Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The World Is Flat: SBC Participation Via The Net

I am working on a proposal that I hope to present to the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee within the next year that will allow people to participate in the Southern Baptist Convention without having to travel to the city or the arena where the Southern Baptist Convention will actually be held.

Debbie Kaufman, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church here in Enid, Oklahoma and the blogger extraordinaire of Thoughts of a Christian Woman, was voted by our church to be a messenger to the 2007 San Antonio SBC. However, due to the fact she and her husband felt that it was cost prohibitive for her to attend the convention, Debbie had to regretfully say she could not attend. Debbie determined to watch the live internet broadcast of the Southern Baptist Convention from gavel to gavel from her home to see if she could easily follow the business before the body, understand the recommendations and the debate taking place on the platform and floor, and literally feel as if she could be a part of the convention without physically being there.

She could.

Debbie blogged after every 2007 SBC session, giving a synopsis of what had just happened, and offering an excellent analysis of the significance of each election and vote. She had a total of Ten Posts on the Southern Baptist Convention, with this post serving as an example of her ability to clearly perceive events taking place hundreds of miles away.

316 Networks is the company that broadcasts the Southern Baptist Convention live via the internet. Our church has been very impressed with this Christian broadcasting company and will be launching our own live, archived, and Vidgo ('video on the go' using cellular technology) ministry with 316 Networks this fall. I recall admiring the quality of the San Antonio live broadcast when I had to leave the hall a little early to receive a phone call and watched the proceedings from my hotel room.

I have been told that over 22,000 people logged in to watch the SBC via either the 316 Network or That is nearly three times the number of people who registered for the convention and nearly ten times the number of people who actually voted during the First Vice-Presidential election. That 22,000 number will only be growing in the future, and as 316 Networks also expands, the potential is unlimited for those who wish to either observe or particpate at the SBC.

We already register messengers electronically. We are but two steps away from establishing a secure server where a messenger who watches the convention via the internet could enter his Messenger I.D. number and actually vote on the recommendations brought to the floor of the convention. I realize that the maximum number of messengers per church is ten people, but if you just assumed the average number of messengers per church in the SBC were just five, then it is possible that nearly a quarter of a million messengers could actually be elected and vote at the annual Southern Baptist Convention, representing over 45,000 Southern Baptist Churches.

I truly believe that when that many people are participating in the SBC there will be a true reflection of the desires of the majority of the people in the SBC when the votes are taken. Some of the ideas I am attempting to implement in an official proposal I intend to forward to the Executive Committee are as follows:

(1). A deadline for internet registration of the Sunday night prior to the convention. This would reduce the number of people franticially trying to register just prior to an important vote.

(2). An internet messenger orientation package emailed to all messengers who sign up via the internet to give them the schedule of the convention and helpful tips regarding using the internet voting technology.

(3). Two ideas (which I am not yet prepared to share) for providing incentives for people to actually spend the money and time to travel to the Southern Baptist Convention.

(4). Establishing an offical presence on the platform where internet monitors could receive electronic email questions during debate from those who are watching via internet broadcast. However, internet participants would not be able to participate in the parliamentary procedures of the people in the arena. There could be no motions, debate, or calling for question or 'point of orders' by those observing the live broadcast from home. However, every registered messenger watching would have the ability to vote on every recommendation before the body. Electronic tabulation would be immediate and added to the visual count in the hall.

(5). Before the first convention where electronic participation actually occurs, the SBC would make a beta, or test run, of the process at the Louisville, Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention in 2008.

The technology is available. The interest of Southern Baptists is high. The world is flat - the time is now. I am open to any suggestions on this matter as the proposal is still being formulated. I hope to be able to make the official proposal at the Southern Baptist Executive Committee meeting early next spring.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

I was not able to go to the SBC this year as well. The last few years I have had family obligations; I decided to watch my daughter play at a basketball camp rather than attend the SBC. I didn't watch "316" from gavel to gavel but I did watch much of it "live." The quality of the picture was much better this year than last year.
Gene Price

volfan007 said...


interesting idea.


Anonymous said...

Wade -

You are officially my new favorite person of the week. I have been trying to figure out how to get this done. Especially since I promised on my blog that I would pretty much go all the way to the top brass this year if I had to to help get this going, if there were a way to do so. Debbie and I have been talking about it, Bowden and I have been talking about it. I've seen other people comment on it. I am so glad you actually know what to do to help make it happen, because I didn't. But if you need me to help in any way, even moral support, let me know. Okay ... enough with the introductory stuff ...

Bowden has suggested a regional idea. The concept being that people might still want the personal interaction of the convention, so go to regional sites for the convention instead of one site. Then you could have teleconferencing where people could be involved in the debates via satellite.

My post entitled Must Be Present to Win is where I began discussing the issue if you would like to read it for my thoughts on the topic as well.

irreverend fox said...


don't you know such a thing is impossible?

it's too large of a project and it has never been done before.

let's just stick with what we all know works.

it can't be done.

Anonymous said...

United Methodist Churches pay the cost for their pastor and their lay delegate to our Annual Conference meetings. Do Baptist churches do this too?

Tim Sweatman said...


Some SBC churches cover the cost of attending the convention for their pastors, and some don't. And while I am personally unaware of any SBC churches that pay for laypersons to attend, I would not be surprised if some do.



I agree that something needs to be done to make the annual meeting more representative of the SBC as a whole. I don't know if I'm completely sold on the concept of online voting (I am open to the possibility, though), but the idea of regional sites seems to have some promise of increasing participation.

Kaylor said...

Excellent thought! This could really revolutionize SBC life and get the younger generation more involved.

LivingDust said...

Irreverend Fox,

Everybody knows we have to use those paper ballots books or it ain't gonna work. How does Wade expect me to get my ballots to Indiana? Does 316 Network send somebody by my house at the end of each vote? WWJD? BTW, its kind of funny that Wade is just know figuring out that the earth is flat.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea.

I seriously considered asking my pastor if I could be a messenger for our church this year. But I couldn't afford the time away from work, especially when I included travel time. This would allow me to participate and still work a few hours each day. Plus it would save on financial costs of food, hotel, travel, etc.

