Interestingly, people outside of our denominational structure and away from social media aren't really obsessed about what will be happening at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas this month. The other day I asked fifteen well educated and socially aware Southern Baptists their personal takes on what is going on in our denomination right now. None of them gave me little more than a shrug. They were not informed or involved in the power politics of the SBC. They were just pew Baptists. By and large, they are overlooked in the operating systems of our denomination. Well, that is, except for the money part.
Corporate pride is a reality, even in the non-profit world. In my opinion, it is most evident when governing documents subtly exclude rank and file members from participating in organizational decision making and operations. We Baptists boast about our congregational polity, that is, autonomous governance by a vote of the congregation. But, power politics usually positions that vote so that relatively small numbers of the membership actually participate in the important decisions. And, that's an element of the corporate pride so visible in our denomination right now. in a couple of weeks 5,000 - 10,000 (perhaps more in this environment) will gather in Dallas to guide a denomination of 15,000,000 + members. I suspect that most of the messengers registering for the business sessions, while representing the churches in which they hold membership, will actually be employees of our institutions, state conventions, various state and national agencies, associations, and other convention affiliations. Some will be pastor's or staff members of our 47,500 churches. When the registration is tallied, few will be rank and file Baptists, the people whose tithes and offerings fund the "mission" of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Of course the numbers are always perplexing. One is our claim to be the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The most recent SBC Annual Church Profile report indicates denominational membership at 15,005,638. Down a few line items on the report is the shocking recorded average attendance of those members, 5,320,488. We're largest only if we count the 10,000,000+ we never see on Sundays. Again, in my very limited opinion, this is another corporate pride delusion that gives our agencies, institutions, and denominational leaders political clout and media substance. Maybe we need to get real about who we are!
Last week another element of the corporate pride so apparent in our denomination right now slapped me in the face. Having coffee and conversation with several pastors, the terms "those people" kept slipping into the talk. You know, "those people", the denominational leaders whose names keep flashing across the social media screens and newspaper headlines. Our little group of local pastors and retirees referred to the big names in the news as "those people", a distinct tribe of Baptists separate from us. One of the younger pastors gave us a backhand across the face when he reminded us that they are not "those people". They are "us people". Every Southern Baptist should embrace what is happening in our denomination as our problem and not theirs. We should cover them in prayer as our meetings convene next week.
And, even more, we should draw that proverbial circle in the floor, kneel down in it, and beg God to forgive us for the personal and corporate pride so evident in us today. Two Bible verses cut to the center of this pride thing for me this morning. That the Holy Spirit breathed these words to both Peter and James registers their significance to me.
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the
proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty
hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
1 Peter 5: 5-6, ESV
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the
humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:6-7, ESV
They remind me that the enemy, the adversary, the devil, Satan specializes in luring us to love ourselves. It may be the first lesson in the study of EGONOMICS, the management of self. And, there is a promise that if we resist him, he will flee from us. That's what I'm praying for our messengers when they gather in Dallas next week.
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_camaralenta'>camaralenta / 123RF Stock Photo</a>