"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Southern Baptists and Mormons Maybe More Alike in Church Practice Than We Want to Admit

Recently some Southern Baptists expressed dismay that Glenn Beck, a popular political analyst and television commentator was invited to address Liberty University graduates at 2010 Commencement Ceremonies. Glenn Beck is a dedicated Mormon. But before I jump on the bandwagon of those concerned that a Baptist University would allow a practicing Mormon to give its Commencement Address, I wish to point out that it could be that Baptists, and even Southern Baptists, have much more in common with the Mormon Church than some wish to admit. A Southern Baptist missionary overseas emailed me the following comments:
"I, and many of my colleagues, follow your blog. Thanks for the work you put into it. It is very much appreciated.

I was reading some stuff of Mormonism and I stumbled a quote from a blog called Mormon Truth, a blog written by an obviously disenchanted ex-mormon. Anyway, on the May 25, 2009 posting there is this quote:

"Oh yeah, I forgot...Mormons aren't allowed to ever criticize their hierarchy either because 'its wrong to ever criticize the leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true'"

As a missionary I and a few others have been increasingly frustrated with this type of atmosphere so rampant in the SBC and especially in the IMB. Criticism, even if true, is not allowed. The IMB President's closing letters to the missionaries (he is up to 21) just reinforce this. All blame is placed at the feet of complaining missionaries with little, actually no, thought given to the idea that the "complaints" of the missionaries might be true. I was only sharing this because I was really struck with how similar the tact of the LDS is so similar to the predominate leadership in the SBC and IMB.

Ok, that's enough of that. Again, thank you for fighting for truth. Know that there are many missionaries on the field who are thankful that you are bringing things to light that should not be hidden.

God bless."
I know precisely to what this missionary is referring. When an organization becomes heavy on the top end, with no allowance for communication, criticism and suggestions from the front lines, then the organization must create a climate where leadership cannot be questioned.

This is one of tactics used in mega-churches, large religious organizations and conventions. It's also one of the reasons that Southern Baptists should seriously look at the long term effects of the GCR report. The further removed you get from the field of actual ministry, and the more you depend upon national headquarters to make decisions about what should be done in local municipalities and states (instead of the local missionaries on the field), then the more you are throwing money at a problem with no real solutions.

Just ask New York City Southern Baptist pastors about their experience with the North American Mission Board and their top down approach to doing ministry there. The criticism voiced was dismissed as irrelevant and all that is left to show for the NAMB ministry are rooms stacked full of high dollar office equipment in a building at 72nd and Broadway and an association of local pastors who have fought having to file bankruptcy because national headquarters refused to listen to their pleas that NAMB's efforts were duplicating their own. NAMB's now gone, and the New York Baptist Association is left to pick up the pieces. They will make it, but what would have happened had national headquarters been open to suggestions and criticisms before they made their move to strategic city ministries?

It's time we Southern Baptists listened to criticism. It will help us in the long run.

In His Grace,

Wade

31 comments:

An IMB Missionary said...

As someone receiving the same emails that the IMB missionary referenced, I have been unable to find the referenced quote in any of the emails sent from Dr. Rankin. I am afraid others will think that Dr. Rankin said the following to field personnel when in fact he has not.

As quoted, All blame is placed at the feet of complaining missionaries with little, actually no, thought given to the idea that the "complaints" of the missionaries might be true.

Bob Cleveland said...

On the other hand, we've lived in our home 27 years and have never, ever had two Southern Baptists knock on our door to give us some material about their church and their beliefs.

Apparently, the Mormons practice what they preach. Maybe that means we really aren't all that much alike.

:)

Christiane said...

By what 'authority' does an appointed missions administrator over-ride the collective discernment of pastors? (Discernment here is defined as a gift of the Holy Spirit.)

Christiane said...

BOB,

I remember an elderly couple, a man and his wife, from a local 'Free-Will' Baptist Church coming to our door when we first moved to our community. They brought some literature and invited me to come to their Church. Bob, they were probably in their late seventies/early eighties in age, and both rather frail-looking. It was about a hundred degrees out that day, and rather than send them away at the door, I invited them into the dining room and gave them some sweet iced-tea.

