The Praetorian Guard in Baptist Life

   The Roman Praetorian Guard set around their emperor became so filled with their own position they turned to ruling over their ruler. Set next to the sceptered throne with a sword honed for the emperor's protection the Praetorians soon learned the power of the sword over the scepter.

   So it is that unelected, unappointed, unchosen guards became the actual government of the empire nee-Republic that predated the death of Rome. Swift, efficient, disciplined soldiers made excellent rescuers and wonderful guards. Their place in history was set. They were the elite.

   Historically,however, it is an error to weaken leadership in symbol or fact. Weak rulers governed by  strong guards still find ways to make poor policy. The cesaers brought down Rome despite the rigor of the Praetorian Guard.

   Para-church "educational" organizations have sprung up to be the watch-dogs in baptist life. No one has elected them, or appointed them, or budgeted for them. No one can hold them accountable. Still, some of them make policy for the appointed, the elected, the approved, budget-accountable government in place.

   The Guard has ruled the rulers.

   Were you in the room when the decision to have one-term presidents was made?

   Were you a part of deciding SWBTS would not have a booth at the state convention meeting, so making a sympathetic object of that institution?

   Did you get to advise and consent to the historical president who read the convention out of existence just to quiet a lonely, small-church pastor?

   The Guard ruled the rulers.

   Without the effective participation of the ruler it is difficult to enlist enthusiastic participation by the ruled. This is where we are now and a fine mess it is for us all.

   I could make a suggestion or two.

  • The convention of baptist congregations is like a legislature. There are various constituencies represented, all of them proprietary, all of them touchy and all of them want to be heard. If you limit yourself to one constituency, do not gasp in surprise when the others abandon you for a different platform or none at all.
  • The onset of education is the real killer of associations and conventions. The rise in the education level of adherents makes them less pliable, not more.
  • If your mandate for leadership is that you kept yourself apart from the fight when it was hottest, do not expect to govern the grizzled old veterans easily. Politeness is to be expected. Respect is earned.
  • Surround yourself with the brightest people you can find. Who would walk across the street to hear your second in command? Who, exactly, have you spun off to greater things? Is it a death sentence to work with you? You have to answer these questions.
  • Is it safer to be your friend or your foe? If you placate your foes while punishing your friends, you will have more of the foes than friends very soon.

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