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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, May 22, 2006

SBC Bloggers, Ronnie Floyd, and "Impact"

A couple of articles have intrigued me to the point to make this post. First, I read Dr. Floyd’s article called “Why I Am Permitting Myself to be Nominated as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention” and the other was “Piece of Mind” from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I know this is long, but please bear with me. :)

In his article, Floyd gave this as a reason number two for “permitting” himself to be nominated:

I love the diversity of our church, and the people called Southern Baptists are very diverse as a people. Within our nation alone, every week our churches across America worship in several different languages of the world. The personalities and cultures are different, as well as models of innovation. Yet, we are united in our one great purpose, which is to mobilize our churches to reach their respective regions, our nation, and the entire world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Due to our diversity, I am not sure one man can represent all Southern Baptists as President, but I am very certain that one man can serve all Southern Baptists, which is my intention if I am elected.

This is great, but what about theological diversity? Ethno-linguistic diversity is a beautiful thing, and I don’t think there is any real issue or controversy with the differing cultures or languages in the SBC, but there is a real issue with theological diversity. Why didn’t Floyd address his position on Calvinism and Arminianism? What if Open Theism creeps into the SBC? Will this be considered “diversity?” Consider what he said earlier in an interview with Baptist Press:

Floyd responded to other issues that have infused the conversations of Southern Baptists in recent months -- increased sensitivity to the presence of Calvinism among Southern Baptists and the practice of private prayer language, which many equate to speaking in tongues. He offered that whatever the theological issue, “If it does not help ignite a greater passion for the Word and the greater passion to reach the world, then we have to evaluate the positions we hold.” Floyd said some Southern Baptists may hold Calvinist beliefs, but that the threat was a “hyper” form of Calvinism that has a spirit of condemnation. “My whole thought processes on that will be ... we know it’s an issue,” he said. “How big of an issue? I have no way to know. I do think it’s important that somehow, some way, that we recognize the good that exists in whatever people believe and try our very best to come together to discuss what we can do together and believe together. The more we split hairs on various matters, the less effective we’re going to be in carrying forth our mission.” (emphasis mine)

In his response, Floyd basically says that if one’s theological position harms the mission, then it needs to be reevaluated. Second, he goes on to make some baseless statement about hypercalvinism. Thirdly, he mentions “splitting hairs” which is an anti-intellectual turnoff for anyone passionate biblical truth. If the gospel didn’t contain biblical truth, if Jesus didn’t say “I am the truth” and if the church is not the “pillar and buttress of truth,” then yes I wouldn’t care about theology either. But that is simply not the case. My point is that Floyd skirts around a central point of interest with ambiguity and fails to even mention theological diversity in his reason for permitting himself to be president. When will he actually address this issue (if ever)?

Now to my second point and Floyd’s fourth reason:

I believe in our cooperative effort through the Cooperative Program of the SBC, which our church has given over $3.4 million to over the last 10 years for the mission causes of our denomination. In fact, let me state what has happened over the past five years and is happening this year as well: we have increased our Cooperative Program gifts 8% annually over the past five years and are doing so in our present budget this year. This 8% increase represents the amount of both Cooperative Program allocation areas; to Arkansas ($32,000) and to SBC in Nashville ($189,000) which totals $221,000 towards the Cooperative Program. With other SBC allocations, this combines to total $489,000 last year. This 8% increase to the Cooperative Program has happened while we planned and are now in the final stages of construction on two major building projects and expansions that are taking place on both campuses at a cost of $38.5 million. We are a church that is very committed to the Cooperative Program and believe in the cooperative effort to share the Good News of Jesus globally.

I think we need to enter the “No Spin Zone” hear (my apologies to Bill O’Reilly). The spinsters of the SBC in the theological beltway have been hitting the press to make a patch-job PR movement regarding the CP and FBC Springdale. Floyd argues that Springdale has increased their giving by 8% over the past five years to the CP. According to the stats, FBC Spingdale gave $32,000 to the CP with the previous year being $312,226. Why the change? Why the drop of $280,226? From the year 2000 to 2005, the church’s undesignated receipts went from $7,392,331 in 2000 to $11,952,137 which is a difference of $4,559,806—a 38.2% increase. During that same time, the giving to the CP went from $474,927 in 2000 to $32,000 in 2005 which is a difference of $442,927—a 93% drop. Now, it remains to be said what “other SBC allocations” or “SBC causes” are, but they can hardly be figured up as CP giving (which Floyd lumps together). In other places it has been argued that Springdale spent over $2 million on missions and evangelism last year. Floyd does not mention this because it is money being spent on missions outside the CP which overshadows the mere $32,000 being given to the CP.

The point I am trying to make here is that Springdale is a lot like many mega-churches in the SBC who have sought to do missions outside the CP and IMB. This trend is dangerous and counter-cooperative. Furthermore, more emphasis is being placed on short-term mission trips and long-term missionaries. This has occurred as churches have attempted to load their missional resume’s with x many mission trips and x number of conferences, and on and on. Last year, I wrote an article called Missions: The Ecclesiastical Catch-All for Special Interests. While I don’t think everything I said pertains to this particular situation, the trend is nonetheless there and should be addressed.

