wrong with that? I'm quite satisfied with that resolution of things. But people discontent with that outcome continue to pack wadding for the Grace-and-Truth cannon at regular intervals. Burleson ought to put them on the payroll if he has room. They generate everything for his site that is worth reading.

Reason Two: Smith's Motion Gives All the Wrong Reasons to Remove Burleson. If I were inclined to see Burleson's tenure end prematurely, it would never be because he has differed with trustee actions or published his views on the Internet. Burleson has suggested that the Conservative Resurgence would not have taken place if people like him had been able to employ the Internet thirty years ago (a statement that shows clearly where he stands vis-à-vis conservatism, by the way). I believe that the Internet would only have hastened the Conservative Resurgence. Actions like Smith's motion, had they been employed during the Conservative Resurgence by the liberals who were in charge, would have worked against the greatest turnaround of a denominational structure in modern history (of course, the big difference is that CR trustees were elected BECAUSE of their agenda to change the institutions, while Burleson's agenda remained hidden from the Southern Baptist people until after his election to the board was secure). Public dissent on the Internet may someday very well be an important safeguard to prevent our institutions from settling back down into liberalism, and we ought not to act in some Draconian manner toward it now simply because it is being abused.

The situation reminds me of the novice hunter holding another man at gunpoint, trying to keep him from stealing the deer that he had just shot. The frightened target, hands high in the air, said, "You can have your deer! You can have your deer! Just let me get my saddle off of it first." The aim and discernment of this motion is no more accurate, and the ability, à la B. H. Carroll's advice to L. R. Scarborough, to take a case to the Southern Baptist people must not become an innocent casualty of this misguided action.

If I were inclined to press for Burleson's removal, I would do so on the grounds of Burleson's ever-growing list of public items of disdain toward the Baptist Faith & Message. To affirm Smith's motion would be to affirm the idea that a trustee could and should be removed simply for being a troublemaker. I cannot affirm that proposition. I could affirm the idea that a trustee is eligible for removal if he propounds changes in his personal theology after his election that put him at odds with the clearly expressed doctrinal will of the convention.

Other Miscellaneous Observations

It will be a cold day in El Azizia before I consult with the Executive Committee on anything I wish to keep confidential. Great people work there, I'm sure (and know from personal exposure), but this situation is Exhibit A for the case that someone in Nashville likes to let Burleson read his mail.

When Smith's motion loses, Wade Burleson will spin it as vindication of all that he has ever written or said. Instead, rather than the SBC saying that there is no Wade Burleson problem, it will merely be the SBC saying that Bro. Smith's motion represents the wrong remedy.

Historically speaking, Smith's motion is probably a predictable outcome. Southern Baptists went so far as to expel from the convention such scofflaws as S. A. Hayden and Ben M. Bogard. With J. R. Graves, the SBC was able to achieve reconciliation. The statistically likely outcome for people who stage insurrections in the SBC is either to vanquish or to be expelled. At the present juncture, such action toward Burleson is premature, and I don't know that it will ever be appropriate, but in the light of history it is not all that surprising.

A great host of bloggers will portray Smith's motion as the carefully orchestrated machinations of some SBC ruling clique. Rather, it is a demonstration of the fact that there is not now and never has been such a clique. Rather, there is a fragile consensus of independent Southern Baptists who have agreed upon enough things over the past three decades to accomplish remarkable and greatly needed change in our convention. The vast majority of conservatives in my acquaintance cringe at Smith's motion, yet ours is a convention in which Hiram Smith has the liberty to step up to a microphone in Indianapolis and move whatsoever he wishes. This is one of the great things about our fellowship, in my opinion.