We had a lovely talk and the man prayed for all of us together. I told them I was a Catholic, but they were not 'offended' and said that I would be welcomed to visit their Church anytime. I think they appreciated the cold tea and some time to sit in the cool air-conditioning and rest for a while.

I never saw them after that and it has been many years, but I remember them as very kindly Christian people.

Steve said...

Based on your post, I would suggest your title be "Southern Baptist Agencies more like Mormons" As an SBC pastor, I have never had someone from the Convention tell me how we should "do" church. I recognize that we have some criteria to be in the Convention, (a cooperating church) but that has little to do with being told to shut up and sit down.

Just a thought.

Blessings

Anonymous said...

Wade,

You have always done a good job in posting about the attributes and strengths and weaknesses of those in authority. How about doing one about those who habitually gripe and complain and oppose anything that comes from someone in authority.

I've learned over the years that the gift of complaining doesn't automatically make one right.

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous,

Are you complaining?

:)

Anonymous said...

I am a casualty of that New York City tragedy. I am telling you, it was sad what took place. You probably don't even know the half of it but a lot of lives/families were shattered and people(not just the association)are trying to put their lives back together.

Southern Baptist leaders just don't get it. The LOCAL people know what they are doing and for someone to be so arrogant to think that they could go in and change a city without knowing its people is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully not. Just asking.

Jack said...

Wade

How many copies of HBR have you sold as of yet? I am just curious?

J

Wade Burleson said...

Several hundred, Jack. I don't know the precise number. The publisher put it as one of their Top 10 bestsellers for 09.

The book I am more excited about is Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. It's been out of print for several years after selling 5,000 copies (self-published). Ekklesia Press will be republishing it this summer.

David Wayne said...

Wade, I know this is slightly off topic but it ties in - have you or anyone else that you know of reacted to Harold Bloom's book "The American Religion" which says that the SBC and Mormonism are two of the clearest examples of the "American Religion" because both are essentially gnostic? For Bloom that's a compliment but for SBC'ers that would come as quite a harsh criticism. I think there's a good many SBC'ers who are essentially gnostic, but at the same time it seems that the majority of evangelicals also have more in common with gnosticism than they would care to admit. I know that Bloom's book was written in the early 90's so his assessment of the SBC probably wouldn't ring totally true today and doesn't take account of a large number of individuals and movements within the SBC which, while not addressing gnosticism directly, are definitely moving in anti-gnostic directions. I also may be out of the loop here - I am assuming someone or many SBC someones have to have addressed Bloom's remarks but I just don't know of any. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wade, can you give us some more information on what's happening with the New York Association?

Anonymous said...

Bob: On the visiting homes in our neighborhoods like the Mormons . . .

As you also know, to visit door-to-door no longer is considered an effective approach for Southern Baptists seeking to reach their cities and grow their churches. BUT the SBC's history also shows that many DIDN'T consider the approach an effective one when it actually WAS, only about 20 years ago. For example, a survey of 360 churches using that method over a 2-3 year period managed jointly to enroll a total of 103,722 additional people in their Sunday Schools (an average of 288 per church)---which resulted in an increase in SS attendance of 37,785 weekly (probably over 56,000 new people on a monthly basis---or about 157 per church each month) and an increase in weekly finances of $864,246 (or $2400 per congregation, weekly) and twice as many baptisms as before doing so (average increase annually of 27 per church). Over 2000 other SBC churches across the nation---all size congregations, in all types of settings---also used the approach, with the same kind of results reported; again, while others among us believed the approach COULDN'T work. (For more interesting insights, read the book by Frank E. Land, who helped implement the approach across the U.S. for about 20 years; its title: "How I Enrolled 250,000 in Bible Study").

Maybe the Mormons own Pepsi (it's reported?) because they visit door-to-door . . . ? ;-}


David
Texas

Bob Cleveland said...