Please let us know if there's anything we can do to help push this along so it can become a reality. If I can go to college full-time through the Internet and get a comprehensive education, surely the SBC can arrange a more tech-savvy way for its "16 million" members to participate in the annual Convention.

Thank you for taking the initiative on this.

Anonymous said...

Virtual bussing? Lots of ways to rig in that idea.

GeneMBridges said...

I see Dorcas is happy! :)

First, let me say this is an excellent idea. It's high time we do this. I can't remember, but does any other denomination do this sort of thing? If so, they might be a model to examine.

I know the Reformed Seminary System (eg. RTS) does something similar to this. They broadcast some of their classes and the churches can participate. That's how many of their folks do their distance learning. Redeemer Presbyterian does that here in Winston-Salem, NC. I know they've also set up with Harvard U in the past to teach biblical Hebrew to entire classes at Redeemer. So, as a side-option, the seminaries should look into this sort of technology for their distance learning programs too, if they aren't already.

That said a couple of questions / concerns.

Apropos 4 on questions: That sounds like a LOT of questions could come to the platform. Now, I used to work for the National HIV/AIDS Hotline, and I know what was like to get questions all day from folks all the time from all over. Can you please elaborate on this, Wade? The vision I have here is of a mass of questions coming in via internet and folks being inndated on the receiving end. We'd need a considerable staff to be able to parse them quickly and to make the answers known to all parties via the Chair; or are you envisioning dedicate staff on the platform answering the questions? If the Chair, that could be a problem, because you'd have to sort through the ones that were repetitions of the same thing too. If the staff, they'd need to be trained well; you don't want conflicting answers to the same questions.

Apropos 5, I'm not so sure that the 08 Convention would be the best first testing ground. Why not let's see if a couple or three of state conventions would test this first, perhaps a larger one like NC or one of the ones in TX. If the same folks will set up their network at those volunteer conventions, then they'll have a smaller test ground. Do it there first, evaluate the program, make any corrections needed, then test at the next SBC Convention. That way you have a chance to evaluate it on a smaller scale; correct; then test the large scale version, correct, then implement.

GeneMBridges said...


And Wade, I've changed my email addy. Click on my profile and you'll find the correct addy in the contact link.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the most important part of this...The missionaries can "be there"!!! :)

Also, can you add to the proposal to move the time of the meetings? We are 9 hours ahead of U.S. Central time and so 6 pm to 6 am meeting time just doesn't work for me...zzzzzzzz


Thanks for the progress.

Anonymous said...


An interesting idea. I understand the appeal of this, but I do not believe it should be done.

I am all for getting more people involved in the process, but there are a lot of problems with this that many people are not considering. Security being one of them. Online voting is very easy to manipulate.

IMO...if we were to go to something like this, what would be the point in even asking people to come to a city for the Convention? Why not just have the Annual Meeting completely "online". Of course, that would create a host of other problems.

I understand the reasoning behind this and I believe the reasoning is valid. I for one though believe we should keep the current process while stressing the importance of these Annual Meetings.

What is next...recommending "online" worship services over actually attending worship?

knnuki said...

An idea whose time has come (and whose time will soon pass if it is not acted upon). We do everything else online, so why not this? There will, of course, be those who say "we can't possibly, it's not christian, it's not true to our heritage, blah blah blah." But since when have naysayers set the agenda in the kingdom?

Anonymous said...

There are many good reasons why people might not be able to attend a conference or convention. I am in a situation where I am a caretaker for a sick family member. I do not plan to leave town until that family member recovers.

I have also worked nights where I was not able to attend services. Having something available online was a blessing during those times. This is also an avenue to reach the lost for Christ.

Many people may also be strapped for funds which would restrict attendance of out of town gatherings.

Providing church services and conventions online is an awesome service to increase participation. The vast majority of people would prefer to participate in person at different events. However those that cannot not or might not for some reason may be willing to participate online. I humbly feel the fear of having little to no participation is unwarranted. I also feel that possibly more people would have input in the voting process. That will allow those that cannot come to the convention to feel that they had a part in what goes on.

I rejoiced when the Internet was released by the US military for use by the general public. My first thought was for the foreign missionaries. They can instantly send emails to inform people of what is going on instead of sending a letter from many countries, which might take up to three weeks to receive in the US. This actually happened to me when I went to Thailand. Most of my other trips took place after email. It is nice to have instant communication back and forth, especially when you are up to 10,000 miles away. It sounds like the foreign missionaries might like to be more engaged in the happenings of the SBC during the conventions. This is a wonderful way for them to feel connected.

The only issue I can see that has been brought up is the online voting. If the broadcast is somehow restricted to people that are members of the SBC it could work with a lot of analysis to prevent hacking. If the broadcast will be available for non-SBC people to watch a secure system could be set up to log in for voting.

Of course I'm biased. I have worked with computer technologies for 25 years. This is one area I hope to learn about. I work with a couple that has a web page that at some point will allow streaming of the church services (non-SBC) in the near future.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

Great to meet you at the convention.

Would you allow your church to do online business meetings? Would you allow your Elder Board to do online Elder Board meetings. Of course Elder Board meetings are a little better because of the relative few that have to be identified.

I believe we need to use technology to the best of our ability, but I am not so sure we can do this for the annual meeting. This is the only time the convention is in session. While some use this time to vacation and others use it as a time to meet and see old colleagues and friends, others do see it as a responsibility placed on them by their respective churches. I believe I am like Brother Tripp, I do not see the incentive to attend the annual meeting.

If something like this is to be accomplished, I believe you will need to do away with the annual meeting all together and just keep the EC in Nashville and for three days a year everyone will be by their computers. The only expense to be incurred then would be hiring a parliamentarian to oversee the meeting.

I have to say that the idea is intriguing.


John Daly said...

