If, as a colony experiences, wealth and talent flow to the mother country, the health of the colony depends on one of two things. One, the health of the mother country (and its benevolent intent) remains steady. Or, the colony makes itself independent of the mother country (and finds itself with appropriate governance and natural resources to make its own way in the world).
In most systems, the natural inclination is to predict more of the same, only different. The current economic crisis in the United States is the direct result of such prediction, aka known as the consumer economy. When credit dries up at the same time major commodities rise sharply in price, one follows the flow of wealth and talent to see where the "more of the same" is going, to determine what will be "different." If wealth and talent, world-wide, are flowing east from the once omnipotent shores of Americana, no great economic skill is required to predict the "difference" in the "more" to come.
But, we were talking about religion, baptists and the like, weren't we? Most particularly, since the recent SBC meeting in Indie, where after numerous SBC bloggers began to foment an "exit strategy" from the national convention. If talent and wealth, once monopolized by conventions, make their way elsewhere, what is the logical conclusion?
I have received four well-scripted appeals for special offerings in the last month. Two came from seminaries already funded by the Cooperative Program, one from a state convention already funded by the same source and one from a benevolence ministry, funded by private donations, foundations and government funds. Of the four, only the latter can be said to be doing well. Theological education and common ministries are the loser. Benevolence still sells.
I should note these four appeals, all unanswered, come in the wake of two special offerings taken up by our congregation in the first five months of the years, with two more emphases to come. We are a colony, felling trees to send to the mother country, to repurchase them as manufactured goods.
Here rise the dynamics of a static community. That is, it grows but never matures.
We can, then, engage in contumacy (resistance to or obstinate opposition of authority) or simply, as noted above, establish a new authority. By new authority, I do not mean a new body of authority, though that will surely come.
Then where did we get the old one?
No, by new authority, I mean the rise of a new idea of authority. Men do not give to a church but to the idea of authority just beyond the shadow of the spire. Less still will men give to a convention of churches but greater still the reach of the spire-shadow inspires their devotion.
There is a common root to the collective theory extant in bygone worlds. Utopian, fascist, pragmatic or idealist, collectivists stoutly avow we (meaning all who will accept the current or proposed authority) can do more together. Left unspecified, often, are the management charges. A self-contained authority, opposed to modernism and chilled at the encroachment of post-modernism, has only begun to lift itself out of its social (religious) context in baptist life. A sickening internecine warfare erupts to refine gold from its appelate blemishes. Until the two entities separate, there will be nothing resembling the Kingdom to come. Fifty years of more of the same will not serve to bring the peace, unless more of the same is what we want.