Friday, September 14, 2007

Ration is the Root of Cooperation: Let's All Ration

The word cooperation speaks of many people coming together, with everyone restricted to limited allotments of power, limited allotments of assets, limited allotments of influence. Oligarchies and monarchies by their very nature limit nothing. The few or - the one - hold all the power and control.

I believe it is essential that leaders of the SBC - including SBC pastors - understand that the Southern Baptist Convention is built on cooperation. The local church is the highest authority, and we have over 45,000 local churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. No one church has all the influence, not one church contributes all the leadership. No one church dictates to the whole what we can, or cannot believe or do. We cooperate together.

So it is with the agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention. Not one agency or respective President controls the SBC. No one president is alloted all the power, nor should he be. The Great Commission Council is composed of all the agency heads of the SBC, and cooperation is as essential among the Presidents of SBC agencies as it is pastors of the SBC.

There is room in the Southern Baptist Convention for every Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, missions-loving person. We need people from all sides of the non-essentials issues to let their voices be heard. We need people from all sides of the tertiary matters to make their views known.

What we don't need is the exclusion of one person over against another. We don't need attempts to stifle one side of debate, while encouraging the other. We need truth-telling without motive assigning. We need open, direct and transparent communication, and not anonymous letters. The SBC needs as much information as possible in the hands of as many people as possible. We operate best when the many cooperate together with limited allotments of power, money and influence by all.

I personally believe, thanks to the efforts of many, the base of power and influence that has been in the hands of just a few is spreading to many. As it spreads, nobody should begrudge it.

The SBC is built on cooperation.

13 comments: said...

I do not know who the professor is that wrote the letter over at SBC Outpost but I did see the letter before they published it. I encouraged Boyd Luter to convince the professor to sign his name. That didn't happen. I do not believe it is best that the letter is anonymous, but I hesitate to criticize since I am not making my living at the institution.

Let me go on the record that I believe all SBC communication should be signed and the author identified. To me, that is the Christian way.

Bob Cleveland said...

My dad had an old adage: "Pleasing everybody pleases nobody." I believe that. I think it's just human nature.

As I said at Tom Ascol's blog, it's just sad that conditions in the SBC exist that bring intelligent people to the point of writing (understandably so) anonymous letters.

Steve said...

Here's your question -

Are the folks sitting in the pews of our 45K congregations going to be comfortable with a truly cooperative SBC? I recall my friends asking, "Who's the big name?" on one issue or the other. Are those that want to hear that, say, Patterson or Chapman is or isn't tied into a slate or an issue or a change going to feel at home with just being one big family of "all Indians and no big Chiefs?"

I mean, I certainly hope so, but human nature being what it is, will parties or followings continue to arise? I think now of the mid-1780s when a young nation entered into independence not even anticipating the emergence of political parties, or the disagreements that led to them?

foxofbama said...

Wh all good intenstions want to bring to your attention here an article about Building Liberty, Faith and progress easily googled up at American Interest Magazine.
It is the kind of depth that could keep even the likes of Ben Cole occupied for a few days.
Scott Erwin has made a delightful post at about meeting you in Asheville. You and some of your audience here will want to look at it.

I am hoping some of you will take a look at my blog and a link about Chief Army Chaplain Doug Carver; especially as the reservations expressed there seek resolution with the themes expressed in Charles Marsh's Wayward Christian Soldiers and Marsh's concerns about Bobby Welch and Charles Stanley.
Finally, I think our mutual friend David Flick would agree with me here.
There are too many churches the likes of Dawson Memorial in Bham, Alabama who give a high percentage to the Cooperative Program but have little or no voice in the National SBC. While many of them support missions, I think it speaks to their sheepishness to pool their money indiscriminately to also support the religious right work of Richard Land and the ERLC when an inordinate member of folks in these congregations are appalled at the method and substance of his politics.
Hoping you and Ben Cole can help parse such sentiment in the coming days as you continue to blog; and hope you maintain the courage to show at the Baptist Covenant meeting next January.

