Tinkering or Transforming

As the Baptist General Convention of Texas moves toward its annual meeting in Fort Worth, many may be wondering what the future holds. Some suggest that “something good is dying”, and there may more truth to their sentiments than we might dare to face. Others believe things will be fine, we just need to “hunker down” and weather the storm like our friends on the coast did as Hurricane Ike blew and blew against their homes. Some believe the basic mission and vision of the convention is fine we just need to “tinker” with the engine—all we need is a “tune up.” Some take the long look into the future and believe we are entering a new day, and that God is calling on His people to follow Him in new ways.

Loren B. Mead, in his book The Once and Future Church suggested that the church of today needs to take the long look into the future. He wrote:

“If we are, as I am convinced, in a time in which the paradigms are changing, a cosmetic approach to change, the kind that deals with surface appearances, is inadequate. Organizational specialists distinguish between ‘transitional’ and ‘transformational’ change. By transitional change they mean the adaptations and shifts brought on by temporary dislocations and discomforts, moving to a new stability. By transformational change they mean the shattering of the foundations and the reconstitution of a new entity.”

“Churches that tinker with program and marketing are barely beginning to be on the edge of transitional change, but the building of the future church requires transformation at it very core.”

As I read his prophetic words written in 1991, and reflect upon the harsh realities and struggles we face today. I must agree that we need to stop “tinkering” and start seeking a “transformation” led by the Spirit to cast a new vision for cooperation and networking among Baptists for years to come. As we seek change we must remind ourselves we are dealing with a “living organism” of interdependent relationships not a machine that needs on overhaul. The change will probably proceed at the pace of natural growth and change. There will be seasons. It’s my prayer we are in the “winter” of deadness and hibernation, but the “spring” will soon break out all around us.


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3 responses to “Tinkering or Transforming

  1. Lee

    Our churches must change first. The decline of most churches is already in progress, and there are many more with large numbers of people in their golden years that are on the verge of decline. Our baptism numbers are so low, they do not even reflect that we are reaching all of our own children, and we have been hearing for years now that upwards of 80% of the youth that are active in our churches during high school drop out by the time they are finished with college. Few churches of any brand are finding ways to reach people from unchurched backgrounds and lead them to Christ.

    The problem for the BGCT is compounded by the fact that the churches themselves are not doing well, and the convention has narrowed its leadership down in recent years in the interest of protecting the BGCT from “fundamentalism.” To make sure the inner circle is protected, individuals are moved from board to board, committee to committee, and few new people are brought in. The wagons have been circled and there is fear that anyone who is not already “in the camp” has the potential to open the door to fundamentalism which will then come rushing in like a flood.

    Certainly there are some good things happening in the BGCT, but that does not mean reform isn’t needed, and that accountability isn’t important. The convention asks its churches to fund a $45 million budget by contributing some of their sacrificially-given offerings. That needs to be used with the greatest of care, and in quality, effective, efficient ministry across the board.

    The current leadership circle must be widened. We have some churches with as many as six or seven members serving in various offices, board seats and committees, and many of those currently serving have rotated from one board to another. Situations like Valleygate arise because the accountability has been short-circuited by the good-ole-boy network of friends who are in control. Every executive board and trustee board appointment over the next few years should be people who come from churches that are not represented in the current leadership body, and who have never served on a denominational board or committee. That practice will go a long way toward providing the BGCT with the human resources to develop a future vision for ministry cooperation between churches.

    No more than two individuals from any single church should ever be serving on any BGCT board or committee at the same time, and all trustees, committee members and officers should be limited to two terms of service anywhere in the BGCT. Unless and until that happens, the BGCT will continue to face problems and will have difficulty gaining a handle on the future.

  2. “Hunkering down” is NOT an option. To stand still is to move backwards. We simply must determine that we will NOT stand still and do whatever it takes to move forward. I suspect that will mean some additional changes in personnel at the BGCT, but that will come in time, as those changes become more obvious. I suspect it also means some additional tweaking of the organization. We must allow our churches to dictate our direction. This is their convention. Those BGCT institutions are their institutions. Nothing we have belongs to anyone except our cooperating churches.

  3. Ernie

    Good post David,

    Lee is right that many of our churches are in decline. Far too often when some begin to take serious looks at the causes at the individual church level, even the slightest “tinkering” by some is viewed at “tramatic tranformation” by others.

    I do believe that Conventions and Associations exist to help churches and that we sometimes loose sight of that. I also believe that churches exit to glorify God and advance the cause of Christ in a local community and around the world. Too often I see churches loose sight of that.

    They know it theologically, but loose sight of it in practicla planning and ministry. Helping churches will help everything. Easy to say but hard to put flesh on and make happen.


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