Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How are Southern Baptists REALLY Doing?

We like numbers. We talk, preach, eat, drink, and sleep those numbers. Ask any church leader how things are going at the church and the first thing cited will be numbers: worship attendance; educational attendance; baptisms; giving.

If it can be measured, we Baptists have that statistic --- or a committee appointed to investigate it.

It's what we can't measure that seems to be giving us problems.

Just like the recent Willow Creek "Confession" that suggest more numbers doesn't mean more disciples, I submit that we Baptists need to make the same confession.

After World War II, we Baptists believed we had found the sweet spot of evangelism, discipleship and missions. We were growing. In every category of measurement, we were growing. And we revelled in it.

Then came the shocking realization that it was all a numbers game: we were growing not because of our efforts but instead the Baby Boomers had no choice except to go to church with their parents. In other words, the young couples in our churches were having that 2.3 children (on average) and our numbers were growing.

Well, duh.

By the time those children finished college, the shallow spiritual roots we shaped had no depth. Most of that generation stopped attending, and then their children now have no concept of church at all. What happens with the third generation?

All that leads me to a discussion topic from Art Rogers blog that says we Baptists are not doing too well. In fact, most of Christianity is not doing too well. What we've been doing in the past has actually caused =negative= responses among the non-churched. The primary positive response of our efforts have been among those already Christian.

If we're just stealing sheep from other denominations, are we really making disciples?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bloggers Casting the SBC in a Bad Light?

I recently had two different people tell me they support the GA Baptist Resolution that condemns bloggers because it would stop the "hurt to our evangelism efforts to the unchurched." Since bloggers cast the SBC in a bad light, they said, the bloggers need to stop for the good of the missions' cause.

Yeah, right. That sounds pious but it is a load of hooey.

Ask =any= unchurched person what they have heard from blogging sites that have cast the SBC in a bad light. Anyone. Ask.

Then ask them if they have heard of the SBC resolution that says women are to be in submission to their husbands; that Baptists should boycott Disney for allowing a Gay Day; or firing professors because they happen to be afflicted with being female; or going beyond the text & calling even the drinking of any alcohol a sin; etc.

Go ahead & ask them & then let me know which casts the SBC in more of a bad light. I doubt if any unchurched person even knows about the discussion on the blogs, but I know for sure they are aware of the above.

I will have to ask again: based on the wording in the resolution, what =can= be discussed in blogs or anywhere else for that matter? And why didn't this standard apply when the Conservative Resurgence was trying to wrestle control from the Moderates 25 years ago?

This is a double standard & an excuse to use pious sounding words to shut down dissent. How else will the average Joe & Sue Baptist know about these issues if it isn't in blogs? The state paper is controlled by Yes Men. All the state & convention agencies are staffed by those that had better tow the line or be fired. The colleges & seminaries won't allow any dissent.

How are the issues to be discussed if the opposing viewpoint is not even allowed to be heard?

Really now: how many bloggers can be named by the average Baptist in the pew? 20? 15? 10?

Maybe that's too many. OK. 5 bloggers.

Wait. Let's say 3.

How about 1.

Be honest. Be ethical. Don't look 'em up. Google is not your friend in this case. Let's hear the names & the issues they've raised.

If it is such a serious problem & has caused such division & is hurting our efforts, there should be an easily recognized name for one or two, right? Otherwise, the resolution only has one other motive: stop dissent. Using the Bible as an excuse to bully discussion is still being a bully.

Roger Williams was kicked out of Boston for speaking out. So was Ann Hutcheson because she dared question the authority of the church leaders. I suppose some Baptist bloggers are in good historic company.

UPDATE to Dallas, GA, Nativity Display

After meeting with city officials, local citizens say no resolution has been reached over a city owned nativity display that is owned, erected and maintained by Dallas. The city maintains that since Christmas is a religious holiday, the religious display will remain, despite the fact the display singularly adorns the area of the Mayor's church.