If one truly desires to bring the layperson into convention life then this needs to be done. Maybe there can be special "perks" for those who actually make the trip. I would be happy just to watch the coverage and to not have a vote. The convention this year did not receive any "air time" from our pulpit and did not make it into the bulletin so maybe the local church needs to emphasize its importance a bit more. Also, if you give this layperson four weeks vacation this is how it will play out:

Mission Trip
Vacation Bible School
Family Trip
A conference such as Together For The Gospel, Founders, 9 Marks, etc

Maybe I should place a higher priority on attending the convention but I'm afraid it doesn't make my top four. But hey were 16...errr,6 million strong.

John in dreadfully hot St. Louis today.

William said...

Such things have been proposed in some fashion for at least two decades. I'm open to the concept.

Of course, it would completely change the dynamic of the voting to favor that group of, uh, young, hip, latte drinking, net savvy baptists. Dare I say it is an uphill battle?

There is no way that the SBC annual meeting will be representative of all Southern Baptists - not the status quo, not sattelite meetings, not online participation.

Clay Layfield said...

This is what I was thinking this year as I watched a bit over the internet. I think many people will stay at home in the future due to rising costs and time constraints.

Also, if we continue to see fewer messengers we could meet in a large church (Bellevue, FBC Woodstock, etc) and save TONS of money instead of renting these huge facilities and only filling up a portion of it. With the money we save we could pay for what it would take to fund this project.


It's an idea whose time has come whether we like it or not. Wade, I talked to one individual at the Convention who serves on our executive committe (amongst a couple other committees as well) who brought up this very idea. So, others are wondering about it too. It'll all come down to logistics but I foresee this becoming a reality.

If for nothing else, this idea needs to be pursued so that the SBC can move out of being an "American" thing and become truly a convention for believers all over the world. It has always bothered me that everything we do is so tied to America. Trust me, I love the country God has placed me in but the SBC is made up of brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world (and may it increase!) and we need a much better representation of that.



Just food for thought, the individual at the convention who shared some similar ideass as Wade with me is the pastor of a mega church. He said that he was looking into logistics of being able to do online staff meetings. So, that idea IS out there as well.

I am concerned as well about the incentive to actually go to the annual meeting. But remember, Wade has 2 ideas up his sleeve. I eagerly wait to here what they are:)

Anonymous said...

I give a hearty "Amen!" Go for it!


irreverend fox said...

In all seriousness...something like this could have the potential of a full blown melt down...or split.

can you imagine if a major controversy arouse regarding the integrity of the system?

gmay said...

I believe Tim has a valid argument and scenario. I was thinking the same things before I read his comments. Would you do the same in your local church? I have come to understand in reading your posts that the five Baptist churches where I have served teach some very different things than the circles you run in so maybe I have been taught different about Baptist polity and messengers as well. My DT classes taught me that we elect messengers rather than delegates because they are to go to the convention, hear the discussions, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then cast a vote based on that leading. The kind of system you are advocating will change those aspects of Baptist polity. As long as we are at a place in the convention that many are more concerned about winning their position rather than hearing the will of the people, we will not be satisfied with any method.

The process would certainly take away from floor debate. Instead of the internet convention listening to the debate, blogspot might suffer traffic overload in the comment section and blog posting sections of their servers. We have parliamentary procedures to handle an assembly and keep it civil. What kind of procedures will we have in the electronic world? Noting the differences in the ethics of the blog world versus the ethics of the established media, this could be a frightening experience.

Anonymous said...

Wow, some interesting arguments against doing it. One that I saw come up a few times was, surely people will just stay home ... no one will be at the annual meeting anymore. From my two years experience, I don't think that is necessarily true. There is a LOT of meet and greet tied into these gatherings. For the layperson it is a little bit like attending a reunion of all the seminaries at once or feeling a bit like you are sneaking into a wedding reception where you don't know anyone, just to get a free meal.

The annual meeting is heavily weighted with pastors in attendance, and the layperson feels a bit like a party crasher. Because my motel this year was not within walking distance of the convention center, and because I did not want to pay the fee for the parking garage twice, I spent a significant amount of time in and around the convention hall just watching and waiting for the next thing to happen. That gave me lots of time to observe the seminary "family reunion" going on around me.

I recently posted another idea for getting the laity more interested in the convention by having a place for them to gather and get to know each other too (on a small scale) in order to develop that same camaraderie that might get them to want to come back each year, but you probably can't manufacture a similar connection to that of professional colleagues on a large scale.

Okay, I am getting wordy ... my point is that I don't really see all these pastors opting to stay at home to watch via internet when they could be rubbing shoulders with all their buds, laughing, joking, and getting a little bit of business in too. The internet option would just allow a larger contingent of the laypeople to also be involved in the process (the ones who usually don't have a convention budget the church is paying to send them to go).

It is a good idea ... for all of those who say it is possibly an insecure system ... well, let's not let that be a stop sign on the whole deal. Instead, let's find a way to fix it and make it secure. With God ALL things are possible. He gave us all brains. Let's find the technological genius in our midst who wants this challenge, and give him/her the opportunity to serve God as He has best gifted them. Instead of simply saying, no, it can't be done.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade: I think the real heart of the issue is millions of members and thousands of attenders. I know it's expensive to go, but in the SBC I am absolutely positive that there are tens or hundreds of thousands who could go but have no interest in doing so.

As an old salesman, I know that when people say "the price is too high", they are really saying "the value is too low". Until they see the value, they won't come in numbers reflecting the value that we know is really there.

Yours is a worthy idea, though. If we'd just formed the SBC this year, it's probably the way we'd set it up.

Marty Duren said...


I'm appreciative that you brought this up; this idea goes AT LEAST as far back as the Younger Leader Discussion Board in November of 2004. We have the technology and have now reached the point where it is poor stewardship NOT to do this.

The argument about business meetings in the local church does not wash. First, it does not cost anything to go to your local church; it can cost $$$thousands to go to an annual meeting. Second, in most churches the only requirement to vote is be a member so there could be a possibility where a contentious member could get online and vote; the convention has membership and/or donation requirements for messengers and must receive who the church elects. Third, if there was some concern about misuse, then 4 "online messengers" could register for every one that went in the flesh. That way, if a church sent two messengers, they could still have a max of 10 messengers if they were alloted that many.

