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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pastor/Teacher --- "Stranger?"

Yesterday (Dec.9.2009) Les Puryear made the following comment on his blog:

“ I would like to see seminaries such as SEBTS begin to recognize that the majority of their students will minister in small churches, whether established or newly planted, and provide courses which will equip them to minister in the small church culture which is a completely different environment than is found in megachurches.”

The high turnover rate of Pastors in the vast majority of Southern Baptist Churches, and the damage it causes to the witness of Christ and the work of the local church in our communities, is something that I feel very passionate about. I am told that the average tenure of a Southern Baptist Pastor is around 2 years… (If anyone has the precise numbers on this I would love to have them posted)

If this inexcusable number is even close to being correct (and I believe it is) then it is a clear indication that we have a deep rooted, unhealthy, and systemic issue within our Southern Baptist culture of accepting as normal short term/unstable leadership in our small Southern Baptist Churches.

There are many factors contributing to this sad condition and I make no pretense of being in any position, or possessing sufficient wisdom, to address them all. However, there is one thing that that I believe to be ‘the’ major contributing factor in all of this, and that is the practice of most small Southern Baptist congregations of calling absolute “STRANGERS” to pastor their church.

Here is the comment I posted on Les Puryear’s blog that gives my basic argument on this issue:


Thanks for this post!

This gives me the perfect opportunity to vent about something that I am very passionate about… and that is that this whole modern system of calling a “stranger” as your pastor is completely unbiblical.

Can anyone give me just one example in the Bible where a congregation called a “stranger” as their pastor? Yet 99.9% of the time in Southern Baptist Churches, no matter how careful the search committee is, and no matter how long they take, that is exactly what they do. They wind up calling a complete stranger to fill the most important position in the Church. Would anyone dare propose to their congregation that they need to look outside of their own body for Elders, Deacons, Teachers, or general officers? I think not. So why do we do exactly that for the positions of Pastor, and then get all offended when they don’t work out, or move on to bigger churches? There is a real simple solution to the problem of small churches being used as stepping stones… “Stop calling strangers as your Pastor”.

Can anyone explain to me how any search committee can affirm with any certainty that someone from outside of their own local community actually meets the qualifications of 1 Tim. 3:1-7. How can they know if this handsome young stranger with the good looking resume and the perfect wife and 2 little children on the front row, is of a blameless reputation or is nothing more than wolf in sheep’s clothing? In truth they cannot, but if he grew up in this community, or lived there for a few years they would know. They may actually check the references listed on his resume, but does anyone truly expect to uncover anything that would disqualify someone by asking the people listed on a resume? No, not really, so they usually wind up never asking any questions whatsoever about the man’s qualifications. You will notice that 1 Tim.3:7 says that he must have a good reputation of them which are without (in the community). How can a “stranger” possibly meet this requirement?

Ok… I could go on and on, but I think you get my point so I will shut up now :-)

Les replied:

“Greg, I have never heard that perspective before.”

I know this perspective cuts against the grain of our accepted practices within our Southern Baptist culture, and as I said above I could go into a much greater defense of this position… But what I really would like to know is what some of you think about this issue?

We discussed this issue at length during our Bible Study time at our Wednesday night services last night, and one of our Elders made the comment that the church is to function like and be modeled after the family and no family would ever seriously consider going out and bringing in an absolute stranger to be their “Father”. I thought that was a very insightful comment.

So, what say you?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Great Commission Resurgence & State Conventions

I have read many articles on, or about, what Southern Baptists are hoping will come about as a result of the work of the Great Commission Resurgence task force. There are certainly a lot of ideas out there as to what a reorganized Southern Baptist Convention should look like, and there are a lot of questions being ask. However, the most common question almost everyone appears to be asking is “What to do with the State Conventions?”

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the GCR and State Conventions:

1.) I believe the State Conventions are important and have the potential of playing a major role in any Great Commission Resurgence that might take place in our lifetimes within the Southern Baptist Convention.

2.) I believe that full autonomy (without any oversight and genuine accountability) for our State Conventions has proven itself to be a very bad idea. Human nature being what it is; oversight, transparency, and accountability are an absolute must (especially when finances, positions, and power are involved).

3.) I do not believe the State Conventions should be in the church planting business at all! The examples of where State Conventions have wasted huge amounts of money on failed churches, and sometimes even outright fraud, are too many to list. Not to mention that (regardless of how good a plan someone has, or how large of a core group they have already gathered) many times State Convention Leaders have been guilty of discriminating against those who are from a different theological camp than they are, or who’s worship style is different from their own, or who disagree with their own convictions on second and third matter doctrines. This abuse of authority has lead to many new Baptist Churches being planted “Outside of the Southern Baptist Convention” by a younger generation of Southern Baptist Pastors and Church Planters who are unafraid to go it alone.

4.) I do not believe the State Conventions should be involved in any mission’s activity outside of their own state. We, as Southern Baptist, have both an International mission’s agency and a North American mission’s agency. Why are State Conventions duplicating services that we as a convention already provide for? Why are the State Conventions not “Cooperating” with (working through) our national missions agencies? In my opinion our State Conventions should be focusing upon reaching the mission fields of their own states, and not trying to do the work of the IMB or NAMB.

5.) Ok… here is where I believe the State Conventions could play a major role in a Great Commission Resurgence. I believe that State Conventions should put the establishment of Christian Schools, Daycare Centers, Orphanages, Adoption and Foster Care programs at the top of their agenda. This is where I feel they could truly find their purpose and place in bringing about a true and lasting Great Commission Resurgence. I also feel that no other organization within the Southern Baptist Convention is as capable of filling this much need role as is our State Conventions. How great would the impact on our culture be if every State Convention made it its goal to start a Christian School in every community, county, or parish in America by the end of year 2020? How great would the impact on our culture be if every State Convention made it its goal to start a Christian Daycare in every community, county, or parish in America by the end of year 2020? How great would the impact on our culture be if every State Convention made it its goal to see that no child in America is ever unloved and unwanted by the end of year 2020? In short, how great would the impact on our culture be if by the end of year 2020 every State Convention saw itself purely as a mission organization, and the people of their state as its mission field?

In closing, I believe if we are to have a true and lasting Great Commission Resurgence in America that we must “Reengage” the culture and society in which we live… that we must make it our highest goal to win the hearts and minds of the next generation. This we will not do unless we are willing to change. And if we are not willing to change for the sake of reaching the next generation for Christ, then all this talk about seeking a Great Commission Resurgence is nothing more than shameful religious bravado and we might as well spend our money on prayer rugs for the next generation.

Grace Always,