Bennett Willis said...

Regarding Steve's comment: We seemed to cooperate pretty well for quite a while with a mimimal amount of hyper-concentrated influence. I think that many of us have gotten into the habit of "checking the wind" before we get out into it. No point in running face into the hurricane when you can just go with the flow.

My emotional response to the IMB reports (from Wade) is that even with the "personal" problems that he reports, the fact that I understand something about how it works makes me more inclined to "send money" than I was. Transparency might really help us all to cooperate better because we feel that we know what is going on.

There have been times in my life when I was more transparent with my associates (at home, church, and work) and transparent (when possible) is better with all three.

Bennett Willis

he's only chasing safety said...

I've been involved in online community (message boards, blogs, etc.) since my early high school days when the online community thing was just getting started. I've seen the way people can act and treat others when there's a computer screen separating them and the childish, immature manner people stoop to when minor disagreements arise. I've seen Christian men and women act completely absurd simply because in the heat of the moment, there is not accountability.

I'm now a Southern Seminary student and have grown away from the music scene message boards and Christian thought blogs I grew up wasting my time on, but still check in from time to time to see what's happening. During the past few days I've been unbelievably disappointed.

I respect Dr. York and appreciate his willingness to stand up for his brother in Christ, and while I don't affirm all of his actions (petty name calling and the like) I'm glad to see that the anonymous letter writer didn't get a free pass. What stuns me though, is watching grown Christian men and women act JUST LIKE my teenage friends and I used to act.

When its time for me to look my supposedly mature and guiding brothers and sisters during moments of need, the pool of those who I trust to be upright, mature, and ready to disciple is becoming exceedingly thin.

Instead of focusing our time on blasting the person in the post above us for standing on the opposite line of a non-essential issue, why are we not trying to figure out how we're going to evangelize to one of the well over 1 billion people who have not even heard the name of Jesus Christ? Trust me, four fingers are pointed right back in my direction, but honestly, how is any of this bickering and arguing justified?

Disagree with Wade Burleson on the issue of women's roles in the church, disagree with Al Mohler's way of running a theological institute, disagree with the latest news or blog at your favorite website, but for crying out loud - take a minute to step away from your computer and think about the 50,000 people that died last week from AIDS or the 100,000 thousand children that died from hunger!

I'm not mad, just a little disappointed and a little worried. Those who blog, continue to do so in a way that exhibits Christ-like love and Gospel-like truth. This comment will probably get deleted since it pertains only minimally to the current topic, but I just felt the need to say it. Thanks.

-Kiel Hauck

Rex Ray said...

While my father was a Chaplin on the front lines of Germany, my mother would save gas coupons in order to drive 50 miles to see her brother. Rationing gas and other things provided cooperation to beat Hitler.

The best way to ration power and control, in bringing about cooperation in a church is the vote. Take away the vote, and a few will take over. Take away the vote, and cooperation will wither.

Many Baptist churches have voted to give their vote to a few where deacons were moved from ‘administration’ to ‘service’.

When that happens, the church becomes ‘staff-led’ or ‘pastor-led’, instead of ‘congregation-led’.

I’ve “been there; done that” in leaving a church after 20 plus years where I watched it split and go from 500 attending to 200 with a million dollar debt.

Anonymous said...

Full cooperation requires openess, transparency and trust.

Realizing that no one but Jesus is perfect, no Christian organization or denomination is going to be. But I think there have been some false assumptions made on the part of the SBC's conservative resurgence that have led us to the point where we are seeing a decline in support and participation. I think they assumed that, because they announced that they were "restoring" the SBC to its "conservative roots," that everyone in the denomination who was conservative would follow, no questions asked. If theology were the only issue, and if everyone in those 45,000 SBC congregations agreed on it, perhaps. However, the leadership not only demanded lock step conformity to its theology, it also demanded loyalty to itself and in so doing, excluded more than just the handful of "liberals" they wanted gone. Neither of those positions is going to be productive in a denomination where the local churches are independent, autonomous and self-determining with regard to their cooperation.