The city's decision should play nicely into the hands of the local politicians, especially Glenn Richardson, the Speaker of the GA House who represents Dallas. It is widely known that Speaker Richardson is planning a gubernatorial run in 2010 when GA's "Praying Governor" Sonny Perdue completes his second term.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Small Town, GA, and Entanglement of Religion

Not much happens in Dallas, GA. There is an occasional break-in and a goodly number of speeders now that Hwy 278 is a four lane. Mostly minor accidents or the stray dog that needs apprehension. Not much else. One might say it is almost like Mayberry.

I like it.

But the City of Dallas, GA, has been a little naughty this year.

The City of Dallas purchased and maintains a lighted nativity scene placed on a small parcel across from the First Baptist Church (the parcel in which the city is in the process of purchasing for a park). There are no other displays surrounding the nativity display, secular or otherwise. (See similar display.) Local residents concerned about the propriety of such a First Amendment No-No say they plan on meeting with city officials later this week.

This should make for an interesting situation since the Speaker of the GA General Assembly represents tiny Dallas, GA. Representative Glenn Richardson has come under much criticism lately for his pandering to the Religious Right by supporting such bills as a Bible Elective in GA High Schools with the Bible being the primary textbook, and Ten Commandments legislation that allows the posting of the Decalogue in/on GA courthouses.

This may be strike three for Richardson since his home county doesn't display the 10 Commandments on its courthouse walls, nor do any of the 5 local high schools teach the elective Bible Class. In fact, the local board of education refused to even call for public comment on the matter.

More information to follow after local residents meet with city officials this week.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Don't get me started on Christmas

Don't get me started on Christmas. Bring the boxes up. Unpack the boxes. Untangle the lights (that takes a couple of hours). Plug 'em up. They don't work. Spend another hour trying the find the screwed up bulb. Give up trying to find it. Go to the store & start fussing because they don't have the same type of lights this year. Of course my wife wants the lights on the tree to all be the same so I spend $25 on new lights. Go home & one of the kids will step on the string, breaking some of the bulbs. Not enough replacements. Go back to the store & they don't have any replacement bulbs. Buy another string plus one string for spare. Go home & get the ladder out. Fuss again because my hands are turning blue in the cold. Plug 'em up. Blow a fuse. Can't find the flash light because the kids/wife have used it & didn't put it back. Get the power back on. Start putting up the millions of things wife has collected over the last 20 years. Watch her cry when she breaks a couple of 'em. Yells at me 'cause she is in a bad mood over taking so long & broken ornaments. Kids are starving. Run & get some fast food & spend another $20. Get home & finish the decorating. Put on the Christmas music & wife wants to take pictures for "memories." No film or batteries. Go back to the store for both. Store doesn't have either. End up buying 2 disposable cameras. Fume some more. Get home & everyone has eaten everything, including my dinner. Take enough pictures to compile a National Geographic pictorial for a year. Wife fusses at me for being grumpy --- spent the entire Christmas budget in one day, starving, & smoke coming out my ears. Dog & cats get in the tree. Tree falls over. More broken ornaments. Use bungee cords attached to the stair railing to secure the tree. Wife cries some more over more broken ornaments. I retreat to my desk to get away from the very tired but wound up kids. Wifey yells because I have to put up the now-empty boxes. I put up the boxes. Family sits around & admire the decorations. I'm still fuming. Take Pepto. Sleep on the couch.

Don't get me started on Christmas!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Travel

Maybe I am getting to be a curmudgeon, but I am getting a chaffed over this.

Every holiday season, I see the same report on the news: "This is a major holiday & experts say this is one of the busiest travel times of the year."

Ok, first of all, who are these "experts" the media keeps talking about? I have never heard of any degree program from any college that offers study in "Holiday Travel Statistics." Where do they find these experts --- at the Tooth Fairy Institute?

Second, how many "major" holidays are there anyway? Let's see . . . Starting on January 1 . . . There's New Year's Day. Memorial Day. Can't forget Independence Day. Labor Day. Then there is the month long holiday period of Thanksgiving and Christmas, which, of course, spills over to next year's New Year's Day.

