Thursday, May 14, 2009

NAMB, IMB, and the GCR

I promised my inerrancy piece next, and I've been delaying blogging in order to try to keep that promise. But that piece is coming out on a different site than this one, and the date of its publication is not entirely within my control. I have decided to move forward and let it come out whenever it comes out. I should also mention this—some of the comments on the last post seemed to indicate that I left a false impression. I am going to be writing about someone who does not affirm inerrancy. I am not going to be “outing” anyone. I will be interacting with the published works of someone. If you do not already know that he is an anti-inerrantist, then you just haven't been paying attention to this particular person. I don't want to spill the beans entirely at this point, simply to preserve a little drama for the unveiling of the piece, but this is not going to be a post in which I reveal that Keith Eitel is a closet liberal <snicker>

Now, to my post.

Recently I received in the mail a form letter from Geoff Hammond and Richard H. Harris commending FBC Farmersville for having given more money in 2008 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering than any other church in the Collin Baptist Association. As I look at the piece of paper sitting on my desk, with the North American Mission Board logo emblazoned at the top of the stationery, I find myself wondering whether I should save the stationery in case it soon becomes a collector's item and a memento of bygone days in the SBC.

Tim Patterson, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the NAMB, has announced his support for the dissolution of the NAMB and the folding of its tasks into the present International Mission Board (IMB). Whatever Dr. Daniel Akin's and Dr. Johnny Hunt's intentions for Axiom IX of the Great Commission Resurgence document, Patterson's idea is what I expected would be the most likely initiative to emerge as the outcome of the discussion promoted in that document. I think that it is a bad idea.

Don't get me wrong—it isn't that I'm a big proponent of the status quo at NAMB. The letter on my desk is Exhibit A in the case that Southern Baptists could do a better job of cooperating through NAMB. Collin County, Texas, is a mostly urban area populated with many large churches. We're a small-town church in one of the few remaining relatively rural sections of the county. In a decade of ministry here, I can't ever recall us having been the top dollar giver for anything. At least in Collin County, NAMB is so under-supported that our mediocre effort took top prize. I suspect that our association is not atypical.

Frankly, at the risk of self-incrimination, I confess that I personally under-support both NAMB and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. I promote the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering much more. We send much more money to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (and, by the way, get nowhere close to top ranking in our local association in spite of our doing so, so the other congregations in our association must be giving much, much more to Lottie Moon as well). Why? Respectfully, the answers have absolutely nothing to do with this being the twenty-first rather than the twentieth century. Our mission efforts at home have comparatively struggled since even the century before that.

I can see that the movement to consolidate NAMB and IMB has gained some momentum. I am dubious about the potential of my quiet objections way over here in the corner to divert the steamroller. I presume that some substantial portion of my readership is all jazzed up at the potential of a NAMB-IMB consolidation, and that some further impressive fraction doesn't care one way or the other. Either of these groups may actually be wiser than I am. Nevertheless, for the benefit of us all, I offer the following few ideas that I urge you to consider before supporting the idea of a consolidated mission board for the SBC:

  1. Are you certain that this will solve NAMB's problems rather than spread them?

    Back in January 2007 I composed and published a post about the history of NAMB. In addition to providing you with a link, I would like to provide you with most of the text of the post (it was uncharacteristically brief for me):

    The institution that is now known as NAMB has struggled to define itself since 1845. It has struggled to find good leadership since 1845. And since 1845, Southern Baptists have regularly reshuffled and reorganized this institution, throwing at it all of the odds and ends of our denominational life. Just consider the names it has held down through the years:

    1. Board of Domestic Missions (1845)
    2. Domestic and Indian Mission Board (1855)
    3. Domestic and Indian Mission and Sunday School Board (1873)
    4. Home Mission Board (1874)
    5. North American Mission Board (1995)

    Each of those changes involved the folding in of new responsibilities and a reorganization of the board. The last of those was in 1995, when our Covenant for a New Century completely reorganized the SBC and threw all the leftover scraps into NAMB.

    As Southern Baptists, we need to remind ourselves that the scraps are not garbage. So many of the individual ministries inside NAMB are incredible success stories that we need (Disaster Relief is a prominent example that comes to mind, but there are others). Others are areas of pervasive need with few successes (like the evangelization of our major cities in the North). Some of these areas of failure are not NAMB's fault—carrying the gospel to Boston is not an easy assignment. But with the organization focused on so many different, unrelated things, one wonders how it could be expected to maintain institutional focus for such an important task.

    I do not work for NAMB. I do not know many people who work for NAMB. In no way can I give you an inside story about NAMB's achievements, failures, structure, etc., as regards the present day. But as a Baptist historian, I can absolutely tell you this: If the North American Mission Board today has a well-defined, well-understood, well-led, well-executed sense of its nature and mission, then this is virtually the first time in 160 years that such has been the case.

    The International Mission Board has had the benefit of pursuing a concise and clearly understood mission for over 160 years. We've never reorganized it from the outside, folding new entities into its structure. Even if a few proto-John-Maxwells down through the ages have tried to make their mark by “recasting the vision” of the IMB, the common Southern Baptist church knows that the International Mission Board and only the International Mission Board exists to apply the financial and human resources of the Southern Baptist Convention toward the spread of the gospel outside of the United States of America. In the mind's eye of the SBC churches, the International Mission Board exists only to do that.

    Nothing so simple can be said of the North American Mission Board, and that to its detriment. The lack of a clear, simple, intuitive understanding of precisely what it is that the NAMB exists to do eventuates in a lack of congregational allegiance to and support of this vital SBC entity.

    Consolidation of these two boards would do nothing to simplify the tangled web of dissonant tasks existing within the NAMB. Rather, all it would accomplish is the robbing from the IMB of the simplicity and straightforwardness from which it has benefitted for a century and a half. All of these problems would simply move from Atlanta to Richmond.

    Do we really want to do that?

  2. Aren't we already organized for the twenty-first century? Are we now getting a head start on the twenty-second?

    A new “FAQ” section has appeared on the Great Commission Resurgence web site. The section is very helpful and was an encouragement to me in several areas. It addresses the fact that Southern Baptists radically reorganized the convention not so very long ago. It omits the name of our 1995 reorganization plan, which was “Covenant for a New Century” (perhaps we should have entitled it “Covenant for the Next Year or Two”). The purpose of that major reorganization was to streamline the SBC and design it to face the new challenges of our present century—the Twenty-First Century. The FAQ handles the objection that Article IX is nothing more than a call to go back and do the same old thing that we did before. Here is that particular question and answer in its entirety:

    We went through a restructuring of the SBC agencies in the mid 1990s, and some feel like the changes were positive while others believe they set us back. Why would we go through this hassle again?

    If you feel like previous changes made us more ineffective, to argue against making a change (since you felt bad decisions were made last time around) is to surrender and assume that we cannot or will not make good decisions as we reexamine the structure of our convention.

    If you feel like the changes made us more effective, to argue against discussing our structure again is to conclude that we cannot make even more effective improvements. We should always be willing to discuss anything and everything to make sure we are being wise stewards of Cooperative Program dollars and resources being used to advance the Kingdom.

    The logic is simple enough. If you didn't like the last round of reorganization, then you must not like the way things are today after that reorganization, and therefore you must see the need for change. On the other hand, if you did like the last round of reorganization, then you must see how beneficial it is to do this sort of thing. No matter what you thought of the last round of reorganization, your opinion must bring you to see how great it would be to reorganize again!