My thanks to those of you who have wondered what has become of me. Tracy's maternal grandfather, Elwin Tracy (my wife was named after her mother's maiden name) passed away last week. I've made yet another trip to Missouri since my last post. The trip marked my fifth funeral to attend and fourth to serve (my brother-in-law preached and I led the singing) in the past three weeks. I've been a little busy. But thanks to all who wondered where I went.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Calculus of Worthiness

Mike Cave
(December 29, 1947 – January 13, 2008)

"If you don't understand what he's saying to you, the worst thing you can do is just say 'Yes' or 'OK.'" And with those instructions, I, the new pastor at FBC Farmersville, embarked upon my relationship with Mike Cave in 1999. Mike was born with Down Syndrome. The doctors told his father and mother that Mike wouldn't live to celebrate his tenth birthday. He outlived them both (and the doctor, to boot).

Upon my arrival in Farmersville, I found that Mike loved to come to church (although he wasn't nearly as fond of the getting-up-in-the-morning that coming to church required). He loved to sing. Mike sang with gusto. The notes weren't quite right. The words weren't quite right. Mike only knew fortissimo. But the spirit of his worship was spot on.

During the Sunday School hour, Mike stayed in the office with the pastoral staff and the Sunday School records staff. Mike loved to receive a present. It didn't have to be much, but Mike did have his favorite categories: hats, books, and wrestling. Mike couldn't read, so the book could be anything, really. I would save junk mail and catalogs throughout the week to give to Mike on Sundays. If I really scored with a particular gift, Mike would reward me with a handwritten thank you note—a Post-It adorned with lines of Arabicesque scrawl.

Mike had his own langauge—his own names for people, his own system of verbs and nouns and adjectives. By the time we encountered one another, Mike's parents were gone. He lived with his brother David ("Galla") and his sister-in-law Billie ("Burl"). Every week he would come into the office and look for the key (a key ring to open the deposit bag for the offering). As the time drew near for the second service (Mike didn't favor the first service, but Billie did, so that's when Mike attended), Mike would stroll into my office with his finger tapping his raised watch-wrist. Mike didn't want me to be late.

Even if he had his own system of gestures and syllables, Mike perfectly understood everything that I said. That's the reason for the injunction against issuing agnostic yes-es to Mike. David had been burning brush once when Mike issued some unknown utterance. David gave a simple, "Sounds good to me," and then went back to get some more brush. When he returned, he found Mike holding a burning brand by the cool end, setting a large swath of grass on fire. David had approved it, so it must have been OK!

This was our weekly routine. Mike did the same thing, whether it was just me in the office or I was hosting the Sultan of Brunei. A closed office door communicated absolutely nothing to Mike. After all, he knew how to operate a doorknob.

Mike gave big hugs and big smiles. After a recent foot surgery, I went to see Mike in the Rehab Hospital. In my hand, I carried a magazine and a big white fishing hat. The magazine didn't go over so well, but the hat was a hit. I got a vigorous, whiskery hug for that one. The next time I returned to visit him, I saw that hat tooling down the hall just above the back of a wheelchair. It was a good hat for Mike, who loved to fish anyway.

I'm glad that Mike was born in 1947, back when people like Mike still had a chance to be born. Today, Mike's chances of ever seeing the light of day would be less than one in ten (see research here and commentary on the phenomenon in general here). In 1973 we handed over the law to people who have concluded with great certitude that they have mastered the complex calculus of worthiness—that they know which lives are worth living and which are not. Lives like Mike's, it seems, just don't make the cut, and so they get the scalpel.

Last night I stood by his bedside in ICU. "Mike, God loves you, your church loves you…I love you," was about all I could choke out, and then I wept a little. Later, we had prayer. At around 7:00 last night, Mike went home. David said, "I'm surely a much better person because of him." There's a variable they don't consider when figuring out who's life is worth living.

Thursday afternoon, our sanctuary will be full for Mike's funeral—I promise you. I wonder if there is a single rationalization or slogan from the pro-death crowd that would sound anything less than obscene at that gathering. I doubt it. If the number of people touched, inspired, humanized, or befriended by Mike Cave is any good measure, then his sixty years have turned out to be quite valuable. I'm glad he lived. I'm glad I knew him. I'm glad he's home. I'll be glad to see him someday soon.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Perplexing Review of The Camel

Tonight I have just completed reading "An Assessment of The Camel" by Daniel Akin, David Nelson, and Bruce Ashford. After having read the assessment, I am puzzled by several points.