The reality is that online worship and online church business meetings are not even comparing apples to apples. The annual meeting is a colossal waste of money as it currently stands, church business meetings are not. Jack Wilkerson informed the convention this year that facilities are rented for a total of two weeks, not merely the 4 days we meet. All those savings could go to mission and ministry efforts.

irreverend fox said...

it seems to me that four regional locations would be a better fit...of course the cost would be much greater...unless they are hosted in the buildings of mega churches...

J. Guy Muse said...

This one has my vote as well!

We watched as much as we could fit in to our schedule from all the way down here in Ecuador.

Indeed "The World Is Flat" (must read book for those who haven't read it yet). I particularly enjoyed seeing the faces and hearing the voices at the mics of so many bloggers/commenters of whom I have read over the past couple of years.

Even though far away from SBC life, the video streams help me feel part of the SBC family back home.

Also kudos to all those bloggers like Debbie, Dorcas, etc. who shared the "play-by-play" commentary. Some great stuff!

Marty Duren said...

I would not have to be limited to 4 regions. Using satellite, we could have locations in each state, in the case of TX and CA, more than one per state.

None of this is without its own challenges, but they are challenges that can be met.

Anonymous said...

Like Marty, I think the comparison between a church business meeting and the SBC annual meeting is not valid. A better comparison would be between the SBC annual meeting and the USA presidential election. We would never consider a system where a registered voter was required to be present at a meeting in Washington DC to vote. So, we have taken the vote to the registered voter. Local church business meetings are just that: local. The SBC annual meetings are national, even global.

No one has mentioned, or I haven't caught it yet, that one reason this will be opposed is that it is much easier to manipulate the convention vote in our current model. Many will question whether or not the average SBC church messenger is informed enough to vote on significant issues. Of course, the ability to travel to another state, rent a car, and stay in a hotel room is not exactly rocket science, either.

This is a revolutionary as the CP itself, and is time to seriously explore how to get this done.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Hoptown -

I can see this strengthening the local church. Imagine the local churches not just having to look around for ten less-than-busy souls who can invest a week out of town: how about either a church keeping a room full of delegates in a SS room, or even a local associational "church meeting" where everybody piles into the office with a few hundred people registered? Every vote could have a paid staff member keying the delegate in to cast their yea or nay if need be. Our local churches here might have a possible 500 delegates - wouldn't it be great to have to borrow a cafeteria from a school for a week for SBC purposes?

This would make each person a part of something big, the ultimate Jeffersonian democracy. It would also be tyrant insurance - where a hothead might arrange busses full of guys who otherwise couldn't care less to rush a convention center to skew a vote ala' 1975-85, half a million grandmothers sitting in their church halls aren't going to be swayed.

The true voice of the Baptist churches will be heard, over and over. What a unifying possibility!

Steve Austin

Todd said...

Why will this take much more time to become a reality? Broader participation diminishes control and power. Holding on to power had been and will be the issue du jour.

When we have folks who draw such poor comparisons - local church business meetings and worship to an online annual meetings - we suffer from 1) poor use of analogy, or 2) we intend to help those in power stay in power.

Great idea Wade. Marty solid follow on.

Anonymous said...

Another thought -

The SBCers really needed to hear from some agency heads this year about lawsuits and other notoriety arising from their management practices. However, because a single-site gathering and its microphones can be manipulated by, say, the staff of a single seminary, the people paying for all this fun and games never got to ask any hard questions, as I understand from on-the-scene reports.

An electronic forum as we are imagining will always have a person(s) who will decide whether a question or issue deserves discussion or not by the podium & delegates, but at least there will not be a sham meeting with sneaky graspers making sure democracy and public accountability get quashed.

The podium can say "No!" to a dozen or two fat sweaty preachers, but half a million grandmothers?

Steve the Layman
Still in Hoptown

Debbie Kaufman said...

Bob: For me the value was never ever too low. It was that we couldn't afford the cost. Bowden McElroy wrote on the cost of going to the Convention last year. I recommend reading this. A financial emergency came up in which we had to use the money I had to go to the Convention. I very much wanted to be there for obvious reasons.

Shane "George" Lambert said...

As the pastor of a church that does not budget enough money to send me to the convention, I sat in my office last week and watched most of the proceedings on my computer. I remember thinking, on several occassions, "I wish I could vote on this." Unfortunately, all I could do was watch from the sidelines as a non-player.

Not knowing the logistics of making something like this happen doesn't mean that it's not achievable. I realize that we must proceed carefully and cautiously to insure the integrity of such a system. I believe this idea has incredible merit, and I think it should definitely be explored.

And I agree, comparing this to a church business meeting or worship service is an "apples and oranges" comparison. I've not spent a dime of my money to attend my church business meetings (quite a bit of perspiration, but no money). However, I have long wanted to attend our national convention but have always been hindered by finances.

I think we've got to give it a try.

Thanks Wade!
Shane Lambert

Emily Hunter McGowin said...


I love this idea. And, I love the regional meetings idea from Dorcas.

I think it will be a matter not of having the capability (because we do), but the collective will to do it. Whatever the security concerns and other problems, I think the possibility of engaging millions of our currently unengaged SBs is worth it.

The number of people who will benefit from this is enormous: pastors and leaders in small, rural churches who cannot afford to travel; laypersons who cannot afford the vacation time or travel expenses; young leaders who think convention isn't worth the effort (but may think otherwise once they're involved); impoverished seminary faculty (ok, I threw that one in for Bart Barber); and many others.

Thanks for your leadership, Wade. I'm one of many behind you on this one.

Grace and peace,


Anonymous said...

I think Bob hit it. We've been hearing now for at least a couple of years the warnings that convention participation and buy-in to what the convention does is drying up. Just look at this year's Book of Reports. Real dollars may be up but percentages continue to decline.

In the 1970s the average church gave 9.94% to the CP. In the 2000s that has dropped to 5.31% and in the last five years the average is 4.63%

What better way to get the churches to buy in to the ministries of the SBC than to take the SBC to them rather than expect them to come to the SBC? It is obvious that if we can only get 8500 to come to Texas for a convention meeting that interest is drying up fast.