    Simple enough, but some of the logic is missing a few pieces. The key missing ingredient is the fact that reorganization is costly. Reorganization costs

    1. Energy. The Southern Baptist Convention only has so much denominational attention span and so much denominational energy. To commit to a path of reorganization is to decide that the brightest and best minds of our convention will spend the next several years focusing upon organizational charts instead of lost people.

    2. Ministries. Whenever we consolidate, some ministries always die. Consider the Brotherhood Commission. The Covenant for a New Century didn't improve the ministries of the Brotherhood Commission. They certainly needed improvement. RAs, for example, was a program in decline by 1995. Did the folding of the Brotherhood Commission into the NAMB make any actual improvement to the ministries of the former Brotherhood Commission? Not that I can observe. The RA program has gone from sick to comatose.

      Have the ministries of the Radio & TV Commission improved since we consolidated them into NAMB? No. In fact, we sold them out entirely. I think that Southern Baptists could benefit from some creative and energetic harnessing of electronic media. The Radio and Television Commission was a good idea poorly executed. If we cannot learn to use media to spread the gospel, then God help us. Television is full of TBN trash because they took TV seriously while we (Southern Baptists as a whole, not necessarily the folks at the RTVC) did not. Consolidating the RTVC into the NAMB was supposed to be the solution to these problems. It solved nothing; it killed the RTVC.

      Reorganization and consolidation means simply this: Killing off ministries that wind up being tangential to the new behemoth created.

      Am I opposed to the killing off of SBC ministries? Not at all. If we didn't kill off a thing or two from time to time, then we would be a bloated bureaucracy like you couldn't believe. Whatever we have that is not given to us in Scripture may be consigned to the categories of fading flowers and withering grasses.

      But if there are ministries that we need to kill, let us make certain that we do so intentionally and forthrightly. Let us not vote to improve something and wind up killing it instead.

    3. Money. Funding study committees, relocating entity headquarters, redesigning logos and business cards and stationery and the like—these things all take money.

    We're told, “We've got to do something. Why not this?” I agree that we've got to do something. But we don't have to do just any old thing. I am not impressed by the results of our last bid at reorganization. I've read and considered the argument that, because I don't like the results of the last reorganization attempt, that's all the more reason to re-reorganize. But the concept of consolidating the NAMB and the IMB does not represent a course correction from the Covenant for a New Century. No, quite the contrary, it represents a steaming full speed ahead on the same course of overconsolidation of muddled behemoth entities into even more gargantuan muddled entities. This is no slow turning of the Titanic; it is playing chicken with the iceberg.

  3. Have you no interest in broadening participation within the SBC?

    Rather than consolidating the NAMB and the IMB, I think we ought to consider doing just the opposite. Leaders in the SBC always talk about trying to involve more people and bring in the younger folks into the SBC structure. They also keep talking about streamlining and efficiency. These are endeavors that work against one another.

    I predict that SBC President Johnny Hunt will proudly declare that his presidential appointments this year have reached out to people never appointed before to serve in the SBC and have brought in newer, younger leaders for the future of the SBC. Good for him; good for us all. When SBC presidents wish to show that they have taken action to broaden participation in the SBC, they always point to the appointment of people to serve on committees and boards.

    Well, the more that you consolidate the entities, the fewer committees and boards you're going to have. The fewer committees and boards you have, the less opportunity there is to broaden participation in the SBC.

    Consolidation of entities equals consolidation of power.

    If this trend continues, by the end of this century and the dawning of the next, fifty people will run the SBC during the year when the convention is not meeting. I'm a big fan of the trustee system. I've authored a paper in support of the trustee system. Some seem to think that the trustee system is the problem. Fewer boards! Fewer meetings! I say more boards, more members, and more meetings. Let us involve a greater number of grassroots Southern Baptists in our grand enterprise. Would this not be one good approach to getting Southern Baptists more involved in the pursuit of the Great Commission?

    Centralization always sounds good to the person in the middle. But I believe that the rest of us ought to think the matter through carefully before signing on the dotted line.

  4. Isn't there a dramatic risk that domestic church planting will become (more of) a stepchild to international missions if these two boards consolidate?

    Presently, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention vote each year on budget priorities balancing international missions and home missions. If we consolidate the mission boards, the messengers will no longer have that privilege. Rather, we will approve a generic line item for missions, and the new board will decide how much to spend on domestic church planting and how much to spend on international missions.

    Southern Baptists have always loved international missions more than we've loved the planting of churches in the United States. But a profound need exists for us to focus on church planting in the Northeast and the West. We will lose our nation unless we begin to impact those areas. If we consolidate the NAMB and the IMB, rather than having an entity for which reaching those areas is a top priority, we'll have an entity for which that mission is a footnote. Over time, I predict that more and more funding would migrate away from home missions and onto foreign fields, which has always been the kind of missionary work most exotic and appealing to Southern Baptists.

  5. Aren't there some fundamental differences between what NAMB does and what IMB does?

    Here's one difference right off the bat: The North American Mission Board exists to plant Southern Baptist churches, but the International Mission Board cannot plant Southern Baptist churches. The IMB should plant Baptist churches and only Baptist churches, but IMB churches are not geographically eligible to join the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Will our projected new consolidated mission board start planting non-SBC congregations here in the USA?

    The NAMB's benefactors are also its dependents. Thus it interacts with state conventions and local associations and local congregations in a manner unlike anything that happens at the IMB—differentiated from IMB interactions, if in no other way, simply by the fact that the people who receive NAMB ministries also have the ability to choose those who oversee the NAMB and to set the NAMB's funding.

  6. Is this a catalyst for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists, or is it a diversion?

    Article IX will crowd out the remainder of the Great Commission Resurgence document. Whatever you think about the other articles, Article IX is shaping up to be the only article that matters.

    Here's why.

    First, Article IX is the only one of these articles that the Southern Baptist Convention has any ability to influence. Every other article represents tasks that can only be undertaken by local churches and individual believers, with the exception of Axiom V, which Hunt and Akin have clarified to be an affirmation of the status quo. The Southern Baptist Convention is inept to shape the actual ministerial practice of local churches and individual believers. This ineptitude is not a new development. It has never been the purpose nor the design of the SBC to shape the actual ministerial practice of its local churches and individual believers.

    So, to vote on the GCR at this year's annual meeting is to vote solely upon Article IX.

    Second, within Article IX, the only possible real outcome is a restructuring of our mission boards, seminaries, executive committee, and the ERLC.

    Do you think that some level of streamlining or reform needs to take place at some state conventions? The lack of financial support for national and international missions at the Baptist General Convention of Texas is shameful and criminal, in my opinion. I see areas within the Southern Baptist family that could stand some change.

    But I know that the Southern Baptist Convention is entirely powerless to effect any of those changes. The state conventions are autonomous. The local associations are autonomous. If the Southern Baptist Convention had the wherewithal to affect the workings of state conventions, the BGCT would not exist in its present form.