If I were a lawyer, if The Camel were on trial, and if this "assessment" were being offered as testimony, I would have to object, "Assumes facts not in evidence." Consider, for example, how the assessment handles the statement in The Camel, "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." Akin, Nelson, and Ashford suggest alternatives for this phraseology, which they acknowledge as "problematic." They proceed to say:

We do not believe that The Camel is a fundamentally deceptive book (although there are a couple of statements that we believe need to be changed; see below). From our experience, charges of deception often rest on the fact that the Muslim evangelist using the Camel does not immediately tell everything that he believes about the Qur’an or about Muhammad. [emphasis mine]

Actually, those who critique The Camel do so not because we are quibbling over when in the book it demonstrates how an evangelist would reveal everything that he believes about the Qur'an or about Mohammed, but because the book never instructs any evangelist to do so at any point. If The Camel is not a syncretistic, heretical book, then it is something like the pilot training manual that teaches unorthodox approaches to the preflight and takeoff, and then never teaches the student how to land at all. The most important parts are completely missing, and that is The Camel's salvation! The best defense anyone has ever devised for this book is to argue that the gospel is missing from this key to "how Muslims are coming to Christ."

Akin, Nelson, and Ashford seem perfectly content, with the very gospel on the line, just to presume that everyone reading this book will easily fill in the many critical missing pieces on their own. They seem anxious to presume that Greeson himself has filled in all of those pieces. Indeed, after finding that the book does not give any indication of how Camel converts would in any way appear distinctively Christian, the authors of this assessment opine:

We find it hard to believe that Greeson is saying that Christians are not different from Muslims in any of their forms of life and worship.

I don't particularly want to believe it either. But these men are assuming facts not in evidence. At least, these facts are not in evidence for anyone who simply picks up The Camel and reads it. Perhaps if one engages in lengthy sessions of Camel apologetics in which Greeson and Garrison and whomever else explain themselves and demonstrate what fine, orthodox people they are…then, perhaps, one starts to read the book differently.

But books aren't supposed to be like that. If a personal interview with the author is required to come to understand "what he really meant to say," then why not just give a speaking tour and skip the book altogether? But here we have a book being hawked around the globe by all manner of denominational servants, and the experts in our own seminaries have to ask Greeson to explain how these "Christians" are actually any different in their life and worship from Sunnis and Shiites. How, if these learned men walk away with such profound questions, will the average reader be misled by this book?

The "assessment" seems determined to give every positive assumption to Greeson. Although The Camel includes the "Korbani Plan of Salvation" as a suggested presentation of the gospel, the assessment seems willing to assume that some other, more complete presentation of the gospel follows this "pre-evangelism." In the Mohammed section, the assessment is unwilling to evaluate the statement, "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed," as deceptive, but will only conclude that this statement—and I know that if I said it, it would be a brazen lie—merely "leaves [Greeson] open to the charge that he is deceptive" (no doubt leveled by the inquisitorial accusers stigmatized later in the paper). Although there's not a single syllable uttered to a Muslim in The Camel that challenges the epistemological validity of the Qur'an, the assessment is perfectly willing to assume that The Camel "[is] not setting up the Qur'an as an epistemological authority."

And yet, the "assessment" seems determined to make every negative assumption about those who have been critical of The Camel. It presumes that The Camel's critics are simply opposed to any mention of the Qur'an, any hint of contextualization, any use of the word Allah, any bridging whatsoever. The assessment ends by giving the back of its hand to any who have criticized The Camel:

We would also want to point out that we wonder if it is not unfair for certain people to subject Greeson’s book to such intense public scrutiny for certain missteps, while leaving on the Lifeway bookshelves numerous best-selling texts (written since the “Conservative Resurgence”) in spirituality, evangelism, and discipleship that have made much larger missteps.