To keep a centralized annual meeting is to support an oligarchy.


I, too, was in SA and mixed the internet webcast with being there in person.

I found the quality of the webcast to be lacking... constant start and stop audio and video. It became pretty frustrating. I was using a high speed ethernet connection from the hotel. Same thing last year in G'boro.

Maybe the hotel was having bandwith issues. Maybe it was the TRS-80 I was using. Just kidding.

I like the idea of making the convention accessible to all. Just want to make sure that folks on both sides have the technology right so it works well.

irreverend fox said...

guys...and gals...I think Marty is presenting the best idea...each state could have it's own satellite hook up...

I think his suggestion is a middle ground between what we do now and what Wade is suggesting...with Marty’s suggestion bodies will still be “present”...ballots still physically counted...and participation would certainly go through the roof...

Anonymous said...

Indeed the world is flat......and if one ventures beyond the known SBC one is prone to fall off the edge into the unknown :-)


If nothing else, we could AT LEAST hold the convention at mega churches and save tons of money. We have churches that can now seat the numbers coming to the convention. Granted, debates would fly on this one but it's an idea worth discussing.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad technology can't address the heart issues that keep this from being bigger than just the SBC and getting to the Church as a whole... :)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

The incentive of actually attending the Convention? Actually being able to propose new business, make amendments to resolutions, bring resolutions out of the valley of death to be considered by the whole convention, and shake hands with Charles Stanley (not me, but a messenger from our church).
I first heard this idea from Dr. Carroll Marr of Southcliff Bapt. Ch. in FW (in a SWBTS class on pastoral leadership). Since then I can't get it out of my mind. We have very astute members here who would love the opportunity to participate (in a limited fashion) from home/a regional site w/o having to travel across the US. Where do I click my "yes" vote?

mark sims
FBC Perrin
"the greatest church in Texas!"

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea. For decades the idea has been floated in the SBC. Only now is it possible through technology.

My concern is about the discussion of the laity being involved. If I remember my history, the laity have been involved and in leadership positions much of the life of the SBC. In fact, the conservative resurgence was "directed" by the laity in people like Judge Pressler and in Missouri, Roger Moran. I digress. Non-pastoral people have always had to attend the SBC at great sacrifice. This sacrifice included long distance travel by means other than car, boat or plane. I would long to see the days when we would return to the laity in holding high positions such as president and vp. If you want revolution nominate a lay person next year.

I was unable to attend the convention due to the distance and the cost of travel. But I do not regret it. We chose to spend our dollars elsewhere.

Whether some one is able to attend a convention or not is not going to revolutionize the convention. It will not bring us closer to God nor will it fix what ails us. Take for instance pastors of contemporary churches that refuse to publicly identify their church as SB yet they will take the income from the annuity board (oops Guidestone) and will take funds from state conventions for start up and not own up to being Southern Baptist. Maybe our problems run deeper than just being able to attend a convention.

We have tried to tell our churches that what ails them is a lack of technology or the style of music or the some other external issue. What usually ails a person is on the inside and is reflected on the outside.

Excuse I am showing my peculiarities. I hope you have a great day and may God be glorified in your words and deeds.

Roger D. Lee

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Though I understand the concept of regional satellite meetings, I believe you are substituting an antequated system with one just a little less antiquated if you use a regional or state satellite model.

I believe you MUST stick with one arena for the SBC -- simply because all of the parliamentary proceedings must run from that one hall.

It is impossible to recognize motions, point of orders, questions, debate, etc . . . using the 150 year old manual for parliamentary debate with people in different arenas.

Frankly, this is one of the major incentives for having just ONE arena for the SBC and people to attend the meeting -- those who wish to give guidance to the flow of the debate and discussions through parliamentary rules will not want to watch the proceedings via the internet - they will be present in the hall.

Others may simply vote at home watching the proceedings.

I believe online registration and voting for messengers, allowing those duly elected messengers to watch the proceedings and vote from their own computer is far superior to regional sites.

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

Folks, it can't be as hard as we think. If millions can vote for their favorite American Idol by text message or internet, it has to be possible to provide online meetings and voting.

Wade, it was good to meet you at the Convention.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LivingDust said...

I thought that 316 Networks did a nice job of streaming the SBC San Antonio convention. I didn't have any technical glitches with the stream. It was a significant improvement over my experience with the Greensboro stream. Of course, providing a quality stream to 25,000 is one thing and providing a quality stream to 250,000+ is quite another.

The availability of bandwidth is not an issue (however, the cost is substantial) and with the recent advent of online streaming, major computer companies are putting out some very robust and capable systems to support very large streaming events. As for online voting, there are reputable commercial companies who specialize in software that is capable of validating voter credentials, error-checking ballots, tabulation, authenticating and auditing results and providing high levels of system security.

The technology to enable remote participation in the Convention is available and improving. My suggestion would be to continue with the single Convention site and allow “cyber-voting” by internet-registered and church-verified messengers.

I look forward to reading Wade's proposal and someday casting my first vote at a Southern Baptist Convention from my internet-connected desktop computer or wireless digital device.

Anonymous said...

regional locations would have a big negative. 20 years ago whent he conventions were attended by 40+ thousand- having groups in different arena's or aditoriums was very confusing as well as very very difficult for debate. Your room of 4 or 5 thousand might be 70% in favor of something- but the bigger room carried the majority. Regional meetings would actually be more difficult than an online format. said...


I was referring more to Marty's proposal and others about regional sites and not yours.


JayLee said...

I foresee a lot of opposition to this idea. Many will bring up topics like the reliability of the video streaming, security & verification of votes, etc. All of these can be overcome, if not this year, certainly within the next 3-5 years. Technology advances nearly as fast as the speed of light after all. I believe these are valid concerns and some of those who propose them are merely interested in preventing future debacles.

Beyond that, there are quite a few in our convention who do not want to share the reins with upcoming generations. If we keep the annual meeting in one place, keep the cost of attending high, we will limit the participation of those who "cannot be trusted" to participate because they are too young, too inexperienced or too lacking in knowledge of SB history to know how to vote "properly".