Anonymous,

I'm referring to the last 35 years (as of tomorrow morning) that I've lived here.

F Y I said...

You know what would be an effective approach to many of the lost right now for the Southern Baptist or Baptist?

As a start;

For the leadership and church to humble themselves and say.......

I am Sorry. We have done many wrong and said many wrong things...

Now is that an out of this world expectation? Sadly, I would say in today's Baptist world - YES!

It just ain't gonna happen. There is to much PRIDE.

But if they did the numbers would explode - guaranteed - I believe GOD is waiting for some Heart cleansing before he move in the US.

There is way to many Hate filled Pastors now in the Ministry and we need to Prune the Grapevines!

Doug Pittman

Rex Ray said...

IMB Missionary,
Correct me if I’m wrong but
“All blame is placed at the feet of complaining missionaries with little, actually no, thought given to the idea that the "complaints" of the missionaries might be true”

would NOT be a quote from Rankin’s email, but would be a summery of what Rankin said.

In 1997, my IMB missionary son sent me Rankin’s email to all missionaries which said: (I changed the letters to capitals.)

“The real evidence of change will come when the following characteristics are reflected:
A CONFIDENCE AND WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW THE WISDOM AND GUIDANCE OF GOD-APPOINTED LEADERSHIP WHETHER WE NECESSARILY UNDERSTAND OR AGREE.”

I believe what Rankin was ASKING was changed to an ORDER with the forced signing of the 2000 BFM which resulted in a mass exit of long-time missionaries and even the firing of many.

One reason I believe the email sent to Wade is true is because of an experience I had at one of our church bylaws meetings. It was the only time the pastor was absent. In his place was a regional IMB missionary who was on state-side assignment living nearby. He was my second cousin who had finished college near us many years ago. He was in our home a lot and once we played on the same soccer team. In all our meetings during thirty years, we were good friends. I was pleased he was at the meeting, but it wasn’t long until his finger was in my face. I told him I was glad his finger wasn’t a gun, but it didn’t stop his rant. “If you don’t like the way things are done in this church – leave!” (I didn’t have to guess what little bird had been whispering in his ear.) He went on to say he had heard a lot of complaining missionaries whereupon he told them if they didn’t like the way we do things for them to leave.

So I believe Wade’s post is right on target and I agree with my pastor saying in an email if the present leaders of the SBC are not replaced, the SBC will die a slow death.

BTW pastor, congratulations on finishing your doctors degree.

Anonymous said...

Wade, your May 31 comment about New York City seem out of step with the good things God is doing there. George Russ locally born & raised and jointly funded by NAMB as a missionary serves as the Executive Director for Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. He is doing a great job!

NativeVermonter said...

I'm afraid none of my four kids will be attending Liberty University.

Sheila said...

I believe that Wade was talking about the New Hope New York project, not about the Director of Missions in New York. NHNY was a part of the (now defunct) Strategic Focus Cities project.

ml said...

Bob, Your comparison causes me to pause and consider if indeed it is legitimate. In fact, I think your comment actually reflects the spirit of what Wade is making in this post. This is what some of the SBC leadership who are moralist leaning are also doing. When we compare ourselves to a religion that requires behavior based on fear of losing religious standing or afterlife rewards, and when we make statements like: "we must not be as 'committed' as they are," then we demonstrate that our call to action/comparison might be religously driven out of fear rather than gospel driven and motivated by love. There is not much difference between elevating leadership and maintaining power via restrictions on criticism and using guilt and fear to generate a desired behavior whether it is knocking on doors or blowing up bombs. Both guilt and mandates against criticism are power tactics. The insidious thing about religion is it makes man the subject and God the object. Besides, Christianity is not about what we do, but rather what Jesus did for us, not about how much we sacrifice but look at God's sacrifice for us, not how much we give or converts we generate or doors we knock on, but look at how much God gave to us and how much we receive from God. Religion focuses on how morally good we can be and how much we give with our lives; Christianity is about how much we get from God unconditionally and for no other reason than because he jealously loves and pursues after us. So, a Mormon simply cannot deliver a gospel centered message. Sadly, and maybe what is wrong with many SBC Churches, it might be equally impossible for moralistic, legalistic, and/or hyper fundamentalist institution to advance a gospel message through its religiously trained and politically activist students.