Well, brothers, I do not claim to have perused every word of every book on the shelves of the local Lifeway, but I do hope that you will reveal for us all the "much larger missteps" out there beyond, "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." I hope that you will identify for us the wares for sale that err much more grievously than a book instructing people in this method of (pre-)evangelism, a method specifically targeted at people who are following a false prophet in the rites of a false religion in the worship of a false god, yet a method that does so all without ever instructing the evangelist to identify the prophet, the religion, or the god as false. If such works are out there, then I will gladly make time to post about them, too—all without ceasing to tell the truth about The Camel.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A New Thought (for Me) about Political Involvement

A friend and I were exploring the finer details of what level of political involvement is or is not appropriate or wise for churches and pastors. The conversation inexorably wound up in discussions of when a pastor is operating in "official capacity" and when he is not. Before long, it all started to sound pretty sacerdotal to me. So, why do we place so much emphasis upon what pastors do with regard to church-state issues? As Baptists who believe in the priesthood of all believers, isn't it strange that some sectors of Baptist life seem to be far more concerned with pastors tiptoeing through a careful labyrinth of church-state rules than with all Baptist believers properly relating faith and citizenship?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Conflict of Whose Interests?

Wade Burleson has advanced three reasons (see here) why he will not be voting for Dr. Al Mohler to preside over the SBC. Those reasons are:

REASON NUMBER ONE Southern Baptists are now desiring gospel cooperation, not the separatism of Fundamentalism.

REASON NUMBER TWO: It is at best unwise, and at worst a conflict of interest, to have an entity President simultaneously serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

REASON NUMBER THREE: The Southern Baptist Convention needs the leadership of a man who sets the example for generous giving through the Cooperative Program.

Now that the tent peg is firmly in the forehead of objection number three, I direct my attention to the remaining two objections.

Conflict of Interest

The phrase "conflict of interest" has slightly different application in different fields. As it pertains to leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention, a suitable definition appears on the website of the New Jersey State Legislature: "CONFLICT OF INTEREST A situation occuring when an official's private interests may benefit from his or her public actions."

Burleson has given two examples that he believes illustrate a conflict of interest in the election of entity heads to the presidency of the SBC.

First, he has highlighted Dr. Paige Patterson's (I wonder how he chose HIM to pick on?) appointment of the BF&M 2000 committee, resulting in an unprecedented affirmation of biblical gender roles in the revised statement. Patterson's selection of this committee is somehow supposed to show conflict of interest in electing entity heads as SBC presidents.

Now I ask you, how did the inclusion of this language in the BF&M advance the private business interests of Dr. Patterson or the pecuniary interests of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary? The answer? Not at all. The BF&M committee appointments did not advance Dr. Patterson's private and personal interests. They did not advance the seminary's interests in any way to the detriment of the SBC as a whole.

Rather, Burleson's beef is with the fact that the BF&M committee advanced the ideological viewpoint espoused by Dr. Patterson, the Conservative Resurgence, and the majority of SBC messengers who elected him (and, not coincidentally, an ideology not shared by Burleson). Yet this point has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the president in question (Dr. Patterson) just happened to be presiding over SEBTS at the time. I submit that, if Dr. Patterson had appointed said committee before coming to the helm at SEBTS, or if he had done so after retirement from all convention activities, the results would not have been one iota different. It simply has nothing to do with Dr. Patterson having been an entity president. Burleson's beef is simply that he lost—that the decision made was one with which he disagreed.

Burleson's second illustration comes closer to the mark. He asserts that the election of Mohler would put him into a position to enact a special offering for seminaries. Personally, I think that a special offering for our seminaries is a wonderful idea. In fact, our church is going to collect one this year (more about that planned for a later post). But Burleson's point is to suggest that Dr. Mohler's interests (as president of a seminary that would receive such an offering) would lie in conflict with the convention's interests that Dr. Mohler be objective in populating such a committee.