I do believe that satelite broadcasts are a good intermediate step. It will allow people like me-who have an interest in the inner working of the convention but can't afford the time &/or money that traveling to a central location would entail-to participate . Others have pointed out that some churches will pay for the staff to attend but nearly always the laity are on their own.

You have to be careful though. The laity could reveal that those who are so certain of what "the majority of SB's believe" just might be wrong.

Anonymous said...

The major concern will probably turn out to be that no one quite knows how this would affect the voting patterns. When a LifeWay survey discovers that over 50% of pastors believe in PPL, none of us know what this sort of increased participation would result in.

The same security issues seem to be present to a degree with the ballot books--I could just send my book while I "hang out at the market" and trust that my friends are going to vote as I would have voted. I recall a messenger to a meeting reporting that the pastor examined any show of hands to be sure that everyone from his church was "on the same side." Clearly when an online messenger registered, a password would have to be arranged to reduce concerns of this sort.

One thing that we should all remember is that the church cannot direct the messenger to vote in any way on any issue. I suppose that messengers could campaign on a platform of votes but have never heard of that being done. In more "political" congregations it problbly happens "automatically."

We will probably do one convention to see how the votes would have run but without really counting the votes from "home."

The fraction of registered messengers who actually vote on many issues is not very impressive. Clearly networking and shopping are a major reason to go to the SBC.

Bennett Willis

Debbie Kaufman said...

I read where some people references glitches. I had the stream going from the time the Convention began to the time it ended for the evening and there were very few glitches. I could still hear the proceedings even if the video had some trouble which was rare. I would many times blog while listening and other times I would take notes and clean them up for a post. I do not feel I missed anything concerning the proceedings. The quality and clarity of the stream was excellent. I could see and hear what those who were there could see and hear, even Frank Page saying "Don't yell at me, Dont' yell at me, I have just enough redneck in me for that to make me mad" I just couldn't see who he was talking to nor hear what had happened so I did not blog on this.

Writer said...


I like it. Let's do it!


Anonymous said...

This a great idea and I hope that it will be seriously considered. I was one of the 22000 who logged in, and I truly felt as if I was there (especially when I matched the blogs to the action).

Anonymous said...

I pulled a recliner up in front of my computer and from 20 minutes before the Pastor's Con to the moment the pres declared the convention ended, (without banging the lovely gavel) I seldom left the position. While I knew mostly what to expect and how things run, the bloggers helped a great deal in their timely explanations and commentary. BP instant news service was also helpful. Because there are so many sources of news now BP has to go with less spin. Good job, I thought.

Alan Paul said...

Finally! Something I can wholeheartedly agree with you on. I would LOVE to see 250,000 messangers voting. Even if I didn't agree with the outcome, at least the policies and positions voted on would reflect the wishes of the membership. A confirmed cynic like me might even decide to get involved at that point - because my opinions and votes would finally matter.

gmay said...

Someone will have to write a Pedro's Rules of order to govern the internet gathering.

volfan007 said...

i like marty's idea about regional sites. it would be very doable with our modern day technology. with camera's and mic's and such, we could even still have the convention approach with people gathered at the regional sites, and pushing buttons at the mic's with a "for" or "against". we could still see the person on screens set up at the regional sites, and we could listen to thier opinions in the debate just like we do at the sbc. surely this could be done.

this way, we could meet in large churches in different regions as well and avoid all the huge costs of large convention halls and arenas. anything that gets more people involved in the decision making process and makes them more aware of what's happening in the sbc is worthy of trying.....maybe somebody such recommend a study on this at next years meeting in indy? somebody that's willing to ask for studies to be done? :)

luv yall,


Shane "George" Lambert said...

As for the quality of this year's webcast, while watching via my cable internet, I experienced no glitches whatsoever. Granted, I didn't watch it gavel to gavel, but when I did watch I felt as if I were there.

It's also nice to be able to go back and watch archived footage of the sessions I missed. I think this year's video was far superior to the webcast from the Greensboro convention.

Shane Lambert

Alan Riley said...

Great post and excellent discussion! I think it comes down to whether or not we are going to embrace technology or be, as we so often are, a decade or so behind. By the way, there were 22,000 viewers on Tuesday, for the whole convention, there were over 40,000 viewers. As for the security issues, I think if I can do my banking, and make my house payment online, we can figure out a secure way to vote for the SBC president online!

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that there is a general consensus that the current format could be improved. Whether that is regional sites or online voting ... I'll go with whatever streamlines the costs. I hear what Marty is saying about getting rid of the expense of the centralized annual meeting. From what Bowden said on my blog, I gathered it was the idea of still having the main annual meeting, but also regional sites for people who didn't want to travel as far. The main site, plus satellite interaction. However, since this is Wade's idea, and I wouldn't want us to get bogged down in the color of the carpet debate once we've all determined unanimously that the carpet needs replaced ... I'll go with the internet voting idea as it seems to me to be the most cost effective.

The regional site plan seems nice in that people could still meet together, but I don't see that as cutting expenses but rather multiplying them. For we say "hey, we can just have it in our own mega-churches and save money." However it still costs money to open up those buildings and I really doubt that the churches are just going to foot the convention bill as an act of charity each year. So I'm thinking regional sites would cost as much as one location probably. Feel free to disagree with me there.

So back to the internet voting idea. I think Gene Bridges has a good idea about testing it at a state level the first year. Also, I think it could be a staged development, where perhaps the first year people could watch and vote, but not necessarily have input into the discussion itself (Wade's idea of e-mailing questions). Once the actual voting process is down and streamlined, working well, then we could add the idea of moderated internet input into the debates. That way we aren't trying to overwhelm the old system with too much newness at once. Let the traditionalists get used to having a higher number of voters, but otherwise, it will feel the same in the convention hall as always. Then after a couple years, work out the bugs for having the people from home interacting live in the debate.