    So, no motion, no resolution, no study committee, no task force, nor any blue-ribbon panel of the SBC can get individuals to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, can focus individual Southern Baptists or Southern Baptist local churches on the gospel, can prompt individuals to live out the Great Commandments alongside the Great Commission, can make the SBC any more committed to biblical inerrancy than we achieved in the Conservative Resurgence, can improve the fidelity of SBC churches to biblical ecclesiology, can make Southern Baptist preachers preach better, can make local churches be any more biblically faithful or any more methodologically diverse, or can make Southern Baptist families more distinctively Christian. These are all tasks given by God to people and institutions other than the Southern Baptist Convention. And the SBC cannot change local associations or state conventions or local churches.

    What's left? The SBC can consolidate, eliminate, or reshuffle the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, the six seminaries, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Lifeway, Guidestone, or the Executive Committee of the SBC. And in this category, the only specific idea that I've heard anyone mention is the concept endorsed by Patterson: The consolidation of these two mission boards. Thus, in my analysis, voting on the GCR is essentially a vote on the consolidation of the mission boards.

    And because I agree with most Southern Baptists that we do need to focus our efforts upon the fulfillment of the Great Commission, I am not supporting what amounts to another distraction from it—a fiddling around with offices and titles and mission statements of our para-church entities.

A person should try not to be critical unless he is prepared to be constructive. Don't shoot at other people's ideas unless you're willing to put forward your own. In an upcoming post I will share my own ideas about better ways to incubate a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC.

In conclusion, I listened today to a podcast interview with Pastor Johnny Hunt on this topic. He had a great many positive and helpful things to say. I appreciated the interview. I encourage you to listen to it.

Two concepts that Hunt mentioned in this interview caught my ear. First, Bro. Johnny spoke about “pushback.” I want to clarify that, at least on my part, there is no pushback going on. Some of our leaders have taken us by the hand and asked us to go on a journey with them, with very few of the details of the trip known to us beforehand. Not all of us have responded with an immediate, “Yes! Whatever you say! Wherever You Lead, I'll Go!” A lack of immediate, unanimous, unconditional acceptance is not pushback. I'm not trying to oppose Bro. Johnny or Dr. Akin; I'm just trying to think this through and decide whether I think they have a good idea or a bad idea or just another SBC parade (to steal terminology from Tim Guthrie's recent excellent post). The consolidation of the NAMB and the IMB is, in my estimation, a bad idea put forward by good people. If the GCR is not about this consolidation, then it would be helpful to me for the GCR leaders to say so quickly, clearly, and publicly. Otherwise, what we have here is nothing more than my wondering aloud whether I personally intend to jump on this bandwagon or not. That's not “pushback” by any stretch of the imagination; it is just me being something other than an automaton.

Second, Bro. Johnny spoke frequently and at length about trust. Because I've been quoted in a couple of media outlets in criticism of the GCR, I feel some obligation to address the question of trust. Johnny Hunt and Daniel Akin have 100% of my trust that they love the Lord, love Southern Baptists, and sincerely want the days of our greatest obedience to the Lord to be ahead of us rather than behind us. I have no doubts that they want to help. There's a distrusting of people in which you suspect that they may be out to hurt you, but then there's also a distrusting of people in which you know for certain that they want to help you, but aren't entirely confident that they know how to help you. I know that Hunt and Akin want to help.

If I have any lack of trust in our leaders, it lies not in the area of their intentions, but in the area of their omniscience. Don't get me wrong: Each knows a great deal more than I know and has demonstrated it in the living of his life. They are probably right. I am probably wrong. I require them to convince me before I sign the document, but I acknowledge the high likelihood that they know better than I do. Indeed, for that very reason, I trusted our leaders in the 1990s when we reorganized the last time. But I've since lost the faith—not in the gospel or in the Great Commission or in Johnny Hunt or in Daniel Akin, but in the idea that we can reorganize ourselves out of our collective Southern Baptist situation. Ours are spiritual problems, not organizational problems. Our addressing them or failing to address them will take place this Sunday and the Sundays after that (and indeed, Monday may be a more determinative day), and not on June 23.

36 comments:

Joe White... said...

Wow Bart! There is a lot in this post to chew on, especially the part about consolidation of boards and power. I have signed the GCR Declaration and believe it to be needed. However, I also realize that accountability is required. I trust that our leaders understand that a vote for the GCR is not the equivalent of a signed blank check.

I am taking a "trust but verify" attitude concerning the GCR. "Trust, but verify" was a signature phrase of President Ronald Reagan. At the signing of the INF Treaty he used it and his counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev responded: "You repeat that at every meeting," to which Reagan answered "I like it." I like it too.

Bart Barber said...

Joe,

One hardly ever goes wrong quoting The Great Communicator. ;-)

Reagan implemented "trust but verify" in the hopes of accomplishing something clearly and specifically identified: reduction of nuclear weapons. If I could see what specific things the SBC can accomplish through this program, then I could find it worthwhile to endorse it with a "trust but verify" attitude. I just haven't seen that yet.

Bart Barber said...

Joe White,

In keeping with the Reaganesque theme of the comments here, allow me to elaborate further.

I'm not a "Big Government" Southern Baptist. I'm thankful for the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm indebted to the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm hopeful for the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm committed to the Southern Baptist Convention.

But I do not believe that we solve all of our problems in a once-a-year meeting in June. Nor do I believe that we should even try to do so.

RKSOKC66 said...

Dr. Barber:

Your argument that the only possible real-world result of the outworking of the GCR document is the merger of the IMB and the NASB seems water tight.

However, consider this! What if as a result of the outworking of the adoption of the GCR document some "high level" panel meets and decides to leave the IMB alone.

Say they recommend changing, merging, and/or eliminating some of the other agencies. Then I think that this could be a good thing.

Say they recommend a re-org the seminaries so they have a common shared administration. I'm not necessarily in favor of this but I don't think it should be totally off the table.

Say they recommend that the NASB folds entirely and its work is dispersed to the state conventions and/or associations? I'm not necessarily in favor of this but I don't think it should be totally off the table.

I agree with you that the articles I through XIII are in the domain of the local church to implement. However, that doesn't mean that the power of the Bully Pulpit of the SBC president is zero in terms of ralling the front-line troups.

General Eisenhour didn't personally storm Brittany. But that didn't mean that he had nothing to do with the sucessful execution of D-Day.

I signed the GCR document. I don't think the only possible real-world result of the outworking of the document is that there will be a merger of the IMB and the NASB. Going into this, I agree with you that a merger of the NASB into the IMB would be a disaster.

Roger Simpson

Bart Barber said...

Roger,

You, like many of my friends, have signed the GCR. I'm not casting aspersions upon those who have done so. I'm merely explaining why I have not.

You raise a good point, and one that helps me to clarify my own point, which I've not expressed clearly enough. Specifically, I need to separate and clarify two things that I've said:

1. I've said that Article IX is the only real action that the GCR could result in.

2. I've said that the only specific Article IX action that has been brought forward and that the SBC could actually accomplish is the merger of the two boards. I've heard two things brought forward. Those are the merger of the two mission boards and the alteration of what state conventions, local associations, and NAMB do in order to reduce duplication.

The latter is not within the ability of the SBC to accomplish (for reasons I mentioned in the Original Post. The other items that you have highlighted, I have not heard anyone proposing at the national level. If you get traction with any of those, then I would need to revise my position. But as things stand now, the only viable specific suggestion that I've seen coming out of Article IX is the mission board merger. That is the rationale behind my OP.

