I’m involved in a seminary PhD course in which students have been bouncing around ideas regarding the kind of bold leadership that our next three agency heads need to take.  It’s easy to make a disclaimer on ideas that come out of a class of a bunch of seminary students, so if these are too radical, just right them off as ideas from naive students. However, some of these PhD students have a number of years of church planting, mission administration, pastoral, and field missionary experience.

The next few blogs will present a few of my thoughts that have emerged through this exercise.

Why Is Change Needed?

Cultural Transition and Generational Transfer of Leadership – SBC churches and entities are caught in a cultural transition and a generational transfer of leadership. American culture has changed and Southern Baptists churches are in transition.  The question is whether or not the denomination will adapt.  County seat First Baptist Churches are transitioning to The Journey Church: (and in small letters “SBC.”)  A generational shift in leadership is occurring among pastors, and leaders.  We may bemoan the cultural and generational shifts but they are irreversible and require that we solidify our spiritual and theological convictions while transitioning SBC entities and ethos for the next generations. Our new presidents must hold us to solid theological foundations over and above denominational loyalty because the loyalty argument does not carry weight with young leaders. Our agencies must also be led by their new leaders to effectively serve the next generation.

Increasingly, our children don’t hold the same allegiance as we do to our denomination.  We can’t strong-arm them or guilt them into picking up this “old SBC” mantel.  Our children will decide on their own whether or not they earnestly desire to work with Southern Baptists on the mission to which God is leading our children.   The denomination must be rebuilt for the next generation, and this should be done with older and younger Southern Baptists working together.  I truly believe such is Johnny Hunt’s desire.  The GCR Task force is starting the process but the next presidents of the convention and her agencies will complete the task of forging this road together.

The future of our SBC agencies is found in connecting service-to-churches with funding, both Cooperative and direct funding. Southern Baptists are consumers. Making a single-source indirect connection from my wallet, to my church’s offering plate, to the State Convention’s Cooperative Program, to the Executive Committee, and finally to a rather confusing redistribution that eventually hits IMB and NAME, just doesn’t hold muster on its own among young Southern Baptists.   The IMB and NAMB should be service providers.  If people prefer IMB and NAMB goods and services, churches will donate to them. If not, they will find other providers. The IMB and NAMB and the Executive Committee can no longer assume the allegiance of Southern Baptist churches. “Just trust us,” doesn’t work for young people. In today’s economy and culture, Southern Baptist agencies must re-earn the hearts of Southern Baptists each year.  The hearts of young Southern Baptists will be won by proving themselves as productive, service-oriented partners to local churches this year, and the next and the next year.  Otherwise those churches will find other partners before the year is out.  Young Baptist’s allegiance to the Southern Baptist Convention, The IMB, or NAMB, even if earned this year, cannot be assumed for the next.  Sorry for the bad news, but, simply examine the non-SBC vendors and partners with whom SBC churches invest their budgets. We need to acknowledge that even our most denominationally-supportive churches work within a free marketplace which is very competitive. The concept of a dollar riding a round-about roller coaster that eventually gets reduced to less than 8% when it gets to the mission field is hard to swallow when a young Baptist can give to Compassion International and receive direct and immediate correspondence from the child who is supported by 80-90% of your dollar.  The future of the SBC agency is found in making a more direct connection between that agency’s (IMB or NAMB) service-to-churches and that church’s sense of personalized, and direct funding of that agency.

What Changes Are Needed

Strategic and Logistical Coordination Between IMB and NAMB Services – The International Mission Board must become a Global Mission Service Team. The “I”(International) in International Mission Board and “N.A.” in North American Mission Board ultimately needs to be replaced by the word “Global,” which includes local and global fields. The “B” (Board) in Mission Board needs to be overtaken by an ethos of  “S.T.” which tells Southern Baptists that We Are Your Missions Service Team. Ultimately the two boards need to coordinate their activities as a collaborative Global Mission Service Collective which incorporates entity-directed initiatives as well as local-church directed initiatives.  The IMB and NAMB can’t be solely about what they do but they must be about the mission work of churches.

NAMB and IMB Service Orientation – The blessing of the Cooperative Program is that it has maximized Southern Baptists’ impact. The challenge of the CP is that this has trained churches to rely on professional missionaries to go and do international mission work for local churches. In the same vein the CP has taught missionaries that they don’t have to serve the local church.

Likewise, the Cooperative Agreements have placed some entities in a position of Sugar Daddy when it comes to funding church planting and major initiatives.  The moving of funds from the executive to NAMB and back to the states has created a very complex system and has resulted in at least the perception of a great deal of fat.  We can argue that there is no fat, but young Southern Baptists don’t believe it. Since young Southern Baptists are our future, we better listen to them.

Stay tuned for the next post about Cooperative Program Plus.