Advance with determination into the technological age, but allow each part of the system to become excellent before moving on to the next step. If you try to overhaul everything at once, you will probably get a mess, people will scream "you wasted CP money and it didn't even work!" and the plan will be tanked before it even gets off the ground. So I say, let's do it, but with a well planned and ordered progress that cannot be cancelled midstream by a vote of the convention, so it has time to get in place and working (say a five year time frame). After that five years, then the convention would be free to say ... nope, its not working and it is costing more money than we thought, let's go back to the old way, or try something else.

Bob Cleveland said...

For a really different thought, let's suppose we were just starting the SBC and decided to have an annual "Business Meeting" some way. Let's say somebody suggested we just pick a big convention hall somewhere and let folks come to town, from all over the nation, and rent a hotel room and spend lots in restaurants.

In today's economy and with today's technology, how many things wrong with THAT idea do you suppose people would come up with?

ml said...

Wade, I love the idea and hope to see real change. However, the motive for not changing is that the status quo would certainly be up for grabs. You talk about quiverring conservative leaders who might potentially loose their grip on control of the convention [which I am not necessarily eager to see a complete reversal]. I wonder what the make up is of the churches that have been represented at the most recent conventions that have seen slagging attendance? Do they run detailed statistics at the conventions like number of messengers to church size? Or messenger to CP giving? And what is the relationship to attendance of representative churches and the giving? Any money gurus out there? Paul you gave the initial figures any more detail on the breakdown of church attendance in realtion to CP giving? We need some detailed figures like this.

ml said...

For instance, of the 8,000 messengers registered how many churches does that represent out of the total number of SBC churches. And what is the CP giving of the representative churches? Just thought I would give some specifics. This should not be an incredibly hard task to accomplish.

Anonymous said...


see at: ""

The first "shots" have been fired!!!

Anonymous said...


I'm sure it would get more people involved. However, I don't know that an increased number of messengers would guarantee an honest representation of the entire SBC. Probably worth a try though.

Anonymous said...


When Ed Young Sr. was President of the SBC, I wrote a letter to him encouraging the SBC to do what you are suggesting. It seemed like an obvious step to take. I never received any correspondence from him either pro/con. I serve as a pastor of a church that will give over $150,000 to SBC causes this year. No one from our church attended the convention in SA. No one even considered attending. However, in a church that is over 150 years old, in a community with a population of 16,000, we have baptized over 1000 people during the last 8 years. Our weekly attendance has grown from 300 people to 1500 each week. Its been a wonderful experience!

On most days I am too busy to care about what goes on in the SBC but I have become a regular reader of your blog. Thanks for being a voice for openness and trust. We have rediscovered that God really does use common people who simply want to be used for Kingdom purposes.

Dennis in Missouri

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of an "electronic convention" is excellent.

I don't think it would change a thing regarding polity. I had to provide a code number for our church in order to register our messengers on line anyway. The church could easily be provided with code numbers and security verification to make sure that only registered messengers got on line to vote. The only real drawback I can see is that you'd have to trust people in the churches to be honest....

The actual annual meeting itself could then be held in smaller venues, perhaps even in Nashville each year, saving the convention hundreds of thousands in convention hall rentals and travel expenses.

It cost our church $1,500 to send two couples to the convention in San Antonio, which is a three hour drive from the church. Add four airfares to that for a convention in Indianapolis next year, or mileage if we choose to drive. Our budget committee says each year, "Why spend that on a convention meeting that's already pretty much cut and dried?"

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...


Excellent post… I agree that something needs to be done… however, I also agree with what someone else said here that the powers to be will not like this one bit!

Is the Convention System Outdated?

Grace to all,

Anonymous said...

This idea sounds good, but the abuse would be dramatic. This is an old idea and has been rejected for good reason. I hope this idea is DOA at the convention. .

Who's to stop me from registering 10 people, and voting for all of them?

Churches will have struggles over who gets to be a messenger. Now, for 99% of churches, it is just who is able to go.

The worst part of this bad idea, in my mind, is probably democratic heresy. But most people only know about the convention what someone else has told them. This idea will include more ignorant voters in the voting process - mostly just mimicing whatever their pastor or other guru has told them.

Ultimately, the philosophy behind Baptist polity is that when the Body is gathered together, God works to lead us all. It is hard to imagine that over the internet.

I comfort myself that this has been tried before and failed. I hope and pray that it fails again.

Bad idea, best left in the dustbin of denominiational history.

Dave Miller

Unknown said...

Wade -

I recently read that LifeChurch in Edmond, OK launched, or is planning to launch an "Internet campus." I assume we're talking the same concept church, unlimited locations. I'm curious if you've heard how that's going for them? Do the e-members feel connected? Do they have the ability to literally interact with the main church? This will be interesting to watch. How their e-church is accepted will likely provide a glimpse of how your proposal will be embraced.

LivingDust said...

Dave Miller,

You said:

the abuse would be dramatic....

has been rejected for good reason....

Who's to stop me from registering 10 people......

Churches will have struggles over who gets to be a messenger.....

is probably democratic heresy....

most people only know about the convention what someone else has told them......

I hope and pray that it fails again......

Dave, over the years many technologies have been added and successfully implemented by messengers and trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of them were probably suspect and perhaps controversial when they first became available. But, the church has adopted the use of these technologies. Heres a few examples:

We got people flying in airplanes to get to the Convention.

We got people riding in internal combustion powered automobiles to get to the Convention.

We got people communicating on wired and wireless telephones.

We got people talking into microphones and their voices being amplified.

We got electric instruments putting out amplified music.

We got cameras taking pictures and videos of the Convention.

We got portable computers registering information about every messenger.

We got people using electric lighting.

We got an internet that helps messengers communicate by "email".

We got real-time, internet-streamed video of the Convention proceedings.

We even have the entire Holy Bible on a silver-looking, magnetized disc called a CD/DVD.

We even got flush toilets at the Convention!!!

The Southern Baptist Convention is about cooperation. If more people can participate and be involved in the business of the Convention it is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Dave said: "Ultimately, the philosophy behind Baptist polity is that when the Body is gathered together, God works to lead us all. It is hard to imagine that over the internet."