But you bring to mind a number of interesting possibilities!


Finally, as to the power of the SBC bully pulpit to encourage local churches and individual Christians to fulfill the Great Commission, in part I do not doubt it and in part I do doubt it.

Let me 'splain. No, it is too much. Let me sum up.

Does the leadership of the SBC have an opportunity to influence local churches and individual Christians toward the accomplishment of the Great Commission through the SBC's bully pulpit? Yes.

Can that kind of influence be significant? Yes.

But, haven't previous SBC presidents ALREADY been employing the bully pulpit in that manner? Yes. Could anyone have been more passionate or more energetic in that regard than was Bobby Welch? I don't think so.

Therefore, do I think that there is YET UNTAPPED additional influence in the SBC bully pulpit to effect a Great Commission Resurgence heretofore not seen? No.

Greg Welty said...

Bart,

Allow me to respond to some potentially bad ideas put forward by a good person :-)

"Consolidation of these two boards would do nothing to simplify the tangled web of dissonant tasks existing within the NAMB. Rather, all it would accomplish is the robbing from the IMB of the simplicity and straightforwardness from which it has benefitted for a century and a half. All of these problems would simply move from Atlanta to Richmond."

Why can't it be the opposite? Rather than "robbing... simplicity and straightforwardness" from the IMB, perhaps the move would transfer simplicity and straightforwardness *to* the NAMB. In other words, it is NAMB that would be bettered by the transaction, rather than the IMB robbed.

Now, I have given just as much argument for my consequence, as you have for yours. Which is to say: none at all, and that's my point. You don't tell us why the IMB will deteriorate rather than the NAMB improved by such a proposal. Unless I missed something, you just declare it so, and move on.

"We're told, 'We've got to do something. Why not this?'"

Really? Who gives this argument?

"I agree that we've got to do something. But we don't have to do just any old thing."

Again, who is proposing such an argument, that we "have to do just any old thing"? Are you addressing any actual people here?

"If we consolidate the NAMB and the IMB, rather than having an entity for which reaching those areas is a top priority, we'll have an entity for which that mission is a footnote."

Why think this? Did you have an argument here? Is it always the case that consolidation results in the footnoting of preexisting priorities? How do we know this?

"Over time, I predict that more and more funding would migrate away from home missions and onto foreign fields, which has always been the kind of missionary work most exotic and appealing to Southern Baptists."

I don't understand. If "foreign fields... *has always been* the kind of missionary work most exotic and appealing to Southern Baptists" (my emphasis), then that is a problem, irrespective of whether in the future the NAMB and IMB are consolidated. Why then would it be a reason *against* consolidation? If the boards are consolidated, are you saying that somehow the budget would be *more* subject to this historically imbalanced appeal? Why?

"The IMB should plant Baptist churches and only Baptist churches, but IMB churches are not geographically eligible to join the Southern Baptist Convention. Will our projected new consolidated mission board start planting non-SBC congregations here in the USA?"

The quick answer is, "No, because in the USA they will, by your own admission, be 'geographically eligible to join the Southern Baptist Convention.'" So what would be the problem?

This point strikes me as scare-mongering, Bart. If it's only by *geographical necessity* that non-SBC churches get planted by the IMB, then if the geographical isolation no longer holds, you've lost your argument for this particular bogeyman, haven't you?

Now, if your argument was, "The IMB has been compromised in its church-planting integrity for reasons X, Y, and Z, and I fear that present reality will affect a merged NAMB," then that would be an interesting argument. But that's not the argument you gave. Instead, you gave an argument that sounds like, "If, while in Japan, I'm expected to speak Japanese, then when I'm in the U.S., I might be expected to speak Japanese as well." I don't find that kind of warning terribly persuasive.

"So, no motion, no resolution, no study committee, no task force, nor any blue-ribbon panel of the SBC can get individuals to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, can focus individual Southern Baptists or Southern Baptist local churches on the gospel, can prompt individuals to live out the Great Commandments alongside the Great Commission, can make the SBC any more committed to biblical inerrancy than we achieved in the Conservative Resurgence, can improve the fidelity of SBC churches to biblical ecclesiology, can make Southern Baptist preachers preach better, can make local churches be any more biblically faithful or any more methodologically diverse, or can make Southern Baptist families more distinctively Christian."

Since this also applies to your resolution on regenerate church membership, are you willing to conclude that that resolution "doesn't matter," and didn't deserve the support of the Southern Baptist messengers? By your own standard, there wasn't a single article in that resolution that "matters".

"And in this category, the only specific idea that I've heard anyone mention is the concept endorsed by Patterson: The consolidation of these two mission boards. Thus, in my analysis, voting on the GCR is essentially a vote on the consolidation of the mission boards."

Sorry, I don't follow. Because "the only specific idea" that you've heard is such-and-such, therefore anyone who votes for the GCR is voting for that idea you heard? That doesn't follow at all. So if some crackpot came up with some wild application of the resolution on regenerate church membership, you would agree that anyone who voted for that resolution would be voting for that idea? Why think a thing like this?

"If I could see what specific things the SBC can accomplish through this program, then I could find it worthwhile to endorse it with a "trust but verify" attitude. I just haven't seen that yet."

Hmm, specificity. Let's see. Six years ago I was asked to sign a document that asked me to support not only some very good doctrine, but also some practical implications of those doctrines. Here are some quotes, which represent some things to which the document asks me to be committed:

"Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes."

Interestingly enough, this document never enumerate these "democratic processes."

"It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ."

These "other methods" are never specified.

"Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches."

How am I to identify when "the cause of education" is at stake, and thus when it should be supported? And how shall I decide between this cause, and "the causes of missions and general benevolence," when it comes to specific funding or organizational decisions? The document doesn't say.

"An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ's people."

What would "an adequate system of Christian education" look like? The document doesn't say. Could lots of proposals fly under this banner? Presumably. Does that mean that, on those grounds alone, they would all be equally deserving of our support? Presumably not.

"In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility."

What is "academic freedom" and "academic responsibility"? What would a commitment to both look like, in our Christian educational structures? The document doesn't say.

"According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth."

Which specific causes or programs would qualify as falling under "the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth"? The document doesn't say. Could someone, conceivably, invoke this document as a cover for just any old proposal? I suppose. Does that give me a reason to withdraw support for the document? I don't see how.

"Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God."

What do these "associations and conventions" look like? What is the process of their "organization"? How can we tell between good organization and bad organization? The document doesn't say.

"They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner."

And just what is "the most effective manner"? Nothing is said here.

"Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom."

How should this "cooperation" proceed? What are the details here? How would we know whether a ministry is "missionary," "educational," or "benevolent"? Who decides whether something purporting to be in any of these categories is relevant to "the extension of Christ's Kingdom"? The document is silent here.

"Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament."

So, when *is* the end "justified"? What exactly qualifies as "compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word"? No guidance is provided by the document in question.

"In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."

OK, but *how* are we to oppose these things? What forms should the opposition take? Again, no guidance is provided.

"We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick."

By doing *what*, exactly? To what extent should we organize our daily lives, and the life of our local churches, in order to accomplish these ends? What ministries need to be set up? What would their form look like? How much resources should they consume? None of these questions are answered.

"We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death."

In every possible venue, and at every possible moment? If not, then when and how?

"Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love."