Burleson suggests that the push for a seminary offering began "two years ago." Actually, seminary presidents have desired to have a special offering for the seminaries for at least sixty years. The effort two years ago was merely the latest attempt. This is relevant, because the issue was alive during the SBC presidential tenures of seminary presidents Scarborough, Hamilton, Patterson, and maybe even Sampey. None of those seminary presidents took advantage of the SBC presidency to advance the idea of a seminary offering. Indeed, of the seven seminary presidents who have served as SBC presidents, no one has undertaken to demonstrate a single real instance in which their concurrent service actually impeded their performance in either task.

Furthermore, the seminary presidents get to deliver a report at each year's annual meeting, yet they have not employed that forum to call for a special seminary offering. They have the same ability as any of us to rise to a microphone and propose the offering to the Southern Baptist people. Yet they have not done so…have never done so. Personally, I wish that they would have. Why is the Executive Committee afraid to allow the Southern Baptist people to discuss the concept and bring it to a vote? But I digress. The point here is that, with ample opportunity to do so, the seminary presidents have not even used the means available to them every year to press for a special offering.

Many have pointed out that previous seminary presidents have served as SBC presidents; what has not received ample consideration is the fact that previous seminary presidents have served well in leading the SBC. The leadership of E. Y. Mullins, in the era containing his presidencies, to bring us the Cooperative Program and The Baptist Faith & Message comes to mind. What would we be if we could go back in time and eradicate the leadership of Boyce and Mullins, Sampey and Scarborough? Much less than what we are.

Also, we must note that we are electing a president, and not a pope. Whoever wins the gavel this summer, he will not be able to accomplish anything until he has gained the consent of the ballot-lifting masses at the annual meeting for each measure. I predict that President Mohler will accomplish a great deal, not through sinister finagling, but by virtue of the statesmanlike leadership that he has already brought to our convention and will exude from the platform.

Our seminary presidents have, while serving as SBC presidents, consistently acted in the best interests of the SBC. Dr. Mohler will do likewise, and the people's affirmative verdict on that count will be reflected in their overwhelming support for his leadership.


I turn finally to Burleson's initial point. Essentially, when you decipher the code-language, Burleson has placed into the lead-off position his objection to the fact that Dr. Al Mohler is not a part of Burleson's movement (What's a Fundamentalist? Anyone more conservative than I am). Granted, Dr. Mohler is not a part of the Burleson coalition. But, neither is Dr. Mohler anybody's lackey. He's an intelligent, articulate spokesman for conservative Baptist Christianity. All of the reasons why a Mohler presidency excites me are doubtless reasons that discourage Burleson.

I can understand that. I can sympathize with it. Who couldn't? I just don't know that it makes for a very compelling reason why anyone ELSE ought to be opposed to electing Dr. Mohler as President of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis.

Highview Baptist Church Corrects "Erroneous News Reports"

Here's the Statement from HBC Pastor Kevin Ezell:

Highview Baptist Church has received numerous inquiries from around the world about our giving to missions and missions-related causes, and we are more than happy to address those questions.

As a church, we are committed to The Southern Baptist Convention and to its mission of reaching people for Jesus Christ in our community, our state, our country, and all over the world. Being “Great Commission Focused” is one of our core values. Our church has a history of missions- related giving and of sending career missionaries and volunteers to the field. We are more excited and more committed to missions now than at any time in our church’s history.

In the wake of various erroneous news reports, we do think it’s important that we clear up any misunderstanding about Highview’s contribution to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings.

In 2006, Highview gave a total of $724,984 to missions. In the Associated Church Profile (ACP) we submitted to the SBC in 2006, we simply chose not to specifically categorize our missions giving. Frankly, at the time, we did not think such categorization was necessary to promote our church.