I'm just going to have to disagree that we have to be physically gathered together for God to work collectively in us. All believers together are the collective body of Christ. I'm not thinking that God will be up in heaven, thinking "well, what do I do now? They aren't all in one room for me to talk to them as a body." Of course not, the Holy Spirit works in and through each and every one of the believers, so I think that God isn't handcuffed by human location.


. said...

This is a phennomenal idea!

For years I have thought to myself that something was amiss when less than one hundredth of one percent of active SBC members are deciding for all the rest. For several years I've heard remarks such as "the vast majority of Southern Baptists believe . . ." and I wanted to respond "you mean the vast majority of Southern Baptists who actually showed up for the meeting believe . . ."
Among other benefits, this approach might actually lead to an accurate representation of who we are and what we believe.
We have the technology, as well as the financial ability to pull it off. And Marty is right: with this in view, anything else would simply be poor stewardship of funds that could otherwise be spent on the mission field. Count me in as a supporter!

Aaron Summers said...


Great idea. I have been considering this for a couple of years but do not have the presence you do in the convention. I am with you on this.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Slightly off the main topic, but I am curious about this comment by Tim: Some SBC churches cover the cost of attending the convention for their pastors, and some don't. And while I am personally unaware of any SBC churches that pay for laypersons to attend, I would not be surprised if some do.

Just curious about this electing of laymembers as messengers but not sending them (financially) to the convention. Is this a "we don't have the money but you're welcome to go if you can" kind of thing, or is there some general lack of interest in sending laypersons to the convention?


Bart Barber said...

Perhaps the internet orientation packet could contain some nice booklet produced by the convention encouraging ecumenism. :-)

Anonymous said...

When the SBC arrives in a place like San Antonio, in the midst of a group of Southern Baptist churches, there is an interesting phenomenon. The regular attenders of Conventions are there plus messengers from local churches whose expense level is low due to proximity. I overheard an interesting conversation during a "nature call" as debate was occuring. One messenger asked another, "What is this Baptist Faith and Message thing they keep talking about?" The other replied, "I think it's some kind of doctrinal statement, but I'm not sure." Your idea will allow us to have multiple well informed messengers per church sitting at their computer screens.....

LivingDust said...


You said - One messenger asked another, "What is this Baptist Faith and Message thing they keep talking about?" The other replied, "I think it's some kind of doctrinal statement, but I'm not sure." Your idea will allow us to have multiple well informed messengers per church sitting at their computer screens.....

Anon - and your solution to address the ignorance of SBC attendees is what?

Anonymous said... is the actual address of the editorial for Dr. Mohler. My general feeling on Missouri is that if they propose it the response should be--RUN in the other direction. Most of the editorial reassured me that this is a valid conclusion.

It is pretty clear that most messengers are confused about most of what goes on in the conventions--and this is reasonable. After all, look at the confusion that exists among people writing comments--and supposedly we are more interested and informed than the average messenger.

It might be that if a messenger was only going to "spend" a couple of days of vacation on the convention that they would be motivated to actually get informed rather than saying, "San Antonio is a nice place, let's go there for the convention." Also people who are interested in watching the convention on the internet are (possibly/potentially) a little better informed than the average messenger.

Bennett Willis

LivingDust said...


I place 100% of the blame for the supposed ignorance of any messenger squarely on the shoulders of the congregational Shepards. They and they alone are responsible for their flock.

God gives a flock to a Shepard and it is their responsibility to disciple the flock in their Christian faith. The teaching of doctrine is the responsibility of the Shepard. Leading by example is the responsibility of the Shepard.

What you heard and observed at the Convention is a reflection of a Shepard.

If electronic voting is allowed by the Southern Baptist Convention it will be the responsibility of the congregational Shepards to educate their flock regarding the issues and help them to vote from a position of knowledge.

Is that beyond the capability of any Shepards that you know?

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Kaufman said...

Anonymous: This just shows that you can't rely on the press to print truth, Pathway is notorious for this, and I would completely disagree, 2 messengers out of 8,000 does not ignorance make. I think you would be surprised just how informed the messengers are. Frankly I am tired of lame excuses such as this. the messengers are not ill informed. That's nonsense.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: Your comment leaves me puzzled.

volfan007 said...

i got a newsletter in the mail from a smart, intelligent, wise pastor who has been in the ministry for a long time. one of the statements he made really caught my attention. now, he's not a reader of blogs at all. i dont believe that he knew about all of this trying to pass the bfm2k statement from the ec as a maximum standard. i doubt that he knew anything about all of the debate we've been having on the blogs concerning this. but, he did attend the sbc in texas this year. his statement in the newsletter was that we voted to affirm the bfm2k in spite of many people voting against it. he proclaimed that it passed with a 58% vote. he was concerned that so many voted against affirming the bfm2k.

now, this is a wise, intelligent, preacher who has led many, many churches and such. that was his take on it, without hearing any of the spin from any side on the blogs. he honestly thought that it was a vote to affirm the bfm2k.

i'm telling yall that many pastors out there who are not into the blogs just didnt understand what this was all about, or what some of yall are trying to make it be about. they thought it was a vote to affirm the bfm2k. and, they're not stupid....they're not ignorant ...and they are good men who love the Lord and have a high degree of intelligence. they just didnt see what yall were trying to make it.


Anonymous said...

Living Dust,
Preach it!!

I get so tired of hearing about all these supposed ignorant people in the pews.
Of course not all the time, but partly it is a reflection on what the pastor of the church does to teach his members.

If people have never heard of the BF&M, the pastor and church leaders bear significant responsibility for this.

And why are people so sure there are so many ignorant people anyway?
What is the basis for this assessment? I can't think of a regular attender of my church that I would classify as ignorant.

volfan007 said...


they have heard of the bfm2k. what they didnt understand was that this ec statement was gonna be used by wade and his gang to mean a maximum standard. they all thought that this was a vote to affirm the bfm2k. that's all.

read about the pastor in my comment above. i believe that that would be true in many, many instances.

david said...


If the BFM 2000 is not the maximum doctrinal standard for cooperative missions in the SBC -- then pray tell -- give me the maximum doctrinal standard?