This is extraordinarily far-ranging, and potentially revolutionary in terms of our daily decisions. And yet... this isn't terribly specific, is it?

"It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war."

So what are the details here? Should we engage in anti-war protests? Organize marches to Washington D.C.? Mobilize voter blocs? No guidance here is provided.

"The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends."

What are these "spiritual means"? Do they involve the use of our bodies? What qualifies them as 'spiritual'?

The fact of the matter is that the Baptist Faith and Message, over and over again, asks us to be committed to a whole host of priorities, causes, and endeavors, but *it doesn't spell out the specifics*. Would it be a good thing to say, in response to this, "I won't jump on the bandwagon of the BFM, until its authors spell all this out for me. Who knows where all these 'vague directives' could take us?"

No, because that's not the point of the document. And that's not the point of the GCR document, as far as I can tell. The point is to get a convention-wide discussion going, and to review specific habits and practices, on the basis of *principles* espoused in the document. Why would the presence of principles-without-specified-application torpedo the GCR, but not the BFM? What makes the difference here?

The Baptist Faith and Message must be more than a parade, don't you think? ;-)

Joe White... said...

Bart, point taken.

I understood when I signed the declaration that I was signing on to a direction, not to details. To be honest, the lack of details does worry me some. That is why I pray that men like yourself will climb on board and help steer this ship. In fact, I am going to nominate you to the GCR Steering Committee in Lewy-ville. :)

"Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'." ...Ronald Wilson Reagan

Bart Barber said...

Greg,

Welcome, my friend and worthy jousting partner. It is truly a joy to converse with you. Thank you for affirming me as a good person. ;-)

Some will challenge you at that point.

Do you mind if I reply to you over a number of comments, rather than all at once? Yours is so big, and conversations tend to grow exponentially. I don't want one enormous, convoluted, daunting comment.

1. Why would consolidation not move simplicity and straightforwardness to NAMB rather than the bad scenario I've proposed?

For the same reason why sewing another patch onto Joseph's coat wouldn't make it a Navy Blue Blazer.

In other words, NAMB is, as it now stands, a hybrid organization. It handles home missions in Canada and the United States, disaster relief, chaplaincy, apologetics with regard to cults and other religions, RAs, Baptist Men, and a whole host of other things.

IMB does not consist of such a conglomeration. It just does foreign missions.

Thus, when you merge a conglomerated something with a simple something more, the result is a greater conglomeration. This is simple mathematics: 5+1 cannot equal 1.

So, if I somehow seemed to communicate that the muddled state of the NAMB was somehow the fault of NAMB employees who just haven't straightened the thing out properly, then I apologize not only to you but to the NAMB people. Just as a business named "Bob's Italian Pizzeria and Bait Shop" can never be a simple and focused entity no matter who is running it (or maybe it can...yuck!), the NAMB cannot be a simple and focused entity without killing off many of its constituent parts.

Bart Barber said...

By the way, as an intermission, I'm counting on somebody to locate and identify the movie quote that I put in my latest response to Joe White.

Bart Barber said...

(Not necessarily taking these in any order other than of my eagerness to answer)

2. If Article IX is the only article that means anything, does that mean that my Regenerate Church Membership resolution was meaningless?

Believe it or not, I actually anticipated this one.

And the answer is, yes I do believe that motions are more important and serious than are resolutions. When an item of business consists of both resolution-like material and motion-like material, the substance and importance of the proposal lies i the motion-like material. The resolution-like material is not ABSOLUTELY unimportant, it is RELATIVELY unimportant, and will inevitably be lost in the shuffle when put into juxtaposition with motion-like material.

The other articles are resolution-like items. Article IX is a motion-like item. As evidence of that, I offer the fact that Bro. Johnny has announced one and only one action to be taken with regard to the GCR—the creation of committees to implement Article IX.

So, the effect here is that the action-items TRUMP the thought-items and crowd them out.

I actually think that it would be better to separate the resolution parts from the motion parts. The resolution parts I affirm. I would sign on tonight. In my proposed ideas, I may suggest a way to affirm the ideas without committing to the implementation.

Thank you for reminding everyone that our adoption of a resolution on regenerate church membership last year did not solve the problems in our convention with regard to regenerate church membership. Just like the GCR, that resolution was unable to secure regenerate church membership in a single church.

If that resolution had been combined into some sort of omnibus package alongside a motion to exclude from the SBC any church with a high ratio of members to attendees, then yes, I'm saying that in such a situation the various WHEREASes and RESOLVEDs of the resolution would be comparatively meaningless and that the motion would represent the only defining issue of the motion.

Bart Barber said...

3. Is it fair to judge Article IX solely with reference to the consolidation of the mission boards? Is the fact that this is the only specific proposal that has gained traction in the press a good foundation for judging Article IX in this manner?

Feel free to take that section of the original post more as a request for more specifics than as a rendering of final judgment upon the GCR document. Until I see more specifics, I will evaluate the plan with regard to the specifics that I have actually seen.

That point raises two items of additional response and defense that I would give to you:

1. I refuse to accept the burden of proof here. I (along with the rest of the messengers) am the one whose vote is being courted. Those bringing the proposal bear the burden of proof. You may say all you wish that I have not proven my point. I need not do so. They have not proven theirs, and they must do so in order to obtain my vote.

2. I am not issuing my final declaration on this matter. We may very well arrive at Louisville with my name right there on the list. Bro. Johnny indicated today that the statement will be revised yet again, and that the final version will not be available for viewing until a couple of weeks before the convention—maybe not even until the printing of the first day's bulletin at the annual meeting.

I'd be delighted to see something that I could eventually sign.

Bart Barber said...

4. Am I scaremongering to ask whether NAMB will be planting non-SBC churches?

That line was hardly the headline of the piece, nor even a major point. If I'm trying to stir up paranoia, I'm pretty inept at it, burying my scary line so deep in the text like that.

I was laboring (poorly I imagine) to make the point that NAMB relates differently with the SBC than the IMB does with the various Baptist bodies around the world where it serves. There are obvious similarities between the two (both employ missionaries), but there are differences as well.

My hypothetical question was not so much of a warning (the shift-in-focus statement you critiqued was my raising the alarm) as it was an illustration of what I was trying to say—that there are differences between home missions and international missions.

Just between you and me, I think that some of my other points are stronger, but I thought that one at least worthy of mention.

Bart Barber said...

5. Do I fairly evaluate what would happen to the balance of priority between international missions and home missions in a NAMB-IMB merger?

My argument on the "footnote" statement is simply this: Historically, Southern Baptists have placed a higher priority on international missions than on home missions. However, whatever the macro-situation in the SBC at large, at least the micro-situation has involved the possibility of an entity which, internally, had as its top priority the planting of churches in the USA. In a combined agency, that is no longer the situation.

The arguments that I have heard for consolidation do not even involve any sort of a hard-and-fast divisional separation within the newly consolidated entity. The rationale has been, "We're planting a Cambodian church in Boston. We're planting Cambodian churches in Cambodia. Why shouldn't this all fall under the same team, since these actions are strikingly similar?"

What is the end result? Similar to what we have ongoing in Western Europe, I imagine. There we have missionaries in England or France or Spain, but many are not engaged in actual missionary activity toward the ethnically English or French or Spanish. They are targeting ethnic groups that have emigrated from other parts of the world.

