Central authorities live in splendid isolation from the impoverished masses off which they feed. The Scriptural warning about central authorities is plain. Ask for a king. He will tax your fields and vineyards, your herds and lands. He will take your young men for his armies and your young women for his pleasures.
Sacred central bodies are not immune from acquisitive evils. The Church in Europe in the Middle Ages accumulated immense wealth from its adherents, with the promise of eternal life mingled with the equal threat of eternal damnation for non-givers. The landed knights of the age "secularized" the riches of the Church physically, removing gold and silver from the great cathedrals without undue thought for their souls.
No surprise; men are men and when one man has more than another, the laws of human nature dictate a purge. I have sat with you, like you, in meetings where we debated and voted titles and salaries for servants, so they would have the prestige and standing of their secular peers. We are little different from the clerics of the Middle Ages, fat with privilege in the middle of starving people.
The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists was intended to replace the constant personal appeals of this school or that missions society. Those who warned against a concentrated offering did so with the admonition that concentrations of money give rise to central authorities, gathered like hogs at the trough. Today, in addition to regular, systematic giving to the concentrated offering, we have three or four or five additional offerings in baptist Christian life, in part because there is so much to do, in part because the original intention to use conventions of independent churches as pass through organizations is everywhere neglected, in part because of incompetent administration and in part because of the common human striving to have more today than yesterday.
Are you sick at heart because of the events of the last thirty years in baptist Christian life? Are you soul weary at the constant choices to be made, as though we are the children of divorce, who must decide to live with mother or father?
I know how to fix it. This answer stares us in the face now, as it has for the whole thirty years of the turmoil.
Stop sending money to these organizations, conventions, associations and the like.
You will be amazed at the speed with which this whole thing gets fixed.
No more initials. No more para-church bodies making the work of the church impossible. No more voting for change, only to discover change never comes. No more organizing for candidates only to find they cannot do more than the fellow before them. No more historic leaders who read us out of existence to protect their benefactors.
No more excuses. No more lies. No more phantom churches. No more missing money.
In fact, no more money.
You will not have to keep your money at home. You can support the schools, the missionaries, the missionary work, quite apart from a central authority.
You will not have to do your own specified giving for long. A few years will see the end of the mess, which now shows no signs of ending.
Is the Kingdom better off now than thirty years ago? Is the convention? In thirty years we have gone from thriving to dying. What will the next thirty years show us?
Yes, this is a time for change. The change I mean will take us from the threshold of our bewildered, white haired ancestors, who simply do not know to do more than do what we have always done but do it harder. It will take us beyond the eager avante-garde passions of the millenials, who know they want to do better but seldom know how and always need support.