So the "minor" holidays don't count. Well, duh! "Minor" holidays don't give folks a long weekend --- apart from government workers, who even get to stay home on "Boss Passed Gas Day ." Ground Hog Day. Flag Day. Kiss a Baptist Day. No one gets the Ramada Inn Holiday Package for those "minor" holidays, so obviously no one is traveling. And of course everyone stays close to home on Super Bowl Sunday.

So that leaves those "major" holidays with the "busiest holiday travel times." Ding! Ding! Ding! If it is a "major" holiday where most businesses are closed, and many, many people take a few extra days to travel, it should come as no surprise that every "major" holiday will be one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Could someone please state the obvious to those "experts"???

Third, why does the media even cover the story anyway? They could record one holiday travel piece, tape a few scenes for various times of the year, & just dub in the video and the name of the holiday. I mean --- good gosh! --- it is the same report every, single time anyway! Why make it so difficult? Just show the seasonal clip & splash the following bullet points on the screen:

1) You'll get there eventually, so ease off the pedal.
2) Allow yourself plenty of time in case the fast food doesn't agree with you. Bathroom stops will cut into your travel time.
3) The kids drive your neighbors crazy too, so don't think you're the exception.
4) Yes, your spouse is gonna gripe. Always does. Get over it.
5) Smile at the extended family. Lots of alcohol makes Uncle Billy smile more. SBCers & especially those in FLA aren't allowed that luxury, even for medicinal purposes. That means leave off the NyQuil, too.
6) Don't drive after bullet point #5 until you've had 8 hours sleep.
7) There is always a sporting event on TV. Earphones will help drown out the noise of The Others.
8) Yes, you have to go back to work after the holiday is over.

This should be so, so simple.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Deja vu with a twist of lemon

It's Deja vu all over again, save this time the tables are turned.

Back in September, Al Mohler was whining that he and the other Southern Baptist Seminary presidents are being criticized by fellow Southern Baptists. The quote from the Baptist Press article has it this way:

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking on behalf of the presidents of the SBC's various entities, noted to the Executive Committee that "there is an unprecedented level of attack upon some of our own leaders ... in the form of innuendo and smear and caricature and character assassination." Mohler also noted, "Two of our own have suffered in particular along these lines," referencing Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his wife Dorothy.

Mohler stated that the SBC entity presidents have committed "that we will not ourselves tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues," and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, then led in a time of prayer for the Pattersons.

Well, yeah. Patterson wanted to add "Homemaking and Domestic" courses for the "Little Women" at SWBTS, while firing a wonderful prof name Dr. Klouda, who just happened to have been born --- gasp! --- a woman. I'd say that was reason to spank him a bit.

As for the rest of 'em, they have consolidated their power over all the seminaries, boards, colleges, etc., and they are whining that some of their fellow conservative Southern Baptists (e.g., young SBC bloggers who can't be ordered to hush) are criticizing them ... and they are not towing the line.

Oh, the irony of it all.

Now, the 2007 Resolution of the Year is for various conventions to take swipes at shutting down bloggers who disgree with The Others in control of the boards, the money, the power.

The problem here has nothing to do with blogging or with "personal attacks" but with the heavy handed tactics to stifle discussion. I was with the Conservative Resurgence and agreed there were some serious problems that needed to be corrected. I also saw the character assassination, misrepresentation and downright lies some of the current "leaders" used to destroy the good name of some good people, who simply had an honest disagreement on a minor doctrinal point. And I now see the Power Brokers want the SBC to become another Political Action Committee for the GOP, define the Creed we must profess, and tell everyone who disagrees that they are sinning against God.

Roger Williams, John Leland and Isaac Backus would be proud of those young SBC bloggers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

GA Baptist Convention Has Done It Again: Stop Blogging . . . Or Else

First the good news: GA Baptists have just approved a record budget, added 62 new churches and missions & approved the distribution of money that used to go to Mercer University. Sadly, Mercer is no longer part of the GBC because of a separate fight, but that is another post.

Now the bad news: The voice of dissent is to be silenced by those who don't want open & honest discussion about basic philosophical differences.

