When the Old Tree Died I Was There

   "Missionaries are paid in dollars, not percentages."-Adrian Rogers, 1979, explaining why his large church gave 2% of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, rather than 10%, which was urged on churches in those days. You may remember 1979 was the year Mr. Rogers was elected president of the SBC

   "Quite frankly our church could care less about how folks outside count our loyalty, said Al Gilbert, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, a mega-church in Winston-Salem, NC (italics mine.), discounting attempts to quantify a church's commitment to the traditional Cooperative Program funding mechanism. "It's a game the next generation is sick of and they have no desire to have that kind of loyalty pin. We'd better wake up and listen to that," he insisted.

   Brother Gilbert is a member of the SBC Great Commission Task Force, chaired by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, whose mega-church gave .29% of undesignated receipts to the CP in one recent reporting year. I think you can see how this is going to go.

   Dear ones, the Old Tree is dead, fallen, blown over by a great wind from beyond and now lying on its side, ready to be hacked into firewood and tinder.  I pray you, do not blame the witness for its death. I admit I watched it fall. I fought with grim hope for its life. At the end I could only step aside, lest it land on my head. I was standing that close.

   The Old Tree is Dead.

   We must plant a New Tree.

   Long Live the New Tree.

   The preponderance of members of the SBC GCTF is from mega-churches. These churches are what you think; a denomination or a convention unto themselves. They need your small rural church or declining traditional church not one little bit. You exist to help people come to Christ, to be the point church, to reach into neighborhoods and homes to convert people, who will then be attracted by the aura of success of the larger body, with its staff and programs.

   You are a farm team for the major league club.

     If our universities, ministries, seminaries, et al, are to have what they need to succeed, sans overbearing influence by the larger bodies, we will have to find a way to nourish them. I have a few suggestions to make.

   The first is this one; Get Real.

   While there is still some reserve in the state convention(s), before it is all squandered on operational expenses (quick, say out loud what happens to companies that have to use reserve funds for operational expenses) let us endow development teams at each of our Texas colleges and seminaries. Where they do not exist, create them. Where they do exist, strengthen them. Now. Let them know this help will not increase and they will be increasingly on their own financially, as they are now.

   If you want to see the colleges and seminaries live, start right now to figure out how to give them life in a future where increasing health care costs, burgeoning energy costs, massive government debt and the aging of the population (workers leaving the system but dependent on the system for their living) might almost guarantee downward mobility.

   If you do not like my plan, let's hear yours. Don't insist we can all just get together and paint the buildings so they look new. We are not together, have not been together for some time and if we were it would not matter. The latest generation is not buying our line.

   Get Real.

   Yes, there is that tricky matter of legality. Can an organizational reserve be used for its dependent institutions? It is my contention we can use it so if the convention, in general session, orders it so by vote.

   Here is the trickier part. Messengers would be asking the convention apparatus to surrender funds it can use for itself. The transfusion would have to work for the benefit of the recipient, not the donor. This is fine when we ask for a pint. How about when we ask for a gallon? Two gallons?

    Get Real.

   How are culture transforming universities and seminaries to live in an age of virtually guaranteed downward mobility? If you are thinking you will just get yours and then get on out of here, shame, shame, shame.

   You have given up, cuddled up on yourself like the worthless doodle-bug. You are not thinking of our children, even less of our grandchildren.

   Get Real.

   We need a plan, a bold plan, a self-sacrificial plan, not another same-old committee appointed to study our effectiveness.


  

  

  

4 thoughts on “When the Old Tree Died I Was There”

  1. Davis you ask sooo much. It is almost as if you are saying our future lies in The assurance of things hoped for,the conviction of things not seen. Gasp, that would be faith in a mighty God. How dare you call us to that. wink

  2. In lumping all churches that are defined as megachurches into one basket, I think you are doing a disservice to many churches that do care about smaller congregations and don’t look at them as a “farm team.”
    My church, Olive Baptist Church, of which Dr. Ted Traylor (NAMB trustee and a member of the GCR committee) is pastor gave 10.76% to the Cooperative program in 2008.
    If I am not mistaken, Olive has historically given at least 10% to the CP each year.
    I understand that some megachurches may have their own plan for missions giving and that this is a problem to some.
    I guess my view on this is somewhat simplistic, we are called to go and make disciples, not told to give certain percentages to organizations. The end is what we need to be about. Is someone saved at a megachurch less saved than one at a rural church?
    My grandparents were members at Olive in its earliest days. I attended and was saved at Olive when we had 200-300 in services. God has blessed this church and it has grown to the size it is today.
    To relegate its significance to your statement, “These churches are what you think; a denomination or a convention unto themselves. They need your small rural church or declining traditional church not one little bit. You exist to help people come to Christ, to be the point church, to reach into neighborhoods and homes to convert people, who will then be attracted by the aura of success of the larger body, with its staff and programs,” is unfair and (it seems to me) to be guided by jealousy and a lack of knowledge about my church.
    Sorry to be so strident, but every part of the convention needs to work together to do the Lord’s work.

  3. rick…i see you mostly thinking aloud more than making blanket statements on church $. some of the big ole churches do indeed give more than others. but, the records also indicate it is the exception not the norm. things are going to change in the future. better to think through how it is for the better, not the worst.

  4. The Temple Cult in Jerusalem was dead at the roots, but the rest of the tree didn’t know it. It took a Roman army to finish off the struggling, fruitless tree, many years after Jesus condemned it.
    It seems the SBC/State Conventions are in the same spot to some extent. I doubt any institution will deliver up it’s reserves to the benefit of anyone else. Perhaps the Lord will send someone to chop it down?
    Tim

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