Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Can You Do to Support the Great Commission Resurgence?

Presuming, that is, that you are not a member of the reorganization task force.

Is there a role for the rest of us, other than sitting at the base of the mountain and awaiting the tablets? Sitting idly at such moments has been known to lead to bad results (see Exodus 32). Ours is not a polity of idleness and ignorance. We believe that God has called every believer-priest to be active and informed in the collective seeking of God's will. So here's a list of things we all ought to be doing between now and next June:

  1. Pray for the task force. Prayer for them is your obligation. You might also register officially as a prayer supporter at the official website for such things, but confuse not website registration with actual prayer. If you pray and do not bother with signing up, good for you. If you signed up, but aren't praying, then repent and begin to pray in earnest.

    We do not have conventions and votes because we believe in the power of the people. We believe in the depravity of the people and in the weaknesses of the people. Even for those who share not Dort's understanding of that depravity, neither do we embrace the dangerous fictions of Pelagius. Let the politicians talk about the rightness of the people, but that is not the theology behind our voting.

    Rather, we are a people who have conventions and votes because we believe in the wisdom of God and in the work of the Holy Spirit in every believer. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, Baptist polity degenerates into mere democracy. Pray. Pray consistently for the task force. Pray about next Summer. One month ago I did something that would even seem silly to the world—I sat in a car near the actual convention center where the meeting will take place next Summer, and I prayed for the task force and for our convention meeting even there, on that spot. God hears my prayers from Farmersville just as well (perhaps even better, since Farmersville is in Texas and that's pretty close to Arkansas), but there was something more intensive and real in my own heart while praying from that location.

    Prayer is an the important catalyst to our polity. Please don't forget it.

  2. Give input now. Send an email to a task force member, or even to them all. Start a blog. Attend a meeting. Talk to your friends.

    The good folks on the task force have asked for input from Southern Baptists now, before they make any public statements or recommendations. We have no way to know whether, after they have made public statements or recommendations, they will permit any further input to influence their actions at all. The scope of the task force's work is virtually unbounded. If you care about anything at all in the Southern Baptist Convention, whatever it is, it apparently is not off the table. Therefore, if you care about anything at all in the Southern Baptist Convention, it is your duty to make sure that the task force members know that somebody cares about whatever that is.

    You may be maligned as a myth-maker or a miscreant of some sort, and certainly such critters exist within the SBC. But the structure of this process really gives you no other good option but to speak up now. If you aren't speculating or fearmongering about the eventual contents of the task force's recommendations, then you aren't doing anything malicious. There is nothing untoward about standing up and declaring simply, "This is something that I love about the SBC, and I want our leadership to know it."

    That's why I've been posting of late about the Cooperative Program. Do I believe that the task force will be discussing possible changes to the Cooperative Program? I do, because they have said as much. Do I believe that their discussions will yield any actual recommendations to change the Cooperative Program? Who knows? Contra Greg Boyd, I'm willing to assert that God knows. Beyond that, none of the rest of us knows for certain what the task force will recommend. God very well might employ the robust discussion of Southern Baptists right now to influence the task force recommendations next year. I'm willing to believe that what I say and write about the Cooperative Program, if many other Southern Baptists say and write similar things, could be used by God as positive reinforcement to help our task force make good decisions in their meetings.

    If you care about North American evangelism and missions and believe that NAMB ought to continue to exist, then you ought to be speaking up about it now. Because I know that the task force is going to shut NAMB down? No. Do I have any idea what they would do with, for example, Disaster Relief if they did so? No. Farm it all out to Baptist Global Response? Who knows? God does. But the point is simply that it is on the table (for nothing is off the table, I don't think), and that the task force has set aside this time right now for input. Give it. Don't let anyone dissuade you from giving it. Don't let labels and blog posts cower you into a corner. Now, you be respectful. Don't you speculate beyond what you know and then label it as fact. Smile. Laugh. Remember that the joy of the Lord is deeper than the politics of Southern Baptists. But you stand up and be counted.

    To do so is not to disrespect or demean those who serve on the task force—it is simply to do what they themselves have asked us to do. They're good, godly people. Even those of us who genuinely believe that they are good, godly people deserve to be able to speak with our own voice and have our own opinions about these important matters. And even those who do not agree that they are good, godly people (if any such critics exist at all) are still entitled to speak their mind and contribute to our process of making decisions. The task force members have asked for our help. Give it.

    And if you sit on your hands now and say nothing, then you may very well get precisely what you deserve. I promise you, every sourpuss, every rebel-without-a-cause, every ne'er-do-well in the SBC will speak loudly. Let's drown them out in support of the great things in the SBC.

  3. Attend a task force meeting if you get the opportunity. I want to applaud Ronnie Floyd for inviting state convention directors to attend the upcoming Dallas meeting. I disagree sometimes with the actions of some of our state conventions, but it is a bad process that disregards their involvement. If that meeting were not taking place right in the middle of the SBTC's annual meeting in Lubbock, then I would love to attend, even if it meant sitting out in the hallway and praying while they were meeting behind closed doors.

    Wouldn't it be great if, after they have developed their recommendations, the task force would go to every state convention annual meeting next year and host forums to give the opportunity for every Southern Baptist to give feedback on the specific recommendations? I'm sure that the entire task force couldn't possibly attend every one, but surely at least one task force member could represent the task force at every state convention meeting. How far would that go toward showing respect for the people of the SBC and genuinely soliciting grassroots buy-in for the recommendations, whatever they are?

    Maybe they'll do that, or do something like it. And if they do, whatever opportunity you get to interact with the task force, you should take it. Their work is important.

  4. Read the recommendations for yourself very prayerfully and carefully whenever they come out. Afterwards, read the analysis of the recommendations in your Baptist newspaper or newsmagazine. You can't participate in the process unless you keep yourself informed.

    Read good blogs from a variety of viewpoints in Southern Baptist life. If in doing so you don't find different opinions of the recommendations, then the task force will either have done an unbelievably good or an unbelievably bad job. The likely outcome is fanboys on one side and critics on another side and a great many of us who have been waiting to see the specifics will start to come down on one side or the other as we finally learn whether the fanboys or the critics were right all along on this one. Follow that whole saga and listen carefully to the substance of the arguments made, and you'll wind up pretty well informed.

  5. Go to Orlando. Go to the meetings, too, by the way, and not just to your theme park of choice. But right now is the time to book a hotel room and make your plans to attend the convention meeting in Orlando next year (click here). It would be a good thing for you to go every year. A lot of the people who spend your Cooperative Program check are there every year. Don't you think that the people who write those checks ought to outnumber them on the messenger list? I do, not because those are bad people, but because I just believe that it is right for the contributors to be the ones holding everyone else accountable.

    And especially this year, with likely major changes on the agenda, you owe it as a fiduciary duty tied to all those CP dollars that your church sends out every month to attend the meeting. That's something that you can do.

Some of my very astute readers may be able to think of other things that you can do. I welcome hearing those sentiments in the comment thread.

1 comment:

Joe Blackmon said...

Send an email to a task force member, or even to them all. Start a blog. Attend a meeting. Talk to your friends.

Oh, please no. No more blogs. Never in the history of mankind have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.

Ok, that was a joke. Haa