After a recent capital campaign in our church, I reminded our pastor of the comment that makes the circuit on a regular basis. It is the comment of the leader who stands before the congregation and says, “We have all the money we need. The problem is that it is still in your pockets.”
I was reminded of this statement when I read an article by Robert Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, on a recent meeting of Baptists at Callaway Gardens. Parham’s comments were very candid, and I accept his quotes, although unattributed, as providing an accurate portrayal of that meeting. He quoted one participant as saying, “We don’t have enough money, enough constituents, enough readers, enough students, enough volunteers. As we’ve said today several times already, enough money, enough money, enough money.”
Friend, it may be that we have what we deserve. People give to those things they believe in and value. They believe in and value things only when they hear the story and become engaged. If they chose not to support what we are about, maybe we are about the wrong things.
The same speaker is reported to have said, “Not surprisingly many groups within our movement face difficulties, if not for mere survival then to fulfill the founding vision or to live up to supporters’ expectations or to pull the median age of the constituency below 73.” My question in response is, “Are any of these Kingdom goals?” Survival, fulfilling unfounded expectations, assumed supporter preferences, and lowering the median age of constituents don’t energize me – and I am closer to 73 than I wish to admit.
This problem is not peculiar to moderate or “goodwill” Baptists. The Southern Baptist Convention will meet in Orlando this summer to receive the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. One Baptist friend who is still involved in SBC denominational affairs told me that “this will change the face of the convention more than anything in the last 20 years,” and he did not think that was a good thing. The greatest fear of convention leaders should be those who ask, “Who cares?
The old paradigms are dead, but we fail to acknowledge their demise. After death, we celebrate the life of the one who has gone before, we deal with our grief, and we begin to rebuild our lives in a new configuration. Baptist Christians must enter into the same painful process. The sooner, the better.
Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.
Ircel Harrison is coaching coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is supplemental associate professor of missional theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary.