In his book “How the Mighty Fall,” Jim Collins identifies the third stage as “denial of risk and peril.” One of the markers of this stage is externalizing blame. Rather than accept full responsibility for setbacks and failures, leaders point to external factors or other people to affix blame.
Baptists have been good at this. For many years, Southern Baptists blamed externals – the mean old media, the secular society, the government, Disneyland, Hollywood. The “conservative resurgence” completed its task to purify the Southern Baptist Convention and the “liberals” were cast out (or made to feel unwelcome), but the denomination continues to decline in membership. Now there is a scramble to find someone else to blame. Most recently, leadership has turned internally to find someone to carry the burden.
One Southern Baptist agency head commented at the meeting in Louisville, Ky., that the lack of sufficient funding to support missionaries may not be an economic problem but a problem of “hearts that aren’t aligned with the Lord’s passion” for the lost. Others blamed the Calvinists, the “bureaucracy” or the “emergent church.”
Moderates are not completely innocent. How many times have you heard someone say that things really started going down hill when we got rid of Training Union? Some blame the different views in worship styles. Moderate leaders seek collaboration but act unilaterally because they have a better view of things than those in the field. Young moderates blame the older generation, the older generation thinks the young folks are too pushy, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
I suggest that we accept the reality of where we are and act responsibly. Things will never be what they were and conditions will continue to change. We are all in transition.
I started thinking recently about the number of people I know who consider themselves in transition. Judicatory staff that are going through a change in senior leadership. Young adults seeking their place of ministry after years of preparation. Median adults who are considering a change in place of service. Friends of all ages who have lost jobs due to the economic situation. People who are seeking to find where they can live out their passion.
The people of Israel often found themselves in awkward situations and strange lands. Their situation changed often. Sometimes it was their fault and other times it was not, but things were rarely settled and unchanging for them. The only unchanging reality was the presence of God with them; the presence of God with us is our only constant as well. And we can be grateful for that assurance.
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.