In 2007, we gave $836,681 dollars to missions. Last year, we did specifically categorize our contribution in the ACP report. Highview gave $64,158 to the Lottie Moon fund and $13,752 to Annie Armstrong.

As for our Cooperative Program giving, Highview has chosen to give the majority of our cooperative funds directly to the SBC instead of funneling the funds through the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The reason is simple: The KBC retains 64% of those funds, and we want to ensure that more of our dollars went directly to evangelism, missions and other programs that Highview supports.

Highview Baptist Church understands that some of the questions about our missions giving come following the announcement that one of our teaching pastors, Dr. Albert Mohler, will be nominated for the presidency of the SBC. We are proud to have Dr. Mohler and his family as active members of our church.

Our giving, our going, our praying, and our serving has always been out of a desire to make Jesus’ name famous all over the world.

Missions and evangelism are at the core of Highview Baptist Church, so in the wake of some misinformation, we thought it necessary to set the record straight. To that end, we are attaching our 2008 plan for missions giving, which our congregation unanimously approved in November of 2007.

Imagine my surprise to learn that the anti-Mohler forces have promulgated erroneous information in their rush to judgment. Imagine how simply they could have made a phone call or email to discover the truth. Imagine my anticipation to see what they will say next.

Update: HBC has established a new campus across the Ohio River in Indiana. It is my understanding that the 2008 CP money from HBC will be going to support missions via the traditional CP arrangement, but through the Indiana Baptist Convention rather than the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Subsequent Update: The fine folks over at SBC Today have posted the PDF for Highview's 2008 "Millions for Missions" brochure here.

Highview Baptist Church to Issue Statement

Highview Baptist Church of Louisville, KY, is expected to issue a statement later today regarding recent online analysis of their ACP historical data.

Taking His Lumpkins

Peter Lumpkins has had an interesting new year in blogdom. Being misinterpreted and misrepresented is part of the price we all have paid at some time for blogging—a manner in which all we bloggers wind up taking our lumps. Someone said that I received at least an indirect accusation of being a racist in the comment thread. Unfortunate, but the kind of vapid blog fodder that I try to ignore (try, I said). The more that blogging resembles The Young and the Restless, the less I like it. But I digress.

We do indeed have a God who works all things together for good. Even in this sad case, the good comes in the form of a recent blog post by Robin Foster. There I learned things about Peter Lumpkins that I did not know. Robin has offered them, I'm sure, as vindication of Peter. Peter needed no vindication in my eyes. The nature of his "cornbread and buttermilk" comment was evident to me the first time I read it: Derogatory in the spirit of a rhetorically charged argument, but not racial at all in its implications. Maybe you have to have grown up as I did to get it—some pagan vestige of my mind still suspects that bad fortune awaits me if I don't have my black-eyed peas and hog jowls on New Year's Day (don't knock it if you haven't tried it).

Anyway, although Robin's comment was superfluous to vindicate Peter in my eyes, it was effective to teach me a lot about Peter Lumpkins that I did not previously know. I found the story inspirational. It is the kind of tale that you would not have read in 1960. I hope that you like it, too.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

On Stones and Glass Houses

FBC Farmersville gives to missions according to the traditional Southern Baptist pattern. Each month we tabulate our undesignated receipts for the month. We calculate 10% of that figure and write a monthly check to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to be distributed through the Cooperative Program. Every year at Christmas time, we set a goal for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We place a collection of unlit Christmas lights at the front of the auditorium, lighting a portion of them each week to show our progress toward our goal. This year the generosity of the people at FBC Farmersville has yielded (as always) an amount greater than our goal and over $16,000 (I do not yet know the final amount). We also collect an amount toward the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

These days, many churches no longer give through the Cooperative Program in that manner. Also, many churches these days collect neither a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering nor an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Rather, they have pursued any number of alternative approaches to funding world evangelization. Some churches put flat amounts into their budgets for CP, LMCO, and AAEO. Other churches collect a consolidated missions offering, distributing their missions money according to a predetermined missions budget. Some churches adopt hybrids of these three methods (the traditional approach, the budget approach, and the combined offering approach).