I think, without a separate entity devoted to North American church planting, it would be very easy for the bulk of the combined entity's domestic work to be dominated by international ethnic priorities.

Bart Barber said...

6. Is the Baptist Faith & Message an example of a good, vague document?

I submit that, although the ideas in the BF&M are deliberately and helpfully vague at points, the effect of the adoption and affirmation of the BF&M was and is very specific. The convention adopted the BF&M knowing exactly what it was accomplishing: SBC employees who did not concur with this statement would find themselves seeking employment elsewhere.

I am not bemoaning the vagueness of any of the idea-items in the document. It is the action-item for which I want specifics before I give my endorsement.

What will be done with this movement? I don't know. If you do, please tell me. I do believe that we need to focus our efforts upon the Great Commission. I would be very gratified to affirm something along those lines.


I think that I've gotten most of the substance of your reply. Of course, it was lengthy, and I am tired. If I have failed you at any point, it is not a deliberate affront. Point me to my omissions, and I will do my best.

RKSOKC66 said...

Dr. Barber:

Let me expand of my reading of the tea leaves regarding what might happen with Item IX.

In Johnny Hunt's podcast he gave the example of the young seminary grad wanting assistance in trying to set up a chruch plant in Memphis TN. The scenario was that both the local association in Shelby county, the TN state convention, and the NAMB could potentially (or not) be involved. As I understood what Johnny was saying, the crazy thing is that the local churches, through the associations, through the state conventions send money to the exec comittee which sends money to the NAMB only for the NAMB to turn around and assist (financially or in other ways) the state and/or association in assisting the seminary grad with new church plant. Is this crazy or what?

Why not send the money via carrier pigeon to a tuna boat in Boston, which then takes it to Burmuda and passes it to the bellhop at the Burmuda Dunes hotel, who takes it to a lockbox at the Burmuda airport, where it is picked up by the captain of Flight 274 nonstop to Memphis who gives it to Justin Waynewright the seminary grad? On the way the Bellhop takes a small service charge to pay for his overhead, as does the tuna boat captain, and the airline pilot.

I made the logical leap that one of the targets of any possible re-org that Dr. Hunt forsees is with this type of duplication and ambiguity relative to the operation of some aspects of the NAMB.

Also, Johnny mentioned not "getting credit" for individual churches doing church planting unless they funnel the funds for these activities through some type of associational/state/SBC heirarchy. For example, Johnny mentioned the work the FBC Woodstock is doing "on its own" in Las Vegas. I didn't realize as Johnny Hunt asserts that only NAMB sanctioned church starts "counted".

I admit I'm in the dark on this but taking what Johnny is saying at face value he is saying, "If FBC Woodstock gives money via CP to the NAMB then that "counts" but if we spend hundreds of thousands of money from your own church treasury to support church planting then that doesn't count."

My bottom line is it is not a stretch to extrapolate from Dr. Hunt's comments that the organizational problems he sees are largely related to the NAMB.

As you say, it may be that the only "proposal on the street" relative to the NAMB is to fold it into the IMB. However, the idea of eliminating all or most of the NAMB is certainly another solution to the "problem" of so much "ambuiguity" regarding who is on first regarding chruch plants and evangelistic efforts is various locales in the USA.

Speaking only for myself here, [I'm not putting words in Johnny Hunt's mouth] I think the four legged stool going on in supporting local church plants -- local churches, associations, state conventions, NAMB -- that the odd man out is the NAMB.

Maybe a skeletal NAMB could do some stuff such as national media buys, etc. I hope they don't go back into the young adult pep-rally / rock concert business [or whatever "Elevate" was]. That should be left to either Lifeway (they run all types of retreats that don't take a dime of CP money) or local state conventions. Here in Okla we have Fall's Creek which is a retreat center second to none.

Bart Barber said...

Roger,

With regard to the duplication of efforts by associations, state conventions, local churches, and the NAMB, I see the same problems and needs. What I do not see is how an SBC committee could do anything about this other than what you have suggested, the evisceration of NAMB. These are the problems that I perceive with that approach:

1. Most of our churches can't afford to do what Woodstock is doing in Las Vegas. We have cooperative missions entities so that even the smallest churches can join in this combined enterprise, enriching what all of us can do together.

2. Local associations and state conventions are largely going to work within their associational or convention-al boundaries (some partnerships excluded). But the money is not always where the needs are. The Hudson Baptist Association near Albany is going to have a lot of needs and not much money. The Top-of-Texas Association is going to have a lot of oil money, and comparatively few needs (people). Thus, only SOME of the money departing Memphis by carrier pigeon actually comes back to Memphis. Some of it goes to Seattle. And if any of it is actually headed to Boston, then the pathway is not quite so convoluted after all, is it?

OK...end of my critique.

Now, I must say, I don't need NAMB to be planting churches in Texas. The need is not as great here as it is in Massachusetts, and we have greater assets already in place. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is doing a great job planting churches here in Texas.

I do see some benefit in our in-state church planting being coordinated with NAMB ideas. Seminaries can train church planters to NAMB specifics and know that they are ready to work with NAMB anywhere in the USA, for example.

But overall, I want NAMB to be focused on pioneer areas.


As to what "counts" and what doesn't, Bro. Johnny is speaking with regard to Cooperative Program calculations. Some elements within the Southern Baptist Convention have been decrying low CP giving. Some of our larger churches give deplorable percentages through the CP because they are self-absorbed. But others give such low percentages through the CP because they are bypassing their state conventions. Some of those churches are actually doing more to fund national and international missions than they would be doing if they gave through CP (because an enormous percentage would be retained in-state by their various CP formulas at the state level).

I'm sympathetic to Bro. Johnny at this point. I think that it is fair for SBC messengers, when choosing leadership, to ask how supportive different individuals have been of the ministries of the SBC. But I think it is unfair to make that assessment simplistically by looking only at the CP percentage.

If the BGCT were our only option, we would be giving very little through the traditional Cooperative Program. We would still be giving our 10% to SBC missions, but we would be designating around the state CP. The SBC does not count that kind of giving as Cooperative Program giving.

Thankfully, due to the formation of the SBTC, I do not face that quandary. Not everyone lives in Texas.

RKSOKC66 said...

Dr. Barber:

While in some cases it could be that local churches, associations, and state conventions only work in areas that are within their own geographical boundaries there are many exceptions.

Here in Oklahoma a group of dozens of Oklahoma churches, through the auspices of the BGCO, just sent 250singers to Armenia for two weeks. This was a tour in which the singers had Christian concerts all over the place over there working in conjunction with the IMB missionaries on the ground. They just got back from their trip last week.

Also, the BGCO serves as a marshalling agent to dispatch people from churches all over Oklahoma (of all sizes) to assist in disaster relief. Oklahoma baptists were involved big time when Katrina hit.

Work teams from Oklahoma composed of people from many churches (including small ones) go to "pioneer areas" in the USA to help build buildings, help with VBS, etc.

So I don't think it is etched in stone that local churches, associations, or state conventions only work in within their "own" geographical areas.

To put what I'm saying a different way: my experience is that most SBC churches of all sizes, even "small ones", are directly involved sending people -- if not money -- all over the place in the USA.

I think one of your points is that sending teams out is one thing, but sending funding for church planters who are on the ground 24/7/365 is something else. If the NASB were to shut down, there would still be the need for a funding mechanism to keep church planters on the front line in, for example, Albany NY.