The Associated Baptist Press article says:

Wayne Bray and William Harrell, pastors at Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville, submitted an anti-blogging resolution, which said blogs are used by “certain people … for divisive and destructive rhetoric at the expense of peace among the brethren.”

The resolution states “the messengers of this convention oppose blogging when it is used to cause division and disharmony among the members of our Southern Baptist family…. All personal attacks should cease immediately … [we] call upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders; and be it further resolved that all Georgia Baptists respectfully request and expect that individuals who disrupt the fellowship through blogging repent and immediately cease this activity and no longer cause disharmony for the advancement of their own personal opinions and agendas.”

So let's translate this, shall we:

"...for divisive and destructive rhetoric at the expense of peace among the brethren..." --- Don't say anything publicly that disagrees with the party line lest you meet the swift boot of a resolution.

"...the messengers of this convention oppose blogging when it is used to cause division and disharmony..." --- We don't want bloggers to talk about the abuses, the power grabs, the unethical politics, & the unChristian actions. Putting it out there in a blog allows the average Joe & Jane in the pew to know about it & they are the messengers with control of the purse strings.

"...All personal attacks should cease immediately..." --- Except ours, of course. No one should use their computers for communication with other Baptists because a movement may coalesce.

" upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders..." --- We repeat: stop communicating & voicing an opinion different than ours. it further resolved that all Georgia Baptists respectfully request and expect that individuals who disrupt the fellowship through blogging repent and immediately cease this activity and no longer cause disharmony for the advancement of their own personal opinions and agendas." --- Do it our way or you're not in God's Will, & our way is God's Will. Questioning us is sin.

Heard those before, haven't we? The Inquisition. Theocratic Colonial America that Roger Williams fled; the kind Isaac Backus & John Leland argued against.

When Baptist voices are silenced, so is the meaning of Baptist. I resent my denomination becoming a de facto political action committee where any questioning is met with charges of being unpatriotic & unchristian.

Sad, sad day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Only Teetotalers Allowed as FLA Baptist

Wow. Now FLA Baptists have excluded all people who drink at all or do not sign a pledge saying they won't drink. Of course, that pledge also says they agree with the SBC doctrinal statement.

Hmmmm. I have some questions.

Would Christ & all of the disciples be excluded from FLA Baptist Life?

Is there any Baptist that agrees with every provision of the Baptist Faith & Message? One of the basics of being Baptistic is that we hold no creed & allow for diversity after the fundamentals of the faith. Guess they don't do that in FLA.

Jesus drank wine. The disciples & apostles did too. So did Paul. Every Christian in history drank, including the Puritans that came over on the Mayflower. In fact, every Baptist church used real wine until Dr. Welch invented grape juice in 1879. Wonder if this pledge includes Nyquil & cough syrup?

What about the Christians in the rest of the world (outside the South) that see no problem with drinking but do condemn drunkenness. Are those people excluded from being Baptist?

Here's the link to the Associated Baptist Press article.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (ABP) -- Only teetotalers will be allowed to serve as trustees of the Florida Baptist Convention’s agencies and boards, as a result of a vote at the convention's annual meeting.

With no discussion and less than half a dozen opposing votes, messengers approved a bylaw revision that requires all nominees for the role of trustee to “agree to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs.” The bylaw already requires nominees sign a pledge in support of the Southern Baptist Convention's doctrinal statement, which, like alcohol, has been an issue in other states recently.

The new measure was approved easily by the 1,258 messengers attended the annual convention meeting, held Nov. 12-13 in Daytona Beach.

The abstinence provision resulted from a pledge announced by John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, at the state’s 2006 annual meeting. Reacting to a prolonged debate at the 2006 SBC annual meeting over the use of beverage alcohol, Sullivan said he was “embarrassed” by the protracted discussion and wanted to clarify Florida Baptists’ position on the issue.

The bylaw amendment, which came as a recommendation from the convention's State Board of Missions, was added to an existing bylaw that stipulates nominees must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, be a member of a church that contributes to the convention's budget, demonstrate good stewardship, and support the "Baptist Faith and Message." Persons nominated for leadership roles are required to sign a document stating their support of the statement.