Consider, for example, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, OK. From 2001 through 2006, EBC gave a flat budgeted amount through the CP ($100,000 in 2001 and 2002, $105,000 in 2003 - 2006). For 2007, EBC gave a larger amount ($115,250). The 2007 CP gift represented just over 5% of undesignated receipts, an increase from the 2006 percentage (4.87%) but a decrease from the 2001-2006 average (6.80% with an anomalous outlying year in 2004 in which the budgeted figure amounted to wonders whether the ACP data is accurate for that year).

EBC's stats also suggest that the church has experimented with flat budget amounts for LMCO and AAEO. In 2001 and 2002, the respective amounts for LMCO and AAEO were $40,000 and $30,000. In 2003 and 2004, they were $42,000 and $31,500. In 2005 the church gave a commendable increase of $60,291 to the LMCO (looks to me like the kind of uneven figure that would represent either the collection of a traditional offering or a percentage assignment from the budget receipts). AAEO results for that year declined to $3,383, so that the total amount given to the missions offerings had actually declined by around $10,000. The years 2006 and 2007 witnessed a precipitous decline in LMCO giving, from $60,291 to $8,400 (2006) and $9,000 (2007). These round figures suggest a return to a budgeted amount (or perhaps a donor committed to raising the gifts to a particular figure). The AAEO offerings for 2006 and 2007 were $5,600 and $6,300.

Like many churches these days, EBC has pursued a significant level of missions giving outside the Cooperative Program and the missions offerings. Lately, these traditional vehicles have accounted for around a fifth of EBC's self-reported missions involvement. Below is the data table for Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid.

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, OK
Undes. Rcpts.
Tot. Msns.
2,212,115.00 111,250.00 5.03% 9,000.00 0.41% 6,300.00 0.28% 580,301.00 26.23%
2,156,442.00 105,000.00 4.87% 8,400.00 0.39% 5,600.00 0.26% 573,614.00 26.60%
1,912,782.00 105,000.00 5.49% 60,291.00 3.15% 3,383.00 0.18% 313,495.00 16.39%
750,000.00 105,000.00 14.00% 42,000.00 5.60% 31,500.00 4.20% 316,700.00 42.23%
2,013,524.00 100,000.00 5.21% 42,000.00 2.09% 31,500.00 1.56% 319,200.00 15.85%
1,907,221.00 100,000.00 5.24% 40,000.00 2.10% 30,000.00 1.57% 294,200.00 15.43%
1,672,420.00 100,000.00 5.98% 40,000.00 2.39% 30,000.00 1.79% 288,300.00 17.24%

Highview Baptist Church's statistics show the pattern of a church that collects a unified missions offering, distributing it to the various Southern Baptist missions causes according to a predetermined formula. For example, you might note in the table below that the ratio between the LMCO and the AAEO figures in 2001 and 2002 are the same. It looks like they were distributing the missions offering according to the same percentages those years.

Lottie Moon's idea was that each Southern Baptist church should emphasize and collect a special offering just for Foreign Missions around the time of Christmas, forwarding all of the proceeds to the Foreign Missions Board (now IMB). A century later, many of our churches no longer follow Lottie Moon's plan, apparently including both of these churches. Yet, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is one of those changeable methods, not one of those timeless principles. I believe that the LMCO is a method that still works; therefore, FBC Farmersville still collects a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The principle is to provide the needed funding for our global missionary efforts. If someone could demonstrate to me that some other method would result in greater IMB funding from FBC Farmersville, then I would gladly do the something else. Indeed, we tried the combined missions offering one year, but we quickly decided that we preferred the traditional method. Nevertheless, I do not fault either of these churches for departing from the traditional model. They are both supporting world missions, as Highview's table of data reveals.

Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, KY
Undes. Rcpts.
Tot. Msns.
---Not Yet Reported---
5,082,133.00 167,917.00 3.30% 0.00 0.00% 0.00 0.00% 726,185.00 14.29%
4,185,873.00 175,183.00 4.19% 32,470.00 0.78% 6,958.00 0.17% 579,781.00 13.85%
3,843,663.00 153,500.00 3.99% 4,096.00 0.11% 1,050.00 0.03% 384,030.00 9.99%
3,475,634.00 152,664.00 4.39% 7,222.00 0.21% 1,896.00 0.05% 327,374.00 9.42%
3,105,191.00 151,333.00 4.87% 57,163.00 1.84% 15,243.00 0.49% 638,373.00 20.56%
2,920,309.00 146,000.00 5.00% 67,733.00 2.32% 18,062.00 0.62% 352,328.00 12.06%

Highview's data for 2007 has not yet appeared on the ACP data site. After very little effort on my part, however, I was able to obtain a copy of Highview's 2008 missions plan. They have entitled their plan "Millions for Missions." I like it already, just from the title. A close-up look at their plan reveals what their ACP data suggested—they collect a unified missions offering. Their goals for 2008 are impressive. The data is in PDF format, and I don't know of a quick and easy way to move that over into an HTML table, so I'll just give you the highlights manually.

Millions to Missions
Local Missions
National Missions
International Missions
Cooperative Program
Lottie Moon

Under the International Missions area, I broke out their Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon line items to show you the kind of commitment this church has made to SBC missions—half a million dollars! Another $150,000 goes to Southern Baptist church plants in places like Philadelphia and New York City.

Personally, I favor the traditional method. I recommend it to Emmanuel Enid, Highview Louisville, and everyone else. Our 10% to CP has served FBC Farmersville well for years. Collecting a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering works well for us. Other churches do it another way. I think that we would all get more money to the mission field if we all followed the traditional approach, but I am thankful for the money that both of these churches send to missions. Although my much smaller church reported more money to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2006 than either of these churches, I have no desire to sling stones in either of their directions. I think that all three of our churches want to see every knee bow and hear every tongue confess, and all three of our churches are hard at work about it in our own way. In most categories of the ACP, both of these churches leave FBC Farmersville way back in the dust. Look at our numbers long enough, and you'll see that we have plenty of weaknesses. That's why I'm not going to hurl any stones in these ACP number wars. I certainly recommend the same course of action to Wade Burleson.

As a final comment, allow me to take a stab at suggesting how we should employ CP statistics in evaluating candidates for service to the SBC at any level.

We ought to ask the question, "How much credit/blame should candidate X get for church Y's CP giving?" My church has a great CP-giving record. I'll tell you right off the bat, I don't deserve much credit for it. FBC Farmersville has been faithfully supporting the Cooperative Program for a long time—long before I showed up here nine years ago. I'll take some credit for having no desire to lead the church away from strong CP support, but that's as far as it goes. Current SBC President Frank Page also pastors a church with stellar CP giving. He deserves less credit than I do—under his watch Taylors has reduced its CP giving. Nevertheless, I'm betting that he might have enough clout there to have reduced it even more, and he deserves credit for his restraint in lowering CP giving while at Taylors. I once led a church that gave zero through the CP. I fought it for the two years that I served there, and then I left. I deserved absolutely none of the blame whatsoever for that church's lack of CP support. Current SBC Vice President Jim Richards is the architect of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention's phenomenal and sacrificial CP budget, so he deserves an enormous amount of credit for what SBTC does. Show me a pastor who went to a church that was giving very little to CP when he came, but is giving 10% now, and I'll show you someone who is likely a CP champion.

The only way that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gets money from Highview Baptist Church is through the Cooperative Program, as far as I can tell. From that fact alone, I can promise you that the Southern's president is a voice in favor of strong CP support within the membership of Highview. Let no one imply otherwise, especially unless one has done the basic research to support such an accusation.