I use the word "Liberal" in place of the more dangerous word "Radical." In this I demonstrate my complete hypocrisy on the subject because I really want a "Radical" change; not strategizing, or trying to gather us around core tasks but the complete reinvention of the wheel in matters of cooperation, with appeal to our Classic Values.
Cooperative effort hints at centralized authority, one of my readers noted after yesterday. This is undeniable. If we cooperate there will be some address to send the money, someone to call, a locus for our work. Even if we consider Texas only, which we ought not to do, our state alone is too large and diverse to reach effectively without cooperative effort.
A tornado in Wichita Falls, a flood in New Braunfels, a drought everywhere; Texas is a big state with lots of needs. One or two churches can make a difference but six thousand churches and missions might do more.
If there were no needs unmet in our state, there would be the world. If the world suddenly grew peaceful and prosperous in all precincts, there would still be the very human need to "group." We are going to cooperate somehow, or be noticed by our total inability to cooperate.
For a number of years now, baptist Christians have been those in the corner with a sign around our neck reading, "Does not play well with others."
I suggest we might democratize our decision making with the use of available technology to implement change. Electronic annual meetings with regional hookups would lessen the ability of one group to dominate cooperative efforts throughout the year by turning out a bare majority of advocates for a two day, expense account driven drive-in annual meeting. The result of modern "cooperation" is declining attendance at meetings, less giving to cooperative causes and constant revisions of existing structures to offer "relevance."
True, few post-moderns, millenials, whatever you call them, outside the barest edge of our little covenant community, care about "baptist distinctives." There is not much opportunity (and perhaps less interest) in trying to explain congregational autonomy and a high view of Scripture to people raised on secularism. The inner workings of our apparatus may matter mostly to us but this is not an argument to abandon our Classic Values.
I also have some reason to believe Post-Modernity, not as a generational distinctive but in many of its practices, may end in America when we hit 8% unemployment. That is another story for another day, however.
I do not argue we should roll out our chassis and call it the car. I do suggest we change our assembly line for the sake of industrial survival.
If the three most prominent eras of (recent) recorded history are the Classical, the Medieval and the Modern, what we have been in for three decades in baptist Christian life has been a Medieval Revival. The Church returned to feudal wars, serfdom and the Church as "Sacred Monster," a being not occurring in nature but with such force it commands some fear, if not affection.
I suggest a Classic Revival, with feet solidly anchored in our Classic Values, but wired into a "flat world," where Servant Leadership composed of creativity, accountability and reliability replace superstition as our OS. God will not be forced to act in any certain way by any presentable formula. God is God, after all.
We do not need all the local, regional, state or national bodies to which we respond. The world is flat, yes, walls no longer matter and borders barely exist. Only the poorest of non-technologically advanced persons can be "walled out" and their cause resonates in the halls of the mighty.
We do need to rush support to the site. Wal-Mart remade its national image when it responded to Hurricane Katrina with water, fuel and services delivered to the ravaged area before the US government could act. Might we do the same?
As seminaries yoked to our national convention become more indoctrination centers (and home economic schools) we will need our colleges/seminaries more than ever. However, if the age of the surrogate missionary is about done, we will need more business persons, engineers, doctors and others willling to take their skills to the world for the sake of Christ. We will have to train them but the way we train will have to change.
I suggest we reinvent the wheel.