The end result has been that, during the conservative resurgence's leadership of the SBC, Cooperative Program giving has not even kept pace with inflation, and the percentage of church income shared with the CP has declined, baptisms are down significantly, and worship attendance across the denomination has declined. Not only that, but in the last decade, 90% of those 45,000 churches have not gone to the trouble of sending a messenger to the annual convention meeting. There are some who would say that's just because they are satisfied with the way things are. But in combination with all the other factors, I'd say that's a sure sign that they are either not interested in the convention or don't believe it can be changed.

The vast majority of people in the SBC who participate in convention life, participate in their churches, and lead their local congregations to support the Cooperative Program are now in their 60's and 70's, and if you don't believe that, just go to a convention and look around. When these people pass on in the next decade or so, the denomination and its churches are going to be facing a crisis in resources, both human and financial, of immense proportions. Decisions that are made now will have an impact on the SBC's ability to adjust to what lies ahead. Continuing to divide over tertiary doctrinal issues, or over political loyalties to the personal empires that have been built, will only lead to further weakening of the SBC, and continued decline.

It's time to wake up, and figure out how to get along with each other, because we are going to need each other.

Anonymous said...


The vote may be a good way to ration power and control, but it does not necessarily foster cooperation. Just take a look at the state of US politics.

Voting or a limit in power and control should help foster cooperation if the parties involved are kingdom minded and want to get something done. If not, then we can end up in endless bickering and maneuvering in an attempt to gain control and get things done the way we deem is the “right way.”

When that happens we usually end up fiddling while Rome burns…

Whether we vote as a congregation or a group of leaders or elders doesn’t determine our level of cooperation. Voting (IMO) is not the point, cooperation is.

Keith Price

Anonymous said...

Okay, quick note. Sign Language is NOT universal! NOT! Every spoken language has a sign language. Its like saying German is the same as English because both languages use words. Its embarassing seeing how much Southern Baptists have done with Deaf ministry. Maybe next time someone should check with a Deaf person before putting something like that in writing. Just a thought.

DL said...


You are right in many ways about the tone of blogs. I would be careful in looking for something that won't be found. The reason some blogging looks like your teenage friends is because people are people. When one confronts another, he always runs the risk of sin. He also runs the risk of being accused of immaturity. At the end of the day, I'm looking to how closely a man's words and actions align with the gospel, not how he looks in the heat of a controversy. And controversy is a necessity. The entire NT was written for that purpose. I've seen times when folks will chastise someone's confrontation in such a way that the apostles Paul and John would also be indicted to be consistent.

Steve said...

Lead on Kiel!

When we all started out on that mountaintop with Christ we knew exactly how we personally and we Christians should conduct ourselves in the midst of a lost world where the fields are white with the harvest. Some of us laymen got a booster dose of that tension of salvation-time's-a-wastin' in our Emauus experiences.

We all get disgusted with the short-sighted humanness within ourselves and that we see and read and hear from other supposedly saved and evangelistic Christians.

Some of this is due to the pressure of time and assuming a lot of agreed-upon issues that have presumably gone before, leaving us ready to "scrap with the best of 'em" (only in the name of Jesus, or course!) Coming down the mount with our commandments in hand we get so shocked at our brothers' complacency in the presence of golden calves not of our making.

Well, maybe Kiel is here to remind us of how we look and sound like when we blog and go around in life. Like Darby said, hold everything up to what plumb line of truth you already have from Above. Sin-affected vessels can still bring that never-thirst-again water but we must always listen to ourselves while we're talking loud enough for all to hear.

Rex Ray said...