MichaelC said...

I will affirm everything that Anonymous said at 5:59. I was there as well. I rarely post here at Grace And Truth, but I will say that from 2002 through much of 2007, the Metro NY Baptist Association was a Strategic Focus City in the NAMB emphasis. There were lots of mistakes made – the biggest of which was that leadership did NOT listen to local pastors and leaders. The whole emphasis was driven from Alpharetta. It nearly wrecked the whole Association, and we are just now getting back on our feet. I’m grateful for the excellent leadership of my friend, and ministry buddy George Russ. He’s God’s man for the hour. God has raised him up for just such a time as this. We’ve got our best years yet ahead.

But, what we went through during those SFC years should have never happened. I pray that it will never again happen in another local SBC Association. Wade is spot on with his analysis in this case.

Michael

Wade Burleson said...

Shiela,

You are absolutely correct. The "Anonymous" who mentioned George Russ is misreading my post. George is a fine fellow doing a great job in NY today. Michael Chance's comment above accurately portrays the intent of my post, as does yours.

Rex Ray said...

One other thing my cousin said: “It’s people like you that run pastors out of ministry!”

That and a report that I had been made fun of in a SS class (resulted in my kinsmen leaving the band) confirmed the ‘little bird’ was from the same person that emailed:

“If you take what I wrote [he was referring to our proposed bylaws] and let members of this church read it (without your input) I think you would find that it is how they expect the pastor to function.”

Also, I had not said one complaining word to my cousin about the pastor. I didn’t tell him of his response to “Have you met my cousin?’

“Yes, I hear his daughter [unmarried] is pregnant.”

That wasn’t ‘news’ I appreciated being spread around but I didn’t say anything. My ‘complaining’ has been to him in private and on the blog where it is on topic. That was true until a few weeks ago when the deacons discussed an email the pastor had sent to me and another deacon saying:

“If you think that this church needs a new “coach”, then follow your conviction and “man up” by making a recommendation to have me removed. For once, do not hide behind a pen, paper, or computer. I will even make the motion that the church votes by secret ballot. I will leave the meeting so everyone can speak freely. But, if it does not pass…I will ask for your removal as a deacon and/or church member.”


Doug Pittman or FYI,
I think you hit the nail on the head about pride.

I believe Wade said it correctly: “Insecurity and pride is the mother of intimidation and control.”

Jack said...

FYI

WHo are all of these 'hate filled' pastors you are referring to? The pastors I know are far from perfect but they are loving men who serve the Lord with great integrity. They love jesus and His church. Even those whom I have great disagreement with, this blog owner being one, are far from 'hate filled'. Where is this hot bed of hate you are referring to?

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Thanks Rex :)

Someone said this to me once and I now know what he meant:

"When I got a BS degree, I thought I knew everything...

When I got a Masters degree, I realized that I did not know everything...

When I got a doctorate, I realized that no one else knew anything either...."


Wade...

Beck said in his commencement address:

My being here (at Liberty)is not in anyway an endorsement of my faith...it is an endorsement of yours!"

Thy Peace said...

WHo are all of these 'hate filled' pastors you are referring to?.

Grace and Truth to You [Wade Burleson] > A Southern Baptist Religious "State of Play" [APRIL 28, 2009].

Also this comment.

Our Family said...

Wade..thank you for this post. I too was in NYC during the whole SFC "tragedy" as anonymous put it and it was.

Every place I have served, it is important to listen to the locals and see what God is saying the need is through them. When I was originally appointed under the old HMB, it was drilled in our heads...listen to the people you are serving. It is tragedy that NAMB did not do that with SFC. There were other cities affected in the same way across the nation.