To my third point and Floyd’s eighth reason:

The next generation is what ignites my heart when I think about serving as the President of this denomination. I believe in the next generation. This denomination must engage all generations to invest in generations to come. In our own seminaries alone, we are equipping over 15,000 future young leaders to infiltrate our churches and the world with doctrinal integrity, local church commitment, relevance in engaging the culture, and burning with a commitment to finish the task worldwide. Beyond these students, our churches right now have many young leaders who can assist us in many ways right now. They need to know who we are and what we are about. We must hand forth to them a vision they can believe in that will carry on the great work that was handed off to us by generations in the past. This is a new day. We must step up to it as well as serve and lead a future that is aggressive and ever-changing. I believe the need of the hour is for us to have orthodoxy packaged in innovation. Our churches as well as our denomination itself need to know and find a way a way to be culturally relevant, yet never sacrifice the Scripture nor any of its precious truths. When we do this together, the future is unlimited and God-sized.

I along with many other bloggers, are a part of that next generation. We are passionate about gospel mission, the SBC, and living Godward lives for His glory. I am also a seminary student being trained in missions. When Floyd ignored the questions of bloggers as provided by Tad Thompson, one was forced to question whether or not he was really interested in us. Anyone can run a fire-walled campaign where the interviews are in a controlled environment and coupled with a PR campaign of staged endorsement by those in the SBC Inner Circle. Floyd made the following statement:

“I want to believe what comes out in verbal communication to me from people who are in the situation rather than people who blog,” he said. “I would trust writers who have invested and given fair evaluation of a situation.... But I’m not going to let someone’s blog weigh my situation one way or another.” (emphasis mine)

Who are the “people who are in the situation?” And why pit them against “people who blog?” Last time I checked, Dr. Floyd had a blog of his own, so is he not in the situation? How can Floyd predetermine that bloggers have no “invested” or “fair evaluation” of a situation? It appears that he is only giving attention to those who agree with him. Thirdly, he said that he was “not going to let someone’s blog weigh” in on the situation. Ironically so, seldom has a day passed where the Sitemeter has not revealed IP addressed from the server from First Baptist Springdale, Arkansas. Furthermore, Baptist Press, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and other media outlets are picking up on the impact of bloggers in the SBC.

To conclude this point, let me say that the bloggers whom Dr. Floyd does not trust and thinks are not in the situation are not just bloggers, but fellow pastors, ministers, seminarians, and SBCers. We ARE a part of this process, and we have a right to be concerned. It is not a helpful thing to the younger generation of SBCers to write them off because they are not one-sided. Maybe a better relationship could be fostered if Dr. Floyd did actually answer a question or two and stop pretending that he is not paying attention to what is being said.

Finally, to my fourth point and Floyd’s ninth and last reason:

I believe the greatest need in the American church and in SBC life is a fresh spiritual movement of God among us. If I am elected, I will passionately invite all Southern Baptists to join me in a desperate call to a spiritual movement that is Bible-based, Jesus-centered, and Holy Spirit-controlled. This must begin within each Christian personally, which would result in churches experiencing this kind of spiritual movement. This is the hope and answer for the present condition of the American church, the SBC in all relationships, ministry functions and existent needs, every Pastor and Spiritual Leader in our nation, every church within our convention. The degree to which it occurs will determine the expansion of the gospel of Jesus regionally, nationally, and globally. Every Pastor and Spiritual Leader within their context of leadership will be invited to join me in making this passionate and desperate call to the church and to our denomination. Since we have been entrusted as the denomination that is heralded as the largest in the evangelical and Protestant world, we have no other choice than to experience this kind of spiritual movement for the sake of billions of people in the world. My love for the church, our nation, and the expansion of the gospel worldwide, is the reason I am permitting my name to be placed in nomination to serve as the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention, if elected. I pray that whoever is called upon to serve as the next President will see the urgency and need to passionately lead and invite all Southern Baptists to experience a mighty movement of God as well as lead our convention through the challenges we face today. When this is done, we will finish the task to take the gospel to every people group across the globe in our generation.

Amen, Dr. Floyd. The SBC needs a fresh spiritual movement among us. We need reform to take place, beginning with the local church. Interestingly enough, I did not find anything mentioned about regenerate church membership or church discipline as a part of that movement. At this years convention, a resolution Dr. Tom Ascol has been submitted called Resolution on Integrity in Reporting which I hope Dr. Floyd will support.

In conclusion, let me mention what Floyd said in the Baptist Press article about the “good ole’ boy” system in the SBC and the younger Generation of SBCers. He said:

He positioned the situation as less an issue relating to just a younger generation as much as it crosses all generations, but that he understands at the core some people do not feel that they have a voice in the convention. Floyd was adamant that the answer is to create venues for people to feel like they are being heard. (emphasis mine)

Well, there should be “venues for people to feel like they are being heard,” and predominant among them have been SBC bloggers. Unfortunately, it appears that Dr. Floyd does not want to hear from us. He does not want to answer our questions nor does he think we are “in the situation.” I guess the good ole’ boy system lives after all.

I don’t think SBC bloggers are asking for much. We are told that we are not making an impact, yet mainstream media outlets seem to be quoting bloggers almost daily. We are told that they won’t listen to us, but somehow their IP address appears almost daily on our blogs. My mind has been brought back to why I first began blogging in the first place. I saw the impact that blogs had on “Rathergate” and how the media was following the work of bloggers. It appears this may be happening again. Floyd wrote that he liked accountability and that he was not threatened by it. If that is the case, then he will not think that he is being threatened by SBC bloggers. It is amazing that those who simply have questions or call for accountability among the highest offices in the SBC are castigated and demonized for having done such. Well, the SBC bloggers may not ever get their questions answer or their seat at the table, but in my opinion, they are doing some of the greatest work in the SBC.

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