BTW, I don't want to steal your thunder but one guy who has said --in writing -- that he doesn't hold to inerrancy is Dr. Dilday. I can give you chapter and verse where he says this.

I don't know of any post CR SBC seminary profs who say, on the record, that they don't hold to inerrancy.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Bart Barber said...

Roger,

You correctly understood me. I was talking about long term work rather than short term team missions. Our church has become very involved in sending out teams short term. One thing I've noticed about this: Although it is our church doing the sending, IMB and NAMB provide a lot of the infrastructure. We work Southern Cross in Thailand and Macao alongside IMB missionaries. We do state-to-state partnerships and work on projects put in place through NAMB funding.

We know where to go, whom to contact when we get there, and what to do once we arrive, often because of the work that IMB and NAMB personnel have done at that location in the past.

But I don't think we're far apart on these questions.

Although I do not think that the future of the Great Commission rides on it, I do think that it might be helpful to have more agencies than we have now. NAMB could be partitioned. One agency could focus exclusively on pioneer area church planting. Another agency could take much of the rest of NAMB under its belt.

One thing about it: We don't have to ADOPT the GCR document to have a conversation about SBC reorganization. The mere proposal of the document has launched the conversation. I just think that this particular conversation is far from one of the more important things we must do to have a Great Commission Resurgence.

Wes Kenney said...

Inigo Montoya, just after Westley wakes up from having been "mostly dead all day."

Glad I could contribute.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

I'm guessing the several references to the NASB (which I think of as the Lockman Foundation's Bible version, a bit over-literal) are actually typos for the NAMB?

Anonymous said...

Bart:

Thanks for writing this piece.

Reorganizing and reshuffling is not the answer to moving forward. It's just rearranging chairs.

Consolidation, as you noted, often has a down side. In my office, we could see if we could consolidate and cost save by requiring each secretary to pick up another lawyer and asking the paralegals to pick up more cases. We would save money on secretaries and paralegals, but in consolidating we would make the organization smaller, which can have the effect of our being unable to process demand more efficiently, leaving "inventory on the shelf" so to speak.

Let's face it. Foreign missions is more sexy. We have dozens of people in our congregation who would be really excited about moving to a far away land, learning the language, and bringing the Gospel to a place where it may have never been heard.

We far fewer people who would have any interest in moving to Appalachia, Boston or New York to do the same thing.

I can see the horrow on their faces if someone asked them to go Appalachia. "You mean, I am going to have to raise my children among red necks? And what about the schools? No social life. Etc." You would hear far fewer concerns regarding moving to India or China. Those places meet some emotional or fantasy need in most people which makes those destinations more acceptable.

The objections to Boston and New York are different, but still present. Very liberal. Very Catholic. Many of our people are not really equipped to work as well in those places because of the cultural divide that obvious to native residents. The same people would have more success in China or India just because they are a fascinating American. In New York, we are just religious Southerners with accidents and a lack of passion for the things many New Yorkers care about.

My thought is that we let Dr. Hammond have a fighting chance to do more at NAMB, and that we in the SBC begin to see NAMB's mission as being just as important as the IMB's mission.

Louis

Anonymous said...

Man, sorry for all the typos.

I need a cup of coffee.

Louis

Steve Young said...

Bart,
I would be concerned about consolidation of the two boards as well. If anything, instead of consolidation, I would like to see NAMB streamlined with less responsibilities so the focus could be on Church planting. I served for four years as a church planter in Wyoming. Wyoming is a State Convention that receives much more from NAMB than it gives. Directors of Missions, some State level positions, and many new works could not be funded by Wyoming Cooperative Program dollars.
The church I served gave to the Association, and Cooperative Program from its inception. We also took the special missions offerings. It was a joy for this small church to know they were a part of something much bigger than itself. When we hosted an OMC, the missionaries were able to say "We are your missionaries."
I could be wrong. There could be consolidation plan that would strengthen both mission thrusts, but I would still doubt its sustainability.

Steve Young
Montana

Greg Welty said...

[1. on a NAMB/IMB merger]

Bart,

Thanks for your replies.

I'm not sure I get your analogies. This isn't a piece of clothing, or a math problem. Now, the "Bob's Italian Pizzeria and Bait Shop" example is much more relevant, since -- unlike clothing or math -- a shop has personnel, budget, income and expenses, programs, clientele, etc. But even in this case, the implications of the analogy are anything but obvious. Would Amazon.com fare better if it were split up into a bookseller, clothier, fishing supplies shop, and so on, *ad infinitum*? Or how about if we, say, consolidated the work of assistant deans and senior associate deans at a local seminary? Would such reorganization be inevitably bad or unwise?

If NAMB is *already* a patchwork quilt, then consolidation may force some much-needed reflection, and help bring focus on difficult choices that should be made. So it's still not clear to me why this process will obviously be a net negative, rather than positive. Now, I don't know the facts on the ground. But perhaps the trustee chairman of the NAMB does. Here's what he says:

"We duplicate properties, personnel and programs and thus are not good stewards."

"Because 'North America is now just as much a foreign mission field as any other country or continent' with diverse people groups and cultures, Patterson said, 'We need a singular world mission agency that does not lessen its emphasis on missions in North America or any other part of the world, but enhances it."

"The way we structure, fund and administer our work is overly bureaucratic and bloated. If we combine our efforts and funding, we could be much more effective and become better stewards of God's resources."

Is what he says true, or false? And if it is true, would consolidation help? I have no idea. But unnecessary duplication doesn't look like a good thing. And since the entire world has come to our shores, gaining insight for home missions from a body that has considerable experience in reaching just those peoples, looks like a potentially good thing.

The bottom line is that this looks like a conversation worth having. Saying we go 'yuck' when we think of a pizza and bait shop is not a good argument for me. Bureaucratic consolidation happens all of the time. Conservative Republicans generally favor bureaucratic streamlining in the political realm. Why is the idea all of a sudden verboten in this context?

Greg Welty said...

[2. on Article IX vs. the Regenerate Church Membership resolution]

"Bro. Johnny has announced one and only one action to be taken with regard to the GCR—the creation of committees to implement Article IX."

He has? I thought that "Hunt confirmed a motion will be offered at the SBC annual meeting in Louisville next month directing him to appoint a task force to study the GCR declaration and bring a report and recommendations to the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando."

Isn't studying the GCR declaration different from creating a committee to implement Article IX?

"If that resolution had been combined into some sort of omnibus package alongside a motion to exclude from the SBC any church with a high ratio of members to attendees, then yes, I'm saying that in such a situation the various WHEREASes and RESOLVEDs of the resolution would be comparatively meaningless and that the motion would represent the only defining issue of the motion."

OK, thanks for the clarification. Since the GCR document does not contain anything close to a motion to exclude specific SBC participants based on specific criteria, what exactly was the problem again? So when you say, "In my proposed ideas, I may suggest a way to affirm the ideas without committing to the implementation," I'm confused, because I don't see a reference to "the implementation" in Article IX. I see stuff like "we should ask hard questions," "pray for God's wisdom," "pursue wise answers," "be willing to make needed changes". These things are neither a motion nor "motion-like". What you're talking about is stuff that might *come out of* the committee that Johnny Hunt suggests. It's not in the GCR document.

Greg Welty said...