Keith Price,
I agree with you that voting does not guarantee cooperation where the majority rules, but on the other hand when you take the vote away from the members, the church MAY become a monarch as INDICATED by the following:

Associated Press by Rose French August 14, 2007
The Rev. Jerry Sutton, a prominent Southern Baptist pastor who lost a bid to become president of the denomination, is now facing an upheaval in the megachurch he leads, including complaints that he spent church money on his daughter's wedding.
For nearly 21 years, Sutton has served as leader of Nashville's Two Rivers Baptist Church. But now, some Two Rivers members are accusing Sutton of failing to abide by church rules and punishing those who question his authority.
The Associated Press left a message at the church asking to speak with Sutton, but the church’s executive pastor, Scott Hutchings, who runs the day-to-day business of the church, returned the call and said he was speaking on behalf of Sutton.
About 600 members attended the July 28 meeting, which was organized by the church so that rumors and allegations could be addressed publicly. Sutton also attended, but did not respond to the allegations.
At the meeting, Hutchings relayed the accusations brought against Sutton, including charges that Sutton used church money to pay for his daughter's wedding reception and has kept members in the dark on church spending.
Hutchings defended the church budget and acknowledged that the church paid about $4,300 for a reception for Sutton's daughter that was open to all church members. He said Sutton personally paid for another separate reception outside the church.
"When you're pastor, we feel like you have to invite the whole church," to avoid the appearance of favoritism, Hutchings said.
Church trustee Frank Harris has been leading the campaign against Sutton. Two Rivers "appears to have been manipulated from a people-led church to a staff-run church," Harris said. "Anyone who voiced opposition to leadership was alienated and lost any ministries they may have had in the church," Harris said.
A majority of Two Rivers members voted July 8 to exclude Harris from the church because he was causing strife and division. But some members said leaders didn't follow church rules allowing for absentee votes and not all members at the service were able to cast ballots.
"It was a tough decision," Hutchings said. "There has to be submission and authority. It's OK to have disagreements. But Frank started taking his disagreements to and causing division in the (church) body."
A key member of the SBC's conservative leadership, Sutton last year was nominated for president along with Ronnie Floyd of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and Frank Page of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., but lost to Page.
But Sutton, who recently held the No. 2 spot in the SBC, remains an important figure within the 16.3 million-member denomination, said David Key, director of Baptist Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.
Two Rivers is the home church for many Southern Baptist bureaucrats, and Sutton is the "pastor to the people who do the day-to-day decision-making of the Southern Baptist Convention," Key said.
Key said lay people in many Southern Baptist churches are starting to push back against the authority of pastors, who have gained more power since a conservative takeover of SBC leadership in the late 1970s.
"When there's a high level of trust in the leadership, there's less questioning," said Phill Martin, deputy CEO of the National Association of Church Business Administration. "When trust begins to be broken, and you begin to wonder what's going on with leadership, a lot of times what will surface first is a questioning of financial responsibility.
Members opposed Two Rivers Baptist Church pastor, state their case (Two Rivers Church rift continues) by Tim Ghiani Staff Writer August 16, 2007
As many as 300 members of the congregation met in the auditorium of the Donelson Senior Center to raise questions about senior pastor Jerry Sutton’s integrity, leadership ability and use of church funds.
For about two hours, Johnie Arrowood offered Power Point-backed testimony about the allegations involving Sutton while petitions were circulated through the auditorium.
If 700 signatures are collected, representing 10 percent of the churches claimed membership of about 6,800 that will be enough to call a meeting to vote on getting rid of Sutton.
By the end of the evening, organizers said a large portion of the necessary signatures had been collected.
The presentation by Arrowood blamed Sutton for a decline in the number of people regularly coming to church, saying that average attendance had dropped from 2,089 in 1997 to 1,549 in 2007.
Ed Holman, a member for 23 years, said, “The last 10 years, things have really changed. More to a dictatorship way, a staff-led church, not a congregation-led church.”