On another note, as a former Mormon, my experience is that the thing Mormons have that most SBC people dont get....they are very loyal and dedicated to their view of their calling to serve the world. It isnt an option to serve.

Every young Mormon girl or boy looks forward to the day when they can serve the Lord(their view)and help others becaue it is taught in their home that the greatest ting you could do in life is "to serve the Lord and the Church". It is ingrained in their souls to serve and "tell the good news"(their view). I dont see that passion in SBC life(which I have been in over 25 years). It is an "option" to serve as a missionary and tell others about Christ. "Calling to missions" is for someone else...not me for the majority of folks I have met around the US(let me say that I exclude foreign Baptists because they are very passionate about Christ).

It is a lifestyle with the Mormon. Good or bad...they have us beat on "walking the walk" and living the call!

Just sayin' Interesting topic.

Rex Ray said...

Ah, Thy Peace,
Your link showed our ‘church’ was working on bylaws 14 months ago.

A year before, I had about 15 church bylaws to study in writing proposed bylaws for our church. (The pastor and I were the only ones left out of a bylaw committee.)

Included in those bylaws was Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Virginia where our pastor was a staff member.

That church had a Executive Committee consisting of Chairman of Deacons, Chairmen of Finance and Personnel, and the pastor was the Chairman. Their bylaws state:

“The Executive Committee shall serve as the Board of Directors of the Church and shall govern the Church in general matters not requiring members’ approval unless specified otherwise in these Bylaws.”
The pastor appoints the Nominating Committee, Chairman of Deacons, and is responsible for the welfare and oversight of the Church.

My five weeks of bylaws’ work was replaced by about 95% copy-paste of Colonial Heights.

The deacons were brought in to ‘help’ the situation. In my opinion, to take the Bylaws of a Virginia split-off convention church and try to make them fit a Texas BGCT church is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

I haven’t heard of a bylaw meeting in over six months, but a couple of weeks ago, there it was; 12 pages for the church to study with the instructions if they had a suggestion or question to contact a deacon.

I’d guess over half the adults don’t know who the deacons are, and I’d guess half the deacons haven’t studied the bylaws.

To show it’s still mostly a copy-paste job there are 18 errors where ‘committee’ was not changed to ‘teams’. Our church was ‘influenced’ to change from ‘committees’ to ‘teams’ but that’s a can of worms I won’t dwell on.

The pastor did not incorporate in the bylaws his paper he gave the church saying,

“The pastor must be able to appoint the chairman of deacons, finance, and personnel because they become his executive committee."

This caused several teams to appear from thin air without telling how they exist.

Since their existence is not specified, the church may decide – we’ll let the pastor do it – and we have that square peg in a round hole after all.

Anonymous said...

Wade--

Glad to see you are taking comments again! I think you are "right on" with this one!

What troubles me most is the way we have changed from "bottom up" thinking to "top down." As a result, our diversity and freedom as Baptists has been severely compromised--FOR THE WORSE!

I have know Mormons intimately since I pastored just south of Johnny Hunt with the Noonday Baptist Church. I had extensive discussions with one of the Mormon leaders in the area. It was truthful / insightful / inspiring in many ways.

I didn't buy their story and had the "dust shaken off his feet" treatment as the leader left.

The one thing Mormons do with gusto is to share their faith and do far more than us in helping their fellow church members who encounter trouble of any kind. I we got as serious, we might actually be growing as they are instead of declining!

Keep up the good observing!

Gene Scarborough -- in NC

Anonymous said...

Jack,


The "hate-filled pastors" are the unfortunate dregs of the rest of us, who are tired of being affiliated with them and their actions, but who lack any real ability to do anything about them. After all, if I were a good pastor, I'd have a much bigger church and more influence, and since these are the guys who have those, they get the credit.

It's highly disturbing. If I could sell insurance, I would. Yet this is what my calling has been, what my education is for, and what my life is about. It's how I understand that I'm supposed to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, as others serve in other ways.

Have a good one. Hopefully you'll stay surrounded by the pastors you know, and never cross swords with high-profile ones referred to here.

John