[3. on Article IX and consolidating the NAMB/IMB]

"I refuse to accept the burden of proof here. I (along with the rest of the messengers) am the one whose vote is being courted. Those bringing the proposal bear the burden of proof. You may say all you wish that I have not proven my point. I need not do so. They have not proven theirs, and they must do so in order to obtain my vote."

Yes, this is all true. But your post didn't merely say: "not proven". Rather:

(1) Your post said, with respect to a NAMB/IMB merger, "I think that it is a bad idea." It then tried to make a case for that conclusion.

(2) Your post said, with respect to the reasoning in the GCR FAQ, "the logic is missing a few pieces". You then tried to make a case for that conclusion.

Since he who proposes must prove, I was simply examining whether, in fact, you had made your case for your twofold conclusion. I'm not trying to saddle you with an argumentative burden you don't have. I'm assessing how well you bore the burden you do have, which you explicitly took up when you made the post. You forwarded some conclusions and then tried to support them, did you not?

Greg Welty said...

[4. on NAMB planting non-SBC churches]

Yes, and you asked, in light of those 'fundamental differences': "Will our projected new consolidated mission board start planting non-SBC congregations here in the USA?" This still strikes me as a *non sequitur*, for the reason I gave, even if we grant NAMB/IMB differences. Why raise this bogeyman if you aren't prepared to support it? Why would a merger lead the NAMB/IMB to plant non-SBC churches *in the United States*, when the only reason the IMB plants non-SBC churches is because said churches *aren't* in the United States?

You say that asking this question "was an illustration of what I was trying to say—that there are differences between home missions and international missions." How, exactly, does asking a question "illustrate" the differences? Isn't the question instead meant to insinuate that the differences will be dissolved?

This is like me saying, "Bart Barber meets with Presbyterian pastors. As a result of those meetings, will Bart start preaching Presbyterianism?" And when asked why I said this, I explain, "Oh, that question was meant to illustrate the difference between Bart and Presbyterians." Huh?

Greg Welty said...

[5. on balancing priorities within a NAMB/IMB]

"I think, without a separate entity devoted to North American church planting, it would be very easy for the bulk of the combined entity's domestic work to be dominated by international ethnic priorities."

OK, this is a fair point. I think it ought to be seriously considered by any who would propose such a merger, and you do well in raising it.

I had some further interaction here, but I've excised it for the sake of time.

Greg Welty said...

[6. on vagueness in BFM and GCR]

"I am not bemoaning the vagueness of any of the idea-items in the document. It is the action-item for which I want specifics before I give my endorsement."

But why? I just outlined for you several "action-items" in the BFM. It would be incredible to me to read any of the excerpts I provided from the BFM, and not conclude that the document was exhorting me to *take action* in various ways. But it does so by way of espoused principles, not specific details. How is the GCR document any different?

Look at the exhortation language in the BFM: "It is the duty of every child of God," "should receive," "there should be a proper balance," "Christians should contribute of their means," "Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize," "should cooperate with one another," "cooperation is desirable," "Christians should oppose," "we should work to provide for," "we should speak on behalf of," "every Christian should seek," "it is the duty of Christians to seek," etc.

These are all action-items, not "idea-items"! And they are as numerous -- and vague -- as the "action-items" in the GCR document. So I ask again: if "it is the action-item for which I want specifics before I give my endorsement," why does this apply to the action-items in the GCR, but not the BFM? What makes the difference here?

RKSOKC66 said...

I'm a little slow but maybe I'm finally catching on. Several of you have broached the idea of bifurcating the current NAMB work into (a) financially supporting church planters in the USA and (b) everything else that the NAMB does. I agree that this deserves more study.

About ten days ago, I stated that I thought that whatever streamlining that is needed would be happening in the 'middle layers'. I described the four layers: (a) local congregations, (b) associations, (c) state conventions, and (d) national SBC agencies.

I felt that the layers "most on the bubble" were b and c.

After reflecting on this and digesting comments from many of you I'd like, as they say in congress, "to revise and extend my remarks". I never called to elimination of either b or c. Only that these layers not adsorb such a high percentage of CP funds.

Hopefully, some of the things state conventions do now could be supported by user fees more than they are now -- such as camp grounds.

State conventions sold "Baptist Hospitals" in decades past. There is no way given the current situation with healthcare in the USA that any branch of the SBC -- including state conventions -- could possibly operate health care delivery operations. I'm not necessarily calling for state conventions to sell off physical assets so they don't have to support and staff them. However, when it comes to such things as campgrounds I think they should be run as revenue neutral operations which pay their own way through user fees. This way, they won't divert a dime of CP money from going to where the real action is.

One huge item that I admit I can't handle in my own mind is what to do with the youth homes.

Hopefully, some of the stuff that the NAMB does in terms of church planting in the USA could be merged with the state conventions. Put another way, that portion of the NAMB that supports church planting in the USA could be one guy behind a desk in Alpharetta that directs funds to places in the USA where a gospel witness is needed. This would be a conduit to allow money to flow from the Texas oil fields to Albany NY. The work could be executed by non NAMB personnel. Some might argue that such a structure, if implemented, is just re-arranging deck chairs.

Whatever else the NAMB does other than church planting (i.e. media blitzes, etc.) could then stand or fall based upon a cost/benefit analysis. The same would be true of the stuff that the state conventions are doing.

I think we all agree that if state conventions syphon off too much CP money then churches -- for better or worse -- will continue to bypass them at an escalating rate. I think this problem is "where the rubber meets the road" in SBC life.

Ben Macklin said...

Bart -

I would be in favor of using the NAMB missionaries in those areas that are in the most desperate need of the gospel, i.e. Northeast, Northwest, Utah, California. Period. I can't agree to have NAMB missionaies in regions that have strong church ministry already in place, i.e. almost anywhere in the so-called Bible belt. The exception would be a niche missionary to reach a specific language group that is beyond the abilities of most churches, i.e. reaching Farsi speakers in Houston.

All that said, we DO need an NAMB. But we need a very muscular, evanglistic NAMB that is aggressively reaching the aforementioned regions. IMHO.

Ben Macklin

Andrew said...

Bart (or anyone else):

How much of this consolidation talk is really about making GCR a second wave of the CR? - that is, "I want to have my missions money going where and to I want."

Sorry to be the cynic about this, but the theological clothes of inerrancy covered the pragmatic body of the CR movement: We don't want the liberals spending our money on liberalism.

You (Bart) seem to like the "lean and mean" SBC over the bloated bureaucracy...not that I have a problem with that!

Anonymous said...

Two questions.

Does NAMB not include Mexico, Canada and Haiti?

Does anyone believe that one "Annie Moon" oferring will equal what the two bring in combined?

Bart Barber said...

I'm preaching a revival out of town. My opportunities for blogging will be limited over the next few days. My apologies

Greg Welty said...

Bart,

Just ignore my comments and move on. You need to consolidate your time :-)

Steve Young said...

RKS suggested that one of the things that could be done would be for NAMB to have a person to funnel money to a state or area for church planting. I know firsthand that is being done. When I went to Wyoming as a church planter, I was not officially a NAMB missionary. I was a Wyoming church planter. I answered to the Missions and Evangelism Director of Wyoming. The first two years were funded by a NAMB grant for that specific church plant. Actually, the other years were handled much the same way.